Category: Author: Jaren Martineau
We’ve blogged previously about the increasing importance of local search. A dental practice is a local business. Patients do not buy dental services online and have them shipped to their homes. Rather, they must physically go to the location of the dental office in order to receive their services. In other words, patients are looking for dentists who are near them. A key component in the process of bringing in new patients is to make it easier for local patients to find your practice.
A dental practice is a local business. Patients do not buy dental services online and have them shipped to their homes. Rather, they must physically go to the location of the dental office in order to receive their services. In other words, patients are looking for dentists who are near them. A key component in the process of bringing in new patients is to make it easier for local patients to find your practice.
Local search is a rapidly evolving animal. For this reason, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest stages of its evolution. Google recently updated its page on how to improve your local search rankings. Much of what can be found on this page has been known, or at least assumed, for quite some time. It is nice, however, to be able to see some of these outlined in writing straight from Google. Most of their advice is Google-centric, primarily focusing on recommendations on how to use your Google My Business listing to improve your local rankings. Let’s take a dive in and examine some of their advice.
Verify your Google My Business listing(s)
This seems like a very obvious first step, but it is a step that many never take and a step that is necessary in order to follow most of the remainder of Google’s advice. Many people have a Google My Business listing, but it may have not yet been verified. Verification gives Google assurance that the information that is being presented is authoritative and trustworthy. There are steps to follow in order to verify your listing. Google will typically mail out a postcard to your office location with a code that can be used to verify the location from within your Google My Business panel. In other situations, you may be able to verify your listing through phone verification. Once it has been verified, your listing will be able to gain “the best opportunity to appear for users across Google products, like Maps and Search.”
Specify your office hours
Within your Google My Business listing, you should accurately list the hours that your office is open. In addition to helping your local rankings, this can make a difference in your click-through rate from the Google Maps search results. If your listing does not have your hours of operation, it will not show that your office is open from within the search results. It will simply omit this information. Here is an example of some practices that do have their hours listed right next to others that do not. I have highlighted the areas in red where Google is showing that an office is currently open.
If this were me searching for a dentist, all else being equal, I might be more likely to view the profiles of the dentists that do have this information before clicking on the ones that do not. A word of caution, though: do not list your practice as open when it is not. This can make a potential patient very unhappy. I have even seen a negative Google review that was left for a business solely based upon a customer who was unhappy that they had called a business that was listed as being open that had already closed for the day.
Another piece of advice that Google gives us regarding hours is to create and maintain a list of holiday hours. This can include hours when you may be closed for continuing education events or office vacations. Google has indicated that your inclusion of these holiday and special hours will boost your rankings. It’s a fairly simple procedure to give them these hours, so just do it.
If you don’t put in holiday hours for Google’s list of holidays, when those holidays roll around, your listing will have a disclaimer posted under it which says that the hours that are listed on your profile may be different due to the holiday.
Manage your reviews
The importance of online reviews is well known. Accumulating a series of positive reviews can help your Google My Business listing to stand out, increase it’s click through rate, and even to increase your local rankings. Google’s updated page on local search rankings also tells us that “responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.” Negative reviews certainly should be responded to in a way that is professional and demonstrates respect for the reviewer and seeks a way to resolve it. Neutral or even positive reviews can also be responded to. This will show that your practice is highly responsive, caring, and aware of its patients. It may also improve your rankings.
It should also be mentioned that reviews on reviews platforms other than Google can also have an important impact upon your practice and even your local search rankings. Patients are certainly looking at online reviews. An ongoing internal study that we are doing is showing that just over half of all patients are consulting online reviews before making an appointment with a new dentist. Another consideration is that people with iPhones are getting results from Apple Maps which are based on Yelp rankings, and Yelp rankings are based on Yelp reviews. Keeping an eye out on Yelp reviews is thus important to your rankings in Apple Maps, not to mention your rankings on the Yelp app or the Yelp website.
Google also recommends using images in your My Business listing. Google gives several options for different kinds of photos within your My Business listing. You can upload a logo, profile image, cover photo, photos of the outside and inside of your building, staff members, employees while at work, and photos of your products or services. There is also a place for a virtual tour that can be added to the profile. It is important to use good high-quality images that accurately represent your business. Try to have some photos in each of the categories of photos that are available.
Data consistency, relevance, distance, and prominence
A large part of your local ranking comes from four main factors: data consistency, relevance, distance, and prominence. Achieving data consistency is a fairly time-consuming task, and occupies most of our time when we are working to optimize clients’ maps rankings. There are near forty online directories that Google checks for this consistency. If they see the same practice name, address, phone number, and other details in all the directories, that gives your practice a major boost in rankings.
As far as relevance is concerned, you must ensure that your practice is properly configured within Google My Business to help Google to understand what search terms are relevant to your practice. Google has several categories that are relevant to dentistry, and you should choose the categories that are most relevant to what your practice offers. Google allows you to choose one primary category, which should be selected as your most important overall service. You can also choose several other relevant secondary categories. These can make a significant difference in which search terms you will be able to rank well for. Choose them wisely.
Distance is a factor that both helps you and hurts you. How far away a searcher is from your location plays into how visible you will be to them in local searches. A patient on the other side of town will be more likely to see dental offices that are near to them. Conversely, patients that are nearer to your location will find it easier to find your practice. It is important to understand that distance is one of many components in the algorithm, not the only component.
Prominence also plays a part in the local search algorithm. How well your practice is represented online will impact your rankings. How well your website ranks in Google’s general search results definitely will impact how well you will appear in local search. General SEO is still a very important factor of how well you will rank in local search. If your practice is well positioned, has consistent information, and is listed in quality online locations this will positively impact you. Having a local news website mention your practice, having links from important local business or dental directories, and quality articles about your practice or its services can help to increase this prominence.
There are so many aspects of what to do in order to get your practice showing in local searches that one wonders where to start. Which components will be the most beneficial to your practice? Who will keep an eye on this project? Maintaining your local presence can take time and effort. With all of the potential benefits of local search you don’t want to overlook the details that are involved in getting it right. Many practices are involved with maintaining these efforts in-house, but others will seek out a reputable local search expert to help them. Whichever way is right for you, it is important to be aware of local search and to make sure that someone is attending to these critical details.