How-to Handle Practitioner Listings in Google My Business (GMB) and Your Citations

Creating a Google My Business listing and citations for practitioners can get hairy if you aren’t aware of the recommended practices and guidelines for practitioner listings. In this episode of the Whitespark Weekly, Darren goes into details of the ideal situations these listings work best, what business information must be different, and a list of sites that accept practitioners.

Video Transcript

Hello again, local search friends. Welcome to another episode of the Whitespark Weekly. Today I want to talk to you about how to handle practitioner listings on Google My Business and in your citations. So, I had a different topic in mind, but I need to give a shout out to Allie Margeson. She asked a question on Twitter which kind of encouraged me to cover this topic a little bit better.

She was asking about practitioner listings and whether or not a doctor can have multiple listings at different practice locations. And that kind of encouraged me to do this Whitespark Weekly on the topic of practitioner listings.

I also need to give a shout out to Joy Hawkins who has written an incredible post about this; it is posted on the Whitespark blog. She wrote a post about best practices with practitioner listings on Google My Business. This post covers a lot of the stuff that I am going to cover in here, so we will link to that in show notes. I definitely recommend that you look at that as well.

What is a Practitioner Listing?

Let me start with what is a practitioner listing? And we can look at that, look at what Google’s definition is here. So Google says,

that a practitioner listing is an individual practitioner is a public facing professional, typically with his or her own customer base.

This would be practitioners like doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial planners. I think I wonder about the concept of taking that further, you know, you don’t see a lot of that in these spaces, but you know psychologists, of course, physiotherapists, even hair stylists. You never really see practitioner listings for hair stylists, but it could be a tactic and an opportunity for various kinds of businesses. Financial consultants or I don’t know SEO consultants. It’s an interesting idea of taking practitioner listings to another level.

There are all kinds of possible practitioners as long as you follow this particular guideline.

  • He or she operates in a public facing role. Support staff shouldn’t be – shouldn’t have their own listings.
  • And he or she is directly contractible at the verified location, contactable during the stated hours. This generally means you are going to have a separate office line or separate desk line for the practitioner at the stated location.

If you follow those guidelines, a lot of hair stylists would really fall under that. It is an interesting opportunity for hairstylists I think to think about practitioner listings. I am curious to hear other comments you know some people that know more about this than me if that is completely out of the question, if I am off my rocker with that idea.

Alright, so now you know what practitioner listing are.

Solo Practitioners

There is a specific edge case that offering comes up that I want to talk about is the idea of the solo practitioner. A Solo practitioner is, for example a dentist, where it is a dental clinic, but there is just one dentist there, so let’s say it’s Applebee Dentistry and there is only one dentist there his name is Joe Applebee. In that case, Google’s recommendation is to just have one listing.

It is called a solo practitioner listing and what you should do is you should name that listing in this format right here. I am going to highlight that here on the page here:

This is from the Google market guidelines. So, you would name it Applebee Dentistry: Dr. Joe Applebee (Business Name: Practitioner Name). That would be the recommendation from Google.

And so the question is, if you already have two practitioner listings, or if you already have two listings, one for the practice and one for the practitioner, but you happen to be a solo practitioner; should you merge those listings or should you not?
If both listings are ranking, you’ve got your practitioner listing ranking for let’s say dentist and you have got your practitioner listing ranking for dental clinic. If both of them are ranking, I would probably leave it alone and not do anything.

If one is ranking and the other one is not; then that might be a good case for consolidating your listings. You would merge them through Google My Business. The best way to do that is to just contact them through at Google My Biz on Twitter and just ask for some support there and they will get a US support team to help you out. But, the benefit of merging those two listings would be you will consolidate your reviews and you will consolidate potential ranking benefit from that. That’s my recommendation with solo practitioners.

Expand your local reach and take advantage of the ability to target multiple categories in Google My Business and across other local citation websites with practitioner listings. Get our expert help building accurate practitioner listings with our Listings Service.

Should You Create Practitioner Listings?

Here’s the next question. Which is if you don’t already have practitioner listings, should you create them? I think it depends, there are a couple scenarios. If it is a practice where the practitioner is like a fixture of that practice, like an owner, or a regular fixture of that practice then I would say yes. You should create the practitioner listings. It is actually an opportunity to rank for additional terms.

So, imagine, it’s a medical clinic and you are an orthopedic surgeon who is one of the primary associates at that medical clinic, then you have the ability for the clinic to rank for medical clinic and you have the ability for you the doctor to rank for orthopedic surgeon. The big thing with practitioner listings is to diversify categories. You don’t want to have your practitioner listing competing against the practice listing. So, make sure that they each have a unique primary category in Google.

