Search engines and the Internet have changed the relationship consumers have with businesses. Local search is a relatively new dimension in the online marketplace. It involves ensuring that your business shows in relevant searches related to your location or distance from the user performing the search. Local search is particularly important for business, like medical and dental practices, in which patients must visit the physical location to undergo treatment. 72 percent of consumers who perform a local search visit a business within five miles, that strategy is more important than ever*.
What does this mean for healthcare providers?
People can’t see or feel your services before they try it out, so they will read how your patients feel. Now, more than ever, you are connected to a local audience. With searches such as “dentist near me” skyrocketing, a shift in how people find your practice means you can greatly benefit by meeting prospective patients where they are located.
How can practices adapt to these new changes?
Begin with a solid website
It is imperative your website has basic functional and optimization features in order to gain a competitive edge using local search techniques. Factors such as the load time, responsiveness (ability to display on all devices), number of high quality inbound links, site content quality, site authority and organic optimization are critical to obtaining a high position in a local search.
Off-site Optimization – Get Listed in Directories and Platforms Related to Local Serach
Online directories such as Google My Business, Healthgrades, Vitals, ZocDoc, Yellowpages, and Yelp all contain location and contact information for your practice. When these directories all have the same information, and are populated with patient reviews, your local search visibility on Google and other search engines will improve.
Presenting correct information on your online profiles, a process known as NAP (Name, Address, Phone) consistency makes Google’s job easier in pulling up the correct data when people search for you. Make sure that major directories have all your practice’s correct contact information. There are also paid services, such as YEXT that will update ALL your online profiles.
Having clickable directions that can be accessed in Google Maps.
A platform where patients can provide honest feedback
Phone number, hours, and other information readily accessible.
Reviews are a vital piece of information Google values. Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Yelp are also powerful hubs for people to seek validation for a place of interest. In fact, searches for a local business bring up these third-party review sites, with star ratings from people who reviewed the business on that platform. 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Quality and Competitive Content
Search engines value high quality, original content that engages readers. Having a content strategy which publishes creative media, including videos, that enable readers to interact with your site longer will lead to higher visibility in local search.
Interaction with your practice has extended beyond in-person contact to digital interactions across a multitude of online platforms. Once you have any type of online presence, your business exists on the Internet, outside its physical location, and can be found by anyone searching for services near them. Optimizing your online presence with local search technique will deliver more new patients and an enhanced patient experience (i.e. “Finding your office was so easy!”, “You had wonderful reviews online, that’s why I decided to check your office out.”, etc.).