Today, we are fortunate to have a guest blog post from our friends at Straight North, who provide SEO, PPC and web design services. SEO is search engine optimization which boosts your ranking and gets you to page one of Google where prospective patients are searching for your services.
PPC is pay-per-click which is an economical way to advertise your services and your practice or healthcare facility.
Google dominates the search engine business, and its domination is growing as it eats up bigger and bigger chunks of the rapidly expanding volume of mobile searches.
This is a big opportunity for medical practices. Google recently let on that one-third of its mobile searches have local intent. In plain English, this means that millions of people are searching for local medical professionals on Google. Practices that exploit this opportunity will earn more new patients, possibly a quite substantial number of them.
Here are five ways you can improve your local SEO performance and start capitalizing, or capitalize more strongly, on all of those people looking for someone like you to help them.
1. Take a NAP
“NAP” — Name, Address, Phone Number — is fundamentally important for local SEO. The NAP information associated with your physical location(s) should appear on all pages of your practice’s website. Doing this makes it easier for Google to see that your practice is geographically close to the Google user conducting a relevant search. As with all things SEO, this information is also helpful for human visitors to your website, as it makes it easy for them to find you or phone you.
2. Get Relevant Links to Your Website
When respected websites link to your practice’s website, it sends a signal to Google that your practice is respected, professional and competent. If the links come from local websites, even better.
“Link building,” as it’s called in the trade, is often a superb way to distance yourself from competitors, since accomplishing this takes a bit of time and effort, or paying an SEO specialist to do the work on your behalf. Nevertheless, the investment is worthwhile because one of the biggest ranking factors on Google is your inbound link profile. Quantity plus quality of inbound links equals higher rankings.
You have several avenues for earning links. Some of the best:
- Press releases. There’s a great article about press releases and SEO on this blog — well worth reading!
- Local chambers of commerce and local business websites.
- BBB (VERY well respected).
- Blogs and websites focused on health care, wellness and lifestyle issues will be interested in publishing articles written by you on relevant topics. Your article should include a link back to your website.
- If you’ve had research or other articles published in medical journals or other online publications, make sure they include links back to your website.
3. Build Your “Google My Business” Profile
Google My Business (GMB) is a free platform for listing your medical practice. Like other listing platforms (e.g., Yellow Pages, BBB), GMB boosts your online visibility — but since GMB is a Google property, well-constructed listings there often get preferential exposure for Google search. Here are instructions for setting up a GMB profile the right way.
4. Encourage Patient Reviews
Like inbound links, positive reviews from patients tell Google your practice is strong and worth displaying to its search engine users. Reviews posted on GMB are among the most powerful, but your patients probably will need instructions for how to post reviews there. Some practices have instruction cards available in the reception area, and/or send patients a post-visit email with instructions.
Positive reviews published on your website, Yelp, BBB and other reputable directory or health care websites also carry a lot of SEO weight. Just be careful not to solicit reviews or compensate people in some way for posting a review; doing so may be a violation of a website’s terms and conditions, and may cause you many more problems than it’s worth.
5. Have Great Appointment-Setting Usability on Your Site
Never forget the goal of SEO is to obtain appointments or inquiries that lead to appointments. Thus, while not strictly speaking an SEO technique, having a website that makes it easy for visitors to do these things is essential.
First, your website MUST be responsive — that is, designed to adjust automatically for great viewing on a mobile screen. If your site is not yet responsive, make the change as soon as possible.
Your phone number should appear on all pages of your site. In mobile viewing, the phone icon should have click-to-call functionality. You may even want to label the phone number and icon “Appointments” or some similar verbiage to make it absolutely clear what the number is for.
Your inquiry and/or appointment forms should be simple and require as little information as possible. If there is one thing you want to continually test and get patient feedback on, it’s your forms. As you improve their usability, your ability to secure appointments and inquiries will increase.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a leading Internet marketing company in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Moz, Smashing Magazine and Entrepreneur.