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Convert from Search: Turn Online Traffic into Foot Traffic

By Carla Frehn

A must-follow guide for independent pharmacies to optimizing their Google search results and building their customer base.  

Local businesses, including independent pharmacies, typically see a significant percentage of new customer visits start with a patron finding the store online. According to one recent survey, in 2018, 69 percent of consumers searched for local businesses online at least once per month.1 While a decade or two ago it was the Yellow Pages driving local sales, that honor now goes to the online search engine. In other words, Google is sending customers your way—one digital query at a time.

Since 75 percent of online searches take place on Google, anyone hoping to convert search traffic into foot traffic should focus their marketing efforts on that space first.2 So what is the best way to ensure that a business appears at the top of the Google results page when a potential patient searches for a nearby pharmacy? Should pharmacies focus on creating a strong (and free) Google listing or purchase better visibility through Google Ads, Google's self-service online advertising platform? Examining options can help determine how to use each of these tools to bring new patients into your pharmacy.

Optimize Your Google Business Listing

With the majority of online searches happening through Google, it's absolutely vital for independent pharmacies to have a robust listing on Google My Business. This free tool allows any business owner to take control of how their store appears across the various Google interfaces, including Google Maps and Google search engine results pages (SERPs).

To optimize your listing, keep it up to date with your business name, address, phone number and hours. It also helps to include personal—and local—touches, like a photo of your team and the front of your pharmacy. (According to Google, these types of photos help customers recognize a business and showcase the business's personality.)3 By creating a thorough and accurate listing, there's a good chance a potential customer will find your pharmacy when they conduct a local search and be more inclined to make the trip in to your store.

Another advantage to having a local listing through Google My Business: Customers can leave reviews that will appear immediately below a listing, giving others an idea what they can expect when they visit the pharmacy. The owner of the listing can and should respond directly to those reviews. Tactfully addressing criticism and showing genuine gratitude for positive feedback goes a long way and demonstrates a commitment providing courteous service and personalized care in the community. Reviews, when properly managed, are good for the pharmacy. They can provide a potential patient with a preview of the personalized care and attention they might receive, while also contributing to improved search rankings. 

In addition to replying to other people's comments, business owners also have the ability to post their own content. For example, when offering a new service or sponsoring an event, pharmacies can share that news by logging into their account and adding the relevant information in a matter of seconds. Think of a Google listing as a must-have strategy for helping customers find your pharmacy and helping you communicate why they should visit.

Reinforce Your Listing with Google Advertising

While establishing a Google listing is a critical first step in the battle for search-results supremacy, unfortunately, it usually won't be enough on its own. It should result in a business appearing at the top of the SERP if someone types in your pharmacy's name. And there's a good chance it will show on the first page if a searcher hunts for a pharmacy on your street or in your neighborhood. But will it do so every time a potential customer conducts a more general search? With the free business listing, there are no guarantees.

Instead, the best way to ensure your business will feature prominently in local searches is to reinforce a free listing with targeted advertising through Google Ads. This Google service, relies on keywords, as well as location data, to target advertisements to the very people you're hoping to reach—potential customers in your town or city, or even within a set distance from your pharmacy. When someone nearby enters those keywords in a search, Google looks at two different factors to determine the ad's position on the SERP: the maximum price you're willing to pay in an instant auction for that keyword and a “quality score" that considers information like the relevance of the ad itself. 

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Google Ads is that it typically has a good ROI. Businesses are estimated to make an average of $2 for every $1 they spend on the service, and ads are projected to increase brand awareness by up to 80 percent.4

The bottom line when it comes to capturing the attention of people who are searching for pharmacy services in your community: A great listing without ad support is no guarantee that a business will appear in search results, nor is a paid ad with a lackluster or absent listing. The best way to maximize the chances of being seen and make the right impression is to leverage both tools. When a pharmacy has well-targeted ads and a robust listing working in tandem, they are much more likely to earn prime SERP real estate, creating greater opportunity to convince potential customers to visit your pharmacy.

For an independent pharmacy to really stand out and bolster their online presence, they will have to devote time, and probably a little money, to building up both their free listing and their Google advertising strategy. Do that and the people in your community searching online for a nearby pharmacy are sure to find your business—and then find their way into your store.

Good Neighbor Pharmacy helps its members claim more first-page real estate in Google search results. 

1. BrightLocal. Local Consumer Review Survey 2018. Accessed 18 January 2019. Available online at 
2. Smart Insights. Search Engine Statistics 2018. Accessed 22 October 2018. Available online at
3. Google. Google My Business Help. Accessed 22 October 2018. Available online at
4. Blue Corona. 50+ Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Statistics to Know in 2018. Accessed October 2018. Available online at

About The Author

Carla Frehn
Senior Director, Good Neighbor Pharmacy Marketing and Advertising
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