Background

With more than 1,300 locations, Providence St. Joseph Health is one of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S. Wheelhouse DMG has worked with Providence since 2013, supporting a number of strategic engagements including analytics strategy and implementation, system-wide content strategy, strategic engineering, SEO and digital advertising. In 2017, we were asked to develop and lead implementation of a new local SEO strategy for Providence. When our work began, local SEO was not unified by a wholistic strategy. GMB profiles were inconsistently claimed and populated and no unified means of tracking either implementation or performance existed. Although the near-term goal was to increase local search visibility, the “gold standard” for local SEO performance was an increase in appointment bookings.

Our Work

Demonstrating the value of local SEO was critical in achieving political buy-in from the thousands of clinics and providers throughout the organization. We started with a pilot project in the Seattle Metro area in April of 2017. Initial work focused on primary care providers and urgent care locations – two of the highest value beneficiaries of local search performance.

We claimed listings for every entity and worked with providers and clinics to gather the requisite information and assets to fully optimize these profiles. We ensured all NAP (name, address and phone number) data was consistent among all key online citations, added descriptions, photos and category designations (among many other things). Importantly, we also leveraged an “appointment booking” feature originally intended by Google for restaurants and other service businesses to prominently offer local search users the ability to make an appointment.

Within six months of pilot start, nearly one third of all appointment bookings for our test area originated from local search (where previously only 1% originated from local search).

  • Discovery Searches: +47%
  • Total actions: +39%
  • Website Clicks: +44%
  • Directions: +50%
  • Phone Calls: +38%

Buoyed by this success, we designed and evangelized a strategy to expand local SEO systemwide to more than 2,000 locations and providers – and received organizational buy-in to do so.

  • Total actions: +35%
  • Website clicks: +71%
  • Directions: +15%
  • Phone calls: +51%

With the bulk of clinic and provider listings claimed and optimized, we turned our attention to improving the conversion funnel on our local landing pages to maximize the value of our surging local traffic.

After benchmarking best-in-class booking experiences and conducting user research, the team recommended creation of an entirely streamlined online appointment booking experience and were immediately presented with two, critical problems:

  • The data required to power this new booking experience existed in disparate and unrelated systems and had never been combined in a single data store
  • The Providence engineering team had an 18-month backlog and couldn’t support this work

The Wheelhouse DMG engineering team resolved this dilemma. Their work included:

  • UX design and development of a several test variations for new booking experience
  • Development and support for a system to provide real-time, continuous integration and indexation of physician, location and appointment availability data in a new data lake to support the booking experience.

We then ran dozens of CRO experiments focused on reducing friction and increasing conversion rates throughout the local user flow. Our experiments included:

  • Designing and deploying appointment booking functionality for location pages, which immediately increased appointment bookings from local traffic by 40%
  • Designing and deploying interstitial appointment modals on provider profile pages to enable a single-click entrance to the booking engine from Google My Business profiles. This work resulted in a staggering 515% increase in online appointment bookings for physicians.
  • Incremental refinements to the appointment booking experience, augmenting our data lake to surface information previously unavailable for the booking experience, but of significant value to end users (e.g. insurance accepted by a physician, “next available appointment” display, etc.) and testing to determine the optimal manner and time to introduce this information to maximize conversion rates. The cumulative effect of these tests was a further increase of 632% in appointment bookings

With more than a year’s worth of extraordinary local SEO performance data to work with, we conducted an audit and analysis to determine which GMB features, when fully optimized, appeared to correlate most with gains in visibility and engagement. The result of this analysis was clear: profiles that were fully optimized to leverage all relevant GMB features drove disproportionate performance.

We put this insight to the test by fully optimizing a pilot group of high-value “All Star” listings, and the results were more than compelling. When compared against a control group, our fully optimized profiles showed year-over-year increases of: 206% for Discovery Searches 2,961% for high-value engagement (calls for appointments, directions, click-through to appointment booking experience)

The Results

A summary of performance highlights from our work is astounding: The combined impact of our local SEO and CRO work resulted in an 806% increase in online appointment bookings for Providence The online appointment booking system and user experience we developed now facilitates more than 65% of all online appointments And the local strategy we developed and implemented continues to create tremendous business value for the organization. By way of a recent example, in late 2019, Providence launched a new website substantially informed by the local SEO strategy developed by Wheelhouse DMG. An almost immediate result? A more than 500% increase in both Discovery Searches and Total searches across the Providence system.

806%

Increase in online appointment bookings

65%

Of all online appointments facilitated through our UX development

500%

Increase in both discovery search and total searches

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