How Local Search Impacts Medical Practice Online Reputation Management

April 24, 2021
min read

Key Takeaways

  • Local SEO Matters: Search engines prioritize medical practices with good reputations and proximity to the searcher. Being near your target audience and having a strong online presence are crucial for attracting patients.
  • Reputation Is Key: Positive online reviews significantly boost your search ranking and build trust with potential patients. Actively manage your online reputation by responding to reviews and encouraging satisfied patients to leave feedback.
  • Google Business Is Your Hub: Claim and optimize your Google Business listing to showcase your practice details, reviews, and location. This is often the first point of contact for patients searching locally.
  • Mobile-Friendly Website Is Essential: Ensure your practice website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Patients searching on their phones should be able to find all the information they need, including appointment booking options.
  • Invest in Online Reputation Management: Tools like Doctible can help you manage your online reviews, respond to patients, and track your online reputation. A proactive approach to ORM builds trust and attracts new patients.

Local SEO helps patients find the most reliable medical and dental practices around them

Search engines prioritize displaying medical practices with excellent reputations. They also prioritize medical practices that are accessible to patients.

Patients are only going to discover your practice if they are near you and if your practice is listed among the top results.

Reputation, relevance, and proximity all matter. Consider these two searches for a dentist open on Saturday “near me.”

The image shows the results of a Google Search, "Dentist open on Saturday near me." A range of results are shown for Fresno, California.
The image shows the results of a Google Search, "family dentist open on Saturday near me." A range of results are shown for Fresno, California all of which have "Family" in their name. This highlights that local search results includes relevance as a factor. In this case the relevance of the work "family.".

Your practice is likely to show up as the top results for patients when you are located in their city and have an excellent online reputation.

How has local search evolved?

Local search has evolved by "learning" to understand reputation, relevance, and proximity. Search engines like Google “know” that when searching for a medical practitioner, the most relevant results will prioritize practices closest to the person searching.

Let’s say your medical practice is in Denver. If a patient in Richmond, VA searches for a doctor, should your practice appear on the top? No, it isn’t relevant to them.

Of course there are always “edge cases” like people located in California searching for a podiatrist in Cincinnati, but this is not the norm.

The image shows the results of a Google Search, made in California for a podiatrist in Ohio. The 2nd result is CFAC, Cincinnati Foot and Ankle Care. It's relevant because the 1st result indicated they are currently closed.

Local search has evolved to ensure that search engines understand a consumer’s query and present the most relevant results.

The image shows the results of a Google Search, made in California for a podiatrist in Ohio "open now." All the results feature CFAC, Cincinnati Foot and Ankle Care. However, there is an additional message indicating their hours are unknown. This highlights the need for any medical or dental practice to keep their Google My Business listing up to date.

When it comes to local search, a well-ranked medical or dental practice that is easy to reach is more likely to get discovered and selected.

How did patients find local doctors before Google?

When there was no internet, locals discovered medical practices through Yellow Pages, newspapers, TV, radio, and the like. Still, most people preferred to take recommendations for medical and dental providers from their friends and family - something often referred to as “word of mouth.”

Thankfully, the world has since gone digital, making it easy for medical practices and patients to find each other.

How do medical practices benefit from local search?

Investing resources in a practice’s digital presence was just an added expense for medical practices in the early years of the 21st century. Now, it’s increasingly difficult for a patient to find you without a good online presence.

Many practices do get referrals. Most folks prefer searching for medical practices, dentists, MDs, and chiropractors online. This allows prospective patients to check medical practices’ location and hours, authenticity, and, most importantly, reputation even if they have been referred!

A Brief History of Google's Local Search

  • 2004 Google launched Google Local and integrated it with Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
  • 2005 Google Maps was launched and later integrated into Google’s Local Listings, allowing patients to find directions to various medical practices
  • 2005 Google Maps adds pop-ups showing name, address, and phone number of businesses
  • 2007 Google Street View launched, allowing patients to see what a business looks like
  • 2012 Google introduces knowledge graphs highlighting details about local businesses including snippets from reviews through the results pages
  • 2014 Google My Business launched, which is now the best way to find any medical practice

What information does local search convey about a medical practice?

There are two types of information that appear in the local search: static and dynamic.

  • Static information: Your practice name, address, phone number, and location, remains the same unless changed.
  • Dynamic information: Your overall rating, reviews, and FAQs section, is periodically updated.

How does local search provide visibility to medical and dental practices?

You have to be found online, and when you are found, you have to have the information that a patient wants to know as they are seeking services.
- Terri Wellman, Communication Specialist Cincinnati Foot & Ankle Care (CFAC)

When a patient searches for “doctors near me,” results appear in five forms:

  • On the top, there can be local ads running through Google Analytics.
  • These show a title & description for the business being advertised.
  • Clicking on them leads to a landing page for that business.
  • Below that appears the Google My Business results, presenting significant details about your practice that patients want to know.  
  • These details include the reviews, hours, and FAQs for your medical or dental practice.
  • Details that allows prospective patients to get a general insight into your practice.

