In today’s online search world, local really does mean local. Proximity to the searcher’s location is the foremost ranking factor in local pack results, according to Moz. So, if your practice is located outside of a major metropolitan area, you have likely noticed diminished returns on your first-page listings for highly competitive search queries targeted to the big city.
Outside of moving offices, what can your practice do to increase your local search presence? First and foremost, it’s important to be realistic about your ability to rank in an area where you don’t have a physical office location. But, with this in mind, there are steps you can take to improve your presence in local search results. Here are 5 tips to help!
1). Get Good Reviews
When your prospective clients and patients search “near me” for your services, they are subconsciously looking for the best practice for their needs. No one wants to hire an average attorney or doctor, which is why a good star rating and positive comments are an absolute necessity for attracting prospective clients through search.
With reviews and ratings marketing, you can actively manage your online reputation. Proximity to the searcher’s location is the trump card, but quality and quantity of reviews is also important.
Platforms with automation capabilities make it easy to drive higher numbers of positive reviews.
What’s more, you can also customize the message in these platforms to optimize your request for reviews with relevant keywords. For example, a lawyer might ask satisfied clients to talk about how he helped them “with a Denver car accident.” A dentist might request input from her patients on “teeth whitening in Aurora.”
These phrases act as a subtle clue for reviewers to use the same language in their review. It also sends a signal to the search engines that your practice is relevant to your target keywords.
Many reviews will come from satisfied clients in the same community as your office. However, by offering something your competitors don’t -- 24/7 response, specialty service, etc. -- you will attract clients from outside of the immediate area. And, by getting positive reviews from clients throughout the region, you will market your reputation to a broader geographic area.
Note that you should never, EVER pay for reviews. Google prohibits “spam and fake content,” and this includes reviews written by non-customers. Not only are fake reviews bad for your listing, but consumers are getting wise to illegitimate reviews; they are less likely to trust a business that tries to purchase a good reputation.
2). Maximize Your Presence on the SERP
Users don’t just go to your practice website when looking for legal, medical or dental services. They shop around, which means they often visit directories, third-party reviews websites and even click on ads in order to make an informed decision.
If your practice is at a disadvantage in local search results by not being in the city itself, you need to make the most of digital real estate in order to be found elsewhere by local consumers. This requires creativity, but the possibilities are nearly endless:
Favorite Third-Party Websites
When you search for local services, you have likely noticed a few major review websites consistently appear on the first page of results. Consumers gravitate to websites like Yelp, Angie’s List and others to find the best businesses. By ensuring that you have a completed profile and a positive review presence on these sites, you enhance the likelihood of showing up on native listings, which prominently appear to users when they search locally.
Many review platforms are less stringent than Google about what constitutes “local” when it comes to providers in a certain area, generally giving users the ability to sort by distances of 10 to 15 miles or more. Depending on your location, this could be an advantage, as your practice might be close enough to the major city to be included in the platform’s local listings for that city.
Pay-per-click advertising is the classic “edge” for businesses trying to rank for uber-competitive keywords. This is still a viable strategy, but paid search marketing can quickly become expensive when you’re chasing prominent positioning for search terms that all of your competitors are pursuing, too.
In today’s digital marketing, ad space comes in many different forms, and it doesn’t always occur on search result pages:
- Pre-roll video ads: Struggling to get a foothold on the first page of Google? Why not leverage the world’s second-largest search engine to get ads for your practice featured at the start of YouTube videos that your target customers watch?
- Display advertising: Display ads tap into location, demographic and psychographic information to trigger ads for your practice across a wide network that encompasses many of the sites your potential customers access, such as local news and general interest websites.
- Third-party platforms: Remember the trusted specialty directories from above. Some of these websites also provide sponsored listings, such as Avvo.com for lawyers and RealSelf for doctors.
Google My Business
Your best tool in establishing a local search presence is offered by Google itself. Google My Business is a free listing where you can verify your information and market directly from Google Maps and knowledge graph results. In addition to name, address, phone number and website, you should fully optimize your Google My Business listing with other features like business hours and photos of your office.
With the Google Posts feature, you can enrich your listing with time-sensitive updates that tell users about special offers, practice news and more.
3). Improve Your Organic Rankings
Just because your business isn’t ranking in the coveted Local Pack does not mean that your SEO isn’t working. The first page of organic search results is populated by websites that provide authoritative information on a user’s query.
Even if you’re not in a major population center, you can still be considered an authority on the topic. The most effective strategy is to write high-quality, robust content that addresses the user’s needs better than the competition. Instead of short, boilerplate pages that could appear on any practice website, think about the questions that your clients actually ask you. Then, write content on those subjects, covering the material in a way that demonstrates both your expertise and your customer service, as well as appealing to the way different people consume information.
Ideally, sure your comprehensive Web pages should use a mix of:
- Text that is organized in digestible, easy-to-read paragraphs
- High-quality photos
- Custom infographics and other branded imagery
- Original video
At Page 1 Solutions, we have found that search rankings and engagement improve on long-form pages, or pages that consolidate multiple aspects of a priority practice area into one comprehensive online resource. Organic search results reward authoritative content that speaks directly to the user’s needs, and your website can do just that through consistent, effective content development.
4). Earn Quality Links
Much like reviews, the quality of links pointing back to your site is more important than the number of backlinks. In the context of local search, perhaps the highest quality signal is a link from a superior website that also has local relevance.
Examples include websites for:
- Online news sources
- Charities and volunteer organizations
- Community event listings and calendars
- Chambers of commerce
In most cases, placement on these websites is earned. That’s a good thing in the realm of organic and local search, as established websites with selective linking practices tend to be seen as more authoritative. Their local connection is also valuable because it reinforces your practice’s connection to the local community, which is beneficial for your rankings.
5). Make the Most of Your Schema
Schema markup gives you the ability to communicate to search engines the key information about your practice, from the industry you serve to individual practice areas. NAP schema (Name, Address, Phone number) provides another avenue for search engine to recognize and qualify your site for local search. Using the “sameAs” tag, you can also tell search engines that your website, your social media profiles and directory listings are all part of the same entity.
Ultimately, structured data can get very specific. It can tell search engines a lot about your practice, but it’s important to avoid getting spammy. Working with an experienced search marketer is key for setting up schema properly.
SEO has evolved, and your practice needs to embrace the best practices in order to reach prospective clients. The importance of proximity almost certainly reduces your ability to show up prominently in local search results outside of your physical location, but the 5 strategies above can help you drive truly local traffic and generate leads from within your community.