The Private Practice Guide to Ranking at the Top of Google

If you want to get new patients through your door, you need to ensure they can find you easily online. And in this article, we’re going to cover what you can do right now to get your practice to rank highly on Google search results to accomplish that. 

We’ll help you understand the fundamentals of local SEO, differentiate the two “core pillars” that impact your Google ranking, and outline what steps you can take to improve your practice’s ranking.

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is essentially the steps you take to improve your website’s content and structure so that search engines can better understand it.

Without getting too complicated, there are things on every website that Google looks for to determine what your site (or page) is about. How you use SEO will directly affect if your website is going to show up in the top search results, or if it’s going to be on page 10 of Google.

What Is Local SEO?

If you want to get new patients, clients, and customers through your door, you want to ensure they are able to find you online easily and quickly. 

Local SEO is the strategic method of getting your business ranked at the top of relevant Google searches for people in your community or its surrounding areas. 

And for local SEO, there are two key parts: 

  1. Getting your Google Business Profile ranked well in the “map pack” at the top of Google. 
  2. Getting your website ranked well in the “organic results” (the regular Google results below the map).

Why Local SEO Is Your #1 Business Marketing Tool

Google and Google Maps are used the same way phone books and local guides were in decades past. In fact, these two platforms are the top most trusted sources for your potential clients according to a report done by BrightLocal in 2023:

Additionally, where your business ranks on Google Maps and local searches will determine the amount of business you get in your door. 

Why? Because people tend to trust and use the top-ranked businesses in their areas, which they can find through Google Business Profiles on Google Maps.

Why It’s Important to Rank High in Local Search Results

Statistically, if someone finds a highly rated business that fits their needs in the first three listed businesses in a Google Maps search result, they are unlikely to select “More Places” and continue their search through further Google Maps results.

And the same is true for organic search results: Websites that show up in the top position have a higher click-through rate (CTR), meaning the number of people who see a link compared to the number who click on it.

This gives top search results a distinct advantage because search engine users are more likely to click on the top result over those that rank lower on the page, as shown in this graphic from a report Backlinko did in 2023.

What does this mean in practical terms?

It means the people are eleven times more likely to click a link if they see it showing up in the first spot on Google than they would be if they saw the same link showing up in the tenth spot on Google.

It means that ranking your website well can completely transform the volume of people reaching out to your practice.

How Local SEO Works on Your Website

People tend to search for a specific service in a specific location, such as “dentist in Miami.” So if you’re a dentist in Miami, your website has to make that clear in its page titles, section titles, content, and so on.

Take a look at this practice’s home page as an example:

It may look very nice to prospective new patients, but there’s a big problem: you can’t tell where this practice is located. 

And if you can’t tell, neither can Google. 

This means that patients searching for a dentist near them may have a hard time finding this practice, even if it’s right down the street! 

This is just one important local SEO factor that a lot of practice owners don’t think about when creating their websites. There are many other best practices that must be considered to ensure that a site is built to rank well on Google.

How Local SEO Works on Your Google Business Profile

Another factor that goes into local SEO is your Google Business profile. This is what shows up in the map at the top of your search results.

In order to rank high in this map pack, you need to ensure that your Google Business profile is complete. This means that all sections are filled out fully, and you include key elements like:

  • High-quality photos
  • A unique company description
  • A proper business category
  • Your hours of operation
  • Frequently asked questions and answers

Many people searching for a practice will find you through your Google Business Profile, not your website. Therefore, ensuring your profile ranks as high as possible can greatly mean the difference between your phone constantly ringing…or not.

How Your Website and Your Google Business Profile Work Together

Your Google Business profile’s ranking and your website’s ranking work together. It’s not enough to just focus on one–they both need to rank high on Google.

Ranking your website well in the “organic search” results (i.e., regular Google results) happens through having a fantastic website that uses SEO properly. And it will increase your Google Maps ranking.

Similarly, ranking high on Google Maps happens by following Google Business Profile SEO best practices, which can also indirectly improve your website’s organic ranking.

How to Determine Your Local SEO Ranking

There are two simple tests you can do right now to determine your practice’s local SEO ranking: 

  1. Check how many results show up before your website in a Google search. 
  2. Check how many results show up before your profile on Google Maps. 

Note: your location will impact these results. For the most accurate test, you can use BrightLocal’s free Local Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Checker. This will let you see accurate results no matter where you currently are.

(Source: BrightLocal)

How to Do a Test for Google Search Results

1. Use BrightLocal’s Google Search checker. On BrightLocal, fill out the search form and click “Check search results.”

(Source: BrightLocal)

Then to view the results, you’ll need to click “Page 1.” If your website isn’t on page 1, your SEO needs work.

(Source: BrightLocal)

2. Count how many results show up before your website. That’s your ranking. You want your website to appear in the first organic listing result (or at least in the top three). If it doesn’t, you know you have some work to do on your local SEO.

How to Do a Test for Google Maps Results

1. Use BrightLocal’s Google Maps checker. On BrightLocal, fill out the search form and click “Check search results.”

(Source: BrightLocal)

2. Count how many results show up before your Google Business profile. That’s your ranking. You want your practice to appear first in the Google Maps results.

