URGENT MESSAGE: Mobile devices have gone from a convenience to a link between an individual and practically every facet of life—work, entertainment, and even healthcare. If you want them to help lead patients right to your door, you’ve got to ensure you’re linked in to search engines that employ location-enabled technology.
Drew Reitzel is a partner in Sprout Marketing Group in Orlando, FL.
In the ever-changing world of search engine optimization (SEO), local search has become the holy grail on the top search engines. One of the main driving factors for this emphasis is the increasing prevalence of mobile devices.
With every passing year, more and more consumers are using location-enabled mobile devices to find local business and create transactions on the web. And they’re not just reaching out in emergencies; consumers have become very technologically savvy and use their mobile devices to find the best deals and closest locations, and to read what others are saying about a particular business.
How prevalent is this trend? Check out a few stats that paint a picture of the mobile commerce landscape:
- 125 million U.S. consumers own smartphones
- Another 50 million own tablets
- 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months
- E-commerce dollars now comprise 10% of all retail revenue
- 80% of shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store to look up product reviews, compare prices, or find alternative store locations
- An estimated 10 billion mobile connected devices are currently in use
So what does this mean for you and your urgent care center? Simply put, consumers are looking for your business online, and most of the time they’re using a search engine on their mobile device to do it.
With that being said, it’s imperative in today’s marketplace that your online presence exceeds that of your competitors competing for the same consumers. Keep in mind that there are only a limited number of high-ranking spaces available on each search engine results page, or SERP, and that all your competitors are competing to get there too.
Google My Business Matters
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses, brands, artists, and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.
Google My Business lets you feature your name, address, and phone number (NAP) as well as your hours, services you offer, and photos. Customers can also review you directly on your Google My Business profile, which can help other potential shoppers choose your urgent care center over the competition and help improve your local search ranking.
A citation is an online reference to your NAP. Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business. An example of a citation might be an online directory where your business is listed, but not linked to. Citations can also be found on local chamber of commerce pages, or on a local business association page that includes your business information, even if they are not linking at all to your website.
- A greater number of citations will probably make your center rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.
- Citations from well-established and well-indexed portals (eg, Superpages.com) help increase the degree of certainty the search engines have about your business’s contact information and categorization.
- Citations help search engines confirm that businesses “are who we thought they were!”
- Citations also validate that a business is part of a community.
Do online reviews really matter? Absolutely! The emergence of numerous review sites has created an unprecedented, ongoing online conversation about local businesses. The local business owner should engage in conversation when appropriate to earn customer loyalty and control damage. Understanding the world of customer reviews is a must for every local business owner, as a means of both protecting and promoting the reputation of your business.
Having a diverse review profile—a collection of reviews on many different websites—is something that nearly every local business owner should work to achieve. It’s a simple fact that reviews matter more on some sites than they do on others. For example, review sites like Yelp and Google+ get more traffic than Citysearch and InsiderPages; however, some of the lesser-known review sites are captured by local search engines and can have an impact on your business.
Obtaining customer reviews is an important piece of your overall online marketing campaign. Quality customer reviews can improve a business’s ranking on Google and there’s plenty of evidence to support the argument that they are a key piece of the purchase decision process.
Optimized Website Local SEO Matters
To optimize your website for local SEO, make sure your contact info (again, exactly as it’s listed in Google My Business) is listed on your website. You should also add the city, state, and/or zip code of your business to your website’s title tags. Finally, reference the city and state in your website content wherever it makes sense.
Social Media Matters
Social media marketing, or SMM, is a form of internet marketing that implements various social media networks in order to achieve marketing communication and branding goals. Many business owners have minimal understanding of what kinds of content to post, how to attract followers and fans, or the nuances of each social platform. Thus, most can’t create an effective, efficient strategy.
The essence of social media is really a public conversation with your customers and prospective customers. Engage your followers, ask their opinions, and give them a sense of investment in your business. This requires you to:
- Understand your goals
- Create measurable objectives
- Characterize your customers
- Look at the competition
- Develop your messages
- Choose your channels
- Build a content plan
The key to a successful social media marketing campaign is to spend your time where your customers spend their time and engage with them. In other words, “fish where the fish are.”
Content, content, content. Blogging is a great tool to engage prospective customers. Write about local issues involving your neighborhood, your city, and your state. Write about new products or offer helpful advice. And be sure to include citations on each blog page. Share your blog on social media; it’s a great way to reach new customers and expand your citation network.
Local SEO must become a top priority if you want customers to walk through your doors. In today’s digital marketplace, where you rank and how your business is reviewed will have a direct impact on your bottom line. Whether you choose to hire a professional agency or do it yourself, local SEO can no longer be ignored. Be patient—and persistent. You may not see results immediately, but keep at it and eventually your efforts will pay off.