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No shortcuts: Real talk about your online reviews

Doctors and marketers, here’s a simple truth: There is no company on earth that can solicit and post patient reviews directly to Google or Yelp without risking demotion of your local business in Google or Yelp search results. Why? Google and Yelp enforce strict no-solicitation policies in order to protect consumer trust and maintain the integrity of their user-generated content. There’s a reason why they remain the most trafficked platforms among consumers today.

As reviews become more valuable (and utilized by 84% of patients to select a doctor),1 more companies are tempting practices with bold promises of five-star ratings. But buyer beware, there’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to online reputation. In fact, trying to “game” the system can have the opposite effect and damage your online credibility.

123 patient reviews lost overnight

Recently, a handful of dental practices found that more than 20% of their Google reviews had disappeared overnight. Upon closer examination, it turns out that the manner in which those reviews were collected and syndicated violated Google or Yelp’s review policies (likely without the knowledge of the practice owners themselves) — an offense penalized with review removal.

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Incidents like this aren’t rare. As online reputation building becomes increasingly integral to practice growth, companies looking to capitalize on demand with bold solutions are likely to raise red flags at Google and Yelp. These are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Illegally hiding unflattering reviews
  • Using aggressive spam tactics on patients
  • Promises of review syndication to Google or Yelp

These review solutions aren’t just inappropriate; they’re ineffective, costly to business, and will inevitably be flagged by Google and Yelp.

Playing by hard and fast rules

Success in the digital age begins with Google — over 1 billion people rely on Google Search, which represents more than 60% of all US internet users. Yelp attracts 142 million visitors every month, and users rank Yelp as the most trusted site for making health and medical searches. Needless to say, no business or healthcare organization can afford to be sidelined by these two mega platforms.

Google’s algorithms are custom-tailored to flag and remove reviews that are posted in rapid succession from one IP address or the same geographic area, as well as reviews that are created by a bot or solicited. Yelp, no less protective, recently instituted an airtight policy against review solicitation and have “tuned” their recommendation software to flag solicited reviews. They state on their blog: “We care most that the content on our site is high quality, reliable and organically motivated…”3 

These companies know that organic and authentic reviews are the key to consumer trust. They protect their credibility accordingly.

Best practices for compliant reputation management

While there’s no shortcut to cultivating a stellar online reputation, there are numerous studies on patient preferences that provide a solid roadmap. Here are three surefire tips that will set you up for success.

  • First impressions matter: 77% of patient journeys begin with online search. That means it’s more critical than ever that your practice and provider listing information is accurate, up to date, and consistent across the web, especially on the most trafficked healthcare sites. There’s nothing more frustrating for patients than showing up at the wrong location or choosing a provider based on inaccurate data.
  • Focus on customer experience: Good customer service is becoming increasingly important for patients. 96% of negative reviews are related to customer service issues like office staff demeanor or long wait times.4 Patients want to feel like their time and money is valued, even in healthcare scenarios. Providing a great in-office experience, timely patient communication, and convenient scheduling options can go a long way.
  • Make it easy with modern tools: More than 50% of patients say online and mobile health tools increase their satisfaction with their healthcare experience5 and would switch providers for better responsiveness and convenience.6 Consumers of all generations appreciate the ability to request an appointment from their mobile devices day or night without having to dial a number and wait on hold. It’s no surprise that millennials prefer not to make phone calls and 75% would rather use mobile apps instead.7  This is important for practices, not only because millennials are the largest living generation in the US, but because they’re the most likely to leave a review. Also keep in mind that millennial patients have increasingly older parents and are playing a key role in coordinating their medical visits. Enabling seamless booking options on major consumer sites will win your practice major points as well as potential new patients.

While your #1 priority should be delivering exceptional care and treatment to your patients, it’s important to know that patient satisfaction today encompasses every touchpoint leading up to and beyond the clinical experience. For more helpful tips, be sure to check out our guide on mastering online reviews.

Rising to modern responsibility

Online reviews are no longer just an essential part of the patient journey; they’re starting to play a greater role in the healthcare industry as a whole. Some studies indicate a correlation between online reviews and the quality of doctors and hospitals. An increasing number of hospitals and organizations even leverage reviews to improve facilities, services and care.

Thought leaders in the field, like Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, MD, go as far as to say that “looking after online presence is part of the new professional responsibility.” And he makes a valid point: Patients rely more and more on authentic feedback to inform major health- and life-related decisions.

In sum, the subject of online reviews in healthcare isn’t going anywhere, and it may even appear in medical school curricula in the near future. Healthcare practitioners need to invest in holistic customer-centric strategies that will ultimately translate to strong online credibility. There’s no shortcut to a great reputation!

To learn more about increasing your success with online patient engagement that comply with no-solicitation policies, contact Doctor.com at (888) 666-8135 or email [email protected] today.

Sources:

1. https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/

2. http://www.submitexpress.com/yelp-fake-reviews-under-investigation.html/

3. https://www.yelp-support.com/article/Don-t-Ask-for-Reviews?l=en_US

4. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/patients-no-1-complaint-front-desk-staff.html

5. RBC Capital Markets Consumer Health & Information Technology Survey, December 2014

6. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-patient-engagement-consumer-loyalty

7. https://www.openmarket.com/blog/millennials-prefer-text-over-talk/

8. https://www.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/R-PHYF-0417.pdf

9.  http://www.aappublications.org/news/2017/09/15/NCEReputation091617

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