Businesses filled with multiple front-facing professionals and departments, like law firms and hospitals or medical practices, might struggle at times to understand the best way to handle how customers view them online.
This gets especially tricky when trying to manage Google Plus pages properly, as there are many guidelines and best practice solutions that one should adhere to when using the Google My Business product.
Before doing anything in Google My Business, it’s important to first make sure that we have a foundation of understanding to build upon.
There are essentially three types of Google Plus pages. Before delving into each page, it is worth noting that there was once a time in Google’s history when there were business pages that were purely local and had no social aspects to them. These days, however, all pages are “Plus” pages, which makes them all intrinsically socially capable.
First, there’s the person page, which represents the person who owns the Google account being used to access Google My Business. A person page is automatically generated when a person tries to access the Google My Business product to start creating pages.
A person page should never be used to represent a brand, but it’s important to know that this page exists because it will often appear in drop-down menus when you’re trying to select which page you’d like to work on. Some have made the mistake of doing work for their business (i.e. YouTube channel creations) on their personal page, not realizing that it is often the default page associated with a Google account.
Again, for business purposes, this page should not be used. This can be particularly confusing for doctors and lawyers, because often their name is synonymous with their business or brand. The initial thought might be, “Well, this is a page for a person, and I’m a person, so this makes sense.”
However, if you want to be able to show up in local search results and have your clients leave reviews, you DO NOT want to be using a person page for your business. You want a local page, which we’ll move on to next.
The local business page is much like any other location-based listing you’d see across the web on sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and Bing. It is a page that can receive reviews and appear in local search results.
A local business page requires some sort of verification to be on the web (typically through a phone call or postcard sent to the official business address). The beauty of this verification requirement is that it validates the authority of the page’s information, not just to Google itself but also to the users researching the business.
The algorithm that prevents the creation of duplicate listings and restricts spammers from creating bad listings can sometimes prove to be a problem for medical- and legal-related businesses, since the nature of these types of business entities is to have multiple “business entities” (i.e. practitioners) at one location. We’ll discuss how to handle this particular situation shortly.
When creating pages in Google My Business, both the “Storefront” and “Service Area” business types create this type of “Local” page.
The last page is the Brand Page. Like the local business page, a brand page is typically used to represent a business online. However, this page does not require verification, and you don’t have to have local information like a phone number or address on this page.
The best use of this page is for multi-location businesses that want to build a social presence online by posting Plus page updates and YouTube videos, because they can have one page that represents the business or “brand” as a whole without tying that page to a particular location. (Think Best Buy, which has a brand page for the company as a whole, but local business pages for their individual locations.)
For local businesses with just one location, this brand page is generally not necessary — a local business page should be used instead.
(For more on the difference between local business pages and brand pages, see Google’s support documentation.)
Now we’ll start going through how to handle the sticky situation of multiple business entities at a single location, which is often the case in the medical industry. The following information all comes from Google’s guidelines for Google My Business.
If a practitioner is the sole public-facing practitioner at a location and represents a branded organization, then there shouldn’t be separate pages for the practice and the practitioner.
There should just be one local Google Plus page that represents both the branded business and the sole practitioner, with the name in the format of [brand/company]: [practitioner name].
Of course, one in this circumstance could simply choose to represent one over the other (either the brand or the practitioner) – but again, if you wanted both represented, it would have to be encompassed in a single local business page.
If a practitioner is one of many public-facing practitioners at a location, then there should be a single local page with the practice or brand name, and a local page for each practitioner who wishes to have one. The practitioner pages, however, should be titled with their name online and CANNOT contain the business or practice name in their page name.
The previously mentioned algorithm that detects and flags/removes duplicate pages has category-based exceptions for pages in the medical and legal industries due to the nature of these businesses. However, it will flag and/or remove any pages that do not follow these particular guidelines, because a page that has the same name, address, and phone number as another is considered a duplicate regardless of its category.
Here is how individual practitioners should label their individual local business pages:
If you ever question how you should be handling your particular use-case scenario, it’s best to read thoroughly through the Google My Business Guidelines and its examples.
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