Local search is one of the most important aspects of SEO. Today, 97% of people who use online search1 are looking for a local business. And every day, 1.6 billion Google searches have local intent.2
As a dental practice, this applies to you more than most. You provide an in-person service, one that your patients need to remain healthy. Studies show that 71% of people check online reviews before selecting a dentist.3 That means most people are using the internet to find their oral health provider.
When your prospective patients use Google to search for a dentist, they’re almost always looking for a practice in their area. Typically, someone living in Baltimore isn’t looking for a dentist in Philadelphia. So in order to capture their interest and convert them into a new patient for your practice, local SEO is key.
Google is famously silent about exactly how their algorithm works and what factors they consider when determining a webpage’s position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). But experts have honed in on a few of the variables the search giant considers when determining rank. So here are the top six factors affecting local searches.
1. Branded Search Volume
If you’re not familiar with this term, branded search is when a user searches for your practice by name. Google uses this as a ranking factor because branded search clearly demonstrates your practice’s popularity.
The more people are familiar with your practice and search for you directly, the more relevant you appear to Google. Think of it this way, popularity equals prominence on the SERP.
2. Google Business Profile Interactions
Because Google has so many products that work together, many branded searches will send potential patients directly to a dentist’s Google Business Profile. Once there, Google tracks how the user interacts with your practice’s profile, including website click-throughs, driving directions, and bookings. Ostensibly, the more clicks your profile has, the higher your rank will be.
If you haven’t already, claim and complete your Google Business Profile as soon as possible. And add some photos! You’ll get 35% more clicks if you add photos4 to your profile.
3. Click-Through Rate
Once users have searched, they need to decide which link they’ll click on the results page. Google compares your website’s click-throughs to your competition and incorporates that data into the calculations that determine your position on the SERP.
This is an important ranking factor because Google views click-throughs as a sign of your practice’s relevance. And again, the more relevant your practice related to the terms searched, the more Google favors your site.
4. Bounce Rate and Time-On-Page
When users visit your site, how long do they stay? If they don’t leave the homepage to visit other pages on your site, they “bounce”. If they stay and click through to a few pages, Google measures their time spent on your site.
Although Google claims bounce rate and time on page aren’t ranking factors, they are indicators of variables Google does consider, like user experience and page quality. The better the quality and experience, the less likely users will bounce, and the more time they’ll spend on your site.
Since we’re talking about local search, proximity is a factor. By default, Google shows search results within 0.25 square miles of the searcher.5 If your practice is in a large urban center, you may need to use Google ads or another strategic marketing tactic to ensure your practice is prominently displayed on local searches.
6. Practice Visits
You read that correctly—actual, in-person visits is the sixth factor that can affect your ranking on the SERP. How can Google apply your physical location to online rankings? Google tracks smartphone users who have enabled Google Maps (there are 118 million users in the U.S.6).
Combining location information with search history isn’t a giant leap. And as a result, Google can easily connect the dots between past online searches and in-person visits. So the more patients you have, the more prospective patients will find you.
A Good Website Makes a Great First Impression
Local search is driving patients to (or from) your practice. Make Google work for you by maximizing the value of these local search factors. Schedule a strategy session by calling 888.307.7304 to learn how Dreamscape Marketing can help.
For a list of references, please contact us.