by Roger McManus, MBA
You have been told many times you need to claim your business online. But do you know why it is so important to be listed on the Internet? Who goes online when looking for personal services – particularly hospice and other in-home care services? Look at the list below and see if it makes sense.
First, a definition. What does it mean to be "listed online?" There are literally thousands of online directories and review sites. You cannot reasonably be listed on all of them, but there are four or five dozen that provide more digital power when it comes to building credibility with the handful of important sites – Google, Bing, Yahoo and the like – places where people actually go to look.
Now, it is not likely that anyone will go to an obscure site like HotFrog or Kudzu to find a hospice...but Google will! The more often your business shows up on the four or five dozen obscure sites, and exactly matches your Google listing, the more credibility you have. The more credibility you have with Google, the higher you appear on their search results and the more likely you will get that phone call.
When should you get started? Here is a hint: anytime, as long as it is before your competitors do. The winners will be the ones who take advantage of this news first.
Claiming your business online builds trust in the eyes of the general population. There was a time when the only way people knew what was available in the city around them was to look in the phone book delivered at their door once a year. Today, it is online service listings that we look to as a who’s who of local businesses.
When claiming your business on platforms like Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Apple Maps, you get to list all identifying information about your business, including a link to the company website. Each data point represents a link on a reputable website directing relevant traffic to your site.
While this is a tad redundant from the item immediately above, it is important enough to be repeated to drive the point home. Chances are people seeking hospice care for a loved one will not go to Brown Book or City Pages to find you. They will go to Google. The more listings you have (Brown Book, City Pages, and the 58 others) that show the exact same information as Google, the more Google trusts and respects your website, and the higher you get ranked in Google – which is the whole point of SEO.
The very nature of hospice care makes it less oriented to traditional advertising. Unlike the "buy from me!" advertising of pizza and hair salons, people seeking highly personal services will look online specifically for what they need and only when they need it. Simply being visible when they are searching is the most efficient advertising you can get – and it is free. You are not sending direct mail flyers or email messages to people who have no interest or need for hospice care that day. These days people depend on their smartphones and other Internet-enabled devices to locate practically everything they need, at the time they need it. Yes, even hospice care.
Many sites on which your business can be listed also allow clients to make comments about the service they received. These customer reviews are critical to your success. In our time, amazingly, people trust the testimony of total strangers far more than anything your marketing department could say. Google is particularly powerful in this area. There are even systems that practically automate the process of gathering those reviews from families of hospice patients. (See RowanReputationResources.com) Positive comments from real clients are worth more than any marketing budget can buy.
Everything about claiming your business online is a part of marketing. Filling out a few forms may be time-consuming and mundane but, at the end, you will have a brand with a logo pointing at your exact location, visible from any computer or mobile device in the world. Not claiming your business is like leaving free money on the table. Bonus: you can outsource the task to a team to fill out the forms for you at a cost far less than anyone you could hire to do it – and, certainly less costly than doing it yourself. It will require an investment that will amount to a fraction of your marketing budget.
It does not happen often, but it is possible for unscrupulous competitors to claim a listing that has been ignored and use it to intentionally damage your reputation. Some sites require confirmation from a known person at your business. Unfortunately, far more do not – and, with so many sites out there, you may not even know it. You thwart these malicious efforts by claiming it first.
It is not just competitors you have to worry about. If your location is relatively new, and you have moved into a business space that was previously occupied by another business, and if you fail to claim your listings, people could still be seeing the old information for the previous business. Even after claiming your business, it is necessary to keep your information updated.
People rarely know the trade names associated with hospice services. When they are in need, there is little way they can tell them apart – unless they research the subject. Where? Online. It is a good idea to be there as often as you can with as much information as possible, supported by the words of people you have successfully helped before. Think of it as insurance. Pay that premium every month, whether you use it or not. You never know when the next adult daughter will google "Hospice [your city]" but you want to be prominent when she does.
If you are not claiming your business online, it does not exist online. This is a terrible waste of an opportunity that is cost-free. If you fail to claim your business online, on as many sites as possible, you are missing out on potential revenue that another hospice will take from you.
Listing your hospice on the top 60 relevant sites to generate the benefits described above is certainly something you can achieve yourself. Keep in mind, however, there are services that will do it for about $400, or will provide you with a list of the 60 search and review sites if you still want to do it yourself. (Full disclosure, my company is one of those services.) This is one of those cases where it is more cost effective to outsource but, who knows, if you have a college intern who will do it for free, get the list and go for it. Either way, get started. This is how marketing is done in the 21st Century.
Roger McManus is an online marketing consultant. He teaches businesses how to maximize their online reputation via automating the solicitation of online reviews. He can be reached at rogermcmanus.com/reviewsoftware or 719-992-0390 or Roger@SedgefieldSystems.com.
©2018 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org