Update: January 2016 Google recently made updates to how their local business listings appear in search, and they gave their Google My Business dashboard a facelift, too. Read more about the facelift here.

In Google’s own words, Google My Business “connects you directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+.”

Google My Business functions as the intermediary between your medical practice and local patients searching for your services across the wide world of Google.

And considering that Google owns 68% of the online search market (though your analytics will tell you that they actually own closer to 90% for doctors), and that 59% of consumers use Google every month to find reputable, local businesses, increasing your visibility on Google means increasing your bottom line.

Had Google introduced Google My Business back in 2004 when they first starting experimenting with businesses in search, I wouldn’t need to write this article today.

But the fact remains: managing your business on Google has been nothing short of nightmare, until now.

With over half a dozen name changes to their business portion of search in eleven years, enumerable clunky dashboards and “features,” and countless sloppy integrations with Google+, it’s no wonder doctors can’t figure out where, when or how to get started on Google.

So in keeping with the spirit of simplification (thanks, Google My Business), this article aims to undo the perpetual state of confusion that all of you (myself included) experience when asked about your Google Local, Google+ Local, Google Places, Google+ Brands, or “whatever it was called last week” page. Because, today, it’s all just Google My Business.

From best practices to Google guidelines and everything in between… Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

1. The Three Different Types of Google Pages for Doctors

2.  So It’s Called “Google My…” What? 

3.  Merging Your Brand Page with Your Location Page in Google My Business

4.  How to Create or Claim Your Location Page in Google My Business

5.  How to Verify Your Medical Practice’s Location Page in Google My Business 

6.  Google My Business Guidelines for Doctors 

7.  Final Thoughts 

The Three Different Types of Google Pages for Doctors

Before you can create, optimize and manage your Google My Business account for your medical practice, you first need to understand the nuances of each available Google page within Google My Business.

There are three different types of Google pages as of writing this article:

1. Personal Google+ Page

2. Google My Business Brand Page (aka Google+ Brand page)

3. Google My Business Location Page (aka Google+ Local page)

As you might have guessed, Google created the last two profiles specifically for businesses, while they created the first for storing personal preferences across Google properties and social networking on Google Plus. Your personal page is also the parent account by which you can create a brand page or location page (more on this later).

Depending on your scenario, you might need all three. At the very least, it pays to know the differences between the three so you can decide where to spend your resources.

1. Google Plus Personal Page

Once you create a Google account, Google automatically generates a Google Plus personal page for you. Use your personal page for social networking on G+ and managing/tracking your preferences when using Google properties like Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube, Google Play, Google Photos or Maps.

Your personal Google+ page is not for business purposes, but you’ll need a personal account to create a Google My Business brand or location page.

If you haven’t created a Google account yet, come out from under your rock and create one here.

Never (I repeat, never), use your G+ personal page to represent your individual brand, a doctor at your practice, or your practice’s brand. Your personal G+ page does not include pertinent business information that your prospective patients will need to find and vet your practice (like reviews and a map), nor does this page appear anywhere in Google search results.

Do Personal Google+ Profiles Rank in Search?

No. But posts you make on your personal page will rank in search for the people who follow you.

How Do I Identify a Google Plus Personal Page?

•  +1s Tab: Your personal page has a “+1s” tab where you can see all of the pages, posts and photos you’ve personally +1ed on Google Plus. Your brand and location page don’t.

•  Reviews: While your location page has a spot for patients to leave reviews for you or your practice, your personal page has a review tab that stores all of the reviews you’ve left for other businesses.

•  Only your name and follower count: The easiest way to identify your personal page is by looking for an address or website URL under your name. Your personal page only has your name, your follower count, and your work experience, not a business address or URL.

2. Google My Business Brand Page (aka “Google+ Brand Page”)

If you’re a personal brand (athlete, celebrity, or artist), an organization, or small business like your medical practice, you can create a Google My Business brand page so that you can reach out to followers, fans and customers on Google Plus. (Not to be confused with your Google My Business location page).

And if you’re looking to manage your brand page within Google Plus, stop looking. It’s not there anymore.

Google moved brand pages over to the Google My Business dashboard. Now you can manage both your location page and your brand page from within Google My Business.

