How can I rank higher in local searches?
How can I rank higher in local searches?
As more users search on mobile, the importance of local and ‘near me’ searches is ever-increasing.

During the last five years, the popularity of mobile search has dramatically increased. In fact, mobile now accounts for 60% of searches for dental practices, while according to Pew Research Centre, 85% of adults search on their mobile at least once a day.

This is perhaps unsurprising, but it’s worth noting that as the search climate changes, so too must our approach to it. A search on mobile isn’t the same as one on desktop – not only does Google change how it presents results, but the way in which people search is also different.

Users are far more likely to use ‘near me’ key phrases on their mobiles, or to leave location keywords out altogether. While on a desktop you might search for ‘Dentist in Manchester’, on a phone you’re more likely to search ‘Dentist near me’ or simply ‘Dentist’, assuming that your phone’s location will fill in the blanks. And of course, it’s not just the searches that people physically type into their phones: more of us are using voice search, such as Alexa, Google Home and Siri, which also serves local results.

This all means that Google Business listings are now more important than ever. ‘Near me’ searches feature these listings prominently, usually showing three businesses on a map, with the option to view more by clicking. Appearing in this prime area can therefore make a huge difference to your visibility, both for existing patients (who tend to use Google as an easy shortcut to find a phone number) and for potential ones. If you’re not ranking highly, you could be missing out.

However, if you have an SEO and Google Ads strategy, and are able to get Google Business right, you can dominate this space.

So, what can you do to improve your ranking?

1. Claim your listing

As a first step, if you don’t have a Google Business page, be sure to claim and create one as soon as possible. Fill in all the sections, and ensure that your key details such as phone number and address are written exactly as they are on your website (and while you’re at it, do make sure that your physical address is listed on your website and social profiles).

When determining which local results to show, Google looks at your relevance, distance and prominence. It’s worthwhile to be realistic about your ranking expectations; if you are a mile outside of Manchester, the chances of your Google Business showing up for a search such as ‘dentist in Manchester’ will be hindered due to the competition and your proximity to the centre point of Manchester. You might find that being more specific about your location when targeting keywords is helpful. However, by feeding Google Business as much data as possible, and completing all the fields provided, you can tick the boxes for relevance and prominence; potentially even leap-frogging businesses that are geographically slightly nearer but have incomplete listings.

2. Encourage reviews – and respond to them

Positive reviews show Google that you’re trusted and offer a good service, which causes it to push you higher up the rankings. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for a review, as most people are happy to do this, especially if you point out how helpful they are to other users. This could be in person, via an email customer satisfaction questionnaire, or on your website. We partner with Working Feedback, which allows you to easily gather reviews, and can arrange a preferred rate for clients – just ask us if you’d like to know more.

Regularity, as well as volume, is key here (it’s better to see recent reviews if you’re browsing), and you needn’t focus solely on Google. Reviews can be left across a variety of platforms, including Facebook, and on websites such as Trustpilot.

When people do leave a review, be sure to interact with them. Thank them for their feedback, whether it’s bad or good. If it’s bad (don’t sweat it – it does happen), you might also ask what you can do for them, perhaps suggesting that they take the conversation offline. If you’re able to resolve things, you might even be able to persuade them to change their initial bad review, which is beneficial as Google is unlikely to remove it for you.

3. Keep your listing up to date

Now that you’ve got your Google Business listing set up, stay on top of it. Make it feel alive and interactive by adding fresh imagery of your building, interiors and people, and ensuring that your opening hours, address and contact details are always up to date. News posts are a source of fresh and useful content, and mean that you can promote things such as open day events, treatments, and new products (e.g. if your practice has a new digital scanner). You can even upload videos, creating the opportunity to add persuasive video testimonials. Potential customers appreciate activity and accuracy, and search engines notice this too.

And finally, be sure to regularly check any links you’ve included (both within your Google Business listing and your website) so that you can swiftly find and replace any that are broken. Broken links are a mark against you on quality criteria, and could see your site being knocked down the rankings.

4. Optimise, optimise, optimise

There are easy opportunities to optimise your listing. Consider adding keywords into your ‘from the business’ description, as these can help you to rank for specific treatments (e.g. ‘Private dentist in Manchester offering teeth whitening, dental implants and orthodontics’). This will be far more helpful to you – and to online users – than ‘Dentist in Manchester’.

According to Google, 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile. To target these audiences, you could contribute commonly asked questions, phrasing them in a natural way, before answering them. This means that if someone asks that question, you’ll stand a good chance of appearing in the results. If you can make your listing helpful, people are also far more likely to click or call you.

5. Maintain consistency across third-party sites

Backlinks are helpful for SEO (creating authority), so try to get your practice listed on local directories and those within the dental sector. However, for Google Business, it’s important to be correct and consistent. Where your details, such as name, address, phone number (NAP) and web URL, appear on third-party review and directory sites, they should be exactly the same. It’s not always easy to track these down and get them all changed, which is why we can offer a standalone service to take care of this for you.

6. Make your site mobile friendly

It should go without saying that if a large proportion of your audience is viewing your website on a mobile, it should work well on a mobile. Search engines prefer mobile-optimised websites, as do people ­– we’ve probably all felt the intense frustration of fighting against a non-optimised website on our phones. This is also borne out by the stats: users are five times more likely to leave a site if it’s not mobile friendly. And if you’ve worked this hard to get people to your site in the first place, you really don’t want to lose them now.

But what makes a site mobile friendly? It used to be that a responsive website was good enough, but these days it’s better to be ‘mobile first’. This means that all elements of functionality and design are created for mobile, with desktop adaptations stemming from this. Beyond this, speed is also of the essence. To get a good performance score, you now need to have (along with other things), good load times, ideally less than two seconds. If you think your site is struggling, let us know – we can carry out an audit and can often make recommendations for improving things without needing a drastic rebuild.

Ask us to help

With so many online users now taking to their mobiles, local and ‘near me’ searches are an easy route to new and existing audiences. If you’d like help with your digital dental marketing, or feel you could improve your search ranking, do get in touch.

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Hive Business and does not constitute formal tax advice. Any tax outcomes will be based on individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future. You should seek specific advice before embarking on any course of action. Hive Business does not provide regulated Financial Advice, including advice on investment, insurance or lending products or their suitability for you. This article is provided for information only and does not constitute, and should not be interpreted as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or otherwise transact, or not transact, in any investment including Bitcoin and other crypto. Any use you wish to make of any information contained within this article is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

By Luc Wade Marketing Director
If you have any questions or comments about this article, please get in touch.
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