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Location Aware: The Importance of Local Search in 2011

The confusion regarding local search continues to mount across the spectrum of small businesses and medical practices. As many people are simply trying to run their businesses and trying to keep up with emerging trends, understanding local search can be difficult and frustrating. Local search has been all the recent buzz related to search and has some serious impact on the future of how people find local information. In my opinion local search is the most important marketing objective for a medical practice in 2011. If your patients cannot find you, who knows what will happen? One thing is for certain. Some business will be there, but it is really up to you to determine how you will end up competing on top. As of Feb. 2010, Google reported that roughly 40% of the 10 billion searches being conducted each month have “local intent”. It is highly likely that many of these searches have intent for the services that your business offers. Now that the search engines are more locally aware than ever, you need to completely understand the impact here. In addition to the impact, it is equally important to understand that local search is different than organic search and is determined by an entirely different set of variables. There are now three main aspects to the way the first page of search results are displayed. Paid, Local and Organic are the three main aspects that you need to be aware for solid presence on the search engines. Without an understanding of how these three parts of the first page work, you cannot dominate the search landscape in your vicinity. Local search has arrived in a big way when it comes to medical procedures, especially elective procedures that are competitive. You can learn a lot about how local search will change by following what has happened in large markets. The competition for the top spots can be fierce and challenging to succeed even for local search experts. Google has restarted its local business center concept as Google places and with this process many businesses lost reviews, had duplicate listings, and were sometimes dropped from important keyword searches. Most medical practices do not even have their places pages claimed at this point and this is where confusion can set in. If you are confused as to what local search is all about consult a professional before it is too hard to achieve any results. It is my intention that this medical oriented local search article can aid with some confusion that is out there and prompt some businesses to be proactive at understanding what needs to be done. I do not see ignoring this as a viable marketing option for an elective medical practice and not getting started is just going to make things worse.

Important reasons you need to take local search marketing seriously:

1. Most people searching for a business in your local area are ready to act. This means if your listing does not show up on that computer you are kissing their business goodbye and driving them to your competition. 2. You can reach Mobile searchers. Local listings display on cell phones and mobile search is exploding as more people are using smart phones to find local businesses. Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local remain critical places for search visibility and if you are savvy enough to start this process on your own this is the point of first attack. There are various other local search websites that are excellent for indexing profiles in certain ways for certain keywords. Manta and Merchant Circle work very well for indexing page related to physician names.

Key Local Search Ranking Factors

Most local search engine results are determined by the following criteria:

  • Geo-proximity to the searched location/zip code
  • Appearance of the searched term within the business name
  • Appearance of the searched term within the business profile
  • User feedback/reviews

Setting up your Local Search Listings

How does a business get started with local search? Are you a medical practice with multiple locations and different physicians? Most people will agree that Google is the first place to start. Your business will have to set up a free Google account and it may be a good idea to obtain a free Gmail account to use as your email address for all your listings. Your practice may already be listed in Google results because they pull information from a lot of local directories like Yellowpages.com. The key element here is to claim your business listing and optimize it to fit the right keywords, city, state, zip code, phone number. The category set is also a very important part of this profile set up so be sure to examine your options closely. The description part of your listing is very important. In 25 words you need to describe what you do. It is important to get your most important keywords in there without spamming. Just give the facts and avoid sounding like an advertisement. Avoid phrases like best, safest, lowest priced etc…Google will use your description, phone number and address to determine where you show up when people type in certain search phrases. Similar steps and consideration need to be taken in the rest of your online profiles. Not only will you increase your visibility, but this can be a great chance to sit back and prove just how great your customer service is. There are a lot of silent satisfied and dissatisfied customers out there who use the internet as an outlet for their praises or their disappointment. Generating reviews is important, so make sure they not only have a pleasant time with you, but they know where to go to give you credit.
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