Originally, your location page (aka Google+ Local page) didn’t have social features like posting or followers. If you wanted to build an audience on Google Plus, you had no choice but to create a brand page, regardless of whether you were a local business or national brand.

Today, your Google My Business location page includes social features like posting and followers, thus eliminating the need for a brand page for most medical practices or doctors.

I said, “Most.” Not, “All.”

The only time I recommend creating a brand page for your practice(s) is if you have multiple locations:

If you have four locations, for example, and you want to build a social following for each on its respective location page, then you would need to quadruple your resources to manage all audiences. Yikes!

Instead, build a social following on a single Google My Business brand page (but keep the four local pages for search and maps).

Do Google My Business Brand Pages Rank in Search?

No. A brand page does not rank in search, and your patients can only find them using Google Plus’ search bar.

How Do I Identify a Google My Business Brand Page?

•  URL, but no address: Unlike your personal page, your brand page has a website URL. However, unlike your local page, your brand page does not have an address.

•  No reviews: Your personal page has a spot for reviews that you’ve left for other businesses, and your local page has a tab for patients to leave reviews about you. But your brand page has neither.

•  No “Collections”: Both your personal page and local page have a “Collections” tab for categorizing content. Your brand page does not.

3. Google My Business Location Page (aka “Google+ Local Page”)

In the beginning, Google created a giant mess when they started integrating Google Plus social features into Google Places for Business. That mess was Google+ Local (the marriage of G+ and Google Places).

In the wake of the integration of Google Places for Business and Google Plus, businesses of all sizes were left with multiple different dashboards and multiple different pages. Heck, there even came a point when you could either create just a Google+ Local page, keep your Google Places for Business page and create a Google+ Local page, or merge the two together (though everyone recommended not to for the longest time).

Yes, extremely convoluted.

The solution? Google My Business.

Now, you can create, verify and manage your location page in Google My Business. Though it’s still technically a Google+ Local page, now it’s called a Google My Business location page.

To help simplify things, and hopefully provide clarity, let’s take a look at the timeline of changes to Google’s business portion of search.

A Brief History of Google for Businesses

Like I said, today, you can manage, create, and optimize your medical practice’s business pages from one organized dashboard, called Google My Business (aka “GMB”). But that wasn’t always the case.

Since Google introduced the integration of local search results into Google.com back in 2004, there have been more name changes to this portion of search than changes in the way Google, I mean Alphabet, has organized its subsidiaries.

In total, Google has changed the name of their business section eight times in 11 years, introducing “improvements” and additions to their clunky management dashboard(s) each time. So just in case you’re confused with the lingo, you’re not alone. Let’s review:

There you have it. Alas, GMB!

Google My Business integrates all of Google’s available business properties under one dashboard. And, moving forward, rather than having a Google+ Local dashboard, a Google+ Brand page dashboard or any other combination of pages for your local practice, you’ll just have one: your Google My Business dashboard.

So what’s the difference between Google My Business and your previous Google Places for Business, Google+ Brand page or Google+ Local page?

Nothing. They’re just merged now (finally).

Just remember that there is only one business section in Google now: Google My Business. And from that business section, you can create location pages or brand pages.

“If you previously used Google Places for Business or Google+ Pages Dashboard to manage your business information, your account has been automatically upgraded to Google My Business. Google My Business makes it easier than ever to update business information across Google Search, Maps, and Google+.” – Google

Do Google My Business Location Pages Rank in Search?

Yes. Yes, they do.

Whether you have ten locations or just one, you’ll want to create a location page for each (more on how, later). These are the pages that rank in search and Google Maps for queries with local intent (e.g. “plastic surgeon Denver,” “dermatologist Miami”).

P.S. Google auto-creates your location page if you don’t! So whether you created one or not, I guarantee you one exists (if it was already created, claim/verify it ASAP).

How Do I Identify a Google My Business Location Page?

•  Name, address, phone number, URL: Unlike the other two types of pages, your location page includes your business name, address, phone number, and website URL.

•  Reviews from patients: And, unlike the other two types of pages, your location page has a spot for patients to leave reviews.

So It’s Called “Google My…” What?

Changing the name of anything eight times will cause a considerable amount of confusion. Follow the diagram below for help with your Google My Business lingo:

One more review (because I know it’s confusing): There’s only one Google portal for managing your business, and it’s called Google My Business. Within GMB you can create either a location page (Google+ Local page) or a brand page (Google+ Brands page).

