Mastering Local SEO

By Adam Hampson and Lottie Staples / 03 Jul 2019

Digital marketing consultant Adam Hampson and digital marketing consultant and content executive Lottie Staples details how you can improve your local SEO to target new patients in your area

Local search engine optimisation (SEO) is an important digital marketing tool that helps young, independent, and smaller businesses stand out in their local area.1 It’s been documented that Google is changing its approach to favour local SEO in a bid to improve the average searcher’s experience of their services.2 In a new focus on its ease of usability and how useful it can be to its track, Google is now placing more of an emphasis on the quality of the results it shows to its searchers, and other search engines are likely to follow.

Understanding local SEO

Local SEO for small to medium clinics, and even individual practitioners, can make the difference between numerous new patient bookings and a comparatively quieter clinic. It involves a series of tasks that help your clinic’s website and Google presence climb the search engine rankings to become one of the most highly-rated search results for people in your area. The combination of high-quality content, and by this we mean that it is informative and well-written, a Google My Business (GMB) profile and a website that is optimised by location and keywords can be formidable. A GMB profile is a free tool Google allows you to set up for your business. When all the fields are completed, it shows search trac your business name, location, contact information, and opening hours amongst other useful information. If you don’t have a GMB profile already, this is something that comes highly recommended and will only complement your other local SEO marketing activities.

How local SEO makes a difference

When someone searches for ‘dermal fillers near me’, Google doesn’t literally trawl websites for this exact phrase. Instead, they take the valuable keywords of ‘dermal fillers’ and use the searcher’s location, as detailed by the device they’re using, and presents them with the most relevant results. The results shown are websites that Google has deemed the most likely to be valuable to the searcher’s experience; they’ll contain informative content, mobile-optimised design, keywords and locations, and contact details.3 Local SEO also heightens your chances of becoming a featured GMB profile, which means your business listing could appear before the many others in your area. This is why it is so important and can be so lucrative, because it can be used to target those seeking your services in your area; in fact, 76% of people who look for a nearby business on their devices visit within a day’s time,4 turning searchers into real-time patients. These are more likely to turn into return patients just through their proximity to your clinic.5

How to optimise your local SEO

Optimising your website and web presence for local SEO consists of many different factors and tasks that can be largely categorised as: website content, website engagement and GMB profiles. Improving your local SEO will involve segmenting some time to focus on your website’s SEO, and another healthy portion on your GMB profile. Your GMB and organic local SEO both use similar ranking factors, though both also need attention in equal measure. This complex cocktail of different SEO tasks is why you need a good mix of them in your SEO strategy, to ensure your website and your GMB are at their optimum performance.

Optimising website content

Optimising your website content for local SEO is simple, yet very effective. Google’s users search for product or service and location, for example ‘dermal fillers in Nottingham’. Therefore, placing each web page’s relevant keyword and your clinic’s location in a text header and in your written content will help Google flag your website as a provider of these treatments. The aliation you create between your website, the service searched for, and your location will contribute to your website featuring higher in the search engine ranks and therefore the potential for new patients to click-through. Even your images and videos, be they professional stock imagery or your own content, can be optimised through keyword and location alt tagging, which is a HTML attribute added to an image and provides search engines with another term to crawl.6 Any content, whether it is a blog post, photo with alt tagging, or simply a treatment page, can benefit from the addition of your location mentioned somewhere in the page.

Website engagement

Google still uses engagement as a ranking factor in organic local SEO, and it takes into account your website’s bounce rate (the frequency of searchers leaving your website without interacting with it), session duration (how long users spend on your site), and your user interaction (link clicks and contact form submissions, for example).7 These are known as ‘behavioural signals’,8 so the more positive behaviour conducted on your website, the higher value and therefore search engine results’ page (known as SERP) position Google will reward you with. If people in your area are searching for ‘dermal fillers’, find your website, but quickly bounce off it again without converting or spending upwards of a few seconds on it, then your website isn’t going to climb the slippery search engine ladder. This is why you not only need to optimise your content and ensure its informative, but make sure your website functions well and presents plenty of opportunities for interaction.

Google My Business profiles

To compound the efforts you’re making across your website, you should also create a GMB profile for your clinic or spend a little more time optimising it if you already have one. Google’s focus on creating the best and most useful experience for its searchers has led it to value all the information ‘checkpoints’ of users’ search journey, one of those being your GMB and name, address, phone number, and website (NAPW). Making sure your GMB is fully optimised with your NAPW will lead Google to recognising its value, because it can see that your clinic is providing accurate and useful contact information for your potential patients. Not only this, but your GMB can now also be linked to your social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. It’s beneficial to do this because the more cross-platform and ‘useful’ information you provide to Google’s searchers, the more it will value your business profile. Google My Business reviews Google values user engagement and interaction possibly even more so than your own SEO efforts, because it ranks websites and content on what other searchers have seemingly deemed useful and trustworthy. This is why websites with lower bounce rates and longer session duration encounter higher Google search rankings, because they’re recognised by both web traffic and search engines as being ‘valuable’. This is also why GMB profiles with multiple reviews are more likely to appear higher up in the Local Pack and Local Finder (see boxed information). A GMB profile that has multiple reviews shows Google that your clinic has been highly rated and trusted by other people similar to your web traffic. Around 86% of people looking for a service read the reviews of local businesses, and 57% will only use a business if it has four or more stars,9 demonstrating the influence positive reviews have on new patients’ interaction with you. Therefore, Google will rank your GMB higher because it wants to provide its traffic with reliable information and services.

Summary

Local SEO is just as competitive as more widespread efforts because of the need to conquer your location and lay claim to the potential patients. Combining your efforts to optimise not only your website, but your Google My Business profile, in keeping with a comprehensive SEO strategy will undoubtedly gain your clinic great online visibility and the potential for new patients.

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