For the last couple years local search optimization has become an increasingly important strategy for digital marketers, one that should be leveraged by medical practices as aggressively as possible. Local search is where you’ll often see results within a map and pushpins, including star reviews for the top listed practices. The special attention these local search results get can be extremely effective, especially on mobile, where a local result can take up the whole screen – clearly a major win for the practice sitting in that enviable position.
Local Search Marketing is Growing
Google switched to a heavy reliance upon local results a few years ago and hasn’t looked back since. They were smart. They recognized that local search intent led to conversions. They understood that a search for Botox injections clearly benefited from showing local physicians within a few miles as opposed to those from across the country. Today, around 40% or 50% of all searches are localized to some degree. This includes many search results that may not even look local and instead look just like regular organic search results.
Getting to the Top of Local is Not Easy
Look at particularly competitive search phrases, you’ll sometimes find hundreds of thousands or even millions, or occasionally even tens of millions of competing results. It is extraordinarily difficult to rank in the one place it matters: the top 10 listings aka the first page.
Getting in the top three listings is that much harder anions, it involves a whole different set of search criteria. While, for instance, link building may be the name of the game for competing regionally nationally or even on a larger scale, there are other top priorities for competing locally, like reputation and reviews, listings within local directories, and aggressive content development and optimization of your Google My Business profile (GMB).
Many practices don’t recognize the importance of their Google My Business profile. Consider your GMB as an extension of your website, just think of it as being hosted on and powered by Google itself. Over the many, many years I have been working with medical practices and maximizing their digital visibility, I have occasionally heard doctors complain about doing work that benefits another entity. Real self.a lot of grief along these lines until it became the big player in the space. To some degree, I’ve heard similar things regarding Google.
“Why should I add to my GMB when it’s owned by Google,” a doctor asked recently, “especially since it’s not helping my site.” At face value, I suppose that’s a reasonable argument. But the reality is that it is helping your site and your practice, and more and more of Google’s efforts – at least until they might be dinged by a futured potential antitrust issue – are designed to keep people within the Google ecosystem as opposed to launching them off to someone’s website.
The thing is, those three listings, at the top of the results, are so incredibly valuable. The percentage difference between prospective patients clicking through to a position one listing versus a position four listing or a position seven listing or a position ten listing is absolutely enormous. Not too long ago, in fact, I spoke with a vendor in the space who works with a number of medical practices on the practice management front. He refers his clients to Surgeon’s Advisor and he shares a lot of background data and feedback so we can work effectively together to help our mutual clients. For one procedures – breast augmentation – he had fallen one position, from #1 to #2. Keep in mind he had both the #1 local position and the #1 organic position (which is the equivalent of #4 overall). In essence he went from positions #1 and #4 to positions #2 and #4, with the #1 overall ranking position dropping just one spot.
That page was driving $200,000 a month in revenue and the one position drop resulted in a very measurable 30% drop in revenues. Think about that: 30% from position #1 to position #2. I was stunned to hear this, but he shared the data, I presented it, and it turned out to be true. That one position drop resulted in a very significant loss of revenues.
Because he’s in such a competitive market and already had such fantastic visibility, it took a couple of months to get that position back. We put in a lot of effort, resources, and money on our end to make that happen. Compared to the revenues it generated, however, the cost was minimal. Eking out every last position increase, especially locally, can pay off for you with a return on investment that is quite literally impossible to beat.
Specialized Local Visibility Requires Particularly Aggressive Local Efforts
Just as digital marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization have evolved over the years, so too has local search optimization. These days it’s an aggressive task at hand – and in a competitive market it can very well represent a full-time job in and of itself.
Here’s what you need to make sure your initiatives cover and address – always as aggressively as possible:
- Optimize your Google My Business profile – and of course if you haven’t so much as claimed it yet, you need to start there. Tell Google that the profile they have belongs to you. If, on the hand, you find yourself with multiple profiles, then merge them or delete the weak ones; be sure to focus on keeping the profile with the most content and the most and best reviews.