You can use Google+ Brand and GMB brand page interchangeably, and you can use Google+ Local page and GMB location page interchangeably.

As Google continues to lessen its emphasis on Google Plus, expect that, in the near future, we’ll just know them as a Google My Business brand or location pages.

Merging Your Brand Page with Your Location Page in Google My Business

If you created a Google My Business brand page on accident, or if you were like the rest of us and created one back when Google launched Google+ Brand pages because you thought you were supposed to, don’t fret. You can merge your brand page with your local page.

To merge your location page and your brand page, both profiles need to have been verified using the same Gmail address (i.e. you need to own both pages). If not, contact a Google Specialist here or by clicking on the “Contact Support” tab within your GMB dashboard to help you merge the two pages.

Thankfully, Google now allows you to contact them. Prior to last year, getting ahold of a Googler was impossible.

Note: When merging the two pages, you’ll lose all of the followers and posts that you currently have on your location page, and the followers and posts from your brand page will replace them. You’ll also lose your location page cover photo, page followers, and circles.

Steps to Merge Your Brand Page With Your Location Page:

1. First, make sure you verified your location page (and make sure you’re the owner, not just a manager)

If you’re not an owner, you can request ownership from within the GMB dashboard (more on claiming ownership in the next section).

2. Login to your GMB dashboard and switch to grid view, not list view:

Grid View

Grid View

3. Navigate to the “Locations” tab, then click on “Manage Location” for the listing you want to merge:

After you click on “Manage Location,” your dashboard should look like this:

Google My Business Location Page Dashboard

4. In the top left corner, click on the menu icon

Toggle to “Settings”

5. Select “Settings” at the bottom of the menu (note: merging pages won’t work in incognito view)

Or, if you’re on your GMB page, you can click on the icon in the top right and select “Settings,” too.

Click on “Settings” here or visit settings from your page on Google Plus

6. Scroll to the very bottom of the setting page and click the button “Connect to a different a page”

After you click to connect, choose the brand page you want to merge from the menu. Viola!

If you don’t see “Connect a different page,” then that means your location page and brand page were verfied using different Google accounts

Your location page actually merges with your brand page, not the other way around. So your old local page will remain intact, only it will say “Backup of ‘Insert Name’” now. (In our example, your old location page would now be named “Backup to New York Group for Plastic Surgery”).

Once you double-check to make sure that the merge was successful, you can delete the backup page. Or you can keep it… it won’t show up in local search results (aka the Local Pack) either way.

Now that we’ve got the fundamentals out of the way let’s dive into creating your GMB location page and Google’s guidelines for doctors and medical practices.

How to Create or Claim Your Location Page in Google My Business

Like I said, Google will eventually auto-create a location page for your practice, even if you haven’t created one for yourself (yes, they’re that good). So, for those of you who already have a legally recognized practice or have worked for one, chances are you’ll already have either a GMB location page for your practice (e.g. Vein Clinic of Minneapolis), a GMB location page for yourself (e.g. Dr. James E. Smith), or both.

Before you can verify ownership of your location page, first you need to either create the page or claim an existing page so that it appears in your GMB dashboard.

Steps to Create or Claim Your Location Page in GMB:

1. Create a personal Google account if you haven’t already

Navigate to Google.com > Sign In (top right) > Add account > Create account

2. Go to Google My Business

Login by clicking on “Get on Google” in the top right corner.

Google My Business homepage

3. Enter the business name and address of your practice into the space provided

This should be the DBA name that you use to represent your brand to the public and on your website

4. If a location page already exists (i.e. if you or Google already created it)…

If a location page already exists (and you just need to claim it), then a drop down list of potential businesses will appear. If you see one that matches your practice name, select it. If you don’t, click on “None of these match: add your business.”

If you don’t see your address, or you’re trying to add a new location, click on “None of these match”

Tip: If you just want to claim a location page you already know exists, then find the location page on Google Plus (or in search) and copy/paste the exact business name and address of that page into the space provided, even if the information isn’t correct. Once you claim and verify the page, you can change it. Copying the exact name and address of the live page will assure that you claim the location page that already lives in search and that you don’t create a brand new one.

