How Patients Search for Doctors

how patients search online for doctors

With nearly one-third of online consumers searching for local businesses daily, it is safe to say patients are trying to find healthcare providers as well. Internet search engines have replaced phone books as a way to find phone numbers, addresses, and information for companies. When it comes to finding physicians, patients once again turn to their phones, tablets, or computers to search for local doctors. 

Consulting Dr. Google & Searching for Symptoms

With the rise of the internet, the world is at our fingertips. The availability of this knowledge contributes to regular online search queries for statistics, questions and answers, symptoms, businesses, services, and so much more. The amount of knowledge available is endless. When we are sick, many of us turn Google into our physician as we research our symptoms and self-diagnose. Good or bad, searching for symptoms is a way to find doctors.

Provide a Diagnosis / Be the Expert

When patients search for medical information, various websites pop up. From WebMD to the Mayo Clinic to other physician’s websites with blogs or service pages dedicated to the specific information, search engines provide patients with robust knowledge on various symptoms, conditions, and treatments. They often come to appointments armed with the many diseases they may have and the treatments they want. 

Rather than finding information about their symptoms on another physician’s website, you want your practice to pop up in the search results. Your website can provide information on symptoms, give possible diagnoses, and show you as an authority in the field, especially when people are searching for this information in your local area.

Content Answers Questions

Internet searches for medical information are often phrased as questions such as “why does my back hurt?” or “what are the symptoms of Covid-19?” Your website content provides information and education about symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments for patients. By delivering content that answers patients’ questions, you establish yourself as the expert. You provide the information, advice, and care they are seeking. This begins to forge your relationship with a potential patient. 

Online Business Listings

Instead of immediately booking an appointment after googling their symptoms, patients often return to search engines for additional research on local physicians or medical facilities. As a replacement for phone books, businesses and companies are listed on various business listing websites such as Google My Business, Healthgrades, Yelp, Vitals, and more. Being on these review sites helps to expand your digital footprint and make you more visible to potential patients. By claiming your information on these sites, you can control, authenticate, and optimize your listings. This helps to ensure the accuracy of your information, allows you to respond to reviews, and makes you more visible to your patients.

Listing accuracy is how Google determines which business listings to trust and rank at the top of its search results. Keeping your information up-to-date and accurate is critical. If it isn’t accurate, the listing will have a hard time showing up.

Google My Business

With 86% of the search engine market share, Google is the master of all search engines and the gateway to knowledge for internet users. When patients search for local businesses in Google (meaning they search for a keyword + a location), the local pack 3 shows 3 local business results from Google Maps, then you must click “view all” to expand the results and to see more local business results. Google prioritizes user experience by selecting business listings that are fully optimized, accurate, and relevant to searches. Optimizing your Google My Business listing is crucial to ensuring you pop up in the top 3 for your keyword + location searches. Otherwise, you miss out on new patients in your area.


Trailing only behind Google, Healthgrades is a popular option to find information and reviews on doctors. Being visible on review sites helps build your brand online and improves the credibility of your practice. The goal of Healthgrades is to connect patients with local healthcare providers. Be sure to claim your listing to keep your information up-to-date and to enhance your reputation online.

google local pack 3 results

Local Search

After consulting Google, patients often complete a local search such as “back pain treatment in Charlotte” or “back pain treatment near me” to combine their symptoms with their location. This allows them to find names and information for local medical offices that provide the desired treatment. 

Importance of Local SEO

Local internet searches are the prime reason local SEO is crucial for any business website. Search engine optimization is a digital marketing strategy that helps you rank higher on search engines to ensure your targeted audience can find you. Local SEO is a more specific strategy based on the proximity of businesses and consumers. By optimizing your website for keyword + location searches, you ensure your practice lands atop Google search engine results. 

Putting a Face with a Name

Searching online allows patients to check out a practice first. Through your website and photos, patients can put a face with a name. They want to get to know you. Patients may search for a specific healthcare provider, a practice, or a medical facility. 

Your website and business listings should include photos and bios of all of the doctors and the office itself. This begins to establish your relationship with potential patients. Providing more information about yourself and your practice makes you more visible, puts you in front of a larger audience, and improves your conversions.

Social Media

Before the internet, many businesses relied on word of mouth for referrals and recommendations. Social media is the new way to offer referrals to your friends. Social media is a prime news source for many internet users. Individuals often ask their friends or social groups for recommendations on anything from restaurants to local businesses to healthcare providers. 

Not only that, but it is not uncommon for social media users to follow doctors on social sites. This allows users to stay up-to-date on trends, treatments, and changes within the medical practice. Social media is another way to get in front of your current and potential patients. Your social media profile is another digital marketing strategy to engage with your audience

Social media allows you to establish relationships with your patients. Messaging, posts, and responses allow you to interact directly with your patients. You get to be the expert, not just in unprecedented times like the Covid-19 pandemic but also for symptoms and treatments. You give patients an insight into the inner workings of your staff and your office. Social media has an impact on your branding as it allows you to share stories, posts, and insights. You get to show off your personality. You become “real” to your audience.

The Med Rank Interactive Advantage

How do you get in front of a wider audience and convert more patients? How do you find the time to manage your website, online listings, and social media? You consult with the experts in digital healthcare marketing strategies

Experts in Healthcare Digital Marketing

Med Rank Interactive is a digital marketing company exclusively for the healthcare industry. Using the latest techniques and strategies in local SEO and digital marketing, we help grow medical practices by getting them atop major search engine rankings and increasing their online traffic to convert quality leads into patients. Our customized online marketing services help build your practice’s brand and uphold your reputation and credibility. 

Let our team help you land atop search results for local doctors in your area. For more information on the best digital marketing strategies for your healthcare practice, book a FREE consultation today!