If you are a dentistry practice, most of your patients probably come from the same geographic area your office is physically located in. It has always been vital to market your practice to these prospective patients, to let them know you exist and that you can accomplish the results they seek. In the past, to do this you may have purchased a listing in the local Yellow pages. In today’s internet age, there are online services like Yelp and, now, Google Local. Google Local funnels searchers to the best local businesses, which are rated according to Google’s standards.
Considering that Google controls almost 80 percent of the search market, the importance of showing up on Google’s local listings is evident.
What are Google Local and Local SEO?
You have probably heard of Google Local. But, what is it? Local refers to a specific section of the search engine results page (SERP), where Google displays local businesses in what is typically an A through G listing. In the search results page, it looks like this:
Local search engine optimization (SEO) involves meeting Google’s quality standards, so that your practice shines above the rest. This is where it gets tricky. What is a quality business in Google’s eyes? How do you communicate to the search engine that you are a business worth listing? This blog post offers preliminary answers to these and related questions.
How do I Show Up on Google Local?
Like with any Google search results, which businesses show up is determined by an algorithm. This is a secret formula that uses a list of variables to measure the quality of your practice. What are these variables? Short answer: we don’t know. Without knowing the variables, how do I know how to meet Google’s standards? That’s a very good question to which there is no concrete answer. Figuring out what these variables are and how to meet them is what people like me — SEOs — do. I can, however, give you an idea of what Local SEO is all about.
We know some of the factors Google takes into account. These include:
- Geographic location: As the name suggests, Google Local wants to return results that correspond to the searcher’s geographic area. Making your physical address explicit and accessible to Google is crucial. Where do you leave your address? Your website, Google Plus, Facebook, Yelp, et cetera. Of course, don’t forget Google Maps (which draws its information from Google Plus)!
- Citations: Every time your business is mentioned online, this is called a citation. Google assumes that if your business is being mentioned then that’s a signal for quality. Citations include Yelp, Yahoo! Local listings, and Angie’s List. There are literally hundreds of possible citation sources, although not all of them are of equal value (and average value does play a role in determining your position within Google Local listings). It is vitally important for your business’ information — name, address, phone number, and website — to be consistent across citations.
- Reviews: What your patients have to say about your practice matters, it matters a lot. Not only do prospective patients read these reviews, but so does Google, in order to judge whether you are a business worthy of online traffic. Need more reviews? Check out Sarah Hurlock’s recent article, “How to Get Great Reviews.”
- Inbound Links: These are links to your business’ website. Links can come from a variety of sources, and not all of them are equal in value. It’s easy to set up a website designed entirely to spam links to your main site, in order to trick Google. Trust me, search engines are smart enough to catch this. That’s why your link profile has to be closely watched and why any bad or low-value links need to be removed or disavowed.
- Website Optimization: How well optimized your website is for SEO is an important factor for Google Local. Are your website meta titles optimized? What about your meta descriptions? Is your website a reputable source of information? Does your content comprehensively address your patients’ questions and concerns? Businesses that do well in organic search listings, which is the standard Google result (now placed under the local listings box), stand a better chance of doing well in the local listings.
- Social Media: Is your business on Google Plus and Facebook? Is it on Twitter and the countless other social media websites? If not, it should be. Whether your patients are “liking,” or “+1ing,” or “retweeting” your content and blog also factors into whether you show up on local searches. Social media also brings readers to your website, whose actions also send signals to Google on whether your business is worth listing. Once someone arrives on your website, does she stay or does she immediately leave? Does she visit other pages? Was the information you provide her worth her time?
Now is the Time to Get Ahead of the Game
While competing on Google Local takes time and hard work, the results are well worth the toil. The internet plays a central role in directing searchers to local businesses, whether it’s a coffee shop, a book store, or a dental practice. If you don’t have an internet presence, or if your presence is not competitive, then you are denying your business the opportunity to thrive. The Local SEO world can be difficult to navigate, but that’s why Now Media Group is here.
Let us do what we do best, getting patients to your practice, so that you can do what you do best. There’s no sense in wasting time. Contact us today to speak to our consultants about what our team can do for you.
Director of Marketing at Now Media Group, with a background in quantitative economics and analytics. Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International.