local seo for doctors

Local SEO for doctors in a nutshell

As a doctor, who doesn’t want to have predictable patient numbers and business volumes for their practice? In this digital era, online visibility is key, and local search engine optimisation or SEO is essential to grow your practice. So let’s go over the essence of local SEO for surgeons and specialist doctors.
local seo for doctors

Local SEO for doctors in a nutshell

Els van der Veire - Co-founder Digital Practice

Els Van de Veire

December 22, 2021

What is local SEO?

google ranking for doctors

Doctors, specialists or surgeons typically operate in a local catchment area. In Australia, that is often one of the capital cities or a regional town.

Patients in the area looking for your services would typically google something like this:

  • General practitioner Broome
  • Gastroenterologist Melbourne
  • Gynaecologist Sydney

Or, they would leave out the location and perhaps search for:

  • Orthopaedic surgeon near me
  • Plastic surgeon

Particularly with the last two examples, it is pivotal for Google as a search engine, to display results in that particular patient’s local area, rather than showing medical websites of doctors who are 5,000 km away.

So how does Google do this? When you follow the best practices listed below meticulously, the Google algorithm will always know exactly where your practice is located. Google then connects this information with the search query of a patient and his/her/their location.

For example, whether you use a tablet, laptop, desktop computer or mobile phone, in most cases Google knows where that device is located. (You can skip the information in the blue box if that’s too technical – but keep reading as I will give a bunch of tangible tips to optimise your local SEO)

This is what Google has to say about how they define your location:

  • Many devices, like phones or computers, can work out their precise location (…)An IP address (also called Internet address) is assigned to your device by your Internet Service Provider, and is a requirement to use the internet. (…) IP addresses are roughly based on geography. This means that any website you use, including google.com, may get some information about your general area.
  • As you use our services, we may infer that you’re interested in a place even if your device isn’t telling us exactly where you are. For example, if you search for “Cafes in Paris”, we may assume that you would like to see places near Paris and show you results of cafes there. Some items from your activity, such as previous searches, may also include the general area you were in at the time.
  • Most mobile phones are equipped with GPS, which uses signals from satellites to determine a device’s location – however, with Google Location Services, additional information from nearby Wi-Fi, mobile networks, and device sensors can be collected to determine your device’s location. It does this by periodically collecting location data from your device and using it in an anonymous way to improve location accuracy.
    Google Privacy & Terms

Below I will list 8 best practises to make sure you’re doing everything you can to tell Google where you are based so your practice shows up when someone does a local search.

#1 Set up Google Business or optimise your current profile

Google Business essential for local seo for doctors

So what is a local search result? Well, it looks like this:
local SEO for doctors

Results showing up in the blue box are Google Business profiles. If you don’t have a Google Business profile, you can not show up here, and you would be missing out on a lot of business and opportunities. A Google Business profile is more than just a listing with a directory. It displays your essential contact details such as your phone number, street address and website address. It’s pivotal for a doctor to have a Google Business profile, and if you are unsure where to start, get in touch and we set up a profile for you or your medical practice.

If you already have a Google Business profile, make sure all your contact details are up-to-date. Have you recently relocated? Did you change your phone number? Perhaps you have a new web domain that needs to be added? Is your primary category still up-to-date? Your services? Your opening hours? Your images and videos?

Did you know that you can update your Google Business profile as if it were a Facebook profile? As we are writing this, we are getting ready for Christmas (which falls on a Saturday and Christmas Eve on a Friday); so perhaps you need to change your business hours to reflect your current opening times this holiday season? This is all possible with Google Business and unfortunately, it is still an underestimated platform – though in my opinion, the most important social media platform of all!

#2 Choose the right Google Business category

Google Business category for local seo

If you’re new to Google Business, you will see that you can choose up to 10 categories to list your business in. These categories help users find your business so it is important that you choose them well.

There are over 3,000 categories to choose from, which seems like a lot. For doctors, the choice is quite limited and attuned to the American market (for example you won’t find “general practitioner” in the list, instead choose “doctor”. Gynaecologists are listed under “Obstetrician-Gynecologist” which is an issue if you do not deliver babies.)

Your primary category is the most important one and it should describe your business as a whole. If the category you have in mind is not available, choose a more general one and add additional ones to let patients know more about your specialties or services.

If you are unsure which category to choose, take a look at your competitors. It’s not the Holy Grail as they may not have done their homework well, but at least it is worth a try.

local SEO for doctors

#3 Create geo-targeted landing pages on your medical website

geo-targeted medical marketing

Geo-targeted landing pages are the perfect reply to the search intent of someone local…who obviously prefers to find a local doctor. Someone typing in “obstetrician Bondi” will most likely be looking for an obstetrician in the Bondi, Sydney area.

Landing pages are content pages built specifically for a specific group of patients who are searching for your services. A geo-targeted landing page is optimised for a specific location and you would use them to target areas around your own suburb or you would create geo-targeted landing pages for each of your clinic locations.

