Welcome to the third and final installment of my series on reputation management. Today, we are going to take a look at what I consider to be the most important aspect of reputation management AND the most overlooked: creating and implementing a strategy to encourage more reviews.
That’s a fairly bold statement and I’m sure you’re wondering why. Let’s address…
I. Why is this considered the most important aspect of reputation management?
- Review volume has a positive impact on potential patients. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable choosing a doctor that had four out of five stars based on 50 reviews compared to a five-star doctor with five reviews. You may disagree with that example, but you cannot disagree that the number of reviews carries more weight. The sheer quantity can affect the overall perception of the doctor.
- Review quantity is a ranking factor in local searches. While I can only confirm this about reviews on Google, it is likely something that is also taken into account by the internal search engines on other review sites (e.g., you go to Yelp.com and use their internal search function to find a doctor). Even if this is only important for Google, as I discussed in the first part of this series, How to Get a Negative Review Removed, Google is the most important review site. So when patients go to Google to look for a doctor, the number of reviews that you have on your Google My Business page is taken into account when Google determines where your page should rank.
- Negative ratings have less impact. If you are a competent healthcare provider, you will mostly receive positive reviews. Mostly. On occasion, however, you will get a patient who decides you deserve zero stars for whatever reason. If you only have five reviews, this will negatively impact your overall rating. If you have 50, it really won’t move the needle that much.
- Reviews add unique content to your profiles. Not only do search engines like to rank pages that have been recently updated, but the unique, user-generated content can help your profile rank for a wider range of keywords.
II. Why is this aspect so often overlooked?
There are two main reasons why the emphasis on encouraging reviews is overlooked:
- Usually when someone decides to undertake a reputation management project, it is a reaction to a negative review. So, the goal becomes laser-focused on getting the review removed or suppressed, not to encourage new reviews. Most doctors and practices are just not being proactive with their reputation management.
- Some doctors and practices are afraid of getting more reviews. Assuming they are competent healthcare providers, this is because they already have good reviews online and don’t want to chance bringing down their ratings. Healthcare providers don’t want to rock the boat. Unfortunately, they are under the illusion that they have control of these review sites. They don’t. You don’t. You are completely at the mercy of your patients, and as I discussed in the first two parts of this series, it’s really hard to get a negative review taken down and even more difficult to suppress one. Therefore, your best option for creating a lasting, positive online reputation is to encourage as many reviews as possible.
So now that you understand why this is such an important part of reputation management that cannot be ignored, let’s get into the methodology…
How to Encourage More Online Reviews
There are two main goals for your strategy to encourage reviews: making it as easy as possible for patients to submit reviews and making sure you play by the rules of the review sites. To the latter point, many of the review sites have fairly stringent rules about what you are allowed to say to patients and pretty much all of them clearly state that you cannot incentivize reviews.
What you can’t do:
- Set up a “review kiosk” at your place of business. Most sites specifically state that you cannot have people submitting reviews onsite. So really, you should discourage any reviews being submitted onsite.
- Incentivize reviews. This one is pretty obvious. Incentivized reviews are not usually going to be very accurate or helpful, so pretty much every review site forbids this practice.
- Get the same person to post reviews on multiple sites. While this can be difficult for the review sites to detect, it is something that some of them can detect and, if they can, it’s usually grounds to get a review removed. As a best practice, this should be avoided.
- Ask for reviews. I know this seems extremely counter-intuitive, but most review sites state that they do not want you to ask patients for reviews. What you can do instead is say, “Check us out on ReviewSite.com!” It’s kind of ridiculous because the intent is obviously to get more reviews, but we have to play by the rