What do doctors and surgeons have in common with mechanics, financial planners and real estate agents?
According to a new report from AT&T Interactive, they’re all in the top 5 categories when people search for local businesses. For aesthetic professionals hoping to turn online searchers into potential patients, ignoring local search is like tossing a net into the middle of the ocean when you live next door to a seafood shop.
How important is local search? Simply put, including local terms — on your website, in your PPC ad campaigns, in your social media efforts — is crucial as it’s one of the ways that the search engines determine whether your business constitutes a relevant result when people search for products and services.
In fact, SearchEngineLand.com reports that 54% of searchers include a local modifier (e.g., a town name or zip code) when searching. For service providers with older customers — ring any bells? — the findings take on added significance as almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents ages 55 and older said they usually or always did so.
Clearly, local search for the location of health care providers is becoming more popular as consumers take action in their overall health, says Dean Stephens, president and COO of Healthline. However, consumers are continuing to demand more extensive information and transparency and often come up short finding good information on quality (i.e., who’s the best provider for me).
The good news is that it’s easy to tap into local search simply by remembering three little letters: N-A-P, which stand for Name, Address and Phone number. As the infographic below shows, they should be an integral part of your online presence — amazingly, many small businesses don’t include them — and, used consistently, will form the glue that holds your online marketing campaign together.
Local search listings now act as a business’ online anchor identity pulling in important information like website URL, reviews, photos, coupons and hours of operation, says Jeff Beard, president and general manager of Localeze. These online listings tether all critical information consumers need about a business in order to make a purchasing decision.
1. It’s okay to NAP; in fact, it’s imperative
It should go without saying that your website should include your Name, Address and Phone number. Yet, according to a study by vSplash, 60% of SMB (small and medium business) websites in the U.S. lack a local or toll-free number on their homepage. If that sounds familiar, be sure to make your local number primary — it provides better geo-locational data than a toll-free number — and show it in text, not in a graphic, as most search engines can’t crawl images.
2. It’s your name; claim it
Google, Bing and Yahoo all offer free services — Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo! Local, respectively — that let you claim your online profile. Fill out the appropriate form, include additional information (photos, business hours, a link to your website) and your practice will appear at the top of the search listings with a pin linked to an onscreen map.
3. Be smart about smartphones
It should come as no surprise that the increase in local search goes hand in hand with the explosion in mobile as more people conduct more of their searches on their smartphones. Get on your own phone, visit all the major search engines and search for your name and your practice name to see how and where they display. Follow that with a more general search — “cosmetic surgeon, your town” — to see where you rank and make any necessary changes to ensure you’re getting seen by the consumers most likely to be looking for you.