A word of caution! Google’s artificial intelligence keeps fine-tuning the way it looks at quality content and the general evolution is to discourage duplicate content: for example, a copy of your ‘obstetrician Bondi’ page targeting a different suburb with exactly the same copy. That is a no-go. You must ensure that every content page is 100% unique.

The focus when you do geo-targeting on your medical website is to keep it genuine and real. You can think of creative ways to mention the location and to talk about your work in this specific catchment area, and then also simply rewrite the story of that page so you share the same information… just in different words.

And before you spend a couple of weekends writing for every surrounding suburb… It actually really helps to have a physical presence and an official clinic address in the suburb that you are targeting.

#4 Don’t forget your meta tags

Local SEO for doctors with metas

How do you know your website is fully optimised for local SEO, including the meta tags? This is a difficult area because meta tags are a technical job. It is important to hire a qualified web developer who understands search engine optimisation really well.

In summary, the way your website is structured is important, from using appropriate headings, choosing URLs for your content pages that include your catchment area, to adding title tags and meta descriptions.

In saying so, you can ask your web developer to check if this has been done properly, but the truth is this work should actually have been done before you launched your website. You can do it afterwards, but it comes with a whole new set of tasks and skills and chances are your web developer will tell you off.

When you work with a medical digital marketing agency like Digital Practice, all this behind-the-scene work is included in our services, simply because we take pride in our work and even though it may be invisible to you, it won’t be after a few months when you wonder why you don’t show up in the search results.

Title tags and meta descriptions for example are important on-page SEO components, that you localise no matter what, as you are serving a local area.

Curious to check them out? Title tags and meta descriptions are the little snippets that you see when you google something. It looks like this; familiar right? Not many people know that you can dictate to Google what is to be displayed there (though Google sometimes ignores your input and chooses its own snippet). When we created Perth Plastic Surgeon Jeremy Rawlins’ website, we knew that he is operating in a highly competitive market. We made sure that his meta titles and descriptions were optimised for local SEO (as we do for all our clients).

local SEO for doctors

#5 Add your practice to directories

directories for medical websites

This is an easy one. To show Google you are a legit company. it helps if your business is added to other directories than Google itself. In Australia, HealthShare is a well respected one. It is a free Specialist and Allied Practitioner referrals directory that is quick and easy to use. Health Engine is another one we recommend; listings are free.

#6 Be consistent when you add your location details (NAP consistency)

location details for doctor websites

Let’s cover another important aspect of local SEO for doctors: NAP consistency. This stands for Name, Address and Phone Number Consistency and it is another best practice that affects your Google visibility. Even to an extent that it is one of the crucial aspects of running a successful SEO campaign.

NAP consistency means that the exact details, your name, your address and the way your phone number are formatted, need to be identical across all web properties. They include your website, your Google Business entry, your social media accounts, your entries in directories and the details that are displayed on hospital websites. The consistency impacts the authority Google gives you.

The place where these details really matter is your own website. Your website footer is often the best piece of real estate to include your clinic’s main address. If you have rooms or satellite clinics in other locations, you want to explore if geo-targeted landing pages are a better way to help local patients find their way to the closest location.

When your details are consistent across directories and platforms, Google knows that this is all about one and the same medical practice. It means that you are more likely to rank well in local search results when patients are searching for your services. Tools such as Bright Local and Moz Local can check for inconsistencies in your NAP citations.

#7 Ask your web developer about Schema markup

schema markup for doctors

Schema markup or structured data is a piece of code, used to provide information to search engines. It is a semantic vocabulary of microdata that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines interpret your content.

With Schema markup you can help Google by providing specific information about your site, which can help your site display somewhat richer features in search results.

Here’re a few examples of featured snippets that we have generated for our clients:

#8 Maintain an active social media profile

social media for local SEO for doctors

This is a question that many doctors ask me: Do I need to set up a Facebook or Instagram profile to boost my local SEO?

The impact of an active social media profile is not as direct or spectacular as the work you do on optimised content pages, your Google Business profile or your meta tags. However, social media profiles can really help you stay in touch with your local community. Sharing information is always seen as a way to move patients off the platform (Facebook or Instagram) and toward your own (your website).

You can be active by listing the types of information that are helping your patients and prospective future patients: events that you participate in, changes in opening hours, background information on your team members, news about the latest research in a relevant area…

The more you build in opportunities for patients to click through from your social media profile to your website, the more you are connecting those two worlds.

When your digital assets are set up following the latest best practices, those clicks from social also send a signal to the search engine, confirming that you really have a relevant presence in the targeted area.

Links to blogs on LinkedIn for example are a very effective failproof way to drive more quality traffic to your website. That would be traffic from other doctors (general practitioners or family physicians), who are your LinkedIn connections in your local area and potential referrers.

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Let’s upgrade your local SEO together!

healthcare SEO consultants

Why not upscale your local visibility and the online lead generation system for your private practice? Book your free strategy session today so we can discuss the growth opportunities and the roadmap to higher Google ranking in your area for your medical specialty.

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