The impact on Google My Business ranking and reviews after implementing Doctible

by Brain Gravitt, VP of Marketing and Sales, CFAC


The only people who were motivated to come online and rate us were the ones with a bad experience when 99% of the time patients had a great experience.”


Now, if you look at our online reviews on Google, it’s a representative picture of what really happens in our practice.”

Then, you will find third-party websites such as HealthChecks. These sites include reviews that often include similar information as your practice’s Google My Business reviews, but are housed by a third party.

A higher ranking can be earned by your website or practice-related web pages if Google finds the information highly relevant to the patient. Such results usually appear when you search for particular practices, such as “plastic surgeons in Denver, CO.”

Patients can switch to the Google Maps tab and view the medical practice on Google Maps. When folks search for “dentists near me,” they see all of the nearby dentists displayed on a map of their area. Prospective patients can easily get directions to your clinic and see live traffic data on the tab.

How does a medical practice’s online reputation impact the local search engine ranking?

There are plenty of opportunities for a practice to build their online reputation. There are five distinct types of results that appear when one searches for a local medical practice (detailed above): Ads, Google My Business listings, third party review sites, other organic results including your own, and Google Maps view.

Google Maps for finding medical practitioner’s location

It’s necessary to add an accurate location to your Google My Business page; after all, you would not want your patients to end up at a nearby clinic. You can also take advantage of the “Google Street View” to ensure that your practice is accurately represented so that patients may see what your practice looks like before their first appointment.

While this isn’t part of Google’s local search ranking, ensuring your street view is accurate will help your business appear more credible.

Your website is your online clinic

When a medical or dental practice owns a website, that website can be viewed as the practice’s “online clinic.” Potential patients should be able to find everything they need to know about your practice.

Having a well constructed website also boosts your online reputation, enhancing your presence in local search results. Google will include a link to your website within your Google My Business listing.

Google doesn’t rank the attractiveness of your site, but they are concerned if people have trouble using the site. For example, your site should be mobile friendly and easy to use by patients of all ages.

As important as a website is, the best way to reach new potential patients is through Google My Business.
-Ajit Viswanathan, COFOUNDER & CEO Doctible

After discovering your practice on Google My Business, many folks will visit your practice’s website. Because of this, adding chat bots and online scheduling will help your practice get selected by potential patients.

Google Business and third-party directories for medical practices

When you add your practice’s information to third-party directories and local listings, patients have multiple points to engage with your medical or dental practice.

Adding your information to a handful of these websites may positively influence your local ranking.

Google My Business is the number one tool for building an online reputation. If your Google My Business page gets continuously updated, you are more likely to have a top local ranking.

Users can add reviews to your Google My Business page after their visits. These could be negative or positive depending upon their experience.

When a review is positive, it adds to your online reputation. When it’s negative, it shows that your practice has room for improvement. It is important to respond to all reviews to show new potential patients that you care about their feedback and are invested in your patients.

Responding to positive reviews allows you to show appreciation to your patients. Responding to negative ones with a constructive approach shows that you wish to serve patients better. It is important to always view negative reviews as feedback that can help you to make your practice even better.

You also get the chance to answer user queries when responding to reviews. How does this add to your online reputation? Answering patients’ questions shows that you care about your patients’ experience at your practice, and potential patients will certainly appreciate this.

Increased engagement with users will uplift your medical practice’s position on the Google results page. At the top of this page is the “Google 3-Pack,” which is the top three positions on Google My Business for a specific search.

As you continue to improve your medical or dental practice’s online reputation, you will hopefully reach the Google 3-Pack.

Studies have shown over 50% of the local searchers will click on the results that appear on the local pack.
-Bruce Hogan, CEO, Software Pundit

Why is online reputation management for medical practices essential?

  • With continuous online review management, your potential patients will get the latest updates about your practice.
  • Regularly responding to patient reviews and questions exhibits that you care for your patients’ experiences and strive to provide them with the best service.
  • Proactive online reputation management means answering patient queries, allowing your practice engage with patients. Engaging with patients is practical, and personable.
  • When you have a stellar online reputation, patients are more likely to choose your practice for their medical or dental care.

Reputation management allows us to promote our practice and remain strong in search engine optimization, but it also provides a nice feedback loop and validation.
- Brain Gravitt, VP of Sales and Marketing CFAC

Doctible’s role in local online reputation management (ORM)

Doctible’s online reputation management software helps you to manage your online reputation, ensuring you have one of the top results for patients who use local search to find their next medical or dental provider.

Doctible is specifically designed for medical practitioners, dentists, MDs, and chiropractors to build and manage their online reputation. Doctible helps you learn about patients’ experiences and encourages them to provide you with an honest review.

Doctible is completely HIPAA and TCPA compliant. With our software, each one of your happy patients helps make your practice easier to discover and more likely to be selected by new potential patients.

If you manage the administration or marketing of a medical or dental practice, you need Doctible.

Let us show how we can help you. Take our 30-day free trial, explore Doctible, and let’s schedule a time to discuss how to use Doctible to create the best online reputation management strategy for your medical or dental practice.


January 25, 2024

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