One of the most frequent questions we receive is: what can I do about my local SEO? And the honest truth is that local search is one of the biggest headaches in the medical SEO field, specifically due to all of the issues at hand. In my professional opinion, most of this is Google’s fault; however, complaining to Google about their own practices isn’t going to solve your problems any time soon. So, let’s take a look at how local SEO works, and how we can optimize a site for best results.
How Local SEO Works
There are 3 types of Google+ pages: individual profile, local business page, and a Brand page.
The first is like a Facebook profile, which can contain personal info, general location, education, etc. The second is for businesses and usually has a physical location and a reviews section. The third for national brands, artists, etc. The brand doesn’t have a physical location attached to it, nor does it have a reviews section (example here).
We recommend only 1 local business page per location. There are a lot of different reasons for this, but the best way to describe our rationale is consistency. We can maintain NAP standardization, interlinking signals with respect to NAP, and location messaging. These locations are then linked to individual location pages on the website, ensuring total clarity to search engines about which business resides where.
Multiple Doctors, One Location
Compounding the difficulty of local SEO is the issue of individual professionals working out of a single location. Of all the professions I’ve worked with, doctors seem to have the most convoluted local SEO issues for this very reason. Google has finally addressed this, and that professionals can have their own pages without it negatively affecting the practice as a duplicate listing. However, this still can negatively affect positioning due to the splitting up of reviews, which act as a major signal, and potential corruption of NAP standardization. Our research finds it to be the case in almost every scenario, all other variables being equal.
If we consider that local SEO is based largely on the regular organic SEO algorithm, but affected by actual location/proximity to location searched, NAP standardization, duplicate listings, incorrect information, citation optimization, etc., we can look at the below, and assume that the number 1 organic listing should be at least in the top 3 of the local listing results. We’ll take ‘Breast Augmentation Herndon VA’ as our example search:
We see that Website 1 jumped from fifth in the organic position to first in the local pack. We also see that Website 6, well optimized for the search at number four in organic, doesn’t appear anywhere in the entire list (even after clicking ‘More Places’). And the top six organic listings all have double digit review numbers, with the lowest average being a 4.5.
Why, then, doesn’t Website 6, with its 4.8 average on 21 reviews show up? There are a few possible reasons, but I think the most compelling is:
- Website 6 has four duplicate listings competing for which is seen as the most relevant.
- There are also no breast augmentation reviews on Website 6.
For these and other issues, we are intent on simplifying the practice so that we can control these variables more easily, but they are, in no order:
- NAP Standardization
- Removal of duplicate listings
- Improving on-page content (e.g. listing of services) and other citation optimization
- Geo-tagged photos
- Further Citation Creation
- Review Optimization
We’ve come to this conclusion through repeated efforts to discover why Website 6 struggles to enter the 3-pack for certain terms despite performing excellently in the organic listings.
Multiple Doctors, One Location (Revisited)
This segues nicely back to the issues of individual doctors working out of the practice, and how to properly list them. If we want to control the business listing to one per location, I think that we can assist the doctors’ personal branding via a Google+ profile page or a branded page. Both allow for personal information, website linking, etc. without the ability to review, and maintaining the primacy of the business. If someone wants to search for the doctor, they will be able to easily find them, and how to contact them. This also reduces any possibility of address confusion (If the brand page idea interests you, check out here for more info). The drawback is that it will not have the address on the individual doctors’ pages, but I feel that the other benefits outweigh this negative. Alternately, there is the profile page. It will allow for general location, basic info, photos, and videos, and external links (example here).
To conclude: we recommend one (1) local business page per location, and that the doctors be created either profiles or brand pages. I hope this has been a thorough explanation of our thought processes and how we’ve arrived at them. This is admittedly confusing stuff, and I have seen outliers that perform well and that may contradict the evidence provided, but we truly believe that this is the best local SEO practice we can recommend for physicians.