What’s the first step of an internet marketing campaign for a veterinarian? For most, it’s creating and optimizing your Google My Business page.
Google My Business (GMB) is the free online tool for telling search engines all about your practice. Think of it as Google’s personal phone book, providing your website, contact information, and reviews of your clinic to all your potential customers.
Ask any digital marketer about their clients’ top concern, and most will probably say it’s “ranking higher in Google local search results.” Google evaluates hundreds or even thousands of pieces of data in its ever-changing algorithm, and the single most important piece of that data pie that it pays attention to is its own GMB phone book.
While Google is usually “smart” enough to find the details about a local business without much help, it’s important to claim and optimize the listing for your clinic. Not only will this provide a much-improved user experience for those patients who might seek you out, but it also verifies and builds trust with Google itself.
Completing your Google My Business listing is one of the easiest ways to leave a lasting footprint in Google’s search results. It will almost always show up for a branded search (a search for your business), and you can control most of it.
Shrugging at your Google My Business profile is a big mistake that should be corrected as quickly as possible.
Especially since it’s as easy as these three steps:
- Claim and Verify
Claim and Verify Your GMB Page
You’re convinced of the importance of a GMB page and ready to get started. But how?
The first step is finding out if you already have a page dedicated to your practice. Begin by conducting a branded search for your practice, which includes the business name and your location, and seeing what pops up. If your practice has already claimed the listing, skip ahead to the next section.
If you’re an established practice that has been around for years, a GMB page might already exist for you—this is indicated by the appearance of a “knowledge panel” on the right side of the results page. If you see your practice in such a box already, then claim your profile.
Verify Your Listing.
If you want all of your hard work to stick, you’ll need to verify your business. Google won’t display your updated information until your listing has been verified, and the simplest way to do this is by mail. Google will send a postcard to your business address with a verification code. (Don’t accidentally throw it out!) Type in the code on your GMB profile and voila—you’re done
Verification is very simple– it’s just a waiting game. If you’re eager to get the show on the road, one to two weeks seems like a long time. In this case, though, there’s nothing you can do but wait.
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Page
As with any of your business listings, make sure that everything is correct and consistent, particularly your practice name, address, and phone number. The more complete your profile is, the more likely Google is to recommend your practice.
Filling out your listing provides essential information for your customers, but in addition, many don’t realize that if you leave any of your information blank, someone else can fill it in—even a competitor. That’s right: the “Suggest an Edit” feature allows anyone to suggest changes to your profile. If you leave your profile blank or unclaimed, those changes could stick until you’ve optimized the page yourself.
Here are the most important parts of an optimized GMB page:
Correct, consistent address – make sure your address is consistent (‘456 W Harrison St.’ on every listing or platform you use across the internet, as opposed to ‘456 West Harrison Street’ on one and ‘456 W Harrison St.’ on another, for example).
Correct map pin – Your Google maps pin needs to appear at your exact location. Sometimes when you enter your address, Google guesses incorrectly. Thankfully, you can move and adjust the pin yourself– just click ‘edit’ and move the pin. It may take a few days on Google’s end to update in search results.
Phone number – This phone number should reach your actual business, or at least a cell phone where the voicemail greeting mentions your business name.
Website address – Link each location’s website field to that location’s specific page on your website.
Relevant categories – More isn’t necessarily better. Select veterinarian and only the most important additional categories as second and third choices.
Hours of operation – List accurate hours of business and update special hours for holidays.
Business description – Write a compelling and accurate business description, including your city or area of operation, and one of your preferred SEO keywords
Photos – Images are very important for your listing. At a minimum, aim for three each of interior, exterior, team, and employee photos. Don’t stop there; if you have great photos, add them to your page!
Not So Fast; You Need to Manage Your Listing.
A person viewing your GMB page should never need to question if your information is up to date. Any changes to relevant info in the previous section should be updated, and it’s a good habit to occasionally add new information, articles, and images to your profile.
Many features on GMB allow your practice to interact with customers, meaning you’ll want to stay tuned-in to your listing.
Google’s review platform is the most important place to cement your online reputation, and you should respond to the reviews your customers leave there. GMB allows people to message your practice or even post publicly to your Q&A section, which is another area that anyone can answer if you fail to. There are many other valuable tools for both patients and practices on GMB, so be prepared to explore once you’ve mastered the basics.