This should act as a good, final confirmation that Dr. Haymond is an eye doctor rather than a gastroenterologist, even if he is in our desired city, and give us a fifth “no” vote for bringing his listing up in response to our query.
The web is vast, and so is Google’s job, but I believe the key to resolving this particular type of filler content is for Google to rely more on the knowledge they have of an entity’s vertical and less on their knowledge of its location. A diner may be willing to swap out tacos for pizza if there’s a Mexican restaurant a block away but no pizzerias in town, but in these YMYL categories,
the same logic should not apply.
It’s not uncommon for Google to exclude local results from appearing at all when their existing logic tells them there isn’t a good answer. It’s tempting to say that solving the filler content problem depends on Google expanding the number of results for which they don’t show local listings. But, I don’t think this is a good solution, because the user then commonly sees irrelevant organic entries, instead of local ones. It seems to me that a better path is for Google to
expand the radius of local SERPs for a greater number of queries so that a search like ours receives a map of the nearest gastroenterologists, with closer, superfluous businesses filtered out.
SEO is going to be the short answer to this problem. It’s true that you can click the “send feedback” link at the bottom of the local finder, Google Maps or an organic SERP, and fill out form like this, with a screenshot:
However, my lone report of dissatisfaction with SERP quality is unlikely to get Google to change the results. Perhaps if they received multiple reports…
More practically-speaking, if a business you’re promoting is getting lost amid irrelevant listings, search engine optimization will be your strongest tool for convincing Google that you are, in fact, the better answer. In our study, we realized that there are, in fact, no GI docs in Angels Camp, and that the nearest one is about fifteen miles away. If you were in charge of marketing this particular specialist, you could consider:
1. Gaining a foothold in nearby towns and cities
Recommend that the doctor develop real-world relationships with neighboring towns from which he would like to receive more clients. Perhaps, for example, he has hospital privileges, or participates in clinics or seminars in these other locales.
2. Writing about locality relationships
Publish content on the website highlighting these relationships and activities to begin associating the client’s name with a wider radius of localities.
3. Expanding the linktation radius
relevant links and unstructured citations from the neighboring cities and towns, on the basis of these relationships and participation in a variety of community activities.
4. Customizing review requests based on customers’ addresses
If you know your customers well, consider wording review requests to prompt them to mention why it’s worth it to them to travel from X location for goods/services (nota bene: medical professionals, of course, need to be highly conversant with
HIPPA compliance when it comes to online reputation management).
5. Filling out your listings to the max
Definitely do give Google and other local business listing platforms the maximum amount of information about the business you’re marketing (
Moz Local can help!) . Fill out all the fields and give a try to functions like Google Posts, product listings, and Q&A.
6. Sowing your seeds beyond the walled garden
Pursue an active social media, video, industry, local news, print, radio, and television presence to the extent that your time and budget allows.
Google’s walled garden, as defined by my friend, Dr. Pete, is not the only place to build your brand. And, if my other pal, Cyrus Shepard, is right, anti-trust litigation could even bring us to a day when Google’s own ramparts become less impermeable. In the meantime, work at being found beyond Google while you continue to grapple with visibility within their environment.
It’s one thing for a student to fudge a book report, but squeaking by can become a negative lifelong habit if it isn’t caught early. I’m sure any Google staffer taking the time to actually read through the local packs in my survey would agree that they don’t rate an A+.
I’ve been in local SEO long enough to remember when Google first created their local index with filler content pulled together from other sources, without business owners having any idea they were even being represented online, and these early study habits seem to have stuck with the company when it comes to internal decision making that ends up having huge real-world impacts. The recent title tag tweak that is
rewriting erroneous titles for vaccine landing pages is a concerning example of this lack of foresight and meticulousness.
If I could create a syllabus for Google’s local department, it would begin with separating out categories of the greatest significance to
human health and safety and putting them through a rigorous, permanent manual review process to ensure that results are as accurate as possible, and as free from spam, scams, and useless filler content as the reviewers can make them. Google has basically got all of the money and talent in the world to put towards quality, and ethics would suggest they are obliged to make the investment.
Society deserves accurate search results delivered by studious providers, and rural and urban areas are worthy of equal quality commitments and a more nuanced approach than one-size-fits all. Too often, in Local, Google is flunking for want of respecting real-world realities. Let’s hope they start applying themselves to the fullest of their potential.