What do medical practices have in common with McDonalds? They both serve customers, or in the case of medical practices, patients, at a specific location. This specific location is all-important for local search engine optimization (SEO). It gives your medical practice the ability to compete, and dominate, the search results for people searching in their area. Not only does this give you the opportunity to be the big fish in a small pond, but the searchers who will find you are highly qualified because they are already within your immediate catch basin.

The finer points of local SEO require a deeper understanding of SEO in general, but the basics are pretty easy and will provide you with a solid local search foundation.

The Basics

Create a Google+ Local page and verify your business. This will instantly get you ahead of the local competition. Surely you’ve heard of Google+, but you probably haven’t explored it too much. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your competition probably hasn’t either, so getting over this hurdle will help get you on top in the local results.

  • Head over to plus.google.com. You should be able to log in with an existing Google or YouTube account. If you don’t have one, you will need to create one. Even if you do have one, Google+ will prompt you to add some information to your profile before you can continue.
  • Once you are logged in and squared away, select the drop-down menu in the upper left corner that is currently showing “Home.” Select “Pages” and in the top right of the resulting page, click the “Get your page” button. If you are a medical practice, on the next page, you should select “Storefront.” From here, you will be walked through the process of creating your Google+ Local page.
  • Alternatively, you can go through places.google.com to create your page. This way is more comfortable for some, but either way, you will need to create a Google account and Google+ profile to manage the resulting Google+ Local page.

Keep your NAP consistent everywhere it appears online. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. In the eyes of Google, your NAP is your identity. Having different information on your Google+ profile and your website can confuse search engines into thinking that they represent two different businesses. Make sure that you keep consistent everywhere to send a strong signal to Google that each of your web properties represents the same business.

Medical directory sites like md.com, healthgrades.com and vitals.com are all opportunities for you to demonstrate to Google that you are a legitimate, established business. Yelp.com is especially important, but I’ll explain more on that in the next bullet. Claim these profiles and enhance them to whatever degree you can. You may not see all of them in the search results, but know that they are boosting the rankings of the pages that you are seeing in the search results.

Get your patients to submit reviews. Having many positive reviews tells search engines two things: this is a very active medical practice and people like this medical practice. High numbers of positive reviews have been shown to have a boosting effect on your local search rankings. Each of your patients is an opportunity for a positive review online. Make sure that they know, as much as you appreciate them telling you how much they enjoyed their experience, it would help you if they submitted their story online. Where should they submit these reviews?

  • Your Google+ Local page. Google+ Local is fully integrated in Google Search and Google Maps. For this reason, it will by default receive more impressions than any of other medical directory sites. This is the single best place to receive a positive review and should be your first recommendation to a satisfied patient.
  • Your Yelp.com listing. What sets Yelp apart from the other directory sites I previously mentioned? They are integrated with Apple, Yahoo, and Bing. Normally, I tend to ignore what Bing and Yahoo are doing since they usually just follow Google’s lead, but when Apple, Bing, and Yahoo are all doing something that Google is not, it’s worth paying attention. If someone is searching for a local business on their iPhone, on Bing, or on Yahoo, instead of the Google+ reviews, they are going to see Yelp reviews, so make sure that you’ve claimed your profile and have enhanced it as much as possible with images and quality content.

Once you have completed these steps, you will have left the majority of your competition in the dust. Local searches for your business keywords will begin to display your website and Google+ (and Yelp) profile in the search results and you will start getting leads through local search. Doing everything I mentioned above, aside from getting reviews, should not take more than a few hours and will make a big impact on your local search initiative.

Once you’ve moved past these steps, things begin to get a little more complicated. Steps like adding Schema markup to your NAP on your website and identifying your local keywords will require a little more expertise. If you would like help with the basic setup, the more advanced items, or simply a professional opinion on how you are doing in local search, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.

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