Over the past year or two, Google has increasingly emphasized local web pages in its search results — potentially a real boon for medical practices who have amassed detailed information in Google.

One of Google’s primary tools in delivering local results is Google Places, a profiling system that pulls information about an organization from all over the web.  Google collects information about the organization algorithmically (searching individual firm websites, plus directories for categories like doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc), but also relies on business owners themselves to verify and flesh out their Google Places profiles.  What’s more, besides providing the opportunity to verify your data, Google Places allows you to add custom details like a description of your organization (you can even upload video!).

Best of all, Google Places profiles are not only free, they help you obtain better results from Google searches for people searching for your type of practice in your local area.  Here’s an example of how the Places records boost results — note the two doctors with pink flags at the top of the search for “gastroenterologist san francisco,” and how much more visible they are compared to the other listings:

Clicking on the “place page” link takes you to the doctor’s Places page — which draws the practice’s contact information (even providing a map), reviews and other information (including a link the the physician’s profile on Vitals.com — all the more reason to make sure that data is accurate, too!).

Having this profile online can be a great boost and timesaver for your practice — helping patients find answers to questions about your location, hours, etc., without needing to contact you.  (This is particularly useful if you don’t have a website.)  And, if you have a website, having links back to your site from multiple places on Google can only make it easier for more people to find your site.

Best of all, this opportunity is absolutely free, and really easy to take advantage of.  If you haven’t claimed your Google Places record, set aside some time — just 15 or 20 minutes will be plenty to get started — to take control of this very valuable opportunity from Google.   Visit www.google.com/places and begin by entering your phone number.  Step-by-step instructions and a simple form will lead you from there.

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