Here’s a scenario: Nik has just moved to the area and is looking for a veterinarian for his dog, a Dalmatian named Ferdinand. As a millennial, Nik is obviously addicted to his smartphone and does everything from text his parents to pay his bills through his phone—so it should come as no surprise that he uses his phone to look up a vet.
Opening a browser on his phone, Nik types into Google, “vets in my area.” A map pops up, showing an abundance of choices. Overwhelmed, Nik scrolls down past the map and sees a list of practices, with ratings for each practice. He taps on a hospital called Expert Vet Care and notices that only 15 people have written reviews. Although they have a 4.9 rating out of 5, the small number of reviewers has him concerned.
He explores more, and views Expert Vet Care’s hours, as well as text that says, “Own this business? Claim it now.” Confused, he ignores that, then sees a question someone has asked about the vet, which a person named “Joel, Local Guide” has answered—Joel doesn’t appear to be affiliated with the hospital, so Nik doesn’t know what to think. While Nik does now know Expert Vet Care’s hours and that they seem to be a well-received veterinarian, he looks elsewhere on his phone for a vet, because he wants to give Ferdinand the best possible care that his Dalmatian buddy deserves.
Nik navigates back on his browser and finds a different hospital, Vet Care Center. As he taps its listing with his finger, he is surprised by the hospital’s rating. It is also a 4.9, but over 100 people have reviewed it. He then sees Vet Care Center’s logo with a blue checkmark next to it, and under the logo sees a coupon for a Free First Exam. Intrigued, Nik scrolls down lower, where he checks their hours and a link to make an appointment.
As Ferdinand begins to lick his face, Nik playfully pushes him off, then scrolls lower down on his phone to a question someone has asked regarding lizard care. This question is answered by “Vet Care Center (Owner)” and appears professional and informative. Nik, at this point sold by the Free First Exam offer and by easily being able to make an appointment, goes back to the Make an Appointment link where he is directed to a form on Vet Care Center’s website. From there, he successfully fills out his information and books a visit for Ferdinand.
The above fictional scenario is a typical one for millennials, smartphone-driven consumers who prefer the ease of taking care of business through handheld devices. While Nik did successfully find a vet for Ferdinand through his phone, the important thing to observe is that he basically did this all without visiting any websites (other than at the end, where he filled out his information for an appointment). So, how did he do this?
The Google Knowledge Panel
Nik unknowingly used the Google Knowledge Panel to compare the two hospitals. Think of it as a mini website that pops up in a Google search which contains details such as standard business info, Google posts (more on that later), questions and answers, reviews, images, links and more. Since Google is the most prominent search engine, the Knowledge Panel is absolutely necessary in this day and age to not only maintain your veterinary hospital’s presence but to maximize your clientele and ultimately, maximize your revenue as well.
More About the Google Knowledge Panel
The Knowledge Panel is everywhere on Google—along with hospitals, other things including restaurants, clothing stores, chain businesses and even mini-marts have a listing. But it’s not just businesses, movies (yes, you read that right) have Knowledge Panel listings, as evidenced through the listing for the movie “Air Bud,” the charming coming-of-age movie about a boy and his dog.
So, by saying the Knowledge Panel is everywhere, it really is EVERYWHERE. But it’s not automatic—similar to creating a website, someone has to maintain your Knowledge Panel, with this upkeep including listing business hours, updating links, adding images, interacting with patrons and other important things.
In the above scenario, Nik had interactions with two practices—one who ignored their Google Knowledge Panel (Expert Vet Care, since Nik saw text that said “Own this business? Claim it now”) and another which used it as an effective marketing tool (Vet Care Center, as evidenced through their blue checkmark). He chose the one that had more information and that was easy and optimized for people to use.
It’s also important to note that 100% of corporate VCA hospitals are currently using the Knowledge Panel—since the panel is free, it’s paramount that your hospital is not only using it to fill out basic business information but that you are also getting the most exposure you possibly can out of it. In 2017, 60–70% of mobile services did not click through to a website, since consumers were getting all the information they needed from the Knowledge Panel. So, you can think of it really as free advertising and access, and as a way to stay competitive with the larger veterinary conglomerates.
How Does Google Posts Fit into All This?
Google Posts is the most appetizing of all the Knowledge Panel options in terms of marketing. As we stated in our 2017 State of the Industry report, only 1.7% of hospitals used Google Posts (versus 84% of iVET360 hospitals using Google Posts), which is a paltry number considering that this option is free and very versatile. With Google Posts, you can share content with people who are searching for your hospital and can also include 300-word posts with an image and a link with a call to action.
These posts can be whatever you want, but what we have found most rewarding is using Google Posts to share offers and coupons for new and existing clients. In fact, iVET360 hospitals who use this option to share some kind of deal see quite a return on investment. A proven offer has been to gift new clients a free first exam—while this may seem counter-intuitive, our statistics reveal that practices that actually do this see revenue of approximately $4,640 per quarter. Other offers, such as a 50% and 25% discount on a free first exam, have shown themselves to be positive as well, with an approximation of $3,200 in revenue. If you’re still not convinced on how this could possibly work, just look to the numbers, which do not lie.
Regardless of whether your hospital wants to make an offer on Google Posts or not, it’s imperative to understand that if you don’t use Google Posts, your potential revenue from this free service is zero and you are not growing your hospital nor using all means to improve your business.
So Yes, Do Make Time to Understand the Google Knowledge Panel, or Work with Experts Who Can
The Google Knowledge Panel is undoubtedly a force to use for any business. Along with having an informative brand, website and social media strategy, the panel is right up there as a tool to use to increase your hospital’s business. The ability to market, provide detailed information and give clients easy access to appointments makes it a convenient shortcut for people like Nik to use to lead them to your hospital.
If you’re not active with your Google Knowledge Panel, and you are one of the 98.3% who are ignoring Google Posts, it’s not too late to take advantage of these free—and proven—resources. At iVET360, our experts can guide your digital marketing needs, and along with strengthening your Knowledge Panel, we can also build your brand, websites, social media accounts and much more.
For more details on our suite of services, which also include analytics and HR and Training, please contact us to discuss what we can do to improve your veterinary hospital, so we can ultimately help you help more pets.