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Google Just Changed The Local 3-Pack: How Your Medical Office Can Take Advantage

Digital marketing is an increasingly important part of building a successful medical practice today, and ranking high in local search results is the pillar of successful digital marketing for any healthcare practice.

For years, Google’s “Local Pack” has been the holy grail of local search results—those business listings you see right under the map at the top of Page One attract a lot of patient attention.

And a lot of clicks from them, too.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-5-29-47-pmIn fact, patients consider these local results more than twice as relevant and nearly twice as trustworthy as other organic search results. If you put in the hard work to get great reviews and a strong online reputation—plus plenty of SEO legwork for your doctor’s office website—you could reap the rewards as part of Google’s Local Pack for years.

How the 3-Pack Has Changed—And How to Keep Your Position Healthy

There used to be seven businesses in this local pack. About a year ago, Google whittled it down to three.

Now, a recent report suggests they’re cutting the three organic results down to two, and adding a paid local spot to lead the pack.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-5-30-05-pmThis mockup, courtesy of BrightLocal, is a good guess at what the new 3-Pack will look like on a desktop search.

Google hasn’t actually made the feature live yet or even released too many details about how the feature will work, but this photo was snagged and shared via Twitter when Google first announced the feature at a presentation in June:

As you can see, the importance of the 3-Pack on mobile is huge—those are the only three results mobile searchers will see without scrolling. And mobile, as we know, is already big and growing rapidly. So for both the traditional and mobile web, getting into this pack could mean big business for your medical practice.

Here’s what we know, and what you should do to prepare your doctor’s office website for the launch of Google’s new Local 3-Pack.

Good SEO is Still Your Medical Office’s Friend

Google always wants to give its users—the patients and other people conducting searches—the best search results possible. Good SEO has always meant cheaper and more effective ads targeting keywords relevant to your medical practice, and the change in Google’s 3-Pack won’t affect that. Keep up with all of the best practices for getting your office to rank in local patient searches, and you’ll be better poised to take advantage of any new opportunity.

Make Sure Your Doctor’s Office Has a Current Google Business Listing

The 3-Pack has always depended on information from your practice’s Google Business listing, which should also be linked to your AdWords account. The new paid local feature of the 3-Pack will use the same info, and will also be an extension of AdWords. Make sure all information about your medical office—location, contact number(s), the name of your practice, and hours of operation—are up to date and consistent across all of your associated Google accounts.

Track Your Keyworded Content’s Performance

Paid advertising works best when it’s highly targeted—when ads are shown to relevant users based on the most specific relevant keywords. Paid local placement won’t be any different. If you’re considering paying for placement in the Local 3-Pack, you’ll want to know what specific keywords to target for your paid campaign. Tracking your current keyworded content’ performance will give you a good idea what search terms to go after.

See what pages and search terms are performing well on your doctor’s office website, and when bidding opens up for the top local spot try your hand at snagging it for your top performing terms. You might also want to check with Google’s keyword planner to see what trms are worth ponying up the dough.

Keep an Eye On Cost and Keep Your Medical Officer’s Marketing Efficient

Lastly, remember that this is just one digital marketing opportunity of many. Though it could be very valuable, its prominent placement and exclusivity also means it will likely cost a pretty penny. If you can earn one of the two organic local spots, or if you try the paid 3-Pack route and don’t see the results you want, don’t be scared to ditch Google’s latest innovation and try something else.

Garrett Smith

Garrett is the Founder, and Chief Marketer at InboundMD. Garrett has been successfully leading internet marketing campaigns for health care practices across the US for almost a decade. He's a frequent speaker at events, and author of "Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices", and the host of The Practice Marketing Podcast that details how successful practices are winning online.

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