You may have heard it already from your online marketing firm: “Go local, young man” (Apologies to Horace Greeley.) In addition to the shift to mobile, the increase in voice search, and the rise of “pay to play” across channels on the web, local search remains a key marketing focus beyond the more traditional aspects of just getting ranked on Google.
So how do you compete and win? Let’s look at a 4-step process, tailored to medical providers.
What Is Local?
Before we get started, let’s answer a simple question for some context: what is local search, anyways? Moz, a dominant voice on search marketing issues, defines local search broadly as “anything you do on the web to promote a physical business that makes face-to-face contact with its customers.” While that covers a lot of ground, there are actually some pretty established ways to execute on local search goals.
Steps to Success
A successful strategy for a medical provider to dominate local search includes:
- Focusing your services based on user behavior, business needs, and local intent.
- Sculpting your content and keyword strategy to match up with user questions.
- Mapping an easy path for people in your community to find you online.
- Creating competitive difference.
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
1. Focusing Your Services
Before you can reach more people searching locally, you have to understand what they’re looking for.
- Which of your services receive the most search volume from your local community? – Your online marketing firm can share this information with you. In most cases, you should be pretty dialed in on what people in your market want, but you might be surprised how local search volume compares to your treatment volume. For instance, you might see a lot of searching for “lip injections” or even “collagen filler” in your area, even though cosmetic surgery procedures are your focus.
- How does this match up with your business goals? – Taking the example above, even though you offer these services, they may not be your big moneymakers or the focus for your practice. So would you want to focus on them or not? Two schools of thought – one is to focus first on only your top treatments, wherever they fall on the local search spectrum. Another is to go after the top local terms and then upsell or reframe the patient’s need in your office. We’ve seen this second approach deployed very effectively, but you need to be set up to nurture what you may see as “tire kickers” into patients for your core services.
Health consumers searching for local information are more likely to be seeking services where they can essentially “self-diagnose” as part of their own decision cycle vs. ones that will require advice from one or more medical professionals. This is why we mentioned services like injectables or skin treatments playing an outsized role in local search. If you focus on services that can be performed quickly, you will reach a bigger local audience.
In cases where big local search volumes match up to key procedures you perform or want to perform more of, you’ve identified the most important areas worthy of further local content development. Stay tuned in step 3 on how to execute on that.
2. Sculpting Content and Keyword Strategy
This is all about finding keywords that are relevant to your practice. You can check Google Search Console and Google My Business Insights to see what terms patients are using to find you. Also look at Google Keyword Planner so you can uncover new opportunities based on what’s happening in your local market. When you use this tool, it defaults to the whole U.S., so make sure to filter by your city or region for the best local information.
Organize the keywords you find into terms related to your brand, higher-volume terms around conditions/concerns/procedures, and localized keywords focused on location (“cosmetic surgeon Pittsburgh,” “Tribeca medspa,” “botox near me,” etc.). Armed with a set of local keywords, you can audit the existing content on your website and begin to figure out how and where to deploy content so reach local searchers. What existing resources are local searchers using the most? Your contact page? Photo gallery? Patient resources section? These are the areas where enhanced and expanded content can pay off the most.
3. Mapping a Path for Local Searchers
Local searchers will have many pathways to interact with your practice. Each step along the path is an opportunity to make a positive impression for new patients and reinforce your brand for existing patients. Some of the most common places local searchers might find you include:
- Google My Business: It’s critical to keep this resource up to date. It’s how you show up in Google Maps listings (including map pack results. If you have any outdated GMB profiles, work on closing them down or consolidating with your main page.
- Local Listings Sites: There are hundreds of sites that offer local listings, from Citysearch to Yellowpages. We use Moz Local to help make sure each client’s name, address, phone and website url are standardized across the web.
- Review Sites: Make sure your profiles on Yelp, RealSelf, Healthgrades and many other common review sites for medical practices are up to date. Better yet, get a review monitoring service (we use Empathiq) to make sure you are responding quickly to both good and bad reviews.
- Social Media Profiles: If you have a profile on a platform, make sure you’re posting content to it regularly. Stale social profiles can send a bad signal to prospective patients.
- Your Website: Your site is still the main hub to tell your story. Keep adding your best patient photos and new blog content, and make sure pages like About Us and Contact are dialed in for your brand.
Analyze these resources to see what’s driving conversions and look for opportunities to improve or expand content. Also note how easy it is to move from one resource to another. For instance, if someone hears about your practice from a friend on Facebook, what does the journey look like to read reviews, see your before/after patient photos, and contact the practice for a consultation? Are there ways to make those key points in the journey easier? For instance, maybe you should put some of your before and after cases on Instagram, or regularly post some of your great reviews from Yelp, Google and Healthgrades right on Facebook.
4. Creating Competitive Difference
This last step may be the easiest to understand, but it’s often the hardest to implement. As you know, people have many options for cosmetic procedures in your market, and many doctors list the same types of reasons why they are worth consideration – board certification, years of experience, personal results, a supportive staff, etc.
Gaining a true competitive edge means digging deeper and presenting your services in a unique way that your competitors have overlooked. That means more than just rephrasing what it is you do – in most cases, if you’re going to have a true differentiator, you’re going to need to do some heavy lifting to make it happen.
For example, maybe you want to be known as the practice where almost everyone can get financing. To make that happen, you may have to line up a number of financing companies and possibly even explore self-financing for people with lower credit scores. There are numerous ways to differentiate, and it’s ultimately the only way to stay competitive if you’re facing stiff local competition.