The Story

Iterative local optimizations drive thousands of incremental online appointments and help re-set Providence’s search strategy.

Where We Started

Providence St. Joseph Health is one of the five largest nonprofit health care systems in the USA. Providence operates over 50 hospitals and over 800 clinics, employs hundreds of thousands of health care professionals and serves millions of patients across seven states. Like Wheelhouse, Providence is a values-driven organization, advocating for vulnerable populations and prioritizing patients’ comfort, dignity and holistic well-being at every turn.

When Providence came to Wheelhouse, they were searching for an effective local search strategy: how should they respond to the hyper-localization of search engine results pages (SERPs)? And more importantly, how could they make the process of identifying and understanding local health care options as easy as possible for their patients?

The Analysis

Our work on Providence local begin by orienting ourselves in their performance data. We recognized a decline in Organic traffic and onsite conversions, but we also saw an increase in Google My Business (GMB) metrics, such as phone calls and requests for directions at an individual local listing level. Wheelhouse felt there was a significant opportunity to maximize local search visibility and translate it to more appointment bookings for Providence.

However, realizing this opportunity required Wheelhouse to navigate a complex system of various Providence web sites, local listings and local listing platforms (GMB, Bing Places, Yelp and others).

Optimizing Local Listings

Wheelhouse took an iterative approach to developing our system-wide local strategy.  We used Swedish Medical Group, a hospital system and brand within Providence, to test local platform features and develop our own internal processes for managing location data and improving patient interactions with local listings.

One of the most significant challenges we encountered was the sheer complexity of retrieving and reconciling basic Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) data for all the physicians, clinics and hospitals within their system. This data existed in multiple places across the various websites and within back-end systems. In many cases there were significant variances and discrepancies in data that needed to be reconciled for consistent rollout across Local platforms.

Wheelhouse worked with a local listing platform, RIO, to manage the large dataset. We then implemented a progressive review and rollout of local listings, prioritizing those identified as key listings for Swedish. This process consisted of claiming listings, working through ownership conflicts, implementing accurate NAP data and then, once the base optimizations were done, testing of new features and listing enhancements.

In collaboration with our developers and analysts, our local SEO strategists used a data-driven approach to testing, focusing on the impact of our various tests on conversions for calls, directions and most importantly, appointment bookings. Wheelhouses developers were able to implement innovative features, such as appointment URLs in GMB to send users to physician and clinic pages that automatically dropped users into the appointment booking flow.

Wheelhouse expressed our values of Helpfulness and Trustworthiness in our work with Providence by doing whatever was necessary to make sure that local profiles were accurate and optimized. This meant a mix of highly technical and highly manual work, from sorting through massive data sets to spending dozens of hours on the phone with location staff to verify NAP data. Other examples, included our developers customizing scripts and designing front-end local landing experiences and our local SEO strategist even driving to Swedish locations that lacked photography to take photos of their facilities for their local profiles.

The Results

Over time, Wheelhouse’s blend of iterative strategy and total commitment to the project proved successful. Our initial period of work with Swedish allowed us to get ahead of the local trends, test new features quickly and avoided being dependent on assistance from the clinics and physicians. Swedish’s local performance has seen dramatic improvements.

In the 12 months following the start of our local campaign, discovery searches for Swedish GMB (non-brand searches) more than doubled. During that time, Swedish GMB clicks and calls grew at a 94% increase, and a 76% increase in directions to clinic within the first 12 months of rollout. Additionally, online appointment bookings grew to 29% of all online appointments booked following this campaign.

Having seen significant improvements to system-wide conversions, Providence has invested in full-rollout of our validated local strategy to the entire system, utilizing Wheelhouse’s recommended systems and platforms for data management, and funding the optimization of every hospital, clinic and physician in the Providence system

Since system-wide rollout, discovery searches (non-brand) have increased 55% for local listings with website clicks growing 64% and phone calls growing 44%. Primary Care clinics, our focal category, increased discovery searches (non-brand) by 49% YoY, website clicks by more than 155% and phone calls by 89%.

For another focal category, Express Care appointments, Wheelhouse drove these from zero appointments from local listings to driving an incremental improvement of 6,400 appointments from their local listings. Now, local SEO listings and on-site results drive the majority of all Express Care appointments.

As Wheelhouse progresses through our second year of partnership with Providence on their local strategy, we continue to see significant growth in their local KPIs. Additionally, we’ve used our findings from local performance to identify opportunity for significant additional growth in other clinic types not previously prioritized. 

The success of our local initiatives has also inspired Providence to shift their primary SEO strategy for the entire Providence system to a local-first initiative.

Wheelhouse is proud of these achievements, but the true value of our work with Providence goes far beyond typical digital marketing metrics or strategic successes: the work is valuable because it has helped Providence fulfill its mission of providing excellent service to people in need.

For both Providence and Wheelhouse, this is the true measure of our success in local digital strategy.