Location is often a key factor for patients when choosing a doctor. It’s no wonder that map listings are one of the top ways that patients search for doctors. Patients may be willing to travel for certain procedures and skills, but when it comes to care providers that they will see on a regular basis, patients are more likely to choose doctors in close proximity to where they live whenever possible.
Search engines also center results around this behavior, seeking to show patients the best options nearby. You may have noticed that in a regular Google search, especially on mobile, you’ll see 3 map listings at the top of the search results page if you search for a particular type of medical practice. When you’re on mobile, you usually don’t even have to input your location to get locally-relevant results because your phone has GPS.
We often have clients ask why certain practices rank in map listings while others don’t. The answer is, it’s a mix of several different factors. If you want to increase your practice’s chances of showing up in map listings in today’s search environment, focus on the following factors.
1. Make sure your listings are completely filled out.
Unless your practice or one of your office locations is brand-new, there is a good chance it’s listed on Google and other directories already even if you haven’t made any effort on that front. Google will automatically pull in basic information about your practice, including your address and phone number, as well as your website and listed hours of operation if available.
However, there are so many other features that you could be taking advantage of to make your listing stand out and boost its visibility in search results. A lot of practices don’t go beyond that bare minimum information. Google My Business, in particular, offers several more opportunities for practices to input useful information, some of which are even healthcare-specific. Take advantage of as much of that as possible. The more information you provide, the more information you are giving both patients and Google about your practice, and the more likely you are to show up in search results.
The same goes for any other listing directories–make sure you claim your listings and fill out as much information as you possibly can. We do recommend starting with Google, though, as a lot of other online directories source information from those Google listings.
2. Aim to create as much consistency as possible across the various listing services available online.
Not only should you work on filling out as much information as possible on each of your online listings, but also keeping things as consistent as possible. Consistency with key details like your business name, how you show your address, the phone number listed, etc. helps search engines connect the dots among all the different directories out there. This is especially helpful for branded searches, to help ensure that your practice dominates the search results page when patients search for your practice name.
Most online listing services require some sort of verification process to be able to make updates to your listings. This is to help protect your practice from having the listing updated with inaccurate information, or worse, nefarious attempts to interfere with your information.
With so many listing services out there, it can be a daunting task to try to claim and update all of them, and keep them all consistent as you do so. Paid tools like Moz or Yext can help you stay on top of this by allowing you to submit all of your practice information in one centralized location that is then pushed out to the various listing services they partner with. Depending on the number of locations you have, this can be reasonably affordable and save you a great deal of time as compared to making these updates manually. However, if an automated service isn’t in your practice’s budget, we recommend starting with the directories that show up on the first page of Google search results for your practice’s name and expanding outward from there.
It’s also important to note that it’s next to impossible to get 100% consistency across all of the listings for your practice online. Even with a high-coverage automated service, there will still be little details that slip through the cracks. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep working at it, but it’s important to keep in perspective. The fact that you are diligently working at consistency will likely put you a step ahead of many of the other practices in your market.
3. Focus on getting a steady stream of patient reviews (starting with Google).
Here at P3, we stress the importance of patient reviews all the time. It might sound like we’re just making the same point over and over, but we keep repeating it because it really is that important. Online reviews are only increasing in importance with regard to both search engine/map ranking and patients’ decision-making processes. It’s just not something you can ignore anymore. Utilizing a reputation marketing service to maintain a steady influx of positive reviews is a great business investment for your practice.
With that being said, it’s important to note that reviews are not the only factor for ranking well in map results. A common question we hear from clients is “Why does this other practice rank higher in the map results? Their reviews aren’t nearly as good as mine!” The answer to that question is complex, because like all other ranking factors, Google isn’t 100% transparent on how they determine ranking for map listings. More than likely, though, it’s a combination of the other factors we’ve discussed in this article. Maybe their reviews aren’t great, but they’re getting a lot of the other things right. Sometimes it even boils down to the searcher’s location.
All of this is to say, while we consider reviews to be one of the most important factors of your online presence, you can’t focus on reviews alone and call it a day. All of these factors are important if you want to improve your ranking in map listings.
4. Regularly reevaluate your listings to keep information updated and take advantage of new features.
Once you have all of your listings claimed and updated as necessary, the work doesn’t stop there. It’s important to update your listings every time there are any changes with those key details, especially if your phone number or address changes. Even if there have been no changes, we still recommend checking in at least monthly to make sure no changes have occurred with your listings. Google, in particular, will often make changes to your listings based on information reported from users or other information available online, and sometimes it is incorrect. You can review and reject those changes if you log into your account.
Also, online listing platforms are always adding new features to make them more useful to people, especially Google My Business. COVID-19 was a big example of this, with several new features being added to Google and other listing services over the past year. New features included a field to add a link to the practice’s COVID-19 policy, as well as an option to add a direct link to telemedicine services. Other options included the ability to indicate whether or not a mask is required, whether or not virtual care options were available, and indicating if a business was temporarily closed (previously, businesses could only be marked as “Permanently Closed,” which would not have worked well for businesses only needing to close for a few weeks).
Whenever relevant, your practice can and should take advantage of new listing features. These things are usually added to provide searchers with as much information as possible, and doing so could help to boost your visibility in map results.
Map listings, like all other online services, are always evolving to remain helpful to the people that use them. Keeping up with those changes can help your practice build up and maintain great ranking in locally-relevant searches, which is why we consider it one of the foundational aspects of online marketing for medical practices.