Using Local Business Listings for Crisis Management | Binary Fountain

July 08, 2020

Lessons from COVID-19: Using Local Business Listings for Crisis Management

By: Kieran McQuilkin

covid-19-local-business-listingsAs COVID-19 continues its spread and priorities continue to shift for multi-location healthcare organizations, local business listings have become paramount to marketing teams.

When crisis strikes, especially in the healthcare industry, customers rely on local listings to find information that allows them to continue doing business with you. Complicating that effort are the varied local and regional guidelines that leave consumers wondering when, where and how to engage with providers.

Many consumers won’t make it all the way to your website for answers. To provide the right information at the right time and in the right place, healthcare listings on search engines and other third-party directories need to be a priority.

In this post, we share effective strategies and lessons learned from managing local listings in a crisis. You’ll also find tips for managing healthcare listings and providing timely, reassuring customer communications.

Optimize Local Listings for Search

During a crisis – more than any other time – you need to control and engage with the online conversation around your brand. Search insights offer “voice of customer” data, telling you what consumers need from you right now and how they look for that information.

For a full picture of the search landscape, Google Trends has daily updates for the top 100 places searching for coronavirus information and the top related queries – what people type when searching for the virus.

Customers are actively searching for information about sanitization practices, updated hours, service availability and more to help them decide when and where to seek care. Overwhelmingly, they’re looking for these solutions on search engines, where they can often find exactly what they need without clicking through to a local landing page or provider profile page.

You have plenty of opportunities to answer these questions for your customers in your listings. We recently put together an infographic called ‘COVID-19 Features for Online Healthcare Listings’ that walks you through all the features available to you on Google My Business, social media and other healthcare-specific listings sites.

Healthcare consumers, perhaps more than any other demographic, are stressed about returning to medical facilities and need accurate, fast information. The most important first step for search optimization during this crisis is making sure phone numbers and hours are correct. Binary Fountain client data shows that phone calls to healthcare companies from GMB are significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

There are new COVID-19 features on healthcare-specific directories, as well, that marketers should use to optimize listings. These include telemedicine badges for physician profiles on CareDash and Healthgrades, among others.

healthgrades-telemedicine-listings
Source: Healthgrades

And don’t forget about the maps. For example, healthcare providers and labs that would like to provide information on COVID-19 testing locations can do so through Apple Business Register.

Use Google My Business Features

When healthcare consumers search for local providers, they usually turn to Google first. Luckily, the search engine rolled out several features for businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.

During the crisis, marketers can make good use of special hours and attributes, which display prominently on both search engine results pages and in Map Pack listings. There are also multiple types of new links that are valuable to healthcare organizations, including “virtual care” and “COVID-19 info.”

covid-19-google-attribute-covid-19
Covid-19 attributes on a Google My Business profile.

Google Posts are another great way to deliver crucial updates to local communities. Google is now making it easier for businesses to publish coronavirus-specific information on their listings by adding a COVID-19 Google Post option. When published, COVID-19 Google Posts will immediately appear on the post carousel and “Updates” tab on GMB profiles.

covid-19-google-post-display
Example of a COVID-19 Google Post.

Also worth monitoring is Google’s push to add insurance information to healthcare listings. For eligible healthcare organizations, a “check insurance info” link might display on your Business Profile on Google Search, under your business’s hours. The link opens an “Insurance information” page that lists the health insurance providers your business accepts.

Emphasize Safety and Virtual Care Options

Whether searching for specific treatments or browsing for a PCP, safety is top of mind for every prospective patient right now. If you are not communicating information across your online presence that makes people feel safe, they won’t schedule an appointment or visit you. Online listings are your first opportunity to earn their trust.

As you distribute vital information to your local communities during the crisis, be sure to share the specific measures you’ve taken to ensure a clean, orderly and safe environment at your facilities. This distribution effort should be driven by a data-based understanding of your patients’ communication preferences, their specific safety concerns, and where they search for a doctor.

Of course, the safest visit is a virtual one. Alongside physical safety precautions, your telemedicine availability should be clearly stated on every platform where your locations are listed. You can find expert insights on telemedicine listings and promotion in this webinar.

caredash-virtual-care-provider
Source: CareDash

If telemedicine is your primary means of seeing patients during COVID-19, it would pay to use the word early in your provider bios. This helps increase the chances of virtual care options appearing in your providers’ search previews.

Monitor Reviews on Business Listings

Communicating your facility’s safety practices might reassure consumers to a degree, but it won’t necessarily motivate them to schedule an appointment. For that, consumers will want to hear from other consumers through reviews.

The recency of ratings and reviews will prove essential as consumers start returning to providers, according to Healthcare Success CEO Stewart Gandolf. The patient experience at your facilities likely looks different than it did three months ago, making older reviews irrelevant and increasing prospective patients’ reliance on new feedback.

Not to mention, publishing patient comments is an essential part of your ranking on search engine results pages. But remember: If you are making changes and trying out new services like telemedicine, new issues will likely arise in reviews that your review response team needs to be prepared for.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also saw a suspension of new Google reviews, though those are returning for most industries. If this happens in the future, be prepared to adjust review generation campaigns to push patients to an internal survey, social media or platforms like Vitals and Healthgrades, rather than to Google. Keep in mind that reviews left while publication was suspended will eventually publish.

Keep Your Listings Consistent

Listings management strategies will differ based on your organization’s size and location count. But whether that’s 10 care facilities or 100, your listings need to be consistent across the board, especially as state and local guidelines change.

It’s important to maintain a baseline of clean, accurate, optimized local listings to make sure listing inaccuracies don’t compound your problems during a crisis. But it’s not easy. Binary Fountain’s healthcare-specific listings management platform and online reputation experts are ready to keep your brand’s online presence robust, informative and optimized. Schedule a 30 minute demo to learn more.

Read more on listings management during the COVID-19 crisis:

About the Author

Kieran McQuilkin
Content Marketing Specialist

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