- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On July 13, 2015
With smartphones and GPS, it’s never been easier to find your way from Point A to Point B. If you want to win over prospective patients so they choose your hospital when they need a doctor, then their local search experience has to be just as smooth.
There’s a lot more that goes into ranking in local search results than just optimizing your website. And to make matters worse, Google keeps changing the game as it attempts to deliver the best possible results to its users—great news for consumers, but not so great for businesses and organizations trying to rank.
Fortunately, Moz’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey restores some order to the world of local search. This post, the first of three examining the latest survey, looks at the most important ranking factors identified; the second and third posts will examine the factors Moz considers negative or difference-making in competitive markets.
Let’s start off with the eight general areas and how much weight each of them was given:
With hundreds of factors influencing local search, breaking them down into buckets in this way isn’t just helpful—it’s essential. At this level, for example, it’s easy to see just how crucial it is to optimize Google My Business listings for every location at your hospital or health system. Without them, searchers won’t be able to find basic information about your doctors and services and your conversion rate will undoubtedly suffer.
Looking at that pie chart, the importance of having accurate and consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone) info across the web is also apparent; the three slices it’s a part of—My Business, external location signals, and on-page signals—comprise more than half the circle. Making sure this info is up-to-date on your website, in your My Business listings, and throughout all your directory listings is an imperative part of verifying that all of your locations are real and operational. If you have established locations that aren’t ranking well, the odds are high that inconsistent NAP data is part of the problem.
The last “bucket” that takes up more than 10% of the chart proves that inbound link profiles aren’t just for traditional SEO. When it comes to local search, however, local links are valued above everything else. Combined with your directory citations, these show Google that your services and content are valued by people in your community.
Google loves reviews because its users love reviews. They occupy the next-largest section of the graph, and it’s easy to see how they could influence the choice between two competing hospitals. Five reviews are all you need for a star rating to appear in local search results, so even if you’re starting from scratch with a new location, it doesn’t take long to build credibility.
User experience continues to grow as a ranking factor. Everything from responsiveness to load time to images optimized for mobile affects the click-through and bounce rates on your pages. If users don’t stick around to read your content, Google is less likely to send them back.
Local search is constantly changing. If you’ve got a minute to spare, take a look at one of the previous Moz surveys and it’ll quickly become evident just how different the landscape is from a few years ago. That means you can’t focus on any one area in your local search optimization lest you risk getting left behind when the algorithm inevitably changes again.
Spreading your efforts across the buckets in the chart above—maximizing your Google My Business presence, standardizing NAP info, building local links and citations, seeking patient reviews, optimzing user experience—will help ensure that you’re able to adapt your plan when Google does.