What if the Practitioner Works at Multiple Locations?

What if the practitioner happens to work at multiple clinics? So, they are an orthopedic surgeon at a sports clinic and they are also a family doctor at a walk-in clinic. I have an example here.

There is this doctor in Edmonton, Dr. Randy Gregg who is also Edmonton famous because he won five Stanley Cups in the 80s and 90s. he was part of the Wayne Gretzky, Messier run and so now he is a doctor and he’s an orthopedic surgeon. He actually works here at the Edmonton Sports Institute. So this is a great example.

We have got the Edmonton Sports Institute would rank for sports medicine clinic and then he doesn’t actually work at this walk-in clinic, I am just fishing for any example. But we have got this medical clinic and let’s say he also works there at the walk-in clinic.

Randy could have two additional practitioner listings. He could have one at the address of the Edmonton Sports Institute where that practitioner was for orthopedic surgeon and he could have one at the walk-in medical clinic where his listing was for just doctor. That’s an opportunity for basically casting a wider net and the ability to rank for more terms.

What if the Practitioner Listing is Ranking, But You Want the Practice Listing to Rank?

Next up, what if the practitioner listing is ranking, but you want the practice listing to rank?
This is something I covered actually in the first Whitespark Weekly. We had a very similar case. It was that exact case where the practitioner listing was ranking, and the phone calls were going to the practitioner’s desk. They didn’t want that, so what we did is we changed the phone number on the listing to be the primary office line and then we put his desk line in as the secondary number. That was one way to sort of mitigate that. And then eventually, we changed the name of it so, that was one way to get around it.

You could also try to minimize the practitioner listing. It doesn’t seem like a smart idea if it is already ranking, but if you wanted to – if you have practitioner listings that are competing with the practice listing; you could try to minimize them by stripping out the URL and putting it in a crummy category, so they are not really directly competing with the practice.

Building Citations For Practitioners

What should you do about your citations? Alright, so you have got these different listings. Let’s look at this Randy Gregg example. So, if he has got all of these different practitioner listings, should you build citations for those practitioner listings? If you want them to rank, I think you should.

You should definitely add them on the very key sites for the industry. So most of these practitioner situations have industry sites like in the legal space there is ABO or In the healthcare space, you have got sites like Rate MD and Healthgrades. Those sites are actually specifically designed to list practitioners not to list businesses or practices. Definitely that is your first line of citation work. You want to make sure your listed on all of those.

Sites That Allow Practitioner Listings:

And then there is also the sites like Google, Bing. I’ll post a list in the – down below in the post, but there is –


Tip For Your Practitioner Listings
Each site will handle practice-practitioner listing relationships differently. Below is an example of how DataAxle (formally Infogroup) manages a practitioner listing within their internal database. On the frontend though, the listing doesn’t feature this “Individual – Rene L Gregor, NP”. This is important because this practitioner information gets transferred to the platforms that source data from DataAxle. DataAxle’s system is smart and understands the relationship between the practice and practitioner.

Other sites like Google My Business and Bing Places have features like “place within a place” but sometimes this doesn’t work great for small practices. When it’s a big establishment, such as a hospital or office tower for example, it often works better.

Very Important To Do’s For Your Practitioner Listings

The big really important thing you have to remember is that do not have your practitioner listing compete with your practice listing. Make sure that you are using different categories.

Dentistry is a great one. You have got the practice, the primary category you probably will want that to be dentists and then if you are adding the dentist, the obviously the category would be dentists. Make sure that you diversify it you can. In that scenario, if the dentist is just a dentist, I would not make a practitioner listing because I wouldn’t want it competing. But if the dentist is a pediatric dentist, which happens to be be a category at Google, then I would make the dentist have the pediatric dentist category, and I would do the same with all the citations I build.

If the dentist is an orthodontist for example, does braces, then I would make a practitioner listing with orthodontists. As long as it is not competing, then it’s an opportunity to rank more terms with the practitioner listing.

What Website Link Do You Use?

Okay, so you are making all of these listings. What page do you link your practitioner listing in Google My Business and all the citations? What link do you put in there?

I would link them to the practitioner page, so if it is practitioner that just practices at one location, generally that location will have like meet the team or about us and then they will have a page for each doctor or each lawyer whatever. Link the practitioner listings and the Google My Business one to that particular page and it will be the same thing if the person works in multiple clinics and you had multiple listings. Link them to the practitioner page. If you don’t have a practitioner page, you should make one. That’s what I would do.

What If the Practitioner No Longer Works at the Office or Clinic?

