How do new patients find your practice? Undoubtedly, the internet has transformed how patients choose their healthcare providers. Now, seventy percent of people prefer to rely on Google reviews over a medical provider’s website. In this example, the conversion rate is at least 65% for these organic Google searches that lead to scheduling a new patient appointment.
Although the industry has evolved, cultivating in-person brand loyalty with patients is still important. Although word-of-mouth recommendations are common, over 84% of consumers claim to place more trust in internet evaluations than in any other source, including friends and family.
A quick Google search is frequently the first step in a new patient’s trip to your practice. It’s critical to capture the interest of your audience early on; thus, to rank highly in Google search results, your clinic should enhance its SEO rankings.
Because 91% of potential clients are looking at your internet reviews, you need to ensure they are outstanding because once they visit your website, they will check them out. Practices need to develop and put into action plans to connect with a consistent patient base where they reside online to adjust to this new era of online openness.
Here’s how independent practitioners can use improved SEO techniques to increase their local search ranks to draw in new business and hold onto their current clientele.
Why is it local? Why is local search significant to your practice?
Using local search makes sense when you say, “All healthcare is local.” Patients can still go through the woods and over the river to see a specialist when unwell. However, when selecting a physician for the first time, they prefer to remain local. A local Google search indicates that the client is trying to find a service provider in the area. Local SEO increases a physician’s visibility in Google’s search results when prospective patients enter “doctor near me.”
Prospective buyers notice that the drop-down list in the search results has two different sections. Paid advertisements appear first, followed by map listings (the “local pack”), a call-out box known as the 3-Pack, and standard organic search results.
Google customizes its search results according to the user’s location. The search engine’s algorithms can still determine the user’s position via geolocation even if they aren’t home. A list of local practice possibilities is displayed when you search for “doctor near me.” Where you appear on this list is important because you want to be at the top as much as possible. Why? 57% of people start their search for a doctor here.
Did you know that this organic search process accounts for 85% of internet website traffic to the Cleveland Clinic, 83% to Johns Hopkins, and 87% to the Mayo Clinic? These healthcare behemoths have sophisticated SEO tactics that include paid advertising and go beyond simply building a website. However, even a small independent practice can use some of the same techniques to achieve excellent results with little expense.
You can get to the top of the local pack and even beat the pack if you use the right strategies. Here are five strategies to make this work.
5 Steps to Improve Local Search
1. Manage Your Local Business Profiles
Your Google Business Profile (previously Google My Business) is the first line of visibility for any medical practice or other local business. A Google Business Profile is important for local search and Google Maps. It can be used for:
- Post business updates like office hours and COVID limits.
- Answer patient reviews
- Engage with new and existing patients.
- Look at analytics to see how people who might buy your company interact with it.
- Stand out from other practices in the area.
Google provides a call-out window known as a local 3-pack listing, which enumerates the three most prominent practices in the given region. If you need to optimize your local and website listings, this organic search tool will only work for you. With a five-star average patient review, you should aim to be at the top of the 3-Pack. While we’ll get into patient reviews later, how can you get a spot in the 3-Pack?
Google considers the following when determining which company is deserving of this position in their rankings:
- Number of reviews from patients
- How good the patient reviews are
- Overall rank in SEO searches
- Name, address, and phone (NAP) consistency between pages
- Completeness of your profile
The 3-pack local listing assures you the most exposure to a patient query, the most clicks, and, ultimately, more patients.
Today, you may find dozens of internet company directories, from Yelp and Bing to WebMD and Vitals. Search for your practice’s name, discover where it appears, and then meticulously claim and update these listings. At least once every three months, your office manager or marketing team should repeat this task to get the most out of these free ads. One in every three patients looks at your information through several media, so having similar information across the board is critical to your brand.
Pro-Tip: Provide a self-scheduling link to book an appointment no matter what profile you’re working on. When the new patient clicks that link, your website’s scheduling tool (assuming you have one) is accessed. A single click is all it takes to take advantage of the natural impulse buying that occurs frequently online. Just ask Amazon what the one-click tool does to their sales.
2. Confirm that each listing’s NAP contains accurate and consistent information
Once you’ve claimed your business profile, change your name, address, and phone number in every directory, website, and platform. It’s better for patients and your page ranking if your NAP is the same across your ads. As a result, search engines can be sure that the information they give their users is correct.
