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Leveraging local search

March 1, 2011
Google's new search engine algorithms have changed the way this leading search engine "organizes the world's information,"  ...

Why recent search engine changes can bring you new patients in more ways than one

by Glenn Lombardi

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: search engine, Web sites, new patients, marketing, Internet search, Google search, Glenn Lombardi.

Old Google search

Google's new search engine algorithms have changed the way this leading search engine "organizes the world's information," giving both location and reviews a new centrality in how Web sites are ranked in the search engine search results. Where before your practice could be listed on the map without a Web site, the new search algorithms demand that your practice have a Web site if you want to show up on the first page for location-based searches. Now, the first seven search result listings can only be dentists who have a physical location in the town searched.

New Google search

Place Search, Google's newest search option, provides a single place for patients to find everything they need to know about dentists in their area before deciding where to make an appointment, including phone numbers, addresses, photos, and reviews, without ever having to leave the search results page. Patient reviews from Google and around the Web (e.g., Yelp, Citysearch, and Insider Pages) are now prominently displayed next to your local search listing on the main search results page – placing greater emphasis on reputation management. The reviews determine your 1- to 5-star rating, which may influence whether or not a potential patient clicks through to learn more about your practice. Positive reviews translate to more clicks, and a better click-through rate translates to improved search rankings.

Generating patient reviews to increase new-patient appointments

The Web amplifies the power of referrals, and what used to only be possible face-to-face is now a major influence in patients' appointment-making decisions on the Web. To start monitoring and managing your online reputation, your practice should first establish an online presence through a professional, interactive Web site.

You also need to optimize your local listing for local search. This involves implementing an aggressive search engine optimization plan, claiming your local Google Place Page, submitting your Web site to local search directories, and acquiring positive reviews from your most loyal and satisfied patients.

Despite your best efforts, you can't always avoid negative reviews from manifesting themselves among your positive reviews. Manage any undesirable comments by outnumbering the negative reviews with positive reviews. The more positive comments prospective patients read about your practice, the less influence any negative reviews will have on their decision-making process.

Make it simple for patients to give a review with as few steps as possible, focusing on your most loyal patients who have been continuously satisfied with your services and quality of care. This may include handing patients a card as they leave your office with easy instructions about how to leave a review on your Web site. The process takes time, but a professional Internet marketing company can provide the tools you need to build your online reputation with new local search.

A comprehensive practice Web site, combined with an aggressive local search campaign and strong online reputation, will ultimately result in more clicks and new patients for your practice in the form of Web site traffic, phone calls, e-mails, and office visits. For dentists, this means that establishing a Web presence and optimizing your site for local search is more important than ever to reach the increasing number of potential patients who use Google every day to find local health-care providers.

Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, LLC. The No. 1 provider of Web sites for the dental community, Officite has built more than 5,000 Web sites. These sites have generated more than a quarter of a million appointment requests since 2002. Officite offers professional turn-key Web sites and proven Internet marketing services, including social networking, local search optimization, patient reviews, blog management, and pay-per-click advertising. These services are designed to educate and attract new patients while creating a prominent presence in the marketplace. To learn more, visit www.officite.com or call (800) 908-2483.

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