Imagine if patients couldn’t find your practice via your street address. Now imagine your phone number no longer worked. Finally, imagine that your business name had never been heard of, by current or prospective patients. What a complete nightmare it would be if your patients told you what they need, you know that you can provide them with those services, but they can’t find you or your business. The modern customer is online and utilizes a smartphone. They search for food, entertainment, and even dentists online. So what does this have to do with your patients not being able to find your practice? If you aren’t optimized for local SEO online, your patients won’t be able to find you! No longer do we live in the age of phone books. Small business information is online, and your practice needs to be there, too.
You may have already heard the phrase “local SEO” before at a conference, or a cold call or email from a marketing team offering their services. That’s great and not so great at the same time.
On one hand, you’ve heard the term, but you’re not so sure what it means or how it will affect your practice. On the other hand, you’re missing out on a large majority of potential patients because your practice name, phone number, and address (NAP) are not being found online where your patients are searching for dentists.
This isn’t a reason to fret, because you can fix or update your online presence so that your patients can find your practice when looking for services you provide.
As a general overview, basic local SEO can be broken up into the following parts:
- Local Citation Listings and Directories
- Online Reviews
- On-Site Local Optimization
The following will give you an overview of each.
Your Modern Patient
Not long ago the easiest way to find a local business in your area was to grab a phone book. You would open to the category of the business you were looking for (i.e., dentists), look for the business name, use their phone number to call for an appointment, and make note of their address to visit them.
The online process we use today seems like a huge jump forward. However, the process is essentially the same, but we use better technology to do the thinking for us. All we have to provide is either the name of the business, the phone number, or the street address.
Today, an excess of 125 million US consumers use a smartphone of some kind with access to the internet. Here’s some more data for you on how these users utilize their phone online:
- 47 percent of users search for local information via their phone online
- 29 percent of users engage in scanning coupons with their phone
- Close to 50 percent of users will research a product on their phone while considering a purchase
Think of your own searches on your phone. Do you use: “topic + city” or “topic + near me?”
Consider some more data from MOZ Local:
- Over 4 billion users have local intent
- 50 percent or more users on mobile have local intent
- Nearly 20 percent of all searches are mobile
MOZ was then able to show that there were about 7 billion unique local queries per month via Google in the United States alone.
The numbers show that any small business who wants to grow needs to be online and locally optimized.
Is your business locally optimized?
Local Citation Listings and Directories
If you tally all the listing and directory sites to which you could submit your business, you would find that there are thousands of them.
A key component to any SEO strategy is local SEO. Not only does blogging help you rank organically, but local helps you rank locally.
To understand the importance behind local SEO a little better, consider the the two primary variables: user and search engine.
The user, your potential patient, has near endless options when it comes to finding a service they want or need. Frankly, the consumer is overwhelmed with options and variety online. This is why search engines took hold, because they take the user’s query and return relevant, organized data, so the user can make an educated decision based on what other people, the search engine, and you deem important for them. If the user likes the experience on the search engine, they will return to it, allowing the engine to monetize via advertisements.
Search engines process massive amounts of data to deliver the most relevant information to the user based on query, location, and other factors. In general, the quality of the data being processed can make or break the business that provided the data to the search engine in the first place. Search engines want to deliver the most relevant results to the user, geography being one major factor when discussing local results.
The “big data” seems overwhelming and endless, but search engines ensure quality and relevance over everything else. How do they ensure this? Cross referencing.
A search engine like Google will cross-reference information using various data aggregates to analyze information as being accurate, inaccurate, or flat out wrong.
Do you know if your business citation is listed correctly? If not, you could be suffering devastating losses online that you don’t even know about.
Did you know 52 percent of users report that positive online reviews encourage them to use that business? According to Search Engine Land, 72 percent of users trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.
Reviews accomplish a few things: they help drive click-through-rate (CTR) to your site and services via local results, they are votes of confidence from satisfied users, and they help you show up higher and more often in local results if your business is relevant to the user’s query.
Small businesses need to pay attention to their online reputation. Do you know what your online reputation looks like right now?
The final piece to this trifecta is your website. Add it to your priority list.
As you’ve already seen in this post, you need to ensure your website shows the accurate, complete version of your NAP (name, address, phone number).
It’s highly recommended to have your NAP listed on every page of your site. It’s also suggested, even though it isn’t a confirmed ranking factor, to wrap your NAP in schema.
What is schema?
It’s data structure code that tells search engines what information actually means instead of just what it is.
1725 E. Southlake, Blvd, Suite 101, Southlake, TX
This is our street address. This address can be wrapped in schema to tell a search engine what each set of characters mean.
1725 E. Southlake, Blvd, Suite 101 = Street Address
Southlake = City
TX (Texas) = State
Schema helps search engines determine what your information means, which helps show more on the SERPs (search engine result pages) for the local business.
In most cases, online businesses will input their NAP in the header or footer to optimize every page on the site. This works for single locations.
However, if you have multiple locations, you need to decide which pages correlate with which locations, and add NAP accordingly.
Ensure your NAP is HTML plain text, so that search engines can crawl it. Your business name, address, and phone number cannot be crawled if implemented as an image.
Do you know if your NAP is implemented correctly?
Just as you would approach your offline marketing to engage with your potential patients, you need to do the same online. Billions of searches are made every day, and your business needs to be online to be included in the results. Optimize your NAP on-site, submit your citation to relevant local listings and directories, and ensure your reviews are positive.