What is local SEO and how can it help independent practices grow?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the keys to successful marketing for independent practices. Understanding the technology behind online tools for promoting the practice to potential patients is important for independent physicians and their team. What is local SEO? How can this approach help independent practices grow?

An online presence, supported by digital marketing efforts, can reach individuals across the globe. To reach patients within the practice’s community, though, it is important to focus on local SEO. Think of local SEO as the online equivalent to offline activities that would attract people in the immediate area, such as the practice signage or a local advertisement.

The ultimate goal of local SEO when marketing an independent practice is to convince search engines such as Google that the practice should be visible toward the top of the results list when potential patients are searching for a new healthcare provider. Most people do, in fact, search for a physician online before calling for an appointment. They will base their decision on many factors, including the quality of the practice’s website and reviews submitted by current patients.

Some specific strategies to leverage local SEO for marketing independent practices include:

Claiming and optimizing the Google My Business listing for the practice. Potential patients doing a local search query will see Google My Business pages first. The page is free and can be claimed by providing:

  • The name of the practice
  • Address, phone number, and email address
  • Hours of practice operations
  • Practice photos
  • A short description about the practice.

Optimizing the page can be done with frequent updates and answering questions that may have been submitted on the page.

Developing a strong content marketing strategy. Content marketing is used by 89% of healthcare providers to engage potential patients as a way to grow their practice. High-quality, relevant, and accurate information will make a significant difference to patients who are searching online for a physician. Including keywords that patients will typically use in their search will improve the potential for the practice to rank high in the search results. Content can include an educational and informative blog, establishing the provider’s authority in a helpful manner.

Encouraging patient reviews. When searching for a new provider, 84% of patients use online reviews to evaluate healthcare practices. Encouraging current patients to leave reviews can benefit the marketing efforts for independent practices as potential patients check out those reviews to help them in the decision-making process. Follow up office visits with a request for the patient to leave a review about their experience on sites such as the practice’s Google My Business profile as well as Yelp and Healthgrades. Once reviews are posted, it’s critical to respond promptly whether the reviews are positive or negative.

Optimizing the practice website. Another major aspect of a potential patient’s search for a new provider is to visit the practice’s website. There they will want to see information about the physician and the clinical staff, about the practice itself, and about how they can communicate with the provider and access their medical records easily. All of this needs to be available on a site that is professionally designed, that loads quickly, and that is mobile-friendly. Approximately 90% of website visitors will abandon a site that is slow to load, 80% will do so for non-responsive issues, and 70% will do so for poor site navigation. These issues also reflect in the practice’s marketing efforts when trying to attract new patients.

Connecting with local patients by taking advantage of local SEO strategies can help independent practices grow in a cost efficient and effective way in a growing digital world.