Growing your practice locally

More than ever, people are using the Internet to find local businesses and service providers.

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: social media, local searching, search engines, online directories, Dr. Jason Lipscomb.

More than ever, people are using the Internet to find local businesses and service providers. In a recent Nielsen survey, eight out of 10 people used the Internet to find a service provider. Comscore said that local search has grown by 72%, and Google says 82% of its searches are for local solutions.

So what does this mean? What is a local search and how can you use it to grow your practice? Local searching uses geographic identifiers to find local businesses. For instance, if I am looking for a dentist in Richmond, Va., I would type the words "richmond dentist," or I would type my zip code followed by the word dentist – "23229 dentist" – into my favorite search engine.

All of the major search engines – Google, Bing, and Yahoo – will return a map with corresponding business listings to the right. This information appears at the top of the page above everything else. This gives you an opportunity to have your practice found and listed at the top of all of the major search engines.

Much more information is also listed when a person uses a local search. Besides the map and names of dentists in the area, it will also display your reviews, a link to your Web site, and – if you have set up an online local business account – visitors can read a detailed description about your practice, and see your office hours, look at pictures, and watch videos.

As a dentist, you cannot afford not to have an online local presence. Fifty-six percent of small businesses do not have a presence on the Web. This means you are missing out on 80% of the local consumer population.

Even with a Web site, if you are a dentist in a competitive area, you will be battling with others for that top position on Google. In addition, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be extremely expensive. But having your practice listed on all of the major search engines and online directories is free.

If you do not have a Web site, a local business listing is the next best thing. If you do have a Web site, then you can list it and drive more traffic from your local business listings.

You can also monitor reviews about you and your practice. Whether you like it or not, there are multiple review sites that allow patients to post reviews about your practice. Google, Yahoo, and Bing pull in information from these directories and post them along with your local business information. Many dentists are unaware that they have reviews, so it is imperative that you monitor this.

How do you get your practice listed on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and online directories? Getting listed on the major directories is not difficult. I am going to give you a simple action plan that will allow you to get listed on the four main directories in just one hour.

Start by opening Notepad or a word processing program and type the following bulleted information. You will be copying and pasting this from one online directory to another.

  • Username and password: Google, Bing, Yahoo, and SuperPages require that you set up a free account with them. Make sure you save your username and password so you can update your business description when needed.
  • Type a detailed, but informative, description of your practice. Be sure to use important keywords in your description, but concentrate on making the description interesting.
  • Type your hours of operation
  • Create a folder with any images that you may want to use, such as pictures of you, your staff, your office, etc.

Save your text document with this information into the same folder with your images. By doing this, when you have to update your local listings, you have everything you need in one place.

Here’s where to set up your local business listings. Simply set up a free account and enter the requested information.

Google: www.google.com/local/add
Bing: ssl.bing.com/listings/ListingCenter.aspx
Yahoo: local.yahoo.com/
SuperPages: yellowpages.superpages.com/profiler/abook.jsp

This is a great and inexpensive opportunity to grow your practice and make sure that the local community can locate you. See you online!

Jason T. Lipscomb, DDS, is a general dentist in Virginia, where he operates two dental practices. He educates dentists on how to market a practice with social media. Dr. Lipscomb and his partner, Stephen Knight, have released a social media handbook for dentists, "Social Media for Dentists." Reach Dr. Lipscomb at Jason@socialmediadentist.com or visit www.socialmediadentist.com.

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