If you’re trying to claim a local business page that has already been verified, you will be prompted with an option to “request ownership” at this point (more on this in the next section).

Request admin rights if someone already verified your page

5. If you’re creating a new listing…

If you’re creating a brand new location page, then after you enter the business name and address, you’ll be prompted with an option to select “I’ve correctly entered the name and address.”

Since Google doesn’t have your business information, they won’t be able to find

6. Confirm business information

If you’re creating a new listing, you’ll be taken to a page where you can fill in your proper business information and category. After you hit submit, you’ll be asked to confirm the information.

If you’re claiming an existing page, you’ll be asked to confirm your business information after you select the location from the dropdown. In either scenario, check the box that says, “I am authorized to manage this business, and I agree to the terms and services.”

Confirm that you are authorized to manage your practice

7. Verify account (not to be confused with verifying your actual location page)

After you confirm your business information, you will need to verify your account via text or phone call (not to be mistaken with verifying your location page, which you’ll do last). After you verify your account by entering the six-digit code from Google, they’ll create your page.

Google just wants to make sure you’re a human!

8. Verify actual location page (or wait ’till later)

The last step is to choose whether you want to verify your page now or “continue and verify later.” If you do not verify your page, none of the information or edits that you make will go live.

Choose to verify now or verify later

Whether you verify ownership of the page or not, you’ll still have claimed the page in your GMB dashboard. But only after you verify ownership can you make changes to the location page.

How to Verify Your Medical Practice’s Location Page in Google My Business

There are three ways to verify your local page in GMB’s dashboard.

Only the practice owner or an authorized representative (e.g. consultant, PCC, marketing agency, etc.) can legally verify your location page in GMB.

If you want to add multiple managers to the page (like your marketing agency), you can add up to fifty managers in your GMB dashboard.

1. Verify by Postcard

If you’re creating a brand new page, your only option is to verify using a postcard. Google will send you a postcard in the mail with a verification code. Once you receive your postcard, enter the verification code in your GMB dashboard.

To verify via postcard, first claim your local page (following the steps from above), then login to your GMB dashboard, and then navigate to “manage location.” Click “Verify now” at the top of the page.

Step 1:

Click “Verify now”

Step 2:

Enter “Attn: Dr. _________” or perhaps to a staff member. Then click “Send postcard.”

Step 3:

Click “Continue”

Step 4:

When you receive your postcard, visit your GMB dashboard and click on “Enter Code.”

2. Verify by Phone

If you already created and claimed your location page, then you should have the ability to either verify by postcard or verify by phone (the choice is yours). Google will call you phone and provide you with a six-digit verification code to enter in your GMB dashboard.

To verify by phone, first claim your local page (following the steps from above), then login to your GMB dashboard, and then navigate to “manage location.” Click “Verify now” at the top of the page.

Tip: If you have an extension service on your phone (i.e. an extension system answers the phone, not a human), then you can’t verify your listing over the phone. I recommend disconnecting the machine after hours, then verifying over the phone.

3. Verify Using Google Search Console (Formerly Google Webmaster Tools)

As long as you log in to Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) with the same Google account that you used to claim your local page, you can verify your site.

No matter which of the three ways you choose, after you successfully verify the page, a verified business badge will appear on your listing near your business name:

To verify your brand page, simple link your brand page to your website (instructions here)

How to Reclaim Ownership of an Orphaned Google My Business Page

If the current owner of your page fails to relinquish ownership (which happens 90% of the time), contact a Google Specialist for further assistance (yes, you can do that now). You can request that they call you here.

Tip: Create and claim ownership of your local page using the same Gmail account you used to set up your Google Analytics. At the very least, always claim/verify your local page using your personal Gmail account, not one that your marketing agency created for you. Doing so will eliminate the hassle of transferring ownership if you part ways with your agency down the road.

Google My Business Guidelines for Doctors

When Google launched GMB in 2014, they added and amended several guidelines and policies.

Depending on whether you’re a solo practitioner working at a branded medical practice or a private practice doctor, whether you own one medical practice or several, or whether or not you offer multiple specialties in the same building, Google wants you to follow specific guidelines for each.

Eligibility Guidelines

In general, you’re eligible to create a location page in Google My Business if your practice is legally recognized and open to the public or if you work for one that is.

