Doctors and dentists require a special prescription to improve their local SEO performance.
In 2018, Google rolled out what is commonly known among SEO specialists as the ‘Medic Update’.
Essentially, the search engine improved its algorithm to reward highly experienced, authoritative, and trustworthy (E-A-T) websites. Medical websites that could not prove their trustworthiness saw a sharp decline in their organic visibility.
The update was Google’s attempt to crack down on misinformation from Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) websites.
YMYL sites include any website that may impact a user’s happiness, health, or wealth. In other words, websites that primarily focus on financial, legal, nutrition, health, and, yes, medical subject matter.
As a direct result of the Medic Update, it is significantly harder to improve local SEO for doctors & dentists than, say, a plumber’s website. But not impossible!
Here’s our step-by-step guide to improve your local SEO performance.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is a specific niche of SEO marketing focused on improving the visibility of localized services and stores in organic search results. It attempts to rank these service providers and stores for Google searches such as ‘dentist near me’ or ‘best dermatologist in Toronto’.
Why do doctors need SEO?
SEO is necessary for doctors because more than 60% of the consumers in most healthcare sectors search for doctors before scheduling an appointment. Benefits of SEO for doctors include:
Establish credibility and maintain patient trust
Keeping pace with competitors who are already online
Increase in walk-in patients, by making it easier for patients to find them
Creating, promoting, and defending their online reputation
Providing patients with the opportunity to leave a review as a thank you
Benefits of Local SEO For Doctors and Dentists
Here are the top benefits to local SEO marketing:
Local SEO has better conversion rates than almost any other digital marketing initiative.
Local SEO reduces advertising costs and delivers better ROI than PPC.
Local SEO drives immediate foot traffic. 88% of localized searches result in a call or store visit within 24 hours!
Local SEO goes hand-in-hand with voice search, which is a rising trend in SEO.
Steps to Improve Off-Site Local SEO for Doctors & Dentists
Google My Business (GMB) and Google Maps are by far the two most important aspects of local SEO. Optimizing these two interconnected profiles should be your first step to improve your clinic’s local SEO performance. Even before you focus on on-site optimizations.
Step 1: Get Verified on Google My Business
GMB is Google’s primary tool to improve results for local stores and services. You’ve likely seen many GMB profiles while using Google. See the picture below featuring Pedestal Search’s GMB profile.
If you haven’t already, get your clinic verified on GMB immediately. Here’s a direct link to begin the verification process.
A note on local SEO for multiple locations: If you operate multiple clinics, every location must have its own GMB listing. This is critical to ensure every location is discoverable on Google Maps. Maps pulls its local listing data directly from GMB. Any changes to your GMB profile will be reflected in your Google Maps listing.
Step 2: Optimize Your Clinic’s Google My Business
After you’ve completed the GMB verification process, you can begin optimizing your profile.
It’s important to create a robust, professional profile. This includes but isn’t limited to adding:
Clinic hours, including holiday hours
Photos of your clinic
Photos of your services/products
Step 3: Turn On GMB’s Calls & Messaging (Optional)
In 2022, users want to have a quick means to get in touch with businesses.
On GMB, you have the option to add a phone number so mobile users can instantly call your clinic.
GMB also offers a messaging function in which users can ask questions, request quotes, or even text your clinic. This function is optional but strongly encouraged if you have the bandwidth to respond to all messages within 24 business hours.
Step 4: Start Posting On GMB
In order to keep your GMB profile fresh, you should be posting regularly. Posts can include Offers (ex. a sale), What’s New (ex. new products/services), and Events (ex. a speaker series).
Active and up-to-date GMB accounts look more appealing than stale accounts.
Step 5: Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews on GMB
Last but far from least, you should create a customer review strategy that encourages happy clients to post authentic reviews on your GMB profile.
Positive reviews are critical to local SEO for two reasons:
The number of reviews and your average rating greatly impact how high your profile appears in local searches on mobile phones and Google Maps.
Similarly, the number of reviews and your average rating greatly impact click-through rates. A GMB profile with only a handful of lukewarm reviews will receive significantly less clicks from potential customers than a profile with hundreds of very positive reviews.
If possible, try to encourage users to mention your location and any appropriate keywords in their review. For example, ‘Dr John Doe is the best family practitioner in Toronto!’. Google’s algorithm does consider phrasing.
Finally, ensure you are responding to every review appropriately and professionally.
