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3 most common online directory listing mistakes

Inaccurate or incomplete listings on healthcare and business directories jeopardize your online reputation management efforts and your ability to get new patients.

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Inaccurate or incomplete listings on healthcare and business directories jeopardize your online reputation management efforts and your ability to get new patients.

Once commonplace, phone books are no longer a go-to resource to find local businesses. Instead, people turn to online directories, which can be thought of as the digital version of the Yellow Pages. 

Listings in online directories consist of information like: 

  • Business hours
  • Location
  • Contact information
  • Industry
  • Website URL 

Listings help prospective patients find a provider who is the best fit for their needs. There are hundreds of online local business directories, as well as dozens specific to healthcare providers. You might not have heard of many of them, but don’t think that means your practice is not listed.

In this guide, we discuss how to attract new patients with accurate online directory listings and how to avoid the most frequent errors healthcare providers make when they claim and update their listings.

Why is consistent information important for online reputation management?

Online listings are part of attracting new patients, and consistency is key. But why?

Search engines consider online directories highly reputable

Online listings can affect your search engine rankings. The more accurate your online listings, the more likely it is that search engines will find and rank you. And since 77% of patients search online for a doctor either often or sometimes, appearing in search is important for appearing to patients.

Since 77% of patients search online for a doctor either often or sometimes, appearing in search is important for appearing to patients. ”

Patients rely on online directories for accurate information

Inaccurate or incomplete online listings confuse and frustrate prospective patients.

Imagine you’re looking for a new internist, and you see one online listing that states that a provider’s office is in Santa Monica while another states that the office is in Pasadena, some 25 miles away. You might think you’d just pick up the phone and call the practice. However, the reality is that most people will simply eliminate that practice from consideration.

Online directory listing mistakes for healthcare providers

Below you will find the most common mistakes healthcare practices typically make when claiming or updating their online listings.

Incorrect NAP (name, address, phone number)

When healthcare providers audit their listings, name, address, and phone number (or NAP), errors are the most commonly found. The most frequent examples include:

  • An inconsistent last name, with a provider’s birth name on one listing and a married name on another
  • An inconsistent first name, with a provider’s nickname on one listing and a given name on another
  • Indecisive branding, with a provider’s name on one listing and their practice name on another
  • An erroneous address, particularly for providers who have moved from one location to another or who started their practices after working for another practice or hospital

When it comes to the practice’s phone number, list the main office line — the one that connects directly to front office staff or answering service — not a provider’s personal line or cell phone number. And make sure to distinguish between the phone number and a fax number — jJust think of the unpleasant noise awaiting unsuspecting people who dial the number.

Duplicate listings

You might wonder whether to create multiple listings for your practice in online directories to try to target keywords related to different specialties. For instance, you might consider adding keywords related to your specialties as your name (e.g., John Lahir, MD OB/GYN and John Lahir, MD Body Contouring), thinking this will help you to attract patients for particular services. After all, if one listing is good, more listings should be better, right? But this actually hurts your searchability because inconsistent information confuses search engines.

One listing per directory is all you need. Claim and populate your listing with accurate information, and update it across sites any time there are changes.

Missing biography

Search engines definitely prioritize business information (like NAP and hours) over auxiliary information (like your approach to care). Still, prospective patients appreciate information that helps them become more familiar with you and your practice.

Keep your listing biography short and sweet by including: 

  • Your specialty
  • Credentials
  • Awards
  • Recognition 

You should also upload a high-resolution photograph of yourself and any other providers so patients can put a face to the name.

Keeping your directory listing information fresh matters

Contrary to what some healthcare providers believe, directory listings play an important role in getting found online. If you have not already done so, take the time to claim or update your listings on important directories. 

Keep your information consistent from one directory to another to get the most out of your efforts.

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75% of people look online to find a doctor. Patients take a critical look at web presence, online business profiles, and reviews when they decide to pick a health provider. Learn where your practice should be online in the 2023 Patient Perspectives report.


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Written by

Karmin Gentili

Karmin Gentili has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate HR and compliance consulting. She has worked to further elevate her skills by pursuing and receiving multiple certifications, including copywriting, video scriptwriting, effective content positioning, case study writing, and SEO. Her love of writing motivates her to use those skills to develop content for the medical field that ensures others can work toward achieving their goals.

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