Marketing your clinic online can be a challenging and expensive endeavor. Search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely effective, and local SEO is free to implement—but without proper planning or staffing resources, it can easily become a full-time job that is tough to manage while running a business. Luckily, Google provides a suite of powerful tools to help. And because many business owners don’t use those tools to their full potential, they present a great opportunity to get a leg up on your competition and be seen immediately when potential patients search for physical therapy in their area.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool from Google that allows business owners to customize and manage their Google search presence. Whether you have one location or multiple, you can easily manage and optimize your Google Maps listing, online reviews, frequently asked questions (FAQ), business hours, contact information, and services—all of which makes it easier for potential patients to find you. If you haven’t set up a Google My Business account yet, check out this free resource.
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How can I use Google My Business to increase my clinic’s search visibility?
We’ve seen a massive uptick in the number of Google Ads and review sites (e.g., Yelp and Healthgrades), which means it’s becoming more difficult for local businesses to rank high in local search. Google also has a feature called Google’s Local Pack, which features certain local businesses and pushes actual organic web listings lower down on the SERP. For instance, a Google search for “physical therapists near me” shows:
Here, Google Ads take up the first three positions, followed by Google’s Local Pack. When you click on any of the businesses in the local pack, you’ll be directed to Google Maps, where you can see business information (provided from GMB) without going to the business’s website.
This can be frustrating if you’re trying to get more people to come to your website, but these features make it easier for people to find nearby businesses—as well as their contact information, hours, and reviews—immediately. While we stand by the belief that great content is necessary to optimize SEO and help people find your business organically online, being included in Google’s Local Pack is a huge way to stand out from the competition. If your business isn’t already included in Google’s Local Pack, there are some key ranking signals you can improve to win one of those top three spots and dominate local search:
1. Claim your Google My Business page.
If you haven’t already claimed your GMB, this is the first and most important step. Once you have, be sure to add:
- a short description (50-character max) that includes your city, business name, and business type, and
- a longer description (250-character max) that describes your business and what you provide. This description should also include your business name, city, and type.
2. Verify your location and NAP.
Verifying your location as well as your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) will establish those details with Google and help them appear accurately across all of Google’s products.
3. Update your business hours (including holiday hours and other special hours).
You may have different hours or different holiday closures than some of your competitors, and Google is more likely to feature businesses that are confirmed to be open at any given moment than ones that are not. If you have any changes to your hours, make sure to keep these up-to-date.
4. Leverage Google My Business categories.
On your GMB page, Google will ask for your primary category as well as any additional categories. As of 2020, there are more than 3,000 categories available, and Google allows up to 10 for each business listing. But please, don’t use all 10! Feel free to use as many as are truly relevant to what your business offers, but for accuracy, be as concise as possible.
5. Respond to reviews.
It’s a proven fact that reviews impact purchase decisions when people look for businesses online. Nearly 97% of people search online for local businesses, and reviews affect purchasing decisions in 93% of consumers. You don’t need to respond to every review, but acknowledging and thanking reviewers—and answering their questions—shows that you value your customers and their feedback. Not only is this a great way to build social engagement, but it’s also a great indicator that you are effectively providing the service that you are appearing for when customers find you through Google.
6. Add photos to your GMB page.
Adding photos to your listing that highlight your business and services will help potential customers better understand what you offer. Photos are another great way to differentiate your business from competitors. At the very least, make sure you add a square-sized logo image and a high-quality cover photo.
7. Include keywords optimized for Google and its users.
Keywords signal Google to include certain websites in the results for certain searches. The same concept applies to Google My Business. So, include relevant keywords in your business listing and description. For example, you might say something like, “We provide sports medicine and physical therapy to athletes and active individuals in Phoenix, Arizona.”
8. Get on Bing Places for Business.
We talk a lot about Google, because it’s the world’s most popular search engine. But, people do still use Bing, and claiming your business on every search engine you can will help bolster your overall online visibility—which is actually an indirect ranking factor for Google. If you haven’t done so yet, claim your Bing Places listing as soon as you can.
9. Check online directories and local citations.
Once you have your NAP established on Google My Business and Bing Places, check online directories and local citations to make sure every listing features the same information. If there are directories and citations that you are not listed on, make sure to submit your business to be included on those directories. This will help improve your overall online visibility by building links across the web that allow more potential customers to find you. It’s also another good ranking signal for Google, which—you guessed it—helps your site appear higher in the results. For reference, Moz has a list of citations separated by category that can help you find more relevant directories where you can submit your business.
10. Get on mobile with the Google My Business app.
Just because you have your GMB page optimized, it doesn’t mean you’re finished. The Internet is constantly changing, and Google makes multiple updates every day to ensure it provides the most relevant results to users. Luckily, Google has an app available on the App Store and Google Play Store that gives you the ability to make quick edits, respond to reviews, and upload photos right from your phone. The app even provides a customers tab that lets you see your followers—something that isn’t available on the desktop version.
This article only scratches the surface of the power of local SEO, and there are many more features of Google My Business that we didn’t get into. You can optimize your website and GMB page for local search like it’s your full-time job and still not touch every ranking signal. The good news is that no business can perfect everything, and these ten tips are simple ways you can stand out and potentially win a position in Google’s Local Pack. Ultimately, Google is trying to connect people to the information and businesses they are searching for, and taking the time to enhance your local SEO and GMB page will open you up to new audiences who otherwise might not have moved past the first Google search results page.
Matthew Berger is WebPT’s SEO specialist. He’s spent the past five years staying up to date on how search engines rank websites and helping businesses connect with larger audiences.