The bottom line is simple: If you want your veterinary practice to continue growing, you’re going to have to spend time and energy optimizing your presence on the web for search engines. Many vets fail to act until they have practically disappeared from local search results, buried in the hyper-local market by competitors that have been working on their search engine optimization (SEO).
Truth #1 – Your customers are looking for you online.
The numbers don’t lie.
More than half of consumers look for local businesses (including veterinary practices) at least once per month. In fact, only 5 percent of people say they never search for local businesses online. Search engines are the number one driver to your content, and millions of Americans search for vets online every month.
Your potential patients are out there right now, and the numbers suggest they are going to use Google to find you (or a competitor), and they are going to assess your site and reviews in making their determination — that’s assuming they even see your practice in the search results.
Truth #2 – Reviews Matter a Lot.
I’ve spent a decent chunk of time learning just how much reviews matter in search engine rankings, and the answer is “a lot.” Both your review quantity and your review quality clearly impact your local search ranking, and recent updates to Google mean that if you don’t have at least a four-star average, you could be filtered from search results completely. Yikes!
Patients are also relying on reviews more and more with each passing year. An astonishing 91 percent of people surveyed indicated that they regularly read online reviews. As review sites like Google and Yelp work harder and harder to verify the authenticity of reviews, users are trusting them more. Veterinary practices need to have a plan in place to actively work on obtaining more reviews on the most important review sites in their market.
Truth #3 – SEO is complicated.
There are many factors that can impact your ranking. See May’s article for details about what factors affect your search ranking. Search engines like Google have complicated algorithms that are not only updated daily, but also kept a secret. This means a strategy that was working yesterday might not be working today. It takes time to assess the effectiveness of many changes, so you can’t expect results overnight. Good SEO takes some time and patience, and each practice might be a little different in what approach is optimal.
Truth #4 – SEO requires attention to detail.
Search engines care a lot about the little things. Building citations and getting your practice listed in the major directories is a good step, but it’s vital that those listings be accurate and consistent. Look at how just your practice name, address, and phone number appear on your website, Facebook, Google, and Yelp. Is the syntax exactly the same? If not, it needs to be fixed there and everywhere else your business shows up in search results.
Sometimes You Need Help
You don’t expect your patients to operate on themselves; it’s better to turn to the seasoned professional for help. As the owner of a veterinary practice, it pays to know when the time and investment spent learning how to do SEO yourself (and then actually doing it) could be better spent elsewhere. If you feel like your search rankings could use a little bit of help, it might be time to call in the experts so that you can focus on doing what you do best — taking care of animals.