Local SEO Guide for Veterinarians: A 5 Step Journey to Better Google Rankings

/Local SEO Guide for Veterinarians: A 5 Step Journey to Better Google Rankings
Local SEO Guide for Veterinarians: A 5 Step Journey to Better Google Rankings 2017-11-30T20:56:57+00:00

Local SEO Guide for Veterinarians
Veterinarians face a challenge in bringing in new business. Word of mouth is an important component, but increasingly, people looking for a new vet search in Google and call the first or second choice on the list. To maximize your patient list, then, you need to make your way to the top of Google rankings.

We’ll walk you through our proven, step by step process for taking your practice to that critical top slot. Before we do, though, let’s look at why local SEO is crucial for veterinarians.

3 Reasons Veterinarians Should Invest in Local SEO

  1. Bye Bye Yellow Pages, Hello Google:

    Not so long ago, a veterinarian could take out an ad in the yellow pages and wait for prospects to call. Today, however, a stunning 97% of people search for local businesses online, and Google is the undisputed king of search.

  2. Free Traffic:

    Although things are evolving, advertising remains one of the biggest expenses for many small businesses. Boosting your Google ranking provides an ongoing flow of free traffic that you can convert to paying customers.

  3. Fast Results:

    National and international companies have to wait an average of 6 to 12 months after launching a new SEO campaign before they see much movement in their Google rankings. But as a veterinarian, you have a major advantage. Your competition is down the block, not halfway across the country, and may not yet be taking advantage of local SEO. With a targeted campaign, you could jump to the first page of local Google listings in as little as 30 days!

Step 1: Select Your Keywords

Begin by creating a quick list of keywords that reflect your services. For example, you might try “veterinarian”, “animal doctor”, “exotic pet vet”, or “animal hospital”. When your list is reasonably complete, sign up for a free Google AdWords account.

You do not need to create or fund an ad campaign, but the AdWords account will give you give you access to the free Google Keyword Planner. This tool lets you input your selected keywords to learn how much traffic they drive, and suggests related keywords that you might not have thought of.

Now you are ready to finalize your keyword list. All keywords loosely fall into 2 categories:

  • Buying Intent: Buying intent keywords signal that a prospect is imminently planning to buy services similar to yours. For example, a search for “puppy vaccinations Toledo” suggests that the person has a new puppy that needs shots.

    Focus primarily on buying intent keywords, as they drive the fastest results. They should be featured on your homepage and on separate service pages.

  • Research Intent: A prospect searching for research intent keywords is “just looking.” He might need a veterinarian eventually, but not now. For example, someone searching for “cat adoption checklist” might be considering whether to adopt a cat, who will eventually need veterinary care.

    These keywords should be of lower priority, as their conversions are slower. Hold onto them, though, as they are excellent for blog posts and FAQs. These posts serve as your introduction to prospects who may remember you when they need a vet.

Step 2: Optimize Your Keywords

With your final keyword list in hand, you are ready to optimize in 2 places—your Google My Business page and your website. Here’s what to do:

Google My Business

Your Google My Business page is a sort of mini-website that can be found in Google’s “Maps” section. It boosts your online presence and provides a brief snapshot of your company. It can also give you a fast rankings increase, since it is easier to rank highly with a Google My Business page than with a full website.

Make sure all of these elements are complete and accurate:

  • Verification: First, claim your page and submit it for Google’s verification process. This step is finished when the word “Verified” and a checkmark appear next to your business name.
  • NAP: Your business NAP (name, address, and phone number) must be identical across all web listings. Choose a local phone number rather than an 800 number to reassure Google that your business is local.
  • Categories: Google requires its category listings to be service-oriented rather than results-oriented. In addition to Veterinarian, you might choose Emergency Veterinarian Service and Animal Hospital, if you provide those services. Try to list 3 to 5 categories.
  • Description: This section should contain a 100 to 200-word overview of your company that ends with a call to action. Try this format: {Name of Company} offers {veterinary services, or similar} in {Your City}. {Provide some information about your practice and/or why pets and families love you.} Call {Phone Number} today for 10% off your pet’s first visit.
  • Hours: Double-check that your office hours are correct, and are accurate across the internet.
  • Images: Images are crucial to boosting engagement and showing new prospects what they’re missing. Add some photos of your staff, your facilities, and even your patients (with permission from their owners!) Your images must be well-focused, sized between 10KB and 5MB, and have a minimum resolution of 720px x 720px. We also recommend replacing the generic Google My Business background image with a branded image.

