We have previously explored the importance for the GP practice of having a strong search engine presence. After all, if you invest in a GP website, you will of course expect it to deliver you a return.
As we've discussed before, Google My Business and Google Reviews are two of the most effective ways to boost your search engine ranking whilst at the same time inspiring trust in your practice.
Both of these initiatives form part of what is known as 'Local SEO', or 'Local Search Engine Optimisation'. Local SEO is like the online version of the Yellow Pages. You may recall back in the days of those cumbersome paper directories that if a business wasn't listed in it, it wasn't worth contacting. Well now, the same goes for Local SEO: if your organisation doesn't show up for a local search, it is quite simply going to be overlooked.
Quick Refresher: The Google Local Pack
When you search for a local service, you will most of the time come across the Google Local Pack.
The results return essential information including a phone number, address, directions, opening hours and a website link. Whilst you can click 'more results' to see the rest of the listed businesses relevant to your search, it is likely you'll focus your attention on the top three that appear instantly.
Google says that 50 per cent of mobile users searching for a local business go on to pay it a visit within 24 hours, and that 80-90 per cent of shoppers read online reviews about a local business before buying anything. These statistics may be retail related, but they are all relevant to any local service provider, including the GP practice.
Achieving a top spot in the Local Pack should be a marketing goal for any GP practice. But the Local Pack is not the be all and end all of Local SEO: there are other important initiatives you will need to include in your GP surgery marketing campaign.
Other Local SEO Initiatives
Local SEO has several benefits. Not only does it bolster your chances of appearing in the Local Pack top 3, it also reinforces your overall local online presence.
Local SEO is geared towards getting you in front of people in the nearby vicinity who are looking specifically for what you offer. It helps build reputation, increase visibility and, in short, helps get GP surgeries more patients.
As well as the Local Pack, online directories dominate the top spots in lots of search results. These listings are well known for their excellent conversion rates. Run a Google search on your GP surgery name and you will see it appearing in all sorts of places. These are known as 'citations'.
Wherever you see your business name mentioned online, this is known as a 'citation'.
What are citations?
Citations are generally made up of a name, address and phone number, known as 'NAP'. NAP may also include a list of services, opening hours, a description and a website link. Citations are not just limited to online directories; they can crop up in all sorts of places, including news and review websites and local blogs.
Why are citations important for Local SEO?
Citations are a vital component of Local SEO because they are used by the search engines to validate your business. So, when you are listed on the likes of Yell, 192.com, Yelp, Thomson Local, Scoot and Facebook, not only are you boosting the online visibility of your GP practice, you are also confirming its validity.
Why must my 'NAP' be consistent?
It is absolutely vital to ensure your NAP is correct and consistent across all your online listings. In fact, consistency of NAP has been proven as one of the top 50 Local Pack finder factors.
The problem with citations however, is that many of them are not actually created by the owner of the business. You may well have looked at yours and wondered where on earth some of them came from. The answer, in brief, is data sharing. Lots of companies collect and share or sell business data, which means it quickly gets spread around. So, if you find that any of your NAP is incorrect, you will need to take steps to update it.
How to update my NAP?
The best place to start is at home: your website. Check your contact details are accurate there then make sure your Google My Business listing is also up to date. These are the original sources of your online citations from which everything else is drawn.
The next job is to check the major online directories. The ones we mentioned like Yell and 192.com are the best place to start because they have the greatest coverage. Some directories will allow you to claim your listing with an automated process; others will ask you to send an email request. It may turn into quite a task, but if you approach it a little at a time, you will soon start to reap the rewards.
Once my NAP is up to date, I'm all done?
Not exactly. What you need to do is continue building your online citations. Even if you add just one or two new directory listings per month, it will start to make a considerable difference to your local online presence over time. Choose directories that are most relevant to start with, such as NHS Choices and anything connected with health and well-being. Directories covering your local area are also vitally important. Even your local newspaper will usually have one.
Ensuring your online contact information is consistent and correct is absolutely vital if you are going to have any chance of seeing your GP website ranking well in local search results.
So, next steps? Follow the guidance in this article to ensure your online information is all present and correct, then start building more directory entries. You'll also need to be actively collecting patient reviews and ensuring your Google My Business listing is kept up to date. Refer back to our dedicated guide on that if you need to. All this will help in your campaign to make it into the Google Local Pack top 3.
If you don't already have a GP surgery website for your practice or federation, why not ask Tree View Designs for some information on having one designed? As experts in GP website design, we are in the best position to assist you in achieving a strong online presence.