It’s no secret that consumers heavily rely on their mobile phones today for just about every online activity, from checking their social media news feeds to performing online searches (including healthcare-related searches). And with the move to mobile devices comes another important shift every healthcare provider should have on their radar—the prominence of localized search results.
With smartphones able to track a user’s precise location, Google is able to deliver hyperlocal search results based on the online user’s exact needs right in that moment. Just look at recent trends for “near me” searches to see how localization has become a core piece of online search behavior today.
Interest in “near me” searches on Google nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015, with 80% of those searches coming from mobile devices. (Think of terms such as “urgent care near me,” “clinic near me,” and “pharmacy near me.”)
Interestingly, it is true that the popularity of “near me” searches has tapered off since then and has even seen a decline recently. Is this trend indicative of a shift in consumer behavior? Not likely! In an effort to better serve consumers, Google has adapted to their behavior and is now providing better results with a greater focus on local information. As consumers are receiving improved local information, more of them are dropping the “near me” phrase altogether. So, the need for local search results has not decreased. Rather, better results from Google have made the “near me’ qualifier less important.
Google shares that search volume for local places without “near me” has actually outgrown comparable searches that do include the phrase, with non-localized searches growing 150% over the past two years.
So what does that mean for healthcare providers? It means whether or not prospective patients are typing in “near me,” they’re expecting local results when they search for healthcare services. Is your hospital, healthcare organization, medical practice, or clinic getting found in those local search results?
This is where effective local digital healthcare marketing comes in. You can improve your organization’s visibility in local search results by updating your listings in Google My Business and Google Maps (as well as other local directories online), optimizing your website so it’s easier for Google to crawl, and improving your online reviews. All of these factors impact Google’s selection of which local search results to feature.
So I’ll Get More Patients If I’m Visible in Local Search Results?
Now that you know how important it is to have a strong local search presence, let’s be clear about one thing—getting found in localized healthcare search results is not the philosopher’s stone that will turn everything into gold. Yes, it’s important, but it’s just one aspect of a winning digital marketing strategy.
Consider these examples:
You have a fantastic website and nearly flawless online reviews, but you don’t show up on a potential patient’s mobile phone search when he’s looking for the type of service you offer. In this scenario, you lose. Unfortunately, that consumer may never get to see the website you invested in or those great reviews you’ve earned. Instead, he finds a different provider and is now exploring their website. You missed an opportunity to get in front of that patient first.
You appear first in your market for “near me” services, but your website is outdated and clunky, and you only have a handful of reviews that vary from fine to bad. You may have won the “local” game, but when that potential patient sees your website and reads those reviews, she is likely to head back to her initial search and look for the next option.
To gain the advantage, you want a comprehensive strategy that focuses on winning each interaction with the healthcare consumer. If that potential patient finds you first in a “near me” search, clicks through to a smart, authoritative website, and then finds a wealth of positive reviews about your healthcare organization or practice, you are very close to acquiring a new patient. The chances that they will call for an appointment grow at every step.
Keep that in mind as your refine your healthcare digital marketing strategy to attract more local patients!
Do ‘Near Me’ Searches Really Matter for My Organization?
It may be tempting to think “near me” and localized searches are only important for specific types of healthcare providers—specifically those where the need for care or attention is more immediate, such as for an urgent care center or walk-in clinic.
That is not the case.
Patients today are acting more and more like everyday consumers when choosing their healthcare services. Because they’re paying more out-of-pocket for their care, they’re doing their own research into the services available to them and shopping around for the best options. They’re also looking for convenience—i.e. local providers that are easy to find online. If a patient needs to see an ENT and can’t get an appointment with a provider, he or she isn’t likely to wait. That patient will likely pull out his or her smartphone and start looking for someone who can help right away.
So, no, local results aren’t just important for urgent care centers and clinics. They should also be a top concern of primary care doctors, pediatricians, specialists such as orthopedic surgeons, ENTs—even entire healthcare organizations.
Take a look at some of these U.S. “near me” search trends to get a sense of patients’ growing demand for localized results over the past 5 years.
“doctor near me”
“primary care doctor near me”
“pediatrician near me”
“orthopedic surgeon near me”
Get Found By More Local Patients
If you would like to learn how to maximize your healthcare center, practice, or organization’s visibility in local search results, our team is here to assist you. We can help assess where you are missing out on potential patients and work with you to improve your entire digital presence from a holistic approach. Contact us to find out how you can attract more local patients from the Internet!
About the Author
Rod Thomas is a Regional Sales Director at Scorpion, where he helps healthcare providers gain a strategic advantage online. He works extensively with rural and independent hospitals, helping them develop customized websites and digital marketing solutions to achieve their business goals.
Rod is a graduate of Northwestern University. When he isn’t working, he enjoys playing golf, going to the theater, and spending time with his wife and two children.