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If you properly manage your online listings, you can also grow your visibility and reach more potential customers.
Most healthcare practices and even individual providers are listed somewhere online. This means potential patients can do their own research and form an opinion before they’ve even contacted your office. Therefore, it’s important to take an active approach to your online reputation.
If you properly manage your online listings, you can also grow your visibility and reach more potential customers. This is at the core of local search engine optimization (SEO).
Local SEO refers to tactics that increase the online visibility of a business with a physical location. Essentially, local SEO helps ensure that your business is visible for users located within your service area. When patients located near your address search for care, they will (hopefully) see your practice somewhere in the results.
An important local SEO tactic is to build online listings for your practice. There are many websites where you could potentially be listed, including:
Although it’s best to be taking an active role in building these online listings, you will probably find some existing listings you didn’t create. These automatically-generated listings are frequently inaccurate. Not only does this confuse users who come across the wrong information, but it can also hurt your local SEO. Here’s what you can do about it.
The first step is to find where you’re already listed online. A simple Google search for your practice name or contact information will help you find most of these listings. This also applies to individual practitioners. Search for your full name and any variations on it (i.e. with or without middle name and maiden name).
Create a spreadsheet of those listings. You can use this to keep track of the status of each one as you go through and update them.
Here are several best practices you should follow when managing your online listings.
Business/provider name, address, and phone number are three vital pieces of information that search engines use to verify your existence. The more accurate and consistent “citations” they find, the stronger your local SEO. Too many variations on this information may hurt your visibility.
A common issue is business listings with outdated contact information, especially if your office moved at some point or you switched to a different practice.
If you find listings that are inaccurate, try to claim and update them, or contact the website and request the updates. Although this is a time-consuming process, it will ultimately improve your local ranking power.
Pay attention to the title of the listing as well. Even slight variations can confuse search engines. For example, your hospital should not be listed as Johnson Memorial Hospital on some sites and Johnson Hospital on others.
It’s not feasible to optimize all of your business listings, so you should prioritize the most important ones. This includes your social platforms and major business directories like Google My Business, Bing Places, and Yelp.
Make sure you add all the information you can. For example, Google My Business has special features such as service area, holiday hours, and services offered. Also try to upload a few images of the business to various platforms. This helps users gather as much information as possible before they contact you.
Additionally, some platforms have allowed providers to include information relating to COVID-19 restrictions and telemedicine availability. For example, you can add your COVID precautions and requirements to your Google My Business listing, such as “mask required” and “temperature checks required.” If your practice offers virtual appointments, you can indicate that with the “online care” attribute under “service options.”
Here are some examples of Google My Business COVID-19 features:
Reviews also influence local visibility and reputation. It’s important to respond to reviews as often as possible and in a HIPAA compliant manner. The best solution is to draft a templated response that doesn’t acknowledge or confirm that the individual was actually a patient.
You should also make it as easy as possible for satisfied patients to leave reviews. You might include links to your social media platforms in all email correspondence or send out a patient satisfaction survey with information about sharing their experience online if they wish to do so.
Although local SEO can be time-consuming, it’s vital to manage your online presence. Doing so can improve your reputation and increase your visibility online. By focusing on accurate information and keeping patients informed, you can replicate the patient experience online.
Corinne McCarthy is an SEO & Online PR Specialist at Web Talent Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency. She has worked with clients in a variety of industries to increase their organic search presence and monitor their online reputation.