What comes first — the practice or the practitioner? When you're crafting your Google My Business optimization strategy for local search, it might be difficult to know which to prioritize.
That's because Google allows individual practitioners — defined as "public-facing professionals" such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial planners, and insurance or real estate agents — to claim their own GMB listings that may (and probably do) share a lot of the same information as the practice itself. However, Google does not consider these practitioner listings duplicates — it will not remove or merge them unless requested by their owners.
While this might seem to create a local SEO conflict of interest, if leveraged correctly, they're more likely to be in your best interests. Let's sort through it.
Google defines an individual practitioner as a "public-facing professional" that clients can directly contact at a specified location during an established set of hours. To date, the following are eligible to claim a Google My Business practitioner listing:
If your name and the name on the practice are one and the same, it may actually not benefit you to create a separate practitioner listing. One of the main reasons for this is Google My Business reviews — if they are split between two different profiles, it dilutes their rank-boosting power. The exception would be if you live in smaller town — as either listing could appear in the Google Pack (highly improbable in larger cities where there is more competition)
Your GMB profile should contain the following essential information:
When you own and operate a practice or agency in affiliation with a larger organization or system, follow the same guidelines as the previous section, except format the company name like so: [Brand or company name]: [Practitioner's name]
In this scenario, you will want to create (or encourage your partners to create) individual practitioner listings, especially if they have niches or specialties that might bring your website traffic or generate more leads for different keywords.
Their GMB listing should contain the following:
As a practice owner, the practice listing should be your first priority. Try to funnel client reviews and feedback there, as that has the potential to increase leads for everyone. If your individual practitioner listing outranks the practice's, you can either redirect your focus there or ask Google to merge them.
If an associated practitioner's listing ranks higher, it might not necessarily be a bad thing — especially if it's high enough to be visible in the all-important Google Local Pack. Your partners may boast diversified or specialized skill sets, which may allow you to target more keywords and attract traffic from more directions (different search queries) — and give more chances to appear in the Google Local Pack as previously discussed.
As an individual practitioner, your aims may be different, especially if you are not planning to stay with a practice long-term. One thing you will want to make sure you have the right to is your practitioner listing, so absolutely claim it if you can — that way, any accrued reviews or ratings will follow along with you wherever you go. Another thing that can smooth your transition is citation building, or sharing your information through various professional directories.
Fields like dentistry, real estate, and law are among the most competitive in the local SEO arena. To stand out, Google My Business optimization is critical — when utilized correctly, practitioner listings can help you branch out and create more opportunities for yourself to do just that.