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Search Engine Optimization

Updated: 06/22/2023|Views: 231

This is your guide for questions and clarification regarding search engine optimization as it relates to the Practice Growth platform. Contact your Customer Success Manager for account-specific questions or a performance review.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

“SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.”

How does Google determine local search rankings?

Google usually stays pretty quiet about the exact algorithm they use to rank websites in search results in order to help keep things fair and avoid spam abuse. When it comes to local ranking factors, however, Google has been pretty open by sharing the three primary factors for local ranking:

  • Relevance: How relevant is your website to the search query? Local citations (i.e., your Google My Business listing and category) and website content are two signals Google uses to measure the relevancy of a business.
  • Distance (or proximity): How far is the search visitor from the business?
  • Prominence: How well known is the business both on and offline? A few prominence signals that Google uses to measure business’s prominence includes their online reputation (number of reviews and average rating), inbound links to the business’s website, and local citations.
    • Reputation (count and score)
    • Backlinks
    • Local citations
    • Organic rankings

Additional ranking factors (both for local pack/finder and localized organic results) can be found within the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Although not confirmed by Google, results were developed from the input provided by SEO industry leaders on what they have observed to be important for ranking.

Here are the top 5 factors for both local pack/finder and organic search results:

  • Top 5 Local Pack/Finder Ranking Factors (from 2017 Survey)
    • My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 19%
    • Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 17%
    • On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 14%
    • Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 13%
    • Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 13%
  • Top 5 Organic Ranking Factors (from 2017 Survey)
    • Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 29%
    • On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 24%
    • Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 11%
    • Personalization 9%
    • Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 8%

How long will it take for me to see improvements in how my website ranks in search engine results?

All customers who join Practice Growth receive the same foundation of technology and services, and each practice will see the benefits of joining our platform. However, time to results varies from practice to practice. Some practices see an increase in new patients, search engine rankings, and reputation within a three month period, while other practices can take up to 18 months.

There are three reasons for the variations:

  • Pre-existing Factors: Many pre-existing factors, such as current search engine ranking or online reputation, can influence a practice’s online marketing and search engine performance.
  • Ongoing Best Practices: Practices that utilize our Best Practice Recommendations often see results faster.
  • Marketing Add-ons: Upgrading to Practice Growth’s Social, Grow, or Accelerate packages, which include social media postings, website content, and PPC advertising, can also accelerate performance.

To read more about pre-existing factors and best practices, refer to What to Expect With Practice Growth.

Why are reviews important for SEO?

Online reviews are absolutely critical to the success of a practice today. Not only do patients read reviews before selecting a new provider, search engines rely heavily on them in search rankings. And with more than 90% of website traffic is going to the first page of Google’s search results, where your website ranks within search engine result pages (SERP) matters.

Google usually stays pretty quiet about the exact algorithm they use to rank websites in search results to help keep things fair and to avoid spam abuse, but they have shared the three primary factors for local ranking: (1) Relevance, (2) Distance (or proximity), and (3) Prominence.

Google uses your online reputation, specifically reviews left on Google, as an authority signal to measure how prominent your business is: “Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.”

Leaders within the SEO community agree — in the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, Review Signals (quantity, velocity, diversity, etc.) came in 5th for the local pack/finder top ranking factors and 7th for localized organic top ranking factors.

The good news is that by being a Practice Growth customer, you’re already working to improve your reputation through our online booking platform. Practice Growth increases your online reviews by automatically requesting feedback from each patient after their apartment. The platform then follows up with links to review sites so patients can easily post about their experience. On average, practices see 18 new online reviews in the first year, or an average of 1.5 per month.

What is the Google local pack?

The local pack is set of three business listings at the top of a search result page in Google. These results are location based, with each listing marked in the map above the “pack” of listings. Learn more about local pack/finder ranking factors here and here.

What’s the difference between organic, referral, direct, and paid website traffic?

Website visitors come to your website through different four primary traffic sources: Organic, Referral, Direct, and Paid.

  • Organic traffic refers to website visitors who found your site through the organic results (rather than a paid ad) on a search engine result page.
  • Referral traffic refers to website visitors who were referred to your site by another website source. For example, someone who visits your website after clicking on the website link in your Yelp profile.
  • Direct traffic refers to website visitors who navigated directly to your website by either (1) entering your URL into the address bar, (2) clicking on a bookmarked link, or (3) clicking on a link to your site through an email or other location not on the web.
  • Paid traffic refers to website visitors who found your site after clicking on a paid advertisement in the SERP. Please note, however, that you will only receive paid search visitors if you have an active paid search (also known as Pay Per Click or PPC) campaign.

What is a local citation?

A local citation is any mention of your business on the web; it is any combination of your company name, phone number, address, zip or postal code, and website address. Citations in SEO are a key factor in improving your local search results.

Local citations come in various forms, for example:

  • Company name.
  • Company name & phone number.
  • Company name, phone number, & address.
  • Company name, phone number, address, & website.
  • Company name & website.
  • Company phone number.
  • And so on.

The term “citation” was coined by David Mihm in 2008 in his pivotal post, Local vs Traditional SEO: Why Citation Is the New Link.

