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Local Search & Dental Practice Marketing: An Introduction

Posted Nov 07 2011 11:54pm

The following is a guest post by Chris Barnard of SocialDentalNetwork.com . If you are interested in guest posting for Dental Heroes, please sign up here .

We’ll defer to Wikipedia for the background definition:

Local search is the use of specialized Internet search engines that allow users to submit geographically constrained searches against a structured database of local business listings.

Typical local search queries include not only information about “what” the site visitor is searching for (such as keywords, a business category, or the name of a consumer product) but also “where” information, such as a street address, city name, postal code, or geographic coordinates like latitude and longitude.

A search that references a product or service that is typically consumed locally, such as “restaurant” or “nail salon”, is an implicit local search. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_search_(Internet) )

Now that’s just from the Internet info giant Wikipedia, and it not so succinctly sums up the definition of ‘local search’ for all of us who are used to typing in some keywords and getting answers to our questions. By all means do some more research, but wait ‘til you’re finished reading this article -your practice is worth it.

With regards to dental practice marketing specifically, local search equates to having a highly visible and properly administered digital practice footprint within the localized environments of the Big 3 search engines.

You need to confirm and control your office listings, or else. Maybe ‘or else’ even if you do control your local listings, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Basically we’re talking about the local areas of the search engine results pages (SERPS), complete with map listings, website links, special offers, social links, other business info – and more. Formally (and for now) these local sections of the search engines results pages are: Yahoo Local, Bing Local, and Google Places – we can now add MapQuest to the list too. These local areas allow you to communicate practice information in a totally new and highly visible environment.

The search engines are determining where we’re searching from, geographically, and providing relevant results within these local centers prominent on the first page of most search results.

MapQuest is another area to plant your digital practice footprint and solidify your geolocation as it relates to the internet. That’s all we need to discuss for now, we can get into geo sitemaps and schema compliant files when you need something to help you sleep…or drive you batty.

And keep in mind, this localized directive is all in addition to any existing search engine marketing (SEM), optimization (SEO), e-commerce, or website advertising efforts. When people in your area search online for dental products or services, you want to make sure that you are adequately complementing existing practice marketing with an emphasis on local search optimization.

But again, I digress.

The search engines determine the lay of the land, you just need to provide them with the most trustful, resourceful, relevant, and recent content in order to successfully navigate your dental practice digital visibility course.

It starts with your location, and your name, address, and phone number (NAP). This foundational elemental practice info needs to be properly communicated within these local search engine environments. Odds are we’d all be very surprised by the amount of unconfirmed and inaccurate local search listings out there right now.
But that’s only a peek inside Pandora’s Box of local search optimization. We’re at a place where information is at our fingertips, no longer do we let our fingers do the walking – unless it’s across the keyboard.

For younger generations, and the majority of us before the next President is up for re-election, we’re searching online from mobile phones, iPad 2s, Xooms, or PlayBooks…you get the point. We’ve even taken word of mouth online and local; patients are using Facebook petitioning family and friends for dentist referrals!
Speaking social and local, have you used Facebook Places or Foursquare yet?

Can you see how both of these ‘social local’ environments can benefit your dental practice?

It all starts with a solid foundation. Confirmed and controlled practice listings within these primary local search engine environments are the foundation of optimizing, and leveraging, local search visibility for your dental practice.

But what happens when everyone controls and confirms their practice listing, then what? Are you ready to dive in? In Part II of this post, we’ll dive into some juicy local search tips for your dental practice! You won’t want to miss it.

Is your practice leveraging the power of local search? How has this impacted your business?

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