Local SEO and Why It Matters for You

Local SEO is yet one more buzz-phrase to throw around when it comes to online marketing, so let’s go ahead and clarify so that we can all be on the same page.

Local SEO is the type of search engine optimization that businesses with brick-and-mortar locations should be using. Local SEO is specifically targeted at getting your business to show up for geographically relevant keywords like “Detroit plumber” or “Albany podiatrist.” There are a number of tactics involved, but the big picture involves using those geographic terms on your website in a way that makes sense.

Don’t go spamming people. If you’re throwing in phrases like “St. Louis dentist that serves St. Louis patients,” then site visitors and search engines will run away from you like the plague.

First, create relevant content on your site that corresponds to your location, and secondly, ensure that your location information is consistent in as many places as possible.

Take a minute to go and do a quick search for your practice name right now. Just open a new tab and type in “[Practice Name] [Your city]”.

How many different types of listings do you see? You likely have a mix of results like Yelp, Google Places, Healthgrades, and a score of other map and review listing sites. Is your business name consistent across all of those site? How about your phone number? Your address?

Those three questions form the baseline that you need to establish in order to start seeing positive results in local search. Abbreviated as the “NAP” (name, address, phone number), consistent information provides two major wins for your practice:

  1. Patients can find you. This cannot be overstated. We rely on GPS systems and phone directories to help automate the more mundane tasks of our lives. When your listing info is incorrect, then patients have to decide whether it’s worth their time to continue to pursue the communication. If they are simply researching specialists, then they’re not going to bother. They can just go on to the next candidate.
  2. Search engines “understand” your location better. If you have an old listing in another city that is still online, then search engines cannot know for certain whether your practice is still there or not. There has to be a certain threshold of consistency for the algorithm to determine that your old info is an outlier that should be disregarded instead of a relevant point of data.

When search engines understand your location, they are able to see a higher relevance between your usage of the phrase “Albany podiatrist” and your map listing located in Albany. This means a higher likelihood of showing up in search results — not only for people searching for “Albany podiatrist,” but also for people who are located in the Albany area and simply type in the word “podiatrist.”

Higher ranking leads to higher traffic, which leads to a substantially higher percentage of getting those patients into your practice.

Does That Mean I Don’t Have to Deal with the Rest of SEO?

Once you have good content and good listings, will you automatically dominate search results?

Not necessarily.

When it comes to marketing, there are very few “automatic” results. That’s simply because you’re ultimately dealing with responses from real people, and people — though they often show behavioral patterns — are still impossible to predict at 100% certainty.

Our discussion is not about saying what will definitely happen but about increasing our chances so that we can see the results we want.

For local SEO, we take care of tasks specifically dedicated to this type of marketing while still employing best practices from the rest of SEO. We still want good relevant title tags, clean code, pages that load quickly, and the list goes on. Basically, local SEO is not a shortcut so that we can do less, but it’s a crucial bit of extra effort that helps the sum of our work become even more effective.

When we build a website for a practice, we include some local SEO to help practices get found. After all, why build a website if people can’t find it?

How Can I Improve the Value of My Local Listings?

In future posts, we’ll talk about the many different types of local listings that are available for medical and surgical practices. We’ll look at which ones are likely to give you the strongest results and the specific rules and advantages you need to know for each of the main listings.

For now, you’ll want to start checking your listings on Google+ Local (those are the map results in Google) and on Bing Local (Bing’s maps). Make sure that your NAP is correct. Add photos and / or videos if you have them, and fill out the information as fully as you can. Add your website link.

Simply put, look for any and every way to help a potential patient contact you.

Local SEO resources:

Search Engine Watch: 6 Ways to Accelerate Your Local SEO Success in 2014 »

Huffington Post: Local SEO: 5 Tips to Conquer Your Local Market »

Moz: Free Local SEO Tools that Belong in Your Kit »

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