I want to emphasize that I have not tested this – even to the extent you can “test” anything in local search.
Rather, I’ve just observed a couple things:
1. Google seems to integrate online “Make an appointment” software into local businesses’ knowledge graphs more often than it used to.
2. Businesses with the “Make an appointment” feature in their knowledge graphs often seem to outrank businesses without it.
A few visuals, just to show what I’m talking about:
The scheduling services I’ve seen pop up again and again – and more and more as of late – are:
I’ve also seen FullSlate and PatientConnect365.com pop up on a few occasions. Also, Jesse Palmer of LoveandScience has shown me an example of a HealthGrades scheduler appearing in the knowledge graph.
Use one of those services and you’ll probably get the “Make an appointment” feature showing up in Google when people search for you by name.
It’s not only for doctors. I’ve seen it for accountants, massage therapists, and even cryotherapy saunas. It’s for anyone who wants to give clients / patients / customers the ability to book an appointment online using a third-party scheduler.
That’s nice, but why might it be a local ranking factor? We local SEOs can be a superstitious bunch, and sometimes throw around that 6-letter F-word with abandon.
Some reasons it’s not totally crazy to think Google might use online booking as a minor local ranking factor:
1. Google cares at least enough to have a whole “support” page on “Local business orders and appointments.” And they’ve even got standards, and make it clear that not every business gets the “Make an appointment” bling:
Links to booking options will appear automatically for eligible businesses. There’s not currently a way to request this service for your business.
2. The knowledge graph has replaced the local Google page as the place to find info on local businesses in Google. seems to care about what’s in it and it’s shoved in your face, whereas your Google Places Plus My Business page is very hard to get to.
3. As Big Brother, Google must know whether and how searchers use with the online scheduling interface. One thing I’ve noticed is that a business using online scheduling only tends to outrank other businesses if it’s got reviews (Google reviews and others). As with Google Maps driving-direction lookups, a combination of online bookings and an influx of reviews might suggest to Google that customers do business with you and live to tell about it.
4. Like Google Business View, it implies a few things about your business:
- Unlike most spammers – you’re serious enough to fork over.
- People can actually meet you, probably at your place of business.
- Clients / patients / customers think your business looks good enough to book an appointment, and possibly to write a review post-appointment. (Some booking sites encourage reviews after the appointment.)
By the way, on the off-chance you own an online-scheduling site, you can apply to be included.
Have you noticed more instances of “Make an appointment” lately?
Did I miss any appointment-scheduling services that cause that to pop up?
What do you think about the theory that online scheduling might be a minor ranking factor?
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