I own a doctor directory, and am trying to rank higher. I looked at what some other websites in the space are doing, and I ran across something that didn't make sense to me. When I search for "cardiologists near denver,co" the top result is a site called healthgrades.com. Clicking to the result page I see the widespread use of 800 numbers rather than the office number of the doctor. I called the number and the operator tried to make an appointment with a hospital rather than the doctor it listed. I thought local number was a high ranking factor?
Digging deeper I see that they do have the doctor phone number, but it is suppressed under a hide/show link under the text "Secondary Contact Information". This seems fishy to me. Why is the actual office phone number called "Secondary" and why is it hidden? To me they seem to recognize that local numbers are a ranking factor, but are redirecting users to call the 800 number instead. But they rank consistently high in the SERPs despite these methods.
I talked to someone at healthgrades.com, and they told me they use the phone numbers to set appointments with hospitals who pay for the privilege of buying the right to the 800 numbers on particular profiles (sometimes buying an entire specialty in entire states!) They told me that healthgrades.com owns the profiles, not the doctors, and they can do whatever they see fit - even selling appointments to other doctors(!!!)
On a search for their 800 number (ex: 1-888-513-8038) I see that they have also have distributed this 800# to directories such as yellowpages.com.
Does that mean I can use 800 numbers as well without it affecting my rank? Or is it always better to use the local phone number? I'd also like to use an 800 number to distribute to directories such as yellowpages.com as well - Is that a good idea, or should I always use the local phone number?