- Get reviews – lots of them. Good ones, too. And respond to those reviews. Google likes to see interaction on your GMB and engaging with your audience, prospective patients and patients alike, provides healthy indicators of interaction that send positive ranking signals.
- Answer questions. You have patients asking questions in every consult, and presumably you answer them. Do the same on your GMB. Prospective patients want to know about your services, your hours, your techniques and the like; the best way to both address patients’ questions and improve your potential to rank locally is to answer them on your GMB.
- Get your services just right, and be sure you’ve filled out the entirety of the options associated with our Google My Business profile. Treat it like you treat your website, your Facebook page, your Instagram profile and make it as robust and thorough as possible.
- Add regular posts. In the same way you would put up blog posts for your website, or posts to your Facebook page or Instagram, you can leverage Google by posting often to your Google My Business profile. They provide a number of post options so you should be able to find something worthwhile to post. Post more – much more than – than you’re posting today. Monthly is better than yearly. Weekly is better than monthly. Daily is better than weekly. Like I said, this can be a full-time job in and of itself.
- Get citations, regularly and often, the more the better. Just as links are important to digital marketing, so too are citations to local marketing. Local links and citations are particularly relevant, though virtually anything that references the localization of your practice – particularly if it utilizes your NAP – is worthwhile.
- Geo Optimize your web pages and frankl all your assets online. Text can be localized. Photos can be localized. Videos can be localized. Links can be localized. Social posts can be localized. The days of ranking globally – at least in a cost-effective manner – are long gone, so focus your efforts on competing in your region and being at the top of everything where prospective patients are likely to find you.
- Increase your authority across the web. Google and other sites already pay close attention to EAT signals: expertise, authority, and trust. When it comes to local, they continue to focus on these signals, though in a more localized way.
- Be sure you are monitoring yourself versus your competitors, looking at different locations in your vicinity and how you perform in all of them, and adjusting your strategies regularly. Local listings are the ultimate battle to win the war that is hearts and minds of prospective patients searching for a practice.
If you want to get scientific” then be aware that Google’s three main local ranking factors are: (1) proximity, (2) prominence, and (3) relevance. You can’t do much about proximity; after all, you are where you are. (That said, I personally would choose a location based on its local potential, more on that in another article.) So focus on the prominence and relevance and do so with the strategies above and throughout your digital marketing efforts.
You are Your Namespace
There have been challenges in the local search space for years. It can be a real headache. It’s confusing and hard to manage and Google is not inherently good at keeping things organized and in order, though they are getting better. In the past, Google really struggled with multiple practitioners and the same location – and still does so today though perhaps not as much.
Keep in mind that you are more than your website. You are more than your Facebook page. You are more than your Instagram. And, the above notwithstanding, you are more than your Google My Business profile. You are the sum total of all the mentions and links on sites and profiles and directories across the web. Use them to your advantage. Don’t just let them sit idly by, existing with no oversight or direction from your team.
There are many, many pages about you online, and for years I have been letting practices know that these pages make up your namespace: your pages across the web on websites about plastic surgery sites, directories of physicians, patient review sites, social media sites, and more, from your page on Healthgrades.com, to your profile on Realself.com, to your Twitter page, and beyond. And all theoretically starting at the NPI level; after all, each doctor has an NPI number and a name and address. Start with your NPI, your NAP. Get it right on your website and your Google My Business profile and expand your efforts beyond, the more sites and apps the better. You can claim them all. You can standardize your NAP (name, address, phone number) on all of them. You can optimize them for your location. And you build out and add content to many of them, helping tell the story you want told while increasing your expertise, authority, and trust, and maximizing your reach across the web. Each and every one of those points ultimately lead back to you and they can make the difference between obscurity and ranking in those three amazingly powerful positions for scores of targeted phrases.