November 26th, 2012 Mike Wilton
During my talk on local search optimization at this year’s AAFPRS fall meeting, I discussed Google’s Venice update, an update that increased the quality of local results as well as the number of local results that show up for queries in Google. However, since then, it has been difficult for many people to identify Google’s blended search results, which were launched in 2010, and the old school local packs. So how do you know if you’re ranking organically with a blended result, or simply ranking in local?
The Local Pack
Though Google Places has been replaced with Google+ Local, it still appears from time to time in Google properties. One place in particular is when displaying local search results in the classic local pack format. The local pack, as you may remember, used to be Google’s way of integrating local search results into it’s organic search results. These would be a stand-alone pack of local results that were displayed from Google Places completely independent of the organic search results. Though rare, these listings still appear in Google’s search results and will appear with the text “Places for your query.” The number of results may vary, but they will always feature the text “Places for…” above the results, such as in the example below.
This is the only identifier you will ever need to know in order to differentiate between blended and non-blended search results. If your localized results say “Places for…” above them then you are dealing with non-blended search results that are simply displaying the ranking websites from Google+ Local (formerly Places), which have no organic tie-in.
Google’s blended results are the most common results seen in local search spaces today. With the release of Venice and the need for more reliable local results you will almost always see a blended search result when Google feels the query has local intent. Blended search results benefit from Google’s traditional search algorithm, as well as their local algorithm creating the hybrid result you now see in most local search spaces. Below is a typical local result. You will notice that it looks very similar to the local pack, however it does not feature the text “Places for…” above the results.
Many doctors feel that when they appear in the search results like those featured above they are not ranking organically. It is important to realize that with the merger of Google+ Local and organic search, this is an organic listing and a ranking position. The only time you should be concerned that you show up in localized results and nowhere else on the page is when the local pack is concerned. In this case it would mean you are only ranking in Google+ Local and not in the organic search results. With that said, let’s not forget…it’s not about rankings.
September 10th, 2012 Mike Wilton
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel of internet marketing experts at the AAFPRS 2012 Fall Meeting. The panel, which was put together by New York City facial plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Pearlman, featured experts from various fields discussing a variety of facets of internet marketing ranging from reputation management and social media, to PR and conversion optimization. Since the subject of SEO has been beat to death at most plastic surgery meetings, I took the opportunity to discuss an often overlooked facet of medical internet marketing; local search. You can view the slides from my presentation embedded below, but I wanted to take this opportunity to elaborate on my presentation and give some further insight into the subject for those who were unable to attend.
Building a Local Presence
We’ve talked a lot in the past about building a local presence on our blog, but what I really wanted to point on in the presentation is that building a local presence is more than just claiming and verifying your Google+ Local, Yahoo and Bing listings. As you can see in my Anatomy of a Local Listing slide and from the Local Search Ecosystem slide, there are a number of sources online that help feed and build a local listing. Additionally, these listings or lack of completeness or accuracy of these listings can create a serious headache for doctors. Oftentimes an incomplete or inaccurate local presence can cause the following:
- Listing Mergers
- Duplicate Listings
- Poor Citation Data
- Segmented Reviews
By building and maintaining your own local presence you can control what data Google and the search engines have about your business and ensure that no matter where visitors are finding you, they are getting the most up to date information about your practice.
Local Search On Site Factors
It used to be that you could claim your local listing in Google, Yahoo, or Bing, and you’d be set. However the local search space has evolved greatly in the last few years, and now, more than ever you need to have not only a strong local presence, but also a strong overall website presence. Google’s “Venice” update, which rolled out earlier this year now takes into account overall website authority in addition to local search factors. In order to compete in the local search space you now need to consider the strength of your overall website in addition to your local listings.
In my slides I have outlined a number of local on site factors to consider, but in addition to these local elements you need to ensure that your overall SEO strategy is progressing as well. Building a diverse and relevant backlink profile with a strong content marketing strategy is going to continue helping your overall SEO presence and generate additional authority for your website, which will ultimately help with your local SEO efforts.
The Future of Local Search
“SoLoMo” as it’s known, or Social, Local, Mobile, is going to continue to be the driving force behind local business. As a doctor, getting involved in these avenues sooner rather than later is going to greatly benefit your practice. Getting involved with Google+ Local, Yelp, and considering a mobile website presence are going to be vital in the years to come as more people rely on social as the new word of mouth, local as the more trusted market for products and services, and mobile as a means of getting the latest information while on the go. Understanding your audience and identifying where they are engaging is going to be vital not only to doctors, but local businesses the world around as users rely more and more on their online friends and apps to tell them who to like, where to go, and what to do in their community. Even the search engines recognize this trend, which is why they have begun implementing social features and recommendations directly within your search results.
What Are You Waiting For?!
Below you will find the original slide deck from the presentation with some statistics and insight into local SEO best practices. Additionally, there is a resources slide at the end of the presentation, which will take you to a bundle of helpful websites and tools to help you build your local presence. From finding local citation opportunities, to better understanding the local search ecosystem in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. I’ve put together some information from some of the top experts in in the local search industry. Of course, local SEO is a core component of our internet marketing program, so if you need further guidance or would rather leave it up to the experts please feel free to contact us to find out how our internet marketing program and local search offerings can help your practice.
August 3rd, 2012 Mike Wilton
Earlier today Googler Jade Wang announced on the Google and Your Business Group that Google has finally rolled out the verification process for local Google+ Pages.
By becoming a verified business owner of your Google+ Page, your business’ presence across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ will be unified and you’ll be able to manage your information from the Google+ Page admin. Verifying ownerships will combine the page you created in Google+ with the page in Google+ Local (formerly Google Places).
