As search has evolved, it has become more local. Google is getting smarter and smarter at knowing when a searcher is seeking a wide-focused, knowledge-based result or is simply looking for a local business to solve his or her problem.
Take two searches for someone in Minneapolis:
- “What causes an ice dam?”
- “How do you fix a leak from an ice dam?”
Google used to not be very good an understanding the nuance between these two different searches. But the two could be very different.
The first query could be a homeowner looking for ways to stop an ice dam from forming on his or her roof. Maybe a big storm is coming, and the searcher wants general information about ice dams in order to prevent one. If the search returns a bunch of local contractors, the searcher could be irritated because if he calls the local contractors they will likely skew their answers to getting the person to use their business.
The second query, however, probably should return a mix of contractors and possible home remedies for ice dam roof leaks. Once the searcher sees that he cannot probably fix the leak without professional help, he will then have options to contact.
That nuance is easy for us to see, but it’s has been harder for the algorithms that drive search engines. Just five years ago, if you lived in Sante Fe and entered “Bike Shop” in search, keyword gaming could have returned a bike shop from Indianapolis or the Schwinn corporate site in your results. Not very helpful for getting your mountain bike brakes adjusted at a shop near you.
Today, Google and other search engines return local results most of the time. These are based on the location of the searcher. But how do you move up in those searches? Whether we handle this aspect of your online presence for you or not, Google My Business is key to improved local search results. Here are some tips from Google itself to make it easier for your practice to rise to the top of local searches.
Enter complete data
Accuracy and consistency is key here. Your practice contact information can be posted in many places on the web, and they need to be consistent. Otherwise, search engines think they may be different practices. If your practice is Suite 213 of the Metro Medical Plaza at 400 Park Avenue, it shouldn’t be #213, Medical Plaza, 400 Park Ave. in some listings, with other variations in others. Make should you’ve entered all of your business information in Google My Business: physical address, phone number, category, and other relevant information. If something changes, be sure to update your information. If you don’t want the hassle, our Local Power tool ensures your listings are consistent across the web.
Verify your practice
Even if you have a Google My Business listing, you need to take a second step and verify it. Your verification allows you to manage your practice information on Maps, Search, and other Google properties. The verification is important to not only check accuracy, but to also ensure that only you, the practice owner, has access to it. Here’s more detail about verifying your practice.
Make sure your hours are correct
If you have special summer hours, they need to be entered. Same with holiday hours. If your Google Maps listing says you’re open Fridays, but you’re not in the summer, and a person shows up at 10:30 a.m. Friday in June, guess what comes next? Probably a bad review.
Manage and respond to reviews
We’ve harped on this often in our Advice Media blogs, but it’s important — when you receive a review you need to respond to it. This shows you’re paying attention to your customers and their experiences with your practice. Plus, by responding to a less-than-glowing review, you may be able to turn it into a revised future good review if the patient is satisfied.
Add as many photos as are relevant to your Google My Business listing. People love to look at photos and they can give a quick tour of your practice, helping potential patients move to booking a consultation.
So how does Google rank local businesses?
Google’s goal is happy searchers. The company wants the highest satisfaction when it returns search results. That’s why they’ve moved away from keywords as the main determinant in search returns — they were getting gamed by marketing agencies and consultants.
Google says it ranks local results based primarily on three criteria: relevance, distance, and prominence. These three factors are mixed together to try and find 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.
If your dental practice specializes in dental implants, particularly the All-on-4 method, be sure you say so in your business information. If Google’s algorithm fully understands what your practice does — the procedures it specializes in and other services it provides — it is more able to accurately match you with the searcher.
Searchers don’t have to always add their location to their queries any longer. Google knows where you are, for better or worse. This can be skewed somewhat for desktop users depending on the Internet provider’s hub, but with phones Google knows where you are to within a few feet. If you’re close to the searcher and your practice’s offerings match the searcher that boosts you in local rankings.
Prominence is how well known your practice is. For instance, the Mayo Clinic gets boosts in search simply because it’s the Mayo Clinic.
Google also assigns prominence based on what it finds about the practice across the web. Links, articles written by the doctors, listings in directories — these all increase a practice’s prominence. Reviews come into play here, as do your interactions on social media with patients. More positive reviews and ratings will improve the practice’s local ranking. Prominence is also improved by SEO best practices — that’s where you can let us do our thing.
Your practice may be right around the corner from a potential searcher, but if some of this stuff discussed above is incorrect or inconsistent, that searcher may not find you. If you have any questions about local ranking for search, either contact your Advice Media representative, or if you’re not yet a client, fill out our contact form and let’s talk.