This is such an annoying sticky issue with practitioners. Sometimes, you will have the situation where let’s say a law firm has started and had two primary founders. They started the law firm, then one of the founders left to start their own firm.

But, the founders practitioner listing, the person that left, actually ranks for a branded term. Like, if you type in the firm name, their practitioner listing is the one that comes up in Google.

In those cases:

If the practitioner never claimed their listing, it just happened to be ranking; then you have some leverage. You can get the listing claimed and you can control it.

If the practitioner claimed it, you are almost out of luck. It is going to be very hard unless you can convince the person to at least change the phone number or the address on their listing to like wherever they moved to. But you might be in a contentious situation. And when you are in that contentious situation, it’s tough because Google says that the owner of that listing isn’t the firm. The owner of that listing is the person, because it is a listing about the person and that makes sense from their perspective. So, it can be a sticky situation.

You can try to work with Google support and see if you can get some help with it depending on the status.

Sometimes listings are abandoned, so you can get them unverified and Google My Business support can help you with that. You could try to get it unverified, but if you can’t get anywhere with that, then you are just stuck trying to get the person to update the listing to have a different phone number and a different address.

One thing is – don’t try to mark those listings as closed. I would not do that because if you mark a listing as closed then people might search and be like oh this medical clinic or this law firm is out of business now. You don’t want to mark it as closed, that can really send the wrong message.

Now I am sure I missed other things, but that’s all I have got to say about practitioner listings. Some people out there know more about it than me. Joel Headley is one, so I am expecting him to maybe debate on some of the things that I have suggested here in the comments. But yeah, if you have any other questions or comments, I love the discussion in the comments down below. And we will see you next week. Thanks for watching. See you next week.

Get Whitespark’s expert help creating accurate practitioner listings with our Listings Service. We have years experience building local business listings for practitioners.

Wait, How Should a Practitioner Listing Look?

Hey, I’m back. Jessie asked a really important question I felt deserved a follow-up video. The question is, what phone number should you use on the practitioner listings? Can they be the main office line or do they need to be a unique number? I think they need to be a unique number because you don’t want to create NAP consistency issues by having the main practice number have the same phone number and address as the practitioner listings. You can probably get away with it, and you’ll see that sometimes they rank. But the recommended practice is definitely to use a unique phone number on all of your practitioner listings.

We created this little spreadsheet here to kind of show you the optimal way that we recommend setting up each of your listings.

Main Business
You’ve got your main business listing which is the practice, so that’s all pretty basic, company name, address, the main office line, linking to the homepage or location pages, if you have a bunch of locations, and the category is what the business is.

Company Name
Location Address
Main Phone Number (Homepage or location page)
Category – What the business is/does

Practitioner one, so this is going to be the person’s name with title and credentials, so if it was a doctor it would be Dr. Joe Applebee, credentials would be those three letters at the end of people’s name (ie. Esq. esquire maybe). The address of the practitioner listings, he is a practitioner at that address, so you put that one, and this should ideally be a unique phone number.

If you don’t have a unique phone number for the practitioners you can get them through a service like Call Rail and you also would get the benefits of call tracking on those.

What should we link the practitioner listings to? I think you should link them to a practitioner specific page so it’s a bio about that particular person and their specialty, it should talk about what they do, and talk about the city, and have lots of content on it to help that particular listing to rank.

The category should be different from the practices category, so that the practitioner listings don’t compete with the practice listing.

A great example would be a law firm, so this law firm the main listing would be law firm, this practitioner would be a criminal lawyer for example. If you have another one [practitioner] it’s basically all the same, except ideally this would be a different category from this one, so if you have a criminal lawyer and a personal injury lawyer – so you’ve got a law firm and two practitioner listings, it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve got five criminal lawyers at the law firm you can still make practitioner listings for them, and they can all still be criminal lawyers, one of them will just have a better chance of ranking. But, the only reason I say ideally here is because if you’ve got five criminal lawyers then they are kind of competing against each other.

Practitioner’s Name + Credentials
Location Address of Business
Unique Phone Number
Category – practitioner specialty

Practitioner’s Name + Credentials
Location Address of Business
Unique Phone Number
Category – practitioner specialty (ideally differentiate from other practitioners)

Solo Practitioner
Then of course there is the other type which is a solo practitioner and this is the naming format, it should be brand/company name: practitioner name, then it’ll be – basically it will mimic mostly what this is – [same as the main business listing, except the business name setup] – the location address, main number, the website URL, and what the business is – primary category.

Brand/Company Name: Practitioner Name
Location Address
Main Phone Number (Homepage)
Category – What the business is

Alright, well I hope that was helpful and we will see you next week. Thanks everybody.


Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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30 comments on “How-to Handle Practitioner Listings in Google My Business (GMB) and Your Citations

  • Absolutely fantastic!

    I’ve been working for several hundred Pediatric Dentists over the past 3 years. I wish this video would have existed when I first began. Everything you said is spot on and perfectly correct. I’ve checked and double checked the best ways to handle each one of these scenarios (because I’ve had each one of this issues dozens of times) and you really hit the nail on the head here.

    I just wish you had a time machine so I could have seen this 3 years ago.

  • My business is named ‘Mark Preston SEO’ and as you guessed, my name is ‘Mark Preston’.

    Are you suggesting I create two GMB listings? One for the business and one for me (the practitioner)?

    Would that not be seen as a duplicate listing as the address and phone details would be the same?

    • In your case, it sounds like you’d be a solo practitioner. I wouldn’t create an additional practitioner listing because that would be against the guidelines since you’re a solo practitioner. You could create one of those solo-practitioner style listings, but that doesn’t make much sense for you or any solo SEOs, really.

      While I think it’s technically possible for a marketing firm to make practitioner listings for their primary people within the firm, I don’t know if there is a lot of value in it. This makes sense:
      Law Firm, criminal lawyer, and personal injury lawyer. I can’t think of a setup for marketing companies that makes good sense, but, I haven’t combed through all the categories in GMB to see if a case could be made that would drive benefit.

  • Darren, thanks for the info. I have a situation where a multi-location ophthalmologist clinic with 8 practitioners has contracted with me to make sure the practice ranks. On most occasions there are multiple practitioners at each location, because each doctor works at every location. So this has been …. ummm a little ridiculous.

    I was contracted by the firm so for the most part I have made all of the practitioners listings the generic category of Doctor. I have also made sure each has an extension number on their phone number. I also added a suite number to each location for each doctor so they would have a slightly different address. And I linked all of the practitioners to their individual page on the website. This has adequately separated the practice from the practitioners which has helped the practice rank higher. So in the end I guess it depends on the goals of your client, with how you attempt to set things up.

    Thanks again for the information.

  • Any advice on solo practitioner listings on Yelp? I’ve tried the “Business Name: Practitioner Name” format in the past, but Yelp has always split it into two listings.

    Recently, I’ve seen them altering the practitioner listings so that they’re formatted as “Practitioner Name – Business name” while still keeping a separate listing for the business itself.

    Yelp’s version tends to propagate to Bing and Yahoo, making it difficult to keep the naming consistent.

  • Most local directories have a section for staff members. For example, Manta, allows you to add staff bios. On sites that have this, would it be redundant to create a practitioner listing?

    • I don’t think so. If you can add the staff bios to the practice listing and then still add individual practitioner listings, I would.

  • Darren, thanks for the info. In order to create a different NAP for every practitioner, do you recommand to add a suite # to the address, for each of them?

    Many thanks in advance !

    • Google ignores suite numbers from a consistency perspective. They use them for display purposes only. So, the suite numbers don’t really matter much.

  • So I’ve built all my citations with just “Jenkins Chiropractic”. None of them are listed as “Jenkins Chiropractic : Dr. Logan Jenkins”. Is is really worth it to go and basically rename by business. I am a single practitioner with one location.

  • Should I add / use google posts on practitioner listings or only on the primary listing? I want the practitioner listing to be the primary one in search results.

  • Thanks for the post Darren, it gave me some good insight on Practitioner Listings.

    Would you recommend listing out company founders (for tech companies, restaurants, hotels and practically every other business) separately on GMB as you did with lawyers? Some use cases I can think of are when a consultant is well known in the local area/city or big names in the industry (where the business could benefit from having the individual associated with it).

  • Hey guys – I help therapists and psychologists market their practices. I’ve just discovered that several of my client’s GMB listings have had the category changed by someone other than them. We live in Boulder, CO — a very liberal town – and the category has been changed on many listings to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This would most likely kill their click through rate. I went into one listing and just changed it back to Psychotherapist — as a USER (not logging in to the listing). Any idea why Google is making this so easy for people to hack and hurt other businesses?

    • Hi Becky,

      Yes, this is a problem. Anyone can edit any listing, and Google usually approves the edit. This certainly opens it up to abuse like this, where a shady business owner or SEO changes the category of all their competitors listings to be something else so they drop off the rankings. Unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do about it except monitor your listings for changes. There is a service called Locadium that is helpful for alerting you to changes:

      Why is Google allowing this? I guess generally they trust that most people out there want to help make sure that the information on Google is accurate. The vast majority of the changes made by the community ARE helpful, like if a business has the wrong phone number listed, or the wrong hours of operation. When they provide a system like this, it can be abused, and it is being abused in some cases, but from Google’s perspective, they’re willing to accept a few problems in exchange for the data improvement they get. The percentage of inaccurate/harmful edits are insignificant compared to the helpful edits, so they don’t do anything about it.

