- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On August 24, 2015
You’ve been trying to re-launch your hospital’s website for years, and now you’re finally doing it. Right now it’s sitting on a development server, but you can’t wait to show everyone how easy it is to use on any device and watch your mobile conversion rate soar.
You might be tempted to wait until the new site launches before getting started with local search optimization, but you should resist this temptation. The truth is that good local SEO takes time to build up momentum, and a lot of it is off page work, not on page. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be able to see the results.
Develop on and off page SEO simultaneously
If you were trying to get a satellite into orbit, you wouldn’t wait until it’s ready to launch to start building a rocket. As healthcare marketers, your job might feel just as hard as launching that satellite sometimes, but launching an intuitive, mobile-friendly website and optimizing your entire web presence for local search so people can find it is a good foundation for the rest of your efforts.
By building up positive ranking factors simultaneously, you can start at a higher position when the site’s ready to go—maybe even in Google’s new three-pack—and ensure that prospective patients can still find you in the months leading up to that date.
Take Google My Business to the 100th percentile
Google My Business gets an entire slice of the pie chart in Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey, and for good reason. By optimizing it for every location in your system—every building with a street address you need prospective patients to be able to find—you’ll ensure that searchers will see accurate information in search results and give the Google algorithm reason to favor your listing.
If any of those listings aren’t confirmed (meaning you’ve entered the verification code from the postcard Google sends to make sure your street address is real), or if their addresses are incomplete or out of date, or if they’re listed in the wrong categories, or if any locations unknowingly have multiple listings, you won’t look as credible to Google. Optimizing Google My Business should be the first item on your local SEO checklist because nothing else will have the same kind of impact.
Organize location signals
The next greatest impact on your local search rankings is the quality and quantity of external location signals—those directories that propagate your name, address, and phone number all over the Internet.
The good news is that there’s a lot of information sharing that goes on between these directories. The bad news is that there’s still a lot of them, and that there’s no way of knowing when that sharing will take place. That means it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to make your citations consistent enough to raise your Google rankings. If you wait until you’re done re-doing your website to start cleaning up your NAP citations, you could be adding months onto the process before you can see the full results.
Start encouraging reviews
Reviews don’t—and shouldn’t—show up overnight. A sudden influx of reviews on Google My Business, Yelp, or another review site could indicate to Google that they’re being acquired illegitimately and lead to penalties.
To prevent sudden reviews from hurting your rankings, you should seek reviews consistently and constantly. A steady stream of reviews is a much stronger signal than periodic bursts. That means you should be following up with every patient and asking them to rate your services, and giving them directions for posting their comments to Google, Yelp, or your preferred review site when they respond positively. By beginning this process before your new site launches, you should be able to build up at least enough reviews—you only need five—for a star rating to appear next to your name in Google results.