Last month I outlined some basics to consider for dental practice SEO. To continue this conversation I want to discuss certain topics in more detail. This month I’m discussing local SEO, as I believe it is the single most important SEO topic for businesses that serve a specific region.
Over the last few years, Google has been placing more of an emphasis on serving “local” results to a searcher when this is relevant. If you think about the direction that Google is moving, this makes perfect sense. When somebody searches for “restaurants” and does this search from Denver, they are probably looking for a restaurant in Denver. If Google didn’t take your location into account, a search for restaurants might be useless to you because it would be trying to rank every piece of content on the web that was relevant to restaurants. When I search for restaurants, Google automatically serves me top rated local results that are close to my location here in Minnesota:
All three of these results are not websites, but Google Business Listings that have been enriched with images, store hours, location info and have several customer reviews. Last month, I mentioned the importance of customer reviews. In this instance you can see this in action. Google not only knows that these restaurants are close to me, but it also knows that they are popular because they have several reviews that are generally positive.
Now if I search for dentists or dentists near me, this is what I see:
The SEO nerd inside me notices something right away: the first organic webpage result is way at the bottom of the page! That means that short of paid advertising, almost ALL of the search results I am seeing are local results on the first page. Last month I mentioned that you need to make sure your Google business listing info is accurate and optimized; the reason is that if your listing information is not accurate and optimized, potential new patients in your area may not even know that you exist!
With local SEO in mind, here are 4 things that should help you get on the right path:
1. Come up with a consistent convention for name, address and phone number (NAP) for your business
When submitting to multiple directories, one inconsistency (even punctuation) in any of these items can seriously affect how your listing ranks in search. Have you ever moved offices or changed addresses? Your listing might be outdated in one source, therefore confusing search engines like Google.
2. Make sure you claim and verify your business listing with Google
This is step one. If you have done this already, there are many things you can start doing to optimize your listing for search. Casey Meraz published a very extensive guide to auditing your local SEO on the Moz blog. Start with the section titled “Local SEO audit phase 1: Google My Business page.” Casey gives brilliant step-by-step advice here that you can follow if you are more advanced with your local strategy.
3. Beyond Google, it is important that your business listing is up to date and accurate in all major online directories (i.e., Yelp and InfoGroup)
In fact, this point has become so important for businesses that there are services that will help you manage this. Tools like Moz will help you make sure your business listing is accurate, consistent and indexed by almost all major directories. Also, they have a free tool that helps assess the state of your listing today.
4. Target your webpages for local search
I will cover this topic in more detail next month, but here are some things to consider now: Put the name, address and phone number for your business on every webpage and use the same consistent standard you’ve established in #1 above. Often the footer is a good place for this. Also, it’s a good idea to have a brief description of your practice that mentions the markets you serve and the services you provide. Make sure your NAP info is text and not embedded in an image, otherwise the Googlebot won’t be able to find it.
I hope that you find these suggestions helpful in getting your local SEO strategy off the ground. Next month I want to discuss page optimization in more detail or in other words, things you can do to make sure your webpages are targeted for the right search traffic.