It is every business’ dream to fully tap into the pool of online opportunities offered by today’s broad digital arena. Customers are increasingly finding products and services online but still, unveiling the potential of the online world is a common challenge for businesses as competition is now fiercer than ever before. For the medical industry, this challenge is no less vivid. 77% of patients used search before booking an appointment, indicating that practitioners who ignore the importance of online visibility and search engine optimization (SEO) are often left at a disadvantage.
If increasing the chances of your local practice being found online is among your business goals, then it is worth focusing a fair part of your efforts on Local SEO and the creation of quality business listings, also referred to as citations. Business listings should be found across a variety of sources, providing accurate and consistent information (name, address and phone number – NAP) about your business to search engines and users searching for your services. The more quality sources you are listed on – the higher the chances of patients finding your practice.
Although there is a vast pool of options where your practice can be listed, one of the top influencers on your local practice is Google My Business (GMB). A Google My Business page allows you to get your local business included in the local pack which is the first section of the SERPs (search engine results pages) that users see after paid advertisements. The creation of a Google My Business page for your business has a direct contribution to improving your local rankings. As with any other listing source, the information found within your listing should be consistent, relevant and up to date. It is essential to pay attention to the structure of your Google My Business page when creating one.
The following examples are worth considering when creating a GMB page:
Single location – single practitioner
If you are the only public-facing practitioner at a given location, and you are looking for more presence online, it is advisable that you create a unique GMB page which is dedicated to you and the practice as one. Users searching for you will find the clinic’s information and users searching for the clinic or its services will find you as the primary contact.
Single location – multiple practitioners
A typical scenario is for multiple practitioners to be hosted under a single location, in which case the practice should create a separate local page with a verified address, phone number, and any additional information. Practitioners who work for the practice can create individual pages which contain the contact details of the practice but it is important that the business name of the page is that of the practitioner and does not include the practice name.
Single location – multiple practices
Often a single practice provides a variety of medical services that are sometimes not entirely related. For example, you could be the owner of a clinic with departments specializing in gastroenterology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, pediatrics and immunizations. These departments can have different hours of operation and specifications, and it is advisable that they have their separate pages.
Google has provided detailed guidelines on representing your business online and has suggested useful tips for health practitioners. The in-depth information provided will allow you to create and manage your Google My Business pages correctly, giving a boost to your local rankings.
Multiple locations – multiple practitioners
Particular caution is advisable if your practice involves a constant change of locations and multiple practitioners. Setting up a GMB page, in this case, can prove to be challenging as there are some factors to consider. Will each practitioner have their separate page? If so, what will be the address listed? It is not rare that practitioners leave practices and move to other clinics or hospitals so it is worth thinking about this possibility and the potential impact this will have on your practice. It is important to follow Google’s guidelines on managing a Google My Business page in this circumstance.
Setting up a Google My Business page correctly is important and influential for your local rankings but is not the only means to an end. Making sure your practice is properly listed across quality business directories also helps patients easily find you.
NPI Numbers and Data Inconsistency
If you are a healthcare provider in the USA, then you will be familiar with the NPI (National Provider Identifier) number. For all other readers, the NPI is a 10-digit identification number assigned to healthcare providers. The NPI contains information such as type (individual or organization), mailing address, status (whether the practitioner or practice is active or inactive), primary practice address and phone number, taxonomy (used to categorize the type, classification, or specialization of health care providers), and others. NPI numbers can be acquired both by individual practitioners and by organizations.
The information included in your NPI lives online and is fed on by some medical business directories that use the NPPES (National Plan and Provider Enumeration System) database to create listings. A lot of niche directories receive information directly from the NPI database, meaning that it is crucial that you update your NPI information when there is a change in your contact information or any other relevant data included. Even if you would like to update a listing within a business directory, chances are that the directory will have already gathered and spread across sources outdated information from your NPI.
Failure to update your information means that outdated and incorrect contact details about your practice will be available to patients searching for you. Not only that but search engines feed on business information from a vast number of places, forming a large data ecosystem. Once incorrect information enters the data ecosystem, it is quickly spread across sources, leading to confusion among both customers and search engines. If, for example, search engines find conflicting addresses or phone numbers of the same practice, they will not know which information to present to users as the correct one. This confusion often results in harmful consequences on your local rankings, business reliability, and visibility.
Top Medical Business Directories
Based on our experience and other factors such as domain authority and page rank, we have selected a list of the top medical business directories that healthcare practitioners in the US can benefit from. You will notice that there are a few directories from the list which contain practitioners’ NPI numbers within the listings. Bear in mind that information is frequently exchanged between these sources and it is important that you update your data regularly to avoid the exchange of incorrect information about your practice. Once outdated information is released, chances are your practice will suffer from consequences such as misled patients, duplicate listings which negatively impact your local rankings and lack of trust, as both patients and search engines will not know which information about you is relevant and accurate.
Healthgrades is a US directory that provides data about physicians, hospitals and health care providers, delivering information for over 3 million U.S. healthcare providers.
Rate MDs, another top quality source, is an advisable place to list your practice or practitioner information. This directory includes doctor ratings and reviews, allowing patients to locate specialists in the area and learn more about the experience of other patients.
Doctor.com establishes connection between patients and healthcare providers online based on location and allows patients to leave reviews and testimonials based on their experience.
Doctor Directory provides patients the option of finding the right healthcare provider for them by searching based on location, provider’s last name, specialty or all of the above.
Doctors.at gives doctors the opportunity to claim their practice, add relevant information and be found by patients searching for practitioners of the same specialty or within the same location.
Below are some additional examples of top directories that contain your NPI number as part of your business data.
It is advisable that you search for your practice in these directories to make sure that all available information is up to date. Even if you have not manually created a listing, data is often automatically collected from the NPPES database, sometimes leading to duplicate listings and inaccurate information.
Apart from niche directories focused on the medical industry, there are also top general and local directories that your medical business can benefit from.
Balancing your local SEO strategy will help you acquire more patients online and grow your practice. Online business listings contribute to the desired balance as they provide a great opportunity for practitioners to present themselves and their business to users searching for similar services. Allowing customers to find you online brings you one step closer to growing your customer base and building long-lasting relationships with patients!