When Can You Create a Google My Business Page?

•   Any medical practice or doctor who makes contact with in-office patients during their stated business hours can create a location page in Google My Business.

•   Any doctor or medical practice can create a brand page in Google My Business, regardless of whether or not you see patients in an office.

When Can’t You Create a Google My Business Page?

•   You can’t create location pages for your staff members.

•   You can’t create location pages for each one of your specialties (more on this later).

•   You can’t create a location page if you haven’t opened your practice yet.

Business Name Guidelines

“Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.” – Google

What You Can Include in Your Name:

•   You can include degree certifications (e.g. Dr., MD, F.A.C.S., DDS)
•   You can use a dash or colon to separate brand from individual in your name

What You Cannot Include in Your Name:

•   You can’t stuff your business name with keywords. For example, “Dr. John Smith- Best Plastic Surgeon in Denver, CO” is not allowed.
•   You can’t include information like business hours, location information, services, marketing taglines, trademarks, all CAPs, or special characters, unless it is a part of your practice’s name (e.g. Dr. Robinson can include the keyword “facial plastic surgery” in his business name because his legal DBA name is Robinson Facial Plastic Surgery)

That’s all great. But should a doctor name his or her G+ Local page after the practice or themselves? Should you create a page for both, or one or the other? And what if you have multiple locations?

For Doctors, Google wants you to name your business depending on which of the following categories you belong to: multiple practitioners at one location, or solo practitioner belonging to branded organizations.

If you’re a doctor that works at your own branded medical practice, or if you’re the only practitioner working in your location, but your location is part of a nationally branded chain (e.g. you are the only doctor at BodyLogic MD in Denver, but BodyLogic has locations across the country), then you can only create one G+ Local page. However, this particular page name can include both your name and the practices branded name, or one or the other.

For example, Dr. Deborah D. Walnut owns her own cosmetic surgery practice in Miami called NuYou Cosmetics and she’s the only practitioner in the organization. In this case, she could choose one of the following names for her practice:

Since Dr. Walnut is a solo practitioner belonging to a branded organization (NuYou Cosmetics), she could choose to include both the brand name and her personal name in the title of her local page, or she could choose one over the other.

However, for solo practitioners like Dr. Walnut, you cannot create a local page for your brand name and for your personal name. You can only create one.

B. Multiple Practitioners at One Location

If you’re one of many public-facing practitioners at a medical practice, Google suggests that you create one local page for the organization and create individual local pages for the doctors that work for the brand. For the individual local pages, you can only include your personal name and title/certifications, not the brand name too.

For example, if Dr. Smith, Dr. Williams, and Dr. Johnson all work for Newport Coast Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Center, then you can create a total of four different local pages in GMB:

Failure to follow these guidelines will eventually catch Google’s attention, and they can flag and suppress your listings altogether.

Address Guidelines

Use your real-world address and nothing else, and if you need to specify a suite number, then do so in the second address line (not the first). This is the address that will appear in Google Map and Google search when someone searches for your brand or specialty. The last thing you want to do is lead them astray.

What you cannot use in your address:

•   Mailboxes at remote locations
•   P.O. boxes
•   Address with additional information, like keywords or URLs

Also, after you create or verify ownership of your local page, triple check to make sure the map pin aligns with your physical building. While Google usually does a good job of matching the map pin with your physical location on Google Maps, sometimes they’re way off. If they’re off, you can bet your patients are getting lost.

Website URL & Phone Number Guidelines

Simple again: use your actual phone number, nothing else. If you want to set up call tracking to monitor calls from GMB, I strongly recommend against it. For purposes of keeping your business information (name, address, phone number) consistent across the web (which dramatically impacts your rankings), it doesn’t make sense to use any other number than your actual number on your local page.

For your website URL, include either your home page if you’re a single location or the specific location landing page if you have multiple locations (e.g. valerianaesthetics.com or valerianaesthetics.com/new-york-city).

If you want to monitor traffic from your local page, add a UTM code to the end of your URL in the GMB dashboard. UTM codes allow you to track traffic from your GMB page to website in Google Analytics (it’s super easy, too).

