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De-Mystifying Search

I get asked alot, "why am i not coming up in google." If you speak to potential Search Optimisation Agencies, they will probably make it sound like voodoo and blind you with jargon; it makes it easier to justify high fees!

So for this post, I thought I would try and condense down some basic advice on minimum must dos.

One proviso that is sure to elicit groans; most of this is simply about some care and a little effort. Some of it we can get a low cost partner to do for about a fifth of the price you would pay in the UK but some of it really is down to you.

In terms of the basic question “is it worth it?” and “should I care?” the flippant and obvious black and white answer is yes, you should; just out of basic care for and pride in your business. You wouldn’t deliberately hide your store front in real  life or tolerate some random premises having your store sign above it, would you?

However, as we all know, in reality life is grey. If you run a “prescription factory” attached to a big health centre, you might fairly legitimately feel that you don’t need to bother; you get a steady stream of new customers/patients by virtue of being next door to a big health centre and you already do shed loads of items a month. And for now, you are probably at least half right. If you are a rural pharmacy and the only one around for miles in any direction, like the lucky guy who has the pharmacy near where i grew up, you don't need to put that much effort in .. you are going to come up anyway for some searches.

Having said that, what’s inescapable is that increasingly, new customers will be finding a pharmacy online and over the next few years your primary interface with customers will change from physical to digital through your site / app / email / video.

If you are thinking about the cuts and how to grow new customer acquisition and revenues from existing customers many of you do need to pay attention now to how well people can find you online, what customers say about you online and the quality of the information you share.

History of action counts for a lot in Google and the quicker you get a head start, the harder others have to work for longer to beat you in the future.

We all resent having to jump through a bunch of hoops and spend time/effort/money and be told what to do by “bloody google.” So it’s worth taking a step back a bit and reminding yourselves how you behave as consumer, how you find businesses and service providers, get frustrated if you they aren’t giving you the information you are looking for easily etc.

The number one objective for google the search engine, is to try and understand what you are looking for and provide you with best, accurate information as possible.

Google tries to do this in a innumerable different ways but from a local business / service search point of view they are basically asking that you give them a bit of structured information, that your site works well across different devices and has useful information and content to answer the user’s query. Then they take into account a whole bunch of other signals from the web and social media etc

Really all this boils down to:

  • History - how long have you had a website and how much seo has been done on it over time

  • Claiming your google my business listing and adding your web address and making sure over info is correct, uploading store images etc

  • Links into your site - target getting at least 30 .. quality of links matters too so it’s critical to get your web address in your nhs choices profile.

    • If you search for your pharmacy by name you see it listed in loads of directory sites in the first 5-10 pages of google search results.

    • All of them are free for you to register on or email to claim your listing, make sure it’s correct and add your web address.

    • Keep a spreadsheet with links to all the directory listings, date you registered and updated your listing / emailed a listing update request so you can go back and check.

    • This will help if you ever change your name and domain name or sell the pharmacy and the directory listing links need updating.

  • We have noticed that particularly Numark and Alphega have a habit of “hijacking” your Google maps listing with their directory page address for your pharmacy. Deal with this by claiming your Google for Business listing. Make sure you check reasonably regularly. If your Google maps listing changes back to the alphega or numarkpharmacists sites again, request a correction back to your website address via your Google My Business account.

  • Meta data including -

    • Site Name eg New Pharmacy in Amersham

    • Site Description eg NHS Community Pharmacy and chemist in Amersham on the Hill, HP6 providing free prescription delivery in Amersham, Coleshill, Little Missenden, HP6, HP7, HP5 as well as emergency contraception, travel vaccinations, free blood pressure checks, passport and id photo service and all other usual pharmacy services.

    • Site Key Words eg nhs prescription, free prescription delivery, emergency contraception, morning after pill, flu jab, flu vaccination, travel vaccinations, free blood pressure checks, passport  photo, id photo

  • Do your homepage content as we suggest (will be similar to site description but can be a bit more expansive).

  • For key services you want to get found for make sure Meta info is submitted and do proper full page content thinking about your catchment area carefully.

  • Good Content I can’t emphasise this enough.

    • Over time google’s ability to understand your content and relate to search queries is getting better and better and google’s content quality score for content on your site is becoming more and more important and should be something you focus on after your basic link building etc.

    • Google ranks “rich content” ahead of basic I can’t-really-be-bothered content. Rich content is just a fancy way of saying informative content.

    • The basic rule of thumb is, if need to ring you after I click on a link to your site about some service or other, you haven’t provided informative content.

  • Google also ranks unique content better and sites that are regularly updated with content that is unique to the site so it’s actually better for your search ranking to set the site up quickly (and supply basic content to us) with correct meta data, get the link building done and then provide us with better content for each key service etc over a few months after your site goes live. This way also has the added benefit of not turning this task into mountain that you constantly put off as most independents simply don’t have to available time or internal resources to do all of this in one go.

    • Related to your content and meta data, think about your catchment area.

    • For flu it will be small as every pharmacy offers a flu jab and why would someone travel to one 20 minutes away if there is one 5 minutes walk away? So there is no need for more than very local keywords / place names. However you if offer a passport and via photo ID service or a travel clinic, not so many other pharmacies offer those and you can optimise for a wider set of locations where you are the easiest one to get to.

    • It is hard to make content about flu jabs or the morning after pill or travel vaccinations unique. However, writing all the standard stuff and localising it will give you unique content.

    • E.G. New Pharmacy is half way up the Caledonian Road; we are 2mins walk from X and Y estates and no more than ten minutes walk for anyone living in Barnsbury. New Pharmacy is opposite the 274,91, 259 and 17 bus stops, 2 minutes from Caledonian Road and Barnsbury London Overground Station and 10 minutes walk for Caledonian Road Tube Station. We have great reviews and are the most convenient choice for people living in Barnsbury, near Camden Road, Highbury Corner, Canonbury and Dalston Lane London Overground stations and in the York Way, Lower Holloway and Hillmartin Conservation areas

    • A little thought and effort put into your content makes a big difference. No one knows your area better than you do and paying SEO agencies or copy writers to do this for you is expensive and they won’t know your locale as well as you.

  • Reviews are becoming increasingly important. 
    • When you search by postcode or direct in google maps or on your phone (if you have location services switched on) Google is trying to show the top 3 nearest results to you which might be within 250metres or half mile radius in a city or town or a few miles in the countryside. In more pharmacy dense areas in towns and cities there are going to be more than 3 pharmacies within a quarter or half mile radius. 
    • Google is increasingly using review scores from nhs.uk and google reviews to determine which 3 results to show. It is well known that reviews heavily influence what results people click on. 
    • Reviews take time to build up so you should start to try and make it an ingrained operational habit in the pharmacy to ask anyone saying anything complimentary about you to leave a review. Make it easy .. include a link in your email sig file to leave a review on your nhs.uk profile, include a link to leave a google review on your stationary etc.

As you know, we give free advice on local SEO basics; just call us. If you don’t have time for the more mechanistic stuff like claiming your google business listing and the link building and checking meta data, we have a low cost partner in India that will do that for you.