Website Optimization

The first step is to optimize your “core” pages (homepage and service pages) for your buying intent keywords. Then you can switch your focus to optimizing your “content” pages (FAQs and blog posts) for your research intent keywords. Here’s what to do:

  • Homepage: Playing a similar role to a book’s chapter title, the title tag is the single most vital feature on your homepage. It should be between 50 and 65 characters in length, and formatted something like this: Veterinarian in {Your City}

{Name of Your Business}.

The meta description is next. This 100 to 150-character snapshot of your main services should end with a call to action. This format is recommended: {Name of Company} offers quality {veterinary services, or similar} in {Your City}. Call {Phone Number} today for 10% off your pet’s first visit!

The visible headline, or H1, should be short but descriptive, and must contain your primary category. Format it like so: {Veterinarian} in {City, State}.

Your page copy should be a clear, tightly-edited, 500 to 1000-word overview. Describe your practice, list your core services, and close with a strong call to action. Incorporate your primary keyword as it naturally fits in the copy.

  • Service Pages: Create a separate service page for each of your core services. Optimize your service pages as you did the homepage, focusing each around a specific keyword.

Step 3: Develop Citations and Links

Now that the skeleton of your local SEO campaign is in place, you are ready for citations and links. Both boost your Google rankings and increase your online reach.

  • Citations: A citation is simply a listing of your business NAP (name, address, and phone number) in an online directory. Your choices include general national directories (Facebook and yellowpages.com), general local directories (your Chamber of Commerce website), and targeted directories for veterinarians. Make sure that your NAP is identical across all listings.

    Note that while many directories are free, some accept only paid listings. Look at Google Analytics before you make a decision. It would be illogical to give money to a site that does not drive traffic and conversions.

  • Links: To reach the highest levels of Google rankings, you must have inbound links from authoritative, credible websites. Develop relationships with businesses that offer services that are complementary to your own, such as pet supply stores and pet adoption groups, and then ask to trade links. A tool such as the Moz Open Site Explorer will show you where other vets are finding their links.

Step 4: Ask for Reviews

Customer reviews play a twofold role in your local SEO campaign: they help to convince prospects to give you a try, and they let Google know that yours is a legitimate business. While all review sites are helpful, you will see the fastest rankings boost from Google My Business reviews. Send your satisfied customers an email with a link to your Google My Business profile, and directly ask them to write a review. If you do this regularly, you will soon have a constant flow of recent reviews.

Step 5: Track Your Results

You can only see the effects of your local SEO campaign, and identify those areas that still need work, by tracking your results. There are innumerable ways to do this, but 3 metrics are particularly vital:

  • Rankings: Google displays rankings based on past browsing behavior. The only way to learn your actual rankings is with a tool. A great free choice is the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools). Have your webmaster install it, and check your rankings at least once a month.

    If you want to dig deeper into your rankings, you will need to move to a paid tool, such as the one from RankRanger.com. It will track your webpages and your Google My Business page, and will automatically update ranking data from all of your SEO campaigns.

  • Traffic: For tracking traffic, or website visitors, it would be hard to beat Google Analytics. You can monitor your total traffic, the traffic for each individual webpage, and even the percentage of traffic that comes from Google search. Check your report monthly, with an eye toward any long-term trends.

  • Conversions: A conversion is a concrete action that you want your prospects to take, such as contacting you for 10% off their pet’s first visit. In Google Analytics, you can track both web and phone conversions, discover which services drive the most conversions, and even learn which of your individual pages have the highest and lowest conversion rates.

Ready to Get Started?

Now you understand what makes a targeted local SEO campaign vital to building your patient list. Make your way through the steps in order, fully completing each step before moving on to the next. Here is a recap of the 5 steps:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Keyword optimization
  3. Citations and Links
  4. Reviews
  5. Tracking

Want Help with SEO?

At Main Street ROI, we specialize in helping veterinarians attract more local customers through Google. If you’d like help with your SEO, contact us for a free quote.

Click here to request a Free SEO Quote

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