A complete local citation should include the company name, address, and phone number, which is referred to as your “NAP”. A citation that does not include all three of these is sometimes referred to as a partial citation.

You’ll sometimes also hear people talk about a NAPW or a UNAP citation as well. The W refers to Website, and the U refers to URL. The website link you get from a citation offers you additional value, because it provides an extra data point that helps the search engines connect the citation to your business, so some people like to include it in the acronym.


A citation does not need to link back to your website to be valuable. The value in a citation is the mention of your business. Google identifies that your business was mentioned through the presence of your NAP info, and you get credit for this mention. The more mentions of your business out on the web, the more prominent your business appears to Google, and this will help with your local rankings. The actual links from most business directories are usually no-followed anyway.

This is not to say that links aren’t valuable. Links are valuable, and citations that include links are even better than citations that do not include links. The point to remember is that a citation does not need to have a link to be valuable to your local search efforts.

What is link building?

“Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web; they will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website, and they will crawl the links between entire websites.”

Backlinks are critical to organic performance; in the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, link signals was the #1 factor for localized organic ranking and #2 for local pack/finder ranking factors.

To learn more about link building, check out the following resources:

Why is blogging important?

Google loves blogging because it provides:

  • Fresh relevant content
  • Keyword targeting
  • Increased pages and a larger site
  • Increased backlinks

Not only does blogging help with search engine optimization, it can also help you to attract new patients and engage existing ones for more recare visits. According to HubSpot,

  • Businesses with blogs get 55% more traffic on average
  • Businesses that blog are 4x more likely to be found on the web
  • Businesses who prioritize blogging experience 13x increase in ROI

Practice Growth recommends that you blog frequently, ideally one original post per week, and that you write about topics that are both relevant to your practice and engaging to your patients.

We know that the idea of blogging can be daunting, so Practice Growth offers a blogging package where our content experts will create original, search engine optimized blog posts for you! If interested, contact your Customer Success Manager for more information.

How often should I update my website?

Adding consistent, quality content to your website can help increase organic traffic and establish thought leadership.

Here are some recommendations for update frequency:

  • Testimonial acquisition should happen weekly, if not daily, adding a constant stream of new content to the site.
  • Service pages should be updated as often as those services change
  • Blog frequently, ideally posting original content each week

All of this depends, however, on your local market. For example, if well-ranking practices are updating their sites with new blog posts daily, then you may have to do that for your site, too, if you want to be able to compete.

Practice Growth can help you create new content; talk to your Customer Success Manager to learn more about adding additional service pages and blogging.

Is it beneficial to have multiple websites?

Practice Growth powers thousands of practice websites and our performance analysis strongly suggests that a single website strategy performs better than multiple practice websites.

Here are a few complications you may run into with multiple practice websites:

  • Each Google My Business listing can only link to one URL
    • According to the Guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google, a business qualifies for only one GMB listing per business, per location.
      • In Google’s eyes, businesses are defined based on the customer experience and not by whether the business is licensed.
      • Even if you have multiple businesses incorporated, if there are not distinct customer experiences (i.e., patients are able to distinguish the separate businesses independently), then you only qualify for one business listing.
  • Local citations are critical for performance, especially Google My Business (GMB)
    • We know that local citations, and Google My Business in particular, have a significant impact on rankings. In fact, in the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, My Business Signals were identified as the #1 factor for local pack/finder rankings and #6 for localized organic ranking factors.
    • If you have multiple websites, not all websites will be linked in GMB and, if the website isn’t being linked to through a GMB listing, then the website will have a much more difficult time performing organically.
  • Multiple websites may end up competing against each other in rankings and, in turn, both sites may be negatively impacted
    • Search engines penalize websites that have duplicate content; search engines want their users to have a great experience, and try to prevent users from seeing multiple versions of essentially the same content.
    • Further, search engines reward business when they have a high degree of trust that the business information is accurate; introducing multiple websites confuses the search engine as to which is the official website and weakens trust, which can lead to reduced rankings.
  • Having multiple practice websites can lead to a negative user experience and can impact a customer’s trust in your business. If customers see multiple websites associated with your business, they can have a difficult time identifying the official website, which can lead to confusion and mistrust in your business and brand.

Your Practice Growth-powered website should live on the oldest and highest authority domain in your control, with all existing websites redirected to it.

For more information, check out the Ranking Multiple Domains to Own More SERP Real Estate Whiteboard Friday on Moz.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact your Customer Success Manager to discuss further.

What is Practice Growth doing to ensure my website and online presence is up to date on the latest trends in SEO?

As a Software-as-a-Service company, we continually evolving our Practice Growth Platform: Each quarter, we develop new modules and features to best serve our customers. Our roadmap is informed by our voice-of-the-customer program; your feedback generates new feature ideas, which are then reviewed and prioritized.

Competition for search rankings amongst healthcare practices is fiercely competitive and search engines are constantly improving their ranking algorithms to provide the best results for searchers. As a software-as-a-service platform, Practice Growth is committed to continuous innovation to ensure your practice’s web presence is frequently updated to benefit from the most advanced technology and tactics.

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