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7 Local Search Tips for Health Providers to Take Care of Patients – Search Engine Journal

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Consumers rely on local search to find the products and services they need, in a convenient location. Healthcare is no exception – 77 percent of online health seekers start at search engines.

While general local search best practices hold true across industries, it is important for health providers to understand the key differentiators within their local space and create a strategy designed to help patients easily access the care they are looking for.

Search in the Health Industry

So, what makes healthcare so unique?

It’s Personal

Healthcare is closely tied to well-being, happiness, and quality of life. For this reason, websites that provide medical information fall into a category Google calls “YMYL” or “Your Money Your Life.”

It’s Held to a Higher Standard

Because YMYL pages can negatively impact a user’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety, Google requires these websites to follow more stringent quality standards.

This became especially apparent during the so-called Medic update of August 2018, which seemed to target health and wellness pages based on their expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

It’s Complex

Medical organizations are complicated, offering a wide array of treatment services varying across locations, departments, and specialties.

Our job as marketers is to leverage digital assets to improve patient understanding and increase accessibility of care.

How to Create a Patient-First Local Strategy

An effective local search strategy will play a key role in helping patients evaluate alternatives and make an informed decision on where to receive the best care.

1. Choosing a Service Line to Optimize

The first step in improving local search strategy is identifying where to start.

Who’s more likely to rely on local search to inform decision making:

  • A patient with a long-term heart condition in need of a transplant?
  • Or a local college student experiencing flu-like symptoms?

To identify low-hanging fruit for local search, select service lines to optimize based on organic performance and business goals:

Business Goals

  • What service lines are important to our business goals?
  • What are the organic conversion rates for these service lines?
  • How would improving conversion rates impact our business?

Organic Performance Metrics

  • How much organic traffic is this service line receiving?
  • How many clicks?
  • What keywords is the service line ranking highly for?
  • What keywords are in striking distance?
  • What is the search volume of our striking distance keywords?
  • Can we improve these metrics?

Compile a list of services lines that will be good candidates for optimization. Next, use the following two considerations to determine which service lines have the highest local intent.

  • Immediacy of care: Google Barometer data shows that health consumers searching for local information are more likely to have an urgent, immediate, or upcoming need for local information (see screenshot below). Prioritize services lines that are associated with a higher level of urgency (e.g., emergency rooms, urgent care).

Urgency of local information by consumer type - chart

  • Decision factors: Consider the likelihood that patients will conduct their own research and make a self-informed decision on where to receive care (self-reliant), as opposed to relying on doctor referrals (seeks expert).

The screenshot below is an illustrative example of service lines, mapped by perceived local intent. Service lines that pull toward self-reliant and high immediacy of care, will likely be associated with higher local intent.

Prioritizing service lines for local search visualPrioritizing service lines for local search visual

2. Finding Primary & Secondary Keywords

The next step is to identify how patients are searching for health services. Look for keywords that are relevant to the service line and resonate with your audience.

  • Check Google Search Console (GSC) and Google My Business (GMB) Insights to see which keywords patients are already using to find your location.
  • Use Google Keyword Planner or another keyword research tool to get suggestions on new keywords to target. Tip: In the left-side bar on keyword planner, select “All Locations” and filter by your location. This will allow you to see how people are searching at a hyper-local level by narrowing average monthly search volume to a specific location.

Organize non-brand keywords into three buckets:

High-Funnel Keywords

Non-localized keywords that focus on what your audience would search before deciding to seek out care (e.g., symptoms and conditions). Typically, these keywords will have higher search volume and higher competition.

Related Questions

Additional keywords help identify the types of questions patients may have before visiting your location.

Note: AnswerThePublic is a great free resource for this.

Localized Keywords

Low-funnel keywords that will help determine how patients search for locations (by city, by neighborhood, near [landmark]).

These keywords will typically have lower search volume, but also less competition. These will serve as the primary keywords to target for local search.

7 Local Search Tips for Health Providers to Take Care of Patients7 Local Search Tips for Health Providers to Take Care of Patients

3. Analyzing Competitive Strategies

While you may have a predetermined list of top competitors, the competitive landscape for health providers often varies greatly based on health service, search intent, and location.

Use the following considerations to identify and analyze your local competition:

  • Perform a search for high-funnel, non-localized keywords (note: depending on the query and its perceived intent, you may get localized, non-localized, or a mix of organic results).
  • Analyze search results looking for best-in-class competitors. Look for common trends among top competitors and identify potential strategies to leverage.
  • Next, search for low-funnel, localized keywords. Analyze the local 3-pack results to determine who your top local competitors are.
    • If you are searching from the location of your practice, you can simply analyze search results.
    • If you are searching from another location, Local Falcon’s Map Scan tool is great for identifying local competitors (and checking your own local 3-pack rankings).
  • Identify 5-10 local competitors, aiming to answer the questions:
    • How am I ranking compared to my competitors?
    • What keywords are my competitors ranking for that my site isn’t?
    • What are my competitors doing well?
    • What are my competitors not doing well?
    • Are there any common trends I can leverage on my own site?
    • How can my site be better?
  • Use your findings to develop a game plan for gaining competitive advantage.

Gaining a competitive advantage - visualGaining a competitive advantage - visual

4. Understanding Your Audience

Using site analytics, insights from other digital channels, and first-party knowledge, aim to understand your audience and how audiences vary by service line and type of care being sought out.

Top-of-mind considerations include:

  • Are patients typically proactive, or reactive?
    • Proactive patients are motivated by maintaining their health status quo (routine testing, yearly physicals, consulting with a nutritionist, etc.).
    • Reactive patients experience a trigger or a change in health status before seeking out care.

Proactive vs reactive patients - visualProactive vs reactive patients - visual

  • If they are a reactive, what are their triggers?
  • Are they new or returning?
  • How are they interacting with your brand/practice (website, GMB, social media, Yelp, etc.)?
  • What technology/media do they use (device type, browser)?
  • How do they engage with content (landing page, exit page, pages/session, session duration, bounce rate, etc.)?

5. Identifying Touchpoints

Touchpoints are the steps within the user journey where customers interact our brand.

These interactions are opportunities for health providers to increase brand awareness, change brand perceptions, bring new patients to their practice, and improve loyalty among current patients.

Aim to understand the patient’s behavior and identify all points where a patient seeking care may interact with your brand. For local search, the two most important touchpoints to optimize are:

  • Google My Business: eligible to rank in map pack results.
  • Local Landing Pages: eligible to rank in local search results.

Additional touchpoints to monitor include:

  • Other areas of the site: Physician finders, location finders, about pages, and contact us pages all provide important information about your practice.
  • Additional review sources: Representations of your brand that are out of your direct control may influence patients’ perceptions.
  • Other GMB profiles: Any outdated GMB profiles may contain inaccurate information about your practice.
  • Social media profiles: Often, location pages are created on Facebook when users tag themselves at your location.

Analyze your digital touchpoints and performance metrics for each to gain an understanding of what digital assets are converting well and which are in need of optimization.

For local landing pages, make sure to look at mobile performance numbers and ensure there are no discrepancies (may be a sign of a poor mobile experience).

6. Mapping the Patient Journey

Using the insights discovered so far, map out what the typical patient’s journey would look like.

  • Navigate through the process yourself (searching for target keywords, navigating to local landing pages, etc.), marking each click as a step in the journey.
  • Repeat on both desktop and mobile (again, note any discrepancies that might indicate a poor mobile experience).
  • Look for any areas of inefficiency, especially where one user action requires multiple clicks.
  • Compare to the experiences provided by competitive websites, looking for strategies to leverage.

Match digital touchpoints to specific steps in the patient’s journey.

Example patient journey mapExample patient journey mapImage modified from @AlexisKSanders

Analyze each step in the patient journey, as well as each digital touchpoint. Use the following questions to begin prioritizing optimizations:

  • Where are you performing well?
  • Where can you improve?
  • What about mobile?
  • Which digital touchpoints need the most attention?
  • Are patients dropping off at any point in the journey?
  • How can we make each step more efficient?

7. Outlining Content Goals

At this point, we can start curating our local strategy using insight gathered from keyword research, competitive insights, audience personas, and patient journey mapping.

Ask yourself the following questions and use the answers to frame your content goals:

  • What are the goal(s) of the patients who are landing on this page?
  • What actions do we want users on this page to take?
  • Are the identified patient goals aligned with intended actions?
  • Are we making it as easy as possible to achieve those goals?
  • Are we providing additional, relevant information to help patients through their journey?
  • How can we offer patients a better experience than our competitors?

Prioritize content goals based on anticipated effort and level of impact, balancing tradeoffs between high-impact, high-effort items and medium/low-impact, low-effort items (low-hanging fruit).

TL;DR

Creating a successful local search strategy for healthcare providers requires:

  • Understanding the key differentiators of local search in healthcare.
  • Prioritizing service lines based on performance, business needs, and local intent.
  • Targeting localized keywords and anticipating user questions.
  • Analyzing best-in-class and local competitors to find new opportunities and strategies to leverage.
  • Gaining a deep understanding of your audience and how audiences may vary by service line.
  • Mapping the patient journey, looking for areas of inefficiency or opportunities for improvement.

More Resources:


Image Credits

In-post Images: Created by author, January 2019

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How Kourtney Kardashian Became Known For Kooky Health Advice – Refinery29

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The 40-year-old Kardashian sister is known for living a strictly organic, gluten-free, non- GMO, vegan, dairy-free, ketognic, existence. While there are some funny vintage Keeping Up With The Kardashians clips of Kourtney working out casually or shaking a giant plastic salad container, her full-on wellness obsession began around the time that she had Mason. “I feel like once I had Mason, I just became more aware,” she told Refinery29 in 2016. “And then once you learn information, you can’t really make it go away.”

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DOH issues health tips for devotees going on Visita Iglesia – INQUIRER.net

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Young pilgrims pray before the altar of a Catholic church in Lumban, one of their Visita Iglesia (church visits) stops in Laguna province. VAUGHN ALVIAR

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) issued on Thursday health tips for people who will visit churches during the Holy Week.

In a Facebook post, the DOH advised devotees to bring umbrellas, wear comfortable clothes, and to drink enough water.

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Below are the Health department’s tips for Holy Week observers. /cbb

DOH issues health tips for devotees going on Visita Iglesia

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Tips for better bowel control – Harvard Health – Harvard Health

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Try simple measures first, like using a fiber supplement and treating underlying conditions.

Nobody wants to talk about or even imagine it. But loss of bowel control — known as fecal incontinence — is a problem for millions of adults in the United States, especially women.

“It becomes more common with age. It’s socially isolating and takes away your dignity. You live in fear that you have stool in your pants and people can smell it. Some people won’t even tell their doctors about it,” says Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Symptoms and causes

Feces can leak out of the rectum accidentally — in liquid form or as solid stool — for a number of reasons. One is that age tends to weaken muscles, including the anal sphincter (the muscle that holds in feces until you’re ready for a bowel movement).

Damage to nerves or muscles can also lead to fecal incontinence. You may experience damage from rectal surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, childbirth, or diabetes, for example.

Fecal incontinence can be an effect of chronic diarrhea from conditions such as irritable bowel disease. Impacted stool due to constipation can also cause fecal incontinence.

And sometimes, fecal incontinence is the result of an attempt to thwart constipation. “Older people frequently take laxatives and stool softeners because they’re worried about constipation. That creates loose stool. If age has weakened the muscles of the anal sphincter, fecal incontinence can occur,” says explains Dr. Jennifer Irani, a gastrointestinal surgeon with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Try this at home

Both experts suggest trying simple fixes for fecal incontinence before seeking treatment from a doctor.

You can cut back on stool softeners and laxatives, if those are causing the problem. Or you can bulk up your stool (so it’s easier to hold on to) with an over-the-counter fiber capsule or a powder that you can add to a drink or food. Examples include Metamucil, Citrucel, FiberCon or Benefiber.

“Fiber won’t constipate you,” Dr. Irani says. “The rectum is smart and can sense bulkiness. When you have more sensation, you have more time to get to the bathroom,” she says.

You can also try bulking your stool with dietary fiber. Legumes such as beans and lentils are a go-to source. For example, a cup of canned low-sodium black beans has about 17 grams of fiber. A cup of cooked lentils has about 16 grams of fiber.

Taking a nonprescription antidiarrheal medication such as loperamide (Imodium) can work if you have incontinence with diarrhea. “It’s okay to take it every day under supervision, but it won’t work if you have a weakened sphincter,” Dr. Staller points out.

Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) may also help reduce fecal incontinence. These involve contracting (squeezing) the anal sphincter several times per day or whenever you feel fullness in the rectum. “Pelvic floor physical therapy will help, but it won’t always solve the problem. Also, you have to do the exercises every day or it doesn’t work,” Dr. Irani notes.

Pads that you tuck into your underwear or adult diapers can offer security when you have fecal incontinence. But pads and diapers can irritate the skin, as can a bowel movement that’s been near your skin for too long. Using a barrier cream such as zinc oxide can help protect the skin.

Dietary fiber linked to a lower risk for fecal incontinence

When fecal incontinence strikes, increasing your dietary fiber with foods like legumes can help get you back to normal. And a Harvard-led study published last September in Gastroenterology suggests that eating a high-fiber diet over the long term is associated with a lower risk for developing fecal incontinence in older women.

Researchers looked at questionnaire responses from more than 58,000 women who were followed for more than 20 years. Women in the study who ate the most fiber (25 grams per day) had an 18% lower risk for fecal incontinence, compared with women who ate the least amount of fiber (13.5 grams per day). The study is observational and doesn’t prove that eating fiber prevents fecal incontinence. But it’s reasonable that it should. “There are so many reasons why fiber can be helpful. It may help ward off heart disease and diabetes. A reduced risk for fecal incontinence adds another potential benefit,” says Dr. Kyle Staller, the lead author of the study and a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Formal diagnosis

When simple fixes aren’t making a difference, it may be time to see your primary care physician or a specialist. You can expect a specialist to take a full medical history and conduct a digital rectal exam (feeling the inside of the anus with a gloved finger to assess how tight the anal sphincter is).

Further testing to look for damage to the anal canal, sphincter, or lower colon may include

  • anoscopy (insertion of a small, short scope into the anal canal)

  • sigmoidoscopy (insertion of a flexible viewing tube to examine the sigmoid or lower colon)

  • anal ultrasound (using sound waves to look at the sphincter structure)

  • anal manometry (insertion of a catheter and balloon to measure anal sphincter strength).

Treatment

Often, treatment of an underlying bowel condition, such as impacted stool or chronic diarrhea, solves the problem. “It’s much easier to fix a bowel disturbance than it is to tighten up the sphincter,” Dr. Staller says.

Beyond that, there are only a few treatment options for older adults whose fecal incontinence does not respond to simple measures.

One option is called sacral nerve stimulation. “It’s like a pacemaker for your anus,” Dr. Irani explains. “We implant wires into the sacral nerve in the spine to stimulate the sphincter muscle to contract. What’s key is that it will only work if incontinence involves solid stool, not liquid stool. Also, you have to be able to operate an external device and participate in your care.”

The other option is surgery to create a colostomy, bringing the end of the large intestine through a special opening in the abdomen so that it drains into an attached bag. “People rarely choose this option. They’d rather wear an adult diaper. But people who choose surgery seem to get their freedom back. They just empty the bag when it gets full,” Dr. Irani says. “Colostomy is especially helpful for people who are in a wheelchair and can’t get to the bathroom frequently,” Dr. Staller adds.

A ray of hope

Most people don’t have to resort to drastic measures like surgery. Bulking stool through diet or with fiber powders usually solves or greatly reduces the problem. But if that’s not working for you, don’t suffer in silence. Your doctor may be able to help.

“Just talking about it with someone who knows what you’re going through is a real benefit,” Dr. Staller says. “You may not be able to get rid of fecal incontinence, but you may be able to eliminate 50% of the episodes and many of the accidents you have. And we know that even one accident feels like it’s too many.”

Image: © GregorBister/Getty Images

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As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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