Search Engine Optimization

Be Where Your Patients Are: Google Places

By Ally Stoeger, OD

There are three ways to be on page one of a Google search when potential patients search for a local eyecare practice:

Pay Per Click Ads – You specify how much money you are willing to spend. The more competition there is for your search term or geographic location, the more expensive the ads are. Ads will show until the number of people who have clicked on your ad is equal to the amount of money you allocated.

Search Engine Optimization
— This can happen naturally or with the help of SEO experts. Many of these experts tear their hair out every time Google makes an algorithm change. Google is making a powerful effort to weed out artificial methods of inflating search engine value. This is essential because if Google doesn’t do this, there will be more “junk” than real content.

Google Places — This is an incredibly powerful tool for local businesses. For example, a big chain like LensCrafters or an online eyeglasses retailer can afford to pay for more pay per click ads than a local optometrist. And they can afford to hire more experienced web designers and search engine optimization experts. But when it comes to Google Places, the doctor with a single location, tiny practice has just as much clout as a mega- practice or the local LensCrafters. If you are on Google Places for key search terms like “eye doctor” in a potential patient’s online search, you have legitimacy.

About two months ago, Google started a campaign to weed out non-legitimate business entities from Google Places. Unfortunately, my new practice, GH Eye (www.gheye.com) got caught in the net and was de-listed. Even though I registered with the state corporation commission, I registered the DBA name and I am licensed to practice optometry in the state of Virginia, I got bumped off Google Places. I even wrote an e-mail to Google Places offering to send a notarized statement from the District Supervisor for my county (his office is in the same building as mine).

There is no person you can contact at Google Places. There is no phone number. The only way to rectify the situation is by e-mail. The response to that e-mail was that the Google Places team will get to it when they can.

Hopefully, you won’t have the same problem I have. But, the only way to be sure, is every week or two check to make sure you have not been dropped.

There is no question that an eyecare practice not on Google Places is losing patients to practices that are on Google Places. Since it takes a long time to get back on, it’s important to check regularly.

It’s just one more New Year’s Resolution you can make. At least it’s easier than dieting!

Are you on Google Places yet? If not, why not? How do you use the online world to help patients find you easier?

Ally Stoeger, OD, was a founding and managing partner of a multi-doctor practice and has recently opened a new practice in Gainesville, Va. Contact: ally@realpracticetoday.com. You also can follow Dr. Stoeger on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gheyedr.

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