For now, only businesses in the “Local Business or Place” category can proceed with verification. Rollout to other businesses will be available in the future.
To proceed with the verification you will need to click on “Verify Now” on the right side of the page. Google will then send out a verification post card to your business to verify your information. Once verified your presence across Google+ and Google+ Local will be universal.
Google is doing a great job at answering questions from local businesses about the update and has a running FAQ that is being updated every couple of days. If you have issues with your verification or have questions about particular challenges you are up against you can follow the Google and Your Business Group thread. Additionally, if you need further instruction on how to verify your listing, local search expert Mike Blumenthal has put together a stellar step-by-step guide to the Google+ Business/Local verification process.
June 21st, 2012 Mike Wilton
Last month when Google announced Google+ Local I shared how the change would impact medical practices. In the article I outlined how the change created an urgency for physicians to jump to Google+ and seriously start thinking about the local/social strategy on the new platform. But a recent article from Medical Justice may have uncovered something even bigger. The new Google+ Local review process requires reviewers to use their full name on a review, revoking the ability to post reviews anonymously. Most businesses welcomed this feature, but it was a potential nightmare for the medical community.
One of the first concerns brought up by Medical Justice was that forcing users to use their full name may deter patients from leaving reviews altogether. With less than fve percent of patients giving their name when leaving reviews it was suggested that the number of reviews and the candidness of reviews would decline due to the change. However, I beg to differ. In the past patients could remain anonymous, and therefore many opted to do so. However I think the review climate is changing and more people are willing to add a face to their remarks and I think Yelp can be used as a prime example.
Yelp has thousands of reviews, both good and bad about physicians, and in every case there is an image, first name, and last initial associated with it. Sure, using only a last initial offers some anonymity, but ultimately if a doctor or the general populous wanted to figure out who you were it probably wouldn’t be that hard.
The one valid argument that I think came out of the Medical Justice article was that Google’s new review policy will essentially silence doctors when it comes to responding to patient reviews. We’ve discussed in the past the importance of fixing reputation problems, and how outreach is crucial in trying to turn a negative review into a positive review simply by recognizing how and when to react. However, with the new review guidelines forcing users to provide their full name, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) precludes a doctor from even acknowledging that the reviewer was a patient. In an environment where we have spent so much time trying to convince doctors not to ignore negative reviews because it gives the perception that they ignore their patients, this could become very troubling.
Google+ Local is still very much in its infancy, with its core user base being in Beta and Google just now rolling out the upgrades manually to businesses that opted in. There are still plenty of opportunities to improve the system if needed, especially in an instance where the changes may impact entire industries (as Mike Blumenthal pointed out on Google+, this also impacts lawyers, and bail bondsmen amongst others). One opportunity could be the ability to privately respond to a user instead of using a public forum to address the issue. This would still give the perception that a doctor is ignoring negative reviews, but it would at least allow them to be proactive with addressing the concern of the individual, which could always result in a changed review later.
Like anything related to the Internet, there is opportunity for even HIPAA to evolve. Could HIPAA be changed to allow doctors the right to respond if in a limited manner if in fact a patient has publicly opted to leave a review stating they underwent treatment from a physician? I think it would be a fair change that under certain guidelines could give physicians a voice in the matter without blowing patient confidentiality out of the water completely.
Just as Internet marketers and businesses are adapting to Google+ and its multitude of changes, Google is having to adapt to the various number of industries and businesses it serves, and in time hopefully Google will come up with a fair solution that is compliant and gives both doctors and patients the ability to engage in conversation, and is productive for both parties.
May 30th, 2012 Mike Wilton
In our December 2011 Newsletter I outlined a number of changes we expected to see in the coming year. One of the highly anticipated changes was the integration of Google Places and Google+. Over the last couple of weeks posts from local search experts like David Mihm and Matt McGee alluded to the fact that the change was coming and finally this morning that change came.
Introducing Google+ Local
Google+ Local is the marriage of Google+ and Google Places as a means of providing relevant local information about local businesses across Google’s properties. The integration introduces a new “Local” tab on the left hand menu of Google+ and is reportedly converting roughly 80 million Google Place pages into 80 million Google+ Local pages. The new product also introduces Zagat reviews to local listings, another highly anticipated feature born of the Google/Zagat acquisition made nearly a year ago.
How This Impacts Your Medical Practice
If you’re not yet on Google+ it’s time to make the jump. If you’re not sure how to setup your Google+ Page we have put together a very in depth guide on setting up Google+ for your medical practice. Though it’s not outlined on the Google Blog, or the Google Places blog, Google gives some more in depth insight about their plans to deeper integrate Google+ and Google Places on their Google and Your Business Blog. In the post Google explains that this is just the first of many changes coming in regards to Google+ Local. Currently, if your practice is using Google+ to post content or host hangouts these elements will still be separate from your Google+ Local listing. However, Google partnered with thirteen businesses to fully upgrade their listings early as part of the Google+ Local rollout and you can see an example below that shows both the Places elements as well as the Google+ elements fully integrated. On the page you’ll notice that in addition to local information the posts section and the “Follow” option also appears. Additionally they hint that while Place Page information will still be managed via the Local Business Center, that may be changing soon to allow you to update your business information in a centralized location. My bet is on Google+.
Google has been nothing short of aggressive with its integration of Google+. You might recall the introduction of Google Search Plus Your World back in January, which integrated Google+ into your search results. Moving forward more products and services will be integrated with Google+ meaning that if you aren’t engaging on Google+ or at least staking your claim, you’re going to be missing out on the direction Google is headed.
For a roundup of detailed posts from around the web on the new Google+ Local integration check out the list below: