Why Local Search Marketing Strengthens Your Overall SEO Strategy (Plus, 16 Common Mistakes to Avoid)

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Is your hospital or medical practice website optimized for local searches? If not, you're missing out on a high-intent audience ready to convert. 

Why? Because healthcare consumers can’t find your business online if it’s not optimized for local SEO.  

Effective local SEO for doctors, hospitals, and health systems requires a complete understanding of the healthcare consumer’s needs and wants and Google's ever-changing algorithm.

What’s more, you’ll need a robust plan for optimizing local and organic search marketing.

Are you ready to improve your search engine rank and placement despite today’s ultra-competitive environment?

In today’s blog post, I share:

  • What local search marketing is,
  • Why it’s valuable for healthcare organizations,
  • What it takes to rank for local SEO
  • And, 16 common local SEO mistakes to avoid.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO, or local search marketing, is the process of optimizing your website and directory listing to generate increased local traffic. Typically, people performing searches with local intent are more likely to convert (e.g., schedule an appointment).

Though local and organic SEO are intertwined, each requires different strategies and optimization tactics. Local SEO focuses on location-specific optimization, while organic SEO focuses on overall content optimization.

Local search marketing is more potent when your marketing team specializes in your industry and areas of expertise. Their inherent understanding of your local audience will boost brand awareness and recognition and elevate your business listing into Google's Local Pack, the most sought-after position on Google's local search results page.

What is Local SEO for Doctors, Hospitals, and Health Systems

When done right, local SEO curates your patients’ entire online experience—from initial research through appointment scheduling. 

Combining local SEO with these efforts (and more) are essential for creating a positive user experience:

  • Complete and accurate directory and local pack listings
  • An informative, intuitive website that effectively guides the user experience
  • Specific, localized website content
  • An optimized website and blog containing keywords with optimal search volume
  • Robust technical SEO that allows search engines to understand your content
  • A strategy to review and respond to patient reviews promptly.

Local SEO for healthcare organizations is essential for building trust with your local audience—no matter how many locations you manage. The goal is to enhance the visibility and credibility of each practice and physician using consistent and accurate information.

When clients hire our healthcare SEO experts to improve their local search marketing, we usually start by optimizing the Google Local Packs, including groupings of similar businesses that appear near the top of Google's search results page. 

For example, if a site visitor searches "Women's Health in Los Angeles, CA," a group of businesses matching that description within a mapped area would appear in the Local Pack.

Location-based searches, including the phrase "near me now," have grown 150%+ in the last two years. But, even without the words "near me" or "near me now," location information is often provided to search engines automatically, allowing local SEO digital marketing services an opportunity to rise above the competition.

What it Takes to Rise to the Top: Local Ranking Factors

The Local Pack ranks in the number one position in 93% of Google searches, making it the most important local search tactic for increasing phone calls, leads, and patients.

When someone searches for local urgent care, hospital, medical practice, or physician, Google returns a conveniently pinned map with three local businesses. 

How are they chosen? Google's local algorithm is based on three critical elements:

  1. Proximity

    How close your business is to the user’s current location

  2. Prominence

    How popular and well-regarded your business is in the local market area

  3. Relevance

    How appropriate your products and services are, based on the user's search intent

"Much like organic SEO, in local SEO, only targeting the best key terms won't help drive more traffic to your local business,” says Naghmeh Jafarzadeh, SEO Manager at Healthcare Success.

“You must have high-quality, relevant content. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and try to provide the best answers to the questions they might have.”

The Google Local Pack is where you want your business to appear every time someone in your local market area searches for the types of products or services you provide. 

Let’s talk about how to get there.

What are the top Local Pack ranking factors?

Several factors influence how well your site ranks, particularly when it comes to local competition. Here are the top local pack ranking factors that can improve local SEO for doctors, hospitals, and health systems:

  1. Google Business Profile

    Google Business Profile (GBP) is a free service offered by Google. It allows nearby customers to conduct a keyword search based on their needs, learn about your products and services, and get 1-tap access to your contact information.

  2. Reviews

    It's essential to have a review (and respond) strategy that gets more positive online reviews onto your GBP. Google's algorithm highly values patient reviews and greatly influences whether someone clicks-through to your website.

  3. On-page SEO

    On-page SEO supports higher website visibility in the search engine results page (SERP). Include relevant keywords, phrases, and NAP (name, address, phone number) information.

  4. Links

    High-quality backlinks are valuable for boosting organic and local SEO. Backlinks from sites with high authority (a respected and trusted source of information) tell search engines that other resources find your content valuable.

Now that we’re clear on what is local SEO and the work involved to rise to the top, it’s important to look at some of the top mistakes many healthcare companies make with local SEO. 

16 Local Search Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in Healthcare

1. Unlocalized keyword targets

While ranking for "best hospital" would be fantastic, this keyword phrase isn't specific enough to help your business rank well on Google's search engine results page (SERP), let alone drive the local traffic you want. Instead, try using more specific keywords like "rheumatologist near Irvine, CA," or "rheumatologist near me." For "near me" searches, Google uses the searcher's present location to ensure it's delivering relevant results.

2. No patient reviews

The quantity (and quality) of customer reviews on Google are critical ranking factors for local search marketing. Hospital, multilocation practice, and individual physician listings that include customer reviews (positive and negative) present greater credibility and receive more clicks. To increase or improve online review ratings, train your front office staff to ask patients to share their positive experiences immediately following their appointment.

3. Ignoring negative reviews

Negative reviews give businesses a unique opportunity to share their personality and empathy, humanizing their brand. The best things to do are to recognize the review, show gratitude ("thank you for your feedback"), show responsibility, respond promptly (typically within three business days), tell them how you're improving, and keep in touch—the fortune (customer retention) really is in the follow-up.