  • I don’ t think this kind of categorization comes from someone hacking your listing, especially since the LDS Church would be one of the least likely to do something like that.

    I’ve seen this kind of thing happen when Google indexes information about a listing incorrectly. For instance, on a page of local businesses, I’ve seen Google connect a name with an incorrect address, such as when the organization names are below each address and Google thinks they are above the address.

    This issue should be easy to fix by simply reporting the mis-categorization to Google.

  • Hi Darren,

    This is great, but I can’t help but think about the duplication of information (specifically NAPs) and how that could potentially hurt the SEO of the practice, right? Especially when the practice has multiple locations and multiple practitioners within it. What would you suggest?

  • Hi! I am new to online advertising and I’m just getting started with setting up my website, etc. I started to create an account in Google My Business, but I am an individual real estate practitioner in an office that already has a main page set up. How can I create my own individual page? Google wants me to verify the address but I am not sure how that works since I share the office with my broker and other agents. I can’t seem to find information regarding how to create my individual practitioner listing…

  • Hi Darren,

    GMB support refuses to merge a practioner listing and the firm’s listing for a solo practioner. Do you have any advice on what to do in this situation? Does the GMB policy state that there can be only one listing in this situation?

    • Hey Lars,
      If a firm only has a solo-practitioner then yes it makes sense for them to have only 1 listing (you can read up on solo and multiple practitioners here). Google will merge the listing on behalf of the business – usually support is the easiest way to get assistance, as long as you are representing the business and you have manager level access to the listing, you should be able to get help here. If you are attempting to merge a competitors listing, then it will not be possible to do so. If you are not successful in having the solo practitioner listing removed, you could optimize it for the practitioner by updating the name, category, website url, and adding “located in” feature – see Joy’s tips here in the Local Search Forum.

  • How do you “delete” a doctor that is leaving a group practice? I have a BUSINESS listing for each of our ten clinic locations, and have set up a PRACTITIONER listing for each doctor (with help from this blog!) using his/her primary practice location only. Things have been going pretty well. A couple of doctors are leaving, but the clinic location they practiced at will remain open. I am not sure if I should first do “permanently closed” on the PRACTITIONER listing and then “Remove” or just “Remove”. I have no idea if the doctor is staying local or relocating out of state.

  • Hi Jane,

    This is a great question that I didn’t have an answer to, so I checked with Mike Blumenthal who has some good advice. He suggests that you change the address on the practitioner listing to be the address of the new location they’re going to (and the phone number if applicable), and then release the listing back out into the wild. In other words, remove it from your dashboard. The listing will remain in Google My Business, but it will no longer be managed by you, and the doctor can then claim and manage their own listing.

    If the doctor is retiring, then the listing could be actually removed if you contact GMB support and explain that the doctor is retiring.

    Hope this helps!

  • Great article, definitely the most helpful oaths topic out there! I have put my a unique phone number on my partitioner listing, but is it ok to put the main clinic number as an additional number or does that flag a NAP problem?

  • First off, incredible detail and thought was put into this and it’s greatly appreciated. Secondly, I have a question about the website you should list for the practitioners that have a separate account from the practice. Is it recommended to have a separate website for each practitioner and reference that vs using the practices website home page or the practices website specific practitioners about page ?

  • I work for a Orthopedic firm with 5 locations that have multiple practitioners that work out of each of these locations. We’ve created 5 business listings (one for each physical location) and then 5 listings for each practitioner (1 for each location for a total of 5 practitioner listings). This is currently working great!

    Anywho… One of our doctors is leaving the firm altogether and we do not know where he is going or what the phone number will be at his new place so we can’t update his practitioner listings with this new info as recommended by Mike Blumenthal.

    Any suggestions on how to handle the 5 practitioner listings we currently have for this one doctor?

    • Hey Steve,
      For the practitioner who is leaving the firm, all 5 of those practitioner listings actually belong to that doctor. I would ensure that you provide them with access to all of the listings so they can update the information once they move. In the likely case that they will no longer be operating/servicing patients out of 5 locations, the doctor can request to merge the listings into 1 practitioner listing, with their new Orthopedic company information, so that they don’t lose all of their reviews.

      Depending on the firm’s relationship with the practitioner, it may be easiest for you to wait until you have all of the information and help them update the listings and transfer ownership once you have all of the details.

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