We know how people look for doctors online. They start by searching for their healthcare issue, they browse for physicians who take their insurance, and eventually they narrow in on the kind of medical professional they need. That’s when they’ll search for “doctor near me.” Or, depending what they learned when they did their earlier research, “orthopedic surgeon near me” or “family medicine clinic accepting Blue Cross near me” or whatever they’ve decided they need.
So, if you’re a doctor, should your website be working on keywords like “doctor near me”? Should you try to work “doctor near me” into the text of your homepage? Should you show a button with “Find a doctor near me!” as the text?
To answer this question, you need to understand the difference between normal organic search and local search. Someone searching for “forensic pathologist” might be curious to know just what a forensic pathologist does. They might be thinking about forensic pathology as a career path or writing a paper for a class. Google uses search history and other clues to make a guess about the searcher’s intention, and shows the best possible answer for the query.
Someone looking for “women’s health clinic near me” is probably looking to make an appointment with a doctor. They’re probably not looking for anything about “near me.” They just want someone physically close by. Google understands this and switches to local search.
Local search ignores information about newsworthy events that took place at a women’s clinic, the average income of women’s clinic owners, and essays on what it’s like to work in a women’s clinic in the developing world. Google checks out the searcher’s location and shows the closest women’s clinics.
This means that you — assuming that Google understands what you have to offer and where you are — will be likely to show up in local search for people who are geographically close to you when they search.
A woman sitting on a park bench half a mile away will probably see your website in her search results. Another woman making the same search 15 miles away will probably see someone else’s website.
“Near me” triggers local search, not a search for the phrase “near me.”
How can you win at local search?
The first thing you must do for local search is to make sure that Google knows your physical location. Use your address on your Contact page, writing it as you would write an address on an envelope. Sign up with Google Business and make sure your address shows correctly on Google Maps.
Optimize your Google Business listing. Use schema markup on your location pages.
We used to do a lot with specialized content to clarify location, but Google is now very good at identifying searcher’s locations and at identifying business locations. Make sure you include your address and you are good to go.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be at the top of “near me” searches just by adding your address. “Near me” searches have grown exponentially recently, and you can feel confident that your competitors are also including their addresses on their websites.
Rank still matters
“Near me” searches tend to take place on mobile devices more often than desktop devices, so make sure that your website is mobile-friendly.
Then make sure that your website ranks well among local competitors.
- Identify the best keywords to reach your target market.
- Identify the questions prospective new patients will have.
- Make sure you have the best answers for those questions.
- Provide an easy path to purchase for your target market.
- Work on building great local links.
The result will be a high-ranking website communicating well with search engines — and good results when nearby searchers look for “a doctor near me.”