Additionally, healthcare professionals must maintain HIPAA compliance while responding to reviews by not revealing any protected health information (PHI).

4. No Google Business Profile (GBP) listing

Google Business Profile is the best form of local SEO available today—and it’s free. Google Posts (a feature within GBP) engage customers, invite conversation, and direct traffic from your Google Business Profile to your website, boosting your SEO scores.

According to a 2019 case study of 2,000 Google Business Profile users, only 17.5% of businesses create GBP posts every week, meaning your business has a tremendous opportunity to move into the local pack just by posting.

5. No directory profiles

Though Google Business Profile has certainly taken center stage for directory listings, submitting your business information to other popular local and niche directories (e.g., Vitals, Healthgrades, etc.) should also be considered. Keeping your practice and physician information complete and accurate makes it easier for your customers to find your business and research physician education, credentials, ratings, specialties, etc.

Complete and accurate directory profiles amplify your business's visibility by allowing users to locate crucial information easily.

6. Inconsistent NAPW data

Businesses with complete and accurate contact information can easily match with local searches. That's why it's important to have your name, address, phone number, and website (NAPW) information accurate and consistent everywhere your brand appears online. In the past, this was a nightmare for larger organizations like hospitals and multilocation practices; however, multiple changes can now be applied simultaneously across business groups (individual practices and physicians) via Google Business Profile Manager (f.k.a. dashboard for Google My Business).

7. No backlinks

Backlinks are the foundation of Google's original PageRank algorithm, making them crucial for SEO performance. Links from highly trusted sources increase site authority, which strongly correlates with better search engine rankings. Backlinks from well-respected and established professional organizations are valuable in determining a website's page rank. For hospitals and multilocation practices to earn backlinks, staying active in the medical community and organizations relevant to your practice is vital (e.g., suppliers, publications, nonprofit organizations, fundraisers, etc.)

8. Website not optimized for mobile

In 2019, 56 percent of U.S. online consumers searched for local businesses via a mobile browser, and 41 percent used a mobile app, underscoring the importance of a mobile-ready presence. Healthcare organizations that aren't optimizing their web properties for mobile devices will lose business.

First, understand which devices your visitors use regularly and optimize for those formats. However, it's crucial to keep in mind that slow page load times and poor site performance can also affect conversions and revenue on any desktop, tablet, or mobile device.

9. Poor quality content

Accurate, timely, reliable, and relevant content is crucial for attracting and retaining new and prospective customers. It communicates your message, educates your readers, and persuades them to purchase your products and services over your competition. But content involves more than just your service pages and blog posts; today’s healthcare consumers want a helpful website, informative local directory profiles, and educational content on your social media and blog.

10. Duplicate listings

Duplicate listings can negatively impact your main listing by damaging its credibility and reducing its visibility. They can also spread to other sources (e.g., more duplicates), leading to consumer confusion and frustration. Use Google Business Profile Manager to reduce the chance of duplicate or incorrect information and manage and maintain your business groups.

11. No contact information on website

Accurate contact information establishes where potential customers can expect to find your business and helps it rank higher in search results. Forty-Six percent of all Google searches have local intent. If your website or directory listings do not include accurate NAP information, or if it's inconsistent across these different platforms, your potential patients will seek healthcare elsewhere.

12. Poor image optimization

Successful image optimization for web performance means finding the perfect balance between the smallest file size and acceptable image quality. Optimized images improve page load speed, which increases user engagement and search engine rankings. Consider file names, title tags, ALT tags, and captions when adding images to your website or blog.

13. Keyword stuffing

Filling your page with excessive keywords will do more harm than good. Instead, it’s important to maintain optimal keyword density (e.g., the total number of words in your copy divided by the number of times your keyword appears). While there is no exact number for proper keyword density, a 2% keyword density is considered best practice.

14. Unoptimized blog content

Every blog you write should be relevant to your target audience and optimized with a primary keyword or phrase, incorporating it into your title, meta description, H1 tags, and body copy). Blog posts using a variety of on-page SEO tactics give your website a bigger opportunity to rank higher in search engines.

15. Poor technical SEO

The purpose of technical SEO is to optimize the infrastructure of your website (site architecture, navigation, HTML tags, URL structure, schema markup, etc.) so search engines can easily access, crawl, interpret, and index it. If your technical SEO is sub-optimal, your business will struggle to find its place on Google, meaning your traffic won't grow. While smaller medical practices can get away with sub-optimal technical SEO, hospitals and multilocation practices must make this a priority to support local and organic SEO tactics.

16. Poor local search analytics

Tracking at the local level is crucial for ensuring your online content meets patient expectations and your local SEO strategy matches their search intent.

“It’s just as important for hospitals and multilocation practices to focus on local SEO efforts as it is for their individual medical practices and physicians,” says Fionn Downhill, Senior Account Director at Healthcare Success.

“Patients will always drill down into larger sites to locate and research the particular services, physician, or specialist they need. Tracking the number of phone calls, clickthroughs, reviews [and review quality] and form submissions that originate from local SEO efforts can help quickly identify areas in need of improvement.”

Optimizing your local SEO tactics will deliver a larger, more engaged audience ready to convert. Get there without breaking a sweat by partnering with a team of healthcare marketing experts skilled in developing robust local SEO strategies. Let us know if you’d like to schedule an exploratory call with our team.

Move your business inside the highly competitive and coveted Google Local Pack, and keep it there with strategic local search marketing designed explicitly for healthcare.

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