Appended to your URL, it will look like this: example.com/?utm_source=local&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=GMB

If you have multiple locations, then change utm_campaign= to GMB%20”insert-city-name” (without the “”). For example, if I had ten locations and one was in Costa Mesa, the UTM code on my Costa Mesa local page would look like: example.com/?utm_source=local&utm_medium=organiz&utm_campaign=GMB%20CostaMesa. This will allow you to track traffic down to the location.

Locating Traffic in Google Analytics

Now you’ll be able to see how many visitors you receive from your local GMB page by logging into Google Analytics and navigating to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns > GMB.

P.S. Even though you append the UTM tracking code to your GMB page, it won’t actually look that way to someone viewing your page:

Category Guidelines

When selecting your primary category (you can only choose one) for your medical practce, do as Google suggests and select a category that completes this sentence: “This business IS a ___________” rather than “this business HAS a___________.”

In other words, Google wants you to categorize your practice holistically, not as a list of services or treatments that you offer.

This can be particularly problematic for medical practices that offer different treatments or services that might all be categories, too.

For example, it’s not uncommon for a medical spa to offer laser hair removal, weight loss services, skin care treatments, facial peels, and massages as services. But would you believe me if I told you that all of those services were available categories in GMB? Well, they are.

In this case, since the primary business function is a medical spa, and everything else is a service offered at the medical spa, then this doctor would choose “Medical Spa” as her primary category.

However, Google allows you to select up to nine secondary categories! Use your secondary categories for your services.

Tip: Whatever you decide to choose for your categories, make sure that you consistently use the same category/categories across all your business listings online. This will help you keep your business information consistent, and, in turn, help your local search rankings.

List of possible categories

For a list of all the available Google My Business categories, click here (the primary categories are in the left column and the related professions are in the right column).

Don’t forget that a profession can fall under multiple categories. For example, you might be a dentist and a cosmetic dentist (both of which are options), but you can only choose one as your primary category.

Guidelines for More Than One Practice Location

If you have more than one location, maintaining consistent names and categories across all of your locations will help your patients identify your business on Google Maps and in search.

According to Google, all locations must adhere to the same rules as a single location, and have the same:

•   Business name (unless the second location is a sub-brand)
•   Category (if they provide the same service)

Let’s take a look at a couple examples.

Example 1

If Dr. Waterhouse, a plastic surgeon, has three locations (all that offer the same treatments and services), his respective GMB local page’s name, address and category would look as follows:

Tip: As an SEO best practice, Dr. Waterhouse should create location specific landing pages on his website, and then point each GMB local page to the respective location page. For example, rather than pointing all of his GMB pages to plasticwaterhouse.com, he would point them to plasticwaterhouse.com/costa-mesa, plasticwaterhouse.com/orange, and plasticwaterhouse.com/irvine, respectively.

Example 2

If Dr. Rosenberg has two locations, both that offer separate services, then she can change the categories on her GMB local pages. For example, if her Costa Mesa practice is for her OBGYN patients, but her Orange practice is only a medical spa, then she would categorize them accordingly:

Best Practices for Multiple Locations

•   Use the same Google Plus personal account to create all locations, and manage them from the same GMB dashboard.
•   Create a unique phone number for each location (not necessary for Google, but having the same phone numbers on different business listings can negatively affect your SEO).
•   Create a location page on your website for each location with unique content, then link the respective GMB to it.
•   Use the same business name for all locations, unless it’s a sub brand (e.g. if your medical spa is located at a different location and you call it Valerian Aesthetics, then you can name your second GMD page “Valerian Aesthetics”).
•   Use the same categories, unless, of course, they offer different services.
•   Don’t add location-specific information to your business name. For example, if you have four locations, don’t add the city name to each (“Valerian Aesthetics- Costa Mesa,” “Valerian Aesthetics- Orange”, etc.)

Guidelines for Practices with Multiple Business Brands

It’s not uncommon for doctors to share resources (even their office building), to help cut costs. For example, multiple dentists often share the same practice space but operate as their own business entities.

And with the onset of non-invasive aesthetic treatments, it’s becoming more and more commonplace for doctors to branch out of their primary specialty in an attempt to acquire more patients.

When it comes to multiple businesses operating under the same roof, things can get a little harry with your Google My Business page if not carefully examined.

Let’s explore the two most common scenarios.

