Many businesses need to decide whether to focus on local SEO or not. Healthcare — apart from medical tourism — usually finds this decision easy. You can’t fill that cavity, give that vaccination, or deliver that baby without being in the same room with your patient.
Some healthcare professionals think that means that they can ignore SEO. One of the common beliefs about SEO that we’ve encountered is that it’s not important for local businesses. People who believe this seem to imagine someone moving to a new community, deciding to find a dental practice, and wandering down Main Street until they find one that looks good.
Local SEO matters.
That’s not really how it works. Sure, some newcomers will ask their realtor for the name of a good dentist, or get a referral from their dentist in the town they’re leaving. But Pew Research Center found that 72% of American adults go online to look for health information. Nearly half of those people were looking for a healthcare professional of some kind. 70% of the people in the survey go to a doctor or other healthcare professional when they have a serious health issue.
Those who don’t already have a family doctor are most likely to start their search with Google. 91% of participants in BrightLocal’s latest survey of consumer behavior said that they use Google when they look for a local business. 47% said that reputation was the most important factor in their choice of a doctor or dentist, and online reviews were one of the most important ways they determined reputation.
It’s worth keeping in mind that most doctors don’t have a strong online presence — many don’t even have a website. This means that review sites are often the only source of information people have when looking for a doctor.
Showing up in local results is very important for medical professionals who are accepting new patients.
Essential steps to local SEO
First, of course, you must have a website. This is essential for a strong local online presence because this is the only part of your online presence that you can actually control. Don’t think that avoiding having an online presence means you won’t show up for searches. You just have no control over how you look in he search engines results pages (SERPs).
Your website must be mobile-friendly, too. Your website visitors are very likely to use their smartphone and tablets to look for you. Google also gives preference to websites that look good on phones. This is not optional.
If your current website is responsive and complete, check these important elements:
- Can search engines tell where you are? Make sure that your physical address is completely clear, preferably in the format you’d use to address and envelope. People looking for a medical facility will generally be shown the one nearest to their location, so it’s critical that Google knows where your facility is.
- Do you have local citations? Make sure that you’re listed in local directories, and that your online listings have your current address. This is evidence for the search engines that you really have the location your website claims you have. It also helps to demonstrate your authority and position in the community.
- Is your content locally relevant? Include your city name in your content when it’s relevant. We’re not saying, “We are your Kansas City chiropractor for all your Kansas City chiropractor needs.” We’re saying you should mention local areas and events, towns and city names, and so forth when it makes sense to do so.
- Do you have local links? If you can gain high quality links from local domains, you should. Ask for a web link when you speak locally. Check lists of local health practitioners and make sure you’re on those lists, with a link back to your website. Add links to your website when you create or update your profile on the websites of local organizations.
- Are you up to date at Google My Business? Make sure that you have just one account for each of your locations and that all the information is up to date and correct. Make sure that your address at GMB matches your address at your website, too.
Local SEO relies on making sure that the search engines understand your exact location. But that just tells Google where you are. Google still has to decide whether to offer you to a nearby searcher, or to offer your competitor. Having the best possible website is still essential.