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A Beginner’s Guide to Local Search Optimization for Medical and Legal Professionals

This post was written by our staff SEO writer, Nancy Rapp, who has a law degree and works as a professor of legal studies. Her unique background allows her to view the world of law firm SEO from the eyes of both an attorney and a web consultant.

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Though many medical doctors and lawyers have created websites for their practices, not many of these sites adhere to enough of the major search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines. A critical component of healthcare and legal SEO techniques is attention to local search optimization. This post explains how patients and clients rely on local search and what practices need to do to stay competitive.

What is a Local Search?

Doctors and lawyers operate in what are known as “brick and mortar” businesses. The name comes from the fact that clients and patients have to physically enter these establishments in order to receive professional services. The website is merely for marketing, informational and contact purposes. Thus, SEO for doctors and lawyers needs to be structured around the businesses’ location.

Fortunately for professionals, Google’s algorithm for FIND <THINGS> NEAR ME changed the face of internet searches. As a result of this location-based search option, many searches are phrased as “need doctor near me” or “top lawyer in my city.” Accordingly, more legal and medical professionals can employ SEO practices in order to capture these potential clients and patients.

SEO techniques can be put into place to help a medical practice or a law firm rank when these searches are conducted. Rank is important as patients and clients are more likely to call for an appointment with the business that appears on the first page of the search engine results pages (SERPs); especially the local 3-pack near the top of the Google search results. In fact, nearly 80% of internet users never even consider the second page of the SERPs.

Local 3 pack example

The Critical First Step of Local Search Optimization

No matter how much time or money one devotes to his or her law firm’s or medical practice’s SEO, the return on investment will be limited unless the professional creates a Google My Business (GMB) listing. Essentially, the listing is a free tool that allows a business to be part of Google’s search results in Google Maps and the local 3-pack, as well as the basic SERP.

The GMB listing also feeds data to the “Knowledge Box,” which appears on the right side of the SERP and contains critical business information such as a link to the business’ website, contact information and hours of operation. Depending on the needs of the business, the GMB box can also contain items such as ratings, map directions, click to call buttons, message options, popular business times, etc. A newer feature from 2017 also allows businesses to create posts for promotions, features, services, etc.

The GMB box not only helps when searchers apply the “near me” option of Google, it also provides contact information when a search is conducted for a doctor or lawyer by name. By making all of the relevant information available with a quick search, the searcher is more likely to schedule an appointment with the easy-to-find professional.

The creation of a GMB listing is simple and only requires a Google account. The creation of listings for law firms and medical practices, however, can be a bit trickier than other businesses. Professional organizations commonly have several practitioners who operate out of various locations. Though the Google My Places tool may help, an SEO expert is the best person to create the GMB profile to make sure all of the information is properly listed. As over 30% of potential patients and clients will look elsewhere if a listing is incorrect, it is important to avoid errors.

Maintaining your Local SEO Presence

There are dozens of steps to best handle local SEO for law firms and healthcare practices. The following, however, are arguably three of the most important SEO techniques that need to be addressed.

1. Draft relevant evergreen content.

Prospective patients and clients often begin their local search by researching their health problem or legal circumstances. For example, “divorce process in Georgia” or “availability of medical marijuana in South Carolina.” Similarly, searchers may browse for “doctor who treats migraines near me” or “top immigration attorney near me.” Accordingly, content should be written to cover common questions and topics while also using location-based keywords.

2. Manage your local citations.

With local searches, many potential clients and patients will rely on location-based directories. Yelp and Angie’s List, for example, provide listings and reviews for local businesses. Many doctors and lawyers focus on national directories such as Avvo, FindLaw, Healthgrades and RateMDs, but all directories need to be checked to ensure that your name, address and phone number are correct.

3. Create a social media presence.

Social media is growing in its influence for professional organizations. With 1.4 billion logins a day with Facebook alone, it is foolish to ignore these digital marketing resources. At a minimum, law firms and medical practices should create business listings within social media sources such as Facebook, as these listings appear is search engines. Furthermore, professionals can tie their business to local events and the community in order to make themselves the appealing local choice. (For a more detailed overview of how social media can be used to promote a local business, click here for some ideas.)

The above just skims the surface of the complex process involved for maintaining the local SEO for a professional business. In order to devote the time and attention to SEO practices that will garner the most potential new clients and patients, it is best to hire a web consulting firm with trained SEO experts.

Paramaya Web Consulting has been in business since 2001 and has provided SEO and web consulting services to dozens of clients. Schedule a free website review with the firm that values direct communication with its clients.

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