April 24, 2021
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.”
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.
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.
Local search has evolved to ensure that search engines understand a consumer’s query and present the most relevant results.
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.
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.
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
There are two types of information that appear in the local search: static and dynamic.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
If you want the best digital patient engagement and marketing platform, you need Doctible.