Remember to check NAP and your business listings at least once a quarter because office hours and other details change. Consider how inconvenient it is for a possible new patient to discover conflicting office hours on your website and your Google page.
Review your name, address, and contact information each time you check your NAP for regular maintenance. You should also verify the following information:
- The proper business category
- URL of the practice’s website
- Work hours and any limits (like masks needed)
- Whether you are taking on new customers or not.
Pro Tip: Make sure your business pages have good pictures. Headshots are adequate, as is a photograph of the building you’re in. Avoid stock photos in favor of authenticity, but ensure your selected images are of the highest quality. Even videos that Google algorithms will find appealing can be added.
3. Use Keywords
The terms and phrases that a patient might use to locate you on Google are referred to as keywords. A patient might be looking for certain things in a doctor, and these key terms include the services your medical office offers and those things. How do you pick the best words?
Consider the most common issues patients bring to your office while developing keywords. Of course, not all keywords are created equal, so a phrase like “flu” isn’t as significant to your Google rankings as “flu shot near me” or “flu shot in Sarasota, Florida.”
Do your patients in Orlando need a primary care doctor close to them? The terms “family doctor,” “primary care provider,” “Orlando,” or “near me” would be appropriate.
Do you receive new patients due to providing women’s wellness exams? “Wellness,” “ob/gyn,” or “women’s care” could be the keywords. Remember to include the city if you’re trying to conduct a local search.
Consider the typical inquiries that new patients have for your practice. Next, think about the features your practice provides that the opposition does not:
- Saturday mornings are open.
- Tests for school again
- Open until 7 p.m.
- Patient discounts for cash
- Welcome to new patients
- Serving patients in the Orlando area
Which inquiries come up most often when a new patient calls your practice? Ask your receptionist to follow up on those inquiries. Using frequently asked patient questions, you can classify terms. Make a list of the words that appear most often. Next, ensure that every online listing you have, including your website, uses the exact wording.
Ensure you update updates frequently to maintain the top rating of your Google Business Profile and SEO, just like you would with the information in your online health directories.
Pro-Tip: For a more advanced approach, you can use SEO keyword tools like Answer the Public, SEMRush, or Google Keyword Planner.
4. Optimize Your Category Listings
When adding SEO keywords and categories to your Google Business Profile, be as specific as possible. Add as many categories as possible for every online directory to describe your job. A category can be a practice specialty or a keyword. Take “family practice” or “orthopedics,” for instance. You can narrow the category and keyword from “surgeon” to “orthopedic surgeon.”
On Google Business Profile, every category is pre-established. Choose up to five other categories in addition to the primary. Thus, if you practice that field, choose orthopedic surgery as your primary category. Doctor, surgeon, orthopedist, and hip replacement are examples of secondary categories (or another category that narrows it down). Even categories such as “accepts new patients” exist.
Pro-Tip: The Google Business Profile has a “menu” area designed with restaurants in mind. Medical practitioners can include a link to the services page of their website.
5. Boost Satisfied Patient Evaluations
74% of patients found Internet reviews helpful when selecting a physician. If your practice has four or five stars, Google’s star rating can benefit your business, especially when it appears in a local search. For patients selecting a practice, the star rating provides a rapid visual
Real patient testimonials from patients who have visited your office are connected to the stars. Patients’ testimonials might effectively advertise your practice if you treat them well and then encourage them to write evaluations. They’re free, too.
How can you raise the quality of your patient ratings?
- Provide SMS appointment reminders, online scheduling, access to health records, and other features to modernize and enhance the patient experience.
- Maintain excellent and regular communication with patients.
- Get patient input and deal with staff burnout to ensure every patient feels valued and welcomed.
- Actively ask patients if they would recommend your practice.
- Online, address any favorable or unfavorable patient testimonials.
- Be aware that patients can now review your practice on some websites. Your practice manager or marketing team should apply these best practices to websites such as Healthgrades, Yahoo, RateMDs, Vitals, ZocDoc, and more.
Pro Tip: If you have fewer than four stars, Google algorithms will not display your listing in the 3-Pack. The term “best,” such as “best family practice near me,” is automatically associated with a four-star rating in Google searches. If you do anything less, you’re out of there.