A final word on reviews: As mentioned off the top, Google pays special attention to the E-A-T of medical websites. One of the variables Google’s algorithm uses to measure E-A-T is off-site reviews. Increasing the quantity and quality of off-site reviews will positively impact your E-A-T.
Step 6: Get Verified on Bing Places
Bing Places is Microsoft’s equivalent to GMB. Here’s a direct link to get verified. Be sure to optimize your profile in the same manner as GMB.
Step 7: Get Listed on Directories & Review Sites
We recommend funneling the majority of customer reviews to GMB. However, it’s best practice to create profiles on all of the major third-party review platforms, including:
You should also ensure you have up-to-date and robust profiles on local directories, both universal directories and niche medical directories. Popular directories include:
Steps to Improve On-Site Local SEO
After completing your off-site SEO optimizations, it’s time to turn your attention to your own website.
Step 1: Add Structured Data (Schema)
Structured data, also called Schema, is a style of code that helps Google’s crawlers easily ‘read’ a page. In other words, it is a standardized way of formatting different types of information for crawlers.
Let’s use Recipe structured data as an example. In this example, your code will include fields for the name of the recipe, the ingredients in the recipe, and the step-by-step instructions. Google’s crawlers can then quickly decipher that this is a recipe webpage and these are all of the different components of the recipe.
Google has a large gallery of structured data sets available to website owners. Some of the most popular structured data sets include:
For a complete list of structured data sets Google recognizes, click here.
Doctors and dentists looking to improve their local SEO should pay special attention to Local Business structured data.
In your data, be sure to choose either “Dentist” or “MedicalBusiness” as your ‘Type’.
It’s also very important to update your schema if your address changes.
Step 2: Conduct Local Keyword Research
After setting up structured data, you’ll want to conduct local keyword research. This means using tools like Google Ads’ Keyword Planner and setting the geographic parameter to the exact city or region you service.
When conducting this keyword research, keep an eye out for the following types of keywords:
‘Near Me’ keywords. For example, ‘dermatologist near me’.
City-specific keywords. For example, ‘dermatologist Toronto’.
You’ll want to include these types of keywords in your content.
Step 3: On-Page Optimization
With your local keyword research in-hand, you should update your services and products.
For example, you could update uses of the keyword ‘cosmetic botox’ to ‘cosmetic botox in Toronto’.
It’s also important to update your page titles and meta descriptions to include geographic information as well. This can positively impact click-through rates.
Step 4: Localized Content
After updating existing pages, you’ll want to create a content strategy that capitalizes on your keyword research.
Your content strategy may include blog posts, white papers, case studies, or even multimedia content like podcasts and videos. Just be sure to organically massage in your key terms and location where possible.
Step 5: Increase Your Brand Mentions & Inbound Links
The last thing you’ll want to do to improve your clinic’s local SEO performance is build a substantial backlink profile. In other words, increase the amount of pages on the web that link back to your website.
While all backlinks will increase your domain authority and E-A-T, you should put special emphasis on local publications and websites. For example, if you receive a backlink in a ‘Best Dermatologists in Toronto’ article, your local SEO performance will receive a boost.
It’s also worth mentioning, website that mention your brand name but don’t hyperlink to your site will still help your SEO performance. You’ll still receive some link equity even if the brand mention is not a link.
Improving local SEO for doctors and dentists is hard. Primarily because local SEO differs from normal SEO. But also because Google takes great care to only rank experienced, authoritative, and trustworthy medical sites.
Hiring a specialized and experienced SEO agency is likely your clinic’s best bet at improving your local SEO performance. SEO agencies have a finger on the pulse of Google’s algorithm and can keep your site up-to-date on all best practices.
We also have the insider knowledge to make strategic pivots in advance of algorithm updates and other items that may affect your performance.
If you’re interested in improving your organic performance, contact us about our local SEO services. We’ll be happy to audit your website’s organic performance and show you how a multifaceted approach can improve your visibility, traffic, and conversions.
Advanced SEO, Local SEO, SEO
Senior Account Strategist
With over seven years of digital marketing experience, Carl leads Pedestal's Account Strategist team. He holds a degree in professional writing from York University and a certificate in digital marketing from the University of Toronto. Before narrowing in on SEO at Pedestal, Carl worked as a content writer, social media manager, and digital ads manager in the travel & tourism industry. He has worked at internationally lauded companies such as Intrepid Travel and Outward Bound Canada, as well as boutique businesses such as Out Adventures.