- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On November 20, 2015
A health system marketer I know has a problem. She works for a large health system. The health system is composed of several hospitals, dozens of outpatient centers and hundreds of affiliated doctors.
Part of the problem is that this particular marketer is responsible for maintaining the directory listings for all these locations. The other part of the problem is this is not the only responsibility she has–far from it.
I need a doctor!
Correct directory listings for doctors are clearly important for non-technical reasons. Search engines have become a substitute for the printed phone book for many people today.
For many of us when we are looking for a doctor (perhaps simply to make an appointment with our existing physician) we may well type their name into Google to find their phone number.
Example of ONE local medical practice showing doctors listed in multiple ways
Today even that simple scenario can be frustrating. Many doctors are listed inconsistently across the Internet—even with different phone numbers for the same physician at the same location. Addresses are often formatted inconsistently and doctors’ names and practice and system names are not uniformly listed across the Internet’s myriad of directories.
A competitive advantage
Not only are these inconsistencies in directory listings an inconvenience for patients but they are also a negative for your SEO. This negative can be turned into a big competitive advantage in SEO if a hospital marketer can take control of the situation.
According to research from Moz (see chart below) directory listings account for approximately 30% of the “signals” that determine where Google places a website in local searches.
Start with the Google My Business listings
As the Moz data above confirms, any location’s Google My Business is the most important directory listing from the point of view of search (not surprising in our current environment where Google dominates search).
A whole 15% of local SEO “juice” is based on this one listing. It’s critical to any SEO effort (or effort that patients find the right information about a doctor) that the name, address and phone number data (“NAP”) for each doctor is current and not duplicated.
Any inconsistency or duplication in the NAP data for a particular doctor will cause significant degradation in your local SEO results. This kind of inconsistency and duplication is actually quite common for medical practices. A root cause is often that the health system does not have an agreed upon naming convention for doctors and medical practices. Doctors may be listed by their name then practice name, or by their name then the health system’s name, or by practice name then their name etc.
These permutations are not acceptable to Google’s search engine, which finds these conflicting listings confusing and degrades the SEO value of all the listings.
Fix your listings on other major sites next
After making sure all your doctors and locations are listed correctly once on Google My Businessyou need to repeat the process for a few other very important (and visible) local listings such as Facebook, Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Superpages and YP.com. You also need to do the same for important doctor listing directories and review sites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, RateMDs, and ZocDoc.
Being absent from one of these major directories is not the solution. Both patients and Google look to them to figure out which businesses are in a particular area. If you’re not there, your patients may not find the doctor they need and Google will have less confidence in ranking that practice.
If you’d like to check how a practice is listed in some key directories there’s a nice tool at Moz hereExample results below.
These are only the most obvious directories. There are thousands of directories around the Internet. If you’re looking for a competitive advantage in search over another health system in your area (or if you’re just trying to make sure your patients don’t get the wrong information) you may need to go deeper and correct your listings in many more directories around the Internet, for example local magazine listings.
How data flows between data aggregators and local directories, Moz.com
Fortunately there are four major data aggregators on the Internet that “push” NAP data to dozens of other listing sites so getting all your practices listed correctly with these aggregators can solve at lot of these problems. But you will certainly still need to monitor the results of these “mass data pushes”. You cannot assume everything will be fixed without checking.
Beef up your listings
Getting the NAP information right for all your doctors on important directories is the foundation of good SEO and good service to your potential patients. But a directory listing with only a name, address and phone number is not optimized. Most directories allow photos and descriptions to be added that will allow your physicians to stand out. So next you need to audit the content that appears on directory listings for quality and consistency to your brand.
Many directories allow consumers to add their reviews of he listed business. As we’ve said before, reviews matter a lot. Reviews of physicians are second in importance only to restaurants in consumers’ minds.
Which listing would you click?
Data shows that businesses with positive star ratings will be clicked on more than those without. Many systems require a certain number of reviews before a star rating is displayed.
To make your listings most attractive to patients you need reviews. Some reviews may occur by just making your physician directory listings more visible but in most cases you will need a proactive effort to gather reviews from patients. This is typically achieved by emailing patients and requesting reviews.
Need a power tool?
So if you’ve been following along you may have noticed the math here.
If you’re like my marketing friend you may have hundreds of doctors. As I’ve outlined above you need to deal with several directories for each doctor to optimize your SEO results and the ability of patients to find your physicians. So say you have 100 medical practices to manage listings for and 12 directories to optimize (that would only include the major directories), you know have to correct and manage 1,200 directory listings.
Correcting 1,200 directories would take a lot of time, adding content would take a lot of time, gathering reviews would take a lot of time. But if that’s not enough doctors move, come-and-go and change information so you will need to maintain this information almost daily.
It’s too much to accomplish manually. Most marketers at larger systems will need some tools and/or services to help them.
We provide a service to manage directory listings. If you want to discuss how to manage all this, contact us here. We’re happy to share ideas even if our service is not a fit for your particular situation.