Today, search is predominantly local. After all, what’s the value of responding to a search query for “Zoom Teeth Whitening” made by someone in Poughkeepsie with the website of a dentist located in Tucson? When you want a local business (versus a product that you’re having shipped to you), Google tries to show you relevant results near you.
But how do you move up in those searches? Google My Business is key to improved local search results. Here are some things you need to button up to make it easier for Google to give you some local love.
With the ongoing weirdness and caution associated with COVID-19, this is the perfect time to make sure all of your information is up to date. That way, when all of the craziness of the past year is finally behind us, you’ll be ready for the crush of new business that’s about to come the way of your practice.
These items are all important for ranking in local search
- Check your data
It may seem silly, but your listings need to be absolutely consistent everywhere they appear, in Google My Business or any other directory. This means it’s not 1422 Beech Street on one, 1422 Beech on another, and 1422 Beech ST on a third. Algorithms are smart, but they can be tripped up by inconsistencies like that, fooled into thinking those are three different businesses. Make sure you’ve entered all of your business information in Google My Business: physical address, phone number, category, and other relevant information. If something changes, such as shorter hours due to COVID, be sure to update your information.
- Verify your practice
Many business owners don’t know this, but just because you have a Google My Business listing doesn’t mean it will appear on Google Search or Google Maps. You need to “verify” it. Your verification allows you to manage your practice information on Maps, Search, and other Google properties. The verification ensures that your business information is accurate and that only you, the business/practice owner or manager, has access to it. There are different ways to complete your verification.
- Make sure your hours are correct
You may have had special hours, say during the initial phase of COVID reopening. Now those hours are different, but you haven’t changed them in Google My Business. That’s a problem. One call or trip to your office when you’re closed when your Maps listing says you’re open is the fastest way to a bad review and a missed opportunity.
- Respond to reviews
Speaking of reviews, when you get one you need to respond to it. We’ve discussed this in many blogs before. Activity is important to show that you are cognizant of your reviews and actively interested in solving any problems. High-quality, positive reviews from customers raise your overall rating score and improve your rank in search.
- Add lots of photos
Add as many photos as are relevant to your Google My Business listing. Show your offices, your equipment, anything that makes sense. Photos can give potential patients a virtual site tour, helping them get comfortable with your practice to a degree before proceeding to maybe scheduling a consultation or using your chat feature.
So how does Google rank local businesses?
Google ranks local results based primarily on three criteria: relevance, distance, and prominence. These three factors are melded to try and provide the best match for your search. The closest business may not rank the highest if another local option (just maybe not quite as close by) has a better offering for what you’re looking for.
This is where making sure you’ve provided complete and detailed business information comes in. If Google’s algorithm fully understands what your practice does — the procedures you specialize in and other services you provide — it’s more likely to return your practice’s site when answering a query that fits.
This is simply proximity. If a user adds specific location to his or her search, such as “Cat Whisperers in Santa Cruz,” the proximity is obvious. If the user didn’t specify, Google will use what it knows about where the person is. With smart phones, Google knows exactly where you are. On desktop search, sometimes your location can be skewed by your Internet provider’s hub.
Prominence is how well known your practice is. Some practices or businesses have prominence because they’re, well, famous. The Mayo Clinic and The Getty Art Museum are very well known, and this makes them prominent in search.
Google also assigns prominence based on what it finds about the business/practice across the web. Links, articles written by the doctors, listings in directories — these all increase a practice’s prominence. This is where reviews also are factored in. More positive reviews and ratings will improve the practice’s local ranking. Prominence is also improved by SEO best practices, and that’s where we, of course, give you an advantage over your competitors.
If your practice isn’t coming up in local search, make sure you’re checking off all of the steps above. And if you have, and you’re still not showing up, give your Advice Media representative a call and let’s work on moving you up. If you’re not a client practice, give us a call or fill out a contact form, and let’s change that.