And again, if it doesn’t, you have some work to do on your local SEO.

The Goal of SEO for Your Practice

When you work on your business’s local SEO, the goal is to rank higher in both the organic and Google Map rankings. This will increase traffic to your website and your Google Business profile, which will lead to more hot prospects and new clients. 

The leads who discover your practice through Google are actively seeking a service that you offer. That’s why appearing at the top of the rankings can completely transform your practice’s success. 

What Elements Make SEO Good?

Now that you understand the importance of local SEO, how do you make sure that yours is good? There are certain “best practices” that you can follow to improve your SEO rankings. 

As a note, adding these elements won’t get your practice to the top of search results overnight, and some parts are ongoing actions (meaning you have to do them more than once). It takes time to get to the top of Google, but by focusing on best practices, you can get there and know how to stay there. 

SEO Best Practices for Google Maps

The very first step to do (if you haven’t already) is to create a Google Business profile. Without one, you won’t be able to rank at the top of Google Maps results. 

Once you have that, there are three important factors that Google will evaluate to determine your profile’s rank: 

1. Relevance. How well does your business match what the user typed into the search box? To ensure your business shows up in relevant search results, your Google Business profile needs to be complete, accurate, and detailed. 

This includes: 

  • Adding your business name, address, and phone number
  • Filling out your hours of operation
  • Choosing the correct business category
  • Adding a unique company description (not one you’ve used on other websites)
  • Creating detailed service and product listings
  • Adding relevant high-quality photos and videos

2. Distance. How far away from the user is your business? This is especially vital if you have more than one business location, in which case you’ll need a Google Business profile for each location to ensure users can find you.

3. Prominence. How well-known and well-regarded is your business online? The most obvious way Google can determine this is through online reviews, which is why it’s important to ask clients to leave positive reviews for your practice on Google.

SEO Best Practices for Your Website

To rank high in organic search results, your website needs to follow SEO best practices, too. This can be complicated for those who aren’t familiar with this subject, which is why many busy practice owners usually hire a marketing company to handle this part for them. 

Key factors for good website SEO include: 

1. Keywords. Keywords are the words or phrases that best describe what your webpage is about. Adding them to your website doesn’t have to be difficult if you put yourself in your patients’ shoes.

For example, if you run a physical therapy clinic, what do patients usually say when they come to see you? Probably some variation of, “My [body part] hurts, I’m in pain, and it’s hard to move.”

Why do they use those words? Because your patients aren’t experts. They don’t know technical terms, and they won’t search for technical terms on Google.

You can make sure that your website shows up in their search results by thinking like your patients and, most importantly, researching the top keywords for the services you want to promote.

Then implement those keywords in the page titles, section titles, and content on your website. 


2. Metadata. Metadata is just information that describes other information. Think of it like the summary of a book–it’s not the whole plot of the book, but it’s enough to tell you what to expect before you start reading. 

For websites, metadata has two parts:  a meta title, which is the name of your page (like “Pediatric Physical Therapy Services in Houston, TX”). And a meta description, which very briefly summarizes the content on that page.

The meta titles and descriptions for each page on your website need to be unique and include relevant keywords and location information. That’s a big part of how Google can tell if your website is what a search engine user is looking for.

3. Dedicated location pages. If your practice has multiple locations, each one needs its own dedicated page on your website. If you offer multiple services, you need a separate page for each one. 

Why? Because if you put multiple locations or multiple services on one page, it’s just going to confuse Google. 


When a user searches for “physical therapy in Palm Harbor, FL,” Google wants to give them the most relevant search result. A dedicated page for “physical therapy” is much more relevant than a page with multiple services. And separate location pages let Google know that your website may be relevant in multiple cities.

4. Technical performance. Your website needs to be built to run well on both desktop computers and mobile phones. Elements like graphics, photos, and page length can impact how well your website runs, how fast it loads, and how accessible it is to users.

(Tip: you can check this right now by going to and typing in your website’s URL.)

5. Internal linking strategy. Your website should include links to other relevant pages on your website to direct visitors’ attention. 

Not only does this help your website visitors find information they’re looking for, but it also helps Google gain a more complete picture of your website so that it can recommend you in relevant search results.


6. Complete service pages. Your website should have enough content on its service pages to properly use keywords, repeat location information, and give visitors valuable data that answers the questions they type into Google. 

7. Educational content. Publishing regular blog posts or videos full of valuable data can direct more search traffic to your website and improve your organic rankings.


How Uplift Marketing Can Help You with SEO

SEO is an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to transform the success of your practice and get new patients through your doors. It is valuable, but it is complicated. There are a ton of best practices to follow for effective SEO–way more even than what’s been included here.

If you’re not sure how your practice is doing with SEO, we are here to help. We offer a free SEO audit that can answer that question for you. 

Our goal is to provide busy practice owners with expert digital marketing help so they can focus on what they do best: caring for patients and running their practice. We take care of all of the moving parts of SEO for practices across the U.S., and we can take care of it for you, too. 

If you have any questions or you’d like to get our free SEO audit, give us a call at (314) 690-1575.