If you have ever used Google to search for the best place to eat, or looked up a repairman in your area, then you are already familiar with local search. Search engines aim to give the best results to any query, and understand that if you live in California, you aren’t going to fly out to New York for a meal, or call a business whose service area is miles away. Instead, they use GPS and location data to determine where you are, filtering out the businesses too far away.
Can we use this to our advantage?
Local SEO holds immense value for small businesses like birth centers, midwives, and OB/GYN clinics. It provides a targeted and focused approach to online visibility, especially for businesses that cater primarily to their local community. By optimizing local SEO, you guarantee that your website is featured in the area you serve, and you are not wasting time and effort on reaching prospective parents who are unlikely to convert into customers.
Setting Up Your Google Business Profile
In this step-by-step guide we will be explaining how to create and optimize a Google Business Profile. We focus on Google Business because it not only offers essential information such as location and contact details, but also facilitates visibility on Google Maps. It is the most commonly used tool for searches on mobile devices, and shows a clear intent to use a service in the near future. Without further ado, let's jump right in.
Step 1: Make an account
To begin, you will want to make a Google Business account. This can easily be done by accessing any google or gmail account, or by typing in “Google Business” into any search engine. Fill out the basic information such as your company name, location, and website to begin.
Step 2: Verification
After you have made an account, you will need to verify your business. Google wants to make sure you are a real business with a physical address, and are not just making fake accounts to harass the competition. There are several different methods to verify your account, and you can even verify from a P.O box or your home address.
If your account isn’t verified and linked to your website, then it's like owning a gym membership but never going inside. No progress will be made, and your site will not be seen in search engines.
Step 3: Add all your information under Edit Profile.
Fill out every category here, your Business Name, Category, add a Description of your practice, Links to your website, Social Media, Phone Number, Business Hours, everything. It all matters, and the more connected your profile is, the stronger signal it sends to Google.
Step 4: List out your service areas.
You want to list out all the areas you service. This includes nearby towns and anywhere within roughly a 2 hour drive time of your location. Do not include every major city in the US, or areas farther than a 2 hour drive from you. Google is smart and will ignore your service areas if it feels like too much of a stretch. Meaning you won't be seen in your area, and this entire process could be useless if you don't follow Google's guidelines.
Step 5: Add Images
This may seem superficial, but you’d be surprised by how many businesses do not include any images in the profile. Best practice is to include at least one image of the outside and inside of your business. When searched for in Google Maps, one of these two will be displayed, and Google tends to give more weight to businesses who follow these guidelines. You can also post images of your team, logo, or any other photos that are relevant to your business.
Step 6: Begin posting
Posts don’t need to be long, a few sentences will work. The key here is to remain active and engaging. Google wants to see profiles that routinely engage with their customers, and replying to comments or adding even a short post weekly can help to ensure your profile doesn't get stale. You don’t need to make your GBP posts a priority, and you can even reuse other posts from your social media account to help save time and present a cohesive message.
Step 7: Reply to reviews and testimonials.
Engagement is crucial, and you want to respond to any reviews you get, the good and the bad. Encourage your patients to leave 5 star reviews, and address any complaints you see. You can also reply to questions and comments you get online to show you are actively engaging with potential customers in a timely manner.
Local SEO Best Practices
Now that you have set up your profile, let's discuss some best practices that will help you to skyrocket your profile to the top of local searches. Each industry is a bit different and you will want to adapt your strategy to the competition. However, these guidelines have proven results for midwives, OB/GYN clinics, birth centers, and are generally good advice for any business.
Consistency Is Key
Make sure your name, address, and phone number are all consistent online. We talked about Google Business in the section above, but there are hundreds of other local listings on the web. While you don’t need to fill out your information for every single one, you don't want to at least skim the most popular listings and double check that all your information is consistent. The four biggest aggregates of map data in the US, other than Google, are Apple, Yelp, Bing, and Trip Advisor. While Trip Advisor most likely does not relate to your business, you may want to format your data across the other three. This can be especially important if you have recently moved or changed the preferred name of your business.
Tips For Different Locations
If you have more than one brick-and-mortar office, you will want to create separate profiles for each location. Do not add both service areas to only one location. This will confuse Google and make it more difficult for potential customers to find you. Making two separate profiles may feel like double the work, but it also means double the area you can target. You can also copy a lot of information from the first location to the second, saving you time and giving your brand a consistent look.
You can also add location data right to your website. Location data is usually added as part of your Contact Us page, and provides viewers with your name, address, phone number, store hours, and testimonials for each unique location. Adding this information also helps local listing sites to differentiate between your locations, guaranteeing your service areas remain separate. After-all, you don’t want to send someone near one location half way across town to a different address.
While this may look like a lot of work, the good news is that Local SEO optimization is surprisingly fast to set up. Building an entirely optimized Google Business profile from scratch should only take about a day. Once it's set up, you don’t need to give your local profiles much attention, other than responding to comments or posting a short update every week. Be sure to respond to all reviews and update your profile if any major changes occur, such as moving locations. The increase in traffic and visibility online with optimized local SEO is a game changer for many small practices.