A. Doctors who Share an Office Space with Another Doctor, but Choose to Operate Independently

If you’re a doctor who shares the same office with another doctor, but choose to operate under your own brand, you can create your own GMB location page, too. However, if not executed properly, Google will flag your GMB page as a duplicate or merge both pages together, especially if the two separate practices fall under the same business category (i.e. both are plastic surgeons).

Working Around Google

It’s a general rule of thumb that to have multiple GMB location pages for the same location and not have Google flag them as duplicates, at least two of the primary pieces of business information (business name, phone number, and address) need to be different. Otherwise, you risk Google conflating the information of both pages (not to mention the damage inconsistent business information can do to your local rankings).

At the very least, both business entities in the same building need to have their own phone numbers, business names and websites; if you can add a legal suite number with the USPS, even better (strongly recommended). Also, it always helps to categorize both businesses under different business categories in GMB.

Let’s look at an example.

Example

If Dr. Smith runs his plastic surgery center (“Smith Rejuvenation”) in the same office as Dr. Williams’ bariatric practice (“Williams Bariatric”), their respective GMB pages should look as follows:

If the only thing you can do is change your business name (i.e. the other doctor doesn’t want to pony up and pay for an additional phone line), do so at your peril. Not only will Google likely conflate both pages and remove one of them, but you’ll also sacrifice the consistency of your citations (name, address, phone, aka “NAP consistency”).

When ranking your GMB location page in Google search results, having consistent NAP across your online business listings carries the most weight

B. Doctors Who Own Multiple Business Brands in the Same Practice

Perhaps you’re a doctor who specializes in three very different medicines but serve all your patients under one roof. And since each specialty serves a different demographic, you’ve chosen to create three different websites with three different brands.

According to Google’s guidelines, they explicitly state:

 “A practitioner should not have multiple pages to cover all of his or her specializations.” – Google

However, they also state that if a business has separate brands in one location, you can create separate pages for each brand:

“If your business location combines two or more brands, do not combine the brand names into a single page. Instead, pick one brand’s name for the page. If the brands operate independently, you may use a separate page for each brand at this location.” – Google

In other words, if you want to create multiple location pages for different specialties within the same practice, each specialty needs to operate independently as its own brand. Also, the same rules apply as if you were sharing your office with another doctor. Each location page must have:

•   A unique business name and brand
•   A unique website
•   A unique phone number
•   A unique business category

And just to be safe, you should try to acquire a legal suite number for each different business brand, too. If you lack any of the above requisites, Google will eventually sniff you out.

Tip: If you’re planning on creating multiple GMB location pages for different brands, but you only have one website, don’t do it. It will do more harm than good.

Let’s look at an example.

Also, since Dr. Villar is the only doctor in all three of her specialties/brands, she falls under the “solo practitioner belonging to a branded organization” category outlined earlier. Because of this, she can only create one page per brand, but she can choose to use her individual name, her brand name, or both for the GMB location page name.

In a perfect world, you would have separate building locations for each brand.  Only then could you guarantee, unequivocally, that none of your online business information would get misconstrued or conflated with another, hurting your SEO in the process. But those aren’t realistic expectations (nor should they be).

So stick to these best practices and you should be okay.

Final Thoughts

Google My Business marks a giant step forward for your medical practice’s local search presence on Google. By unifying all of their business properties, Google has simplified local search visibility for small businesses.

… Finally.

Let’s face it, prior to GMB, managing your local presence on Google was a giant headache. Actually, it was more like a migraine that never ended.  Now, it’s pretty simple (with a few brain freezes here and there).

Perhaps the most significant benefit of Google My Business came with the consolidation of all business properties under one brand name. Now, you either own a Google My Business location page (aka Google+ Local page), a Google My Business brand page (Google+ Brands page), or both. Either way, it’s all just Google My Business, thus eliminating a lot of confusion for the user.

If only they gave you the choice to manage multiple locations under one page!

If only.

Further reading:

What Next?

1. Check to make sure your business information is consistent across the web using our free business scan tool. Not only do consistent business listings improve your Google My Business local page rankings, but they also help prospective patients find you when they’re looking for you.

2. Still want to know more about improving your search visibility? Read our four-part series on optimizing your treatment pages for search.

Sam Peek

Incredible Marketing

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