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How to improve SEO: Google's local 3-pack

How to improve SEO: Google's local 3-pack

You're looking for patients, and they're looking for you

In today’s competitive landscape — and the shrinking marketing budgets that come with it — Google Reviews need to be a top priority, but not for the reasons you think. While 71% of U.S. adults use online reviews as their first step in considering a healthcare facility or physician[1], Google Reviews play an even bigger role in your local SEO and in driving up to twice as many conversions.

“Positive reviews on Google and Yelp are now table stakes in the healthcare industry. But what most marketers miss is that they are also major decision drivers that support local SEO, leading to conversions and more well-qualified leads.” 

—Karthik Ramanathan, Associate Director of Technical Strategy

Be the leader of the pack — the Google local 3-pack

You might be asking yourself, “How do reviews influence success from an SEO perspective? And, more importantly, how do they provide the ability to drive more organic conversions?” It all stems from the new layout design of Google search results, otherwise known as the Google Local 3-Pack. 

When a user leverages location terms — like “near me” or a zip code — these Google Local 3-Pack listings are triggered and will display your Google My Business (GMB) listing alongside a map with key information such as your business’s name, address, phone number, and rating within the search results. You might notice that this visual layout is significantly different from both advertising listings and the normal search engine results page results. 

If you’re a Monopoly fanatic, you could think of it as “Park Place” — a valuable spot with high visibility. In fact, based on heat map studies, these draw the most user attention of any listing on the page. And even though Google Local 3-Packs appear in just 30% of all search results, they account for nearly 70% of organic search clicks[2].

Ranking in the local 3-pack doesn't have to a roll of the dice

Don’t worry, we’ll be sharing our tips and tricks for improving your chances of showing up in the Local 3-Pack, but first, we should probably answer the question that’s inevitably on your mind: Why just Google? If you’ve got the bandwidth to make enhancements to Bing as well, go for it! In fact, we encourage it. But if your time and resources are limited, focusing on Google — which “owns” two-thirds of all searches — and making your mark there will have a far greater impact. 

There are several key players in the algorithm’s selection criteria. Based on our research, these are the top factors taken into consideration when ranking businesses in Local 3-Packs — and we’ve even listed them out in order of importance.

  • Google My Business Profile Completeness: Location listing has always been placed on the back burner of physician profiles, as they often have no one dedicated to ensuring the accuracy — or completeness — of the information. And over the years, Google has updated GMB listings to include new fields, such as COVID-19 safety protocols and insurances accepted, that assist patients in selecting the right provider or facility. 

Your first step? Take an audit or inventory of your current locations, then check out our GMB visibility guide to learn how to achieve these updates without overwhelming your team and partners. 

  • High Star Ratings: The saying, “quality over quantity” rings true when it comes to reviews and having a 4- or 5-star rating. In fact, a recent study[3] shows that 4.1 stars is the average rating of a business listed in the Local 3-Pack. 

Your first step? Drive and increase higher ratings by offering a post-visit customer experience survey that utilizes a rating system, then filters through responses and uses conditional logic to trigger follow-up communications with those who reported positive experiences. Those follow-up communications are the perfect opportunity to encourage satisfied patients to leave a Google Review.

  • Keywords in Reviews: It’s not just the thought that counts when it comes to reviews. When patients are leaving feedback, it’s vital that they include specific keywords like provider name, location, and service line. 

Your first step? While you can’t write a patient’s reviews for them, you can use specific language in your collateral and other messaging that includes key terms, which they may then be more likely to include in their reviews.

  • Quantity of Reviews: Even though quality is more important than quantity in this scenario, it’s always important to keep your review count growing on a continual basis, as recency also factors into the rankings. While many health systems rely on signage or front office staff to request reviews, your secret weapon is actually the providers. It’s not uncommon for a patient to show appreciation by sending treats or thank you cards to your office, but a simple ask from the provider after receiving a “Wow, thank you so much!” goes a long way. 

Your first step? The response can be as simple as, “I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review highlighting your experience, as my supervisors look at that in my evaluations. Please mention me by name and that you saw me at [insert hospital or clinic name here.]”. 

To sum up: While reputation management via reviews and star ratings has probably been a part of your marketing strategy for the last 5-7 years, now is the time to develop a strategy that serves not only prospective patients and the bots — while letting the SEO nerds geek out — but also your volume goals and the bottom line.

Interested in more strategic thinking and insights? There’s more where this came from. From SEO strategies to healthcare’s future in Web 3.0 and the rise of personalization, you can get all our takes on healthcare marketing trends in one place. 

Download our 2023 Trends Report for the kind of insights that’ll leave you saying “Holy moly!” or “Gadzooks!” And there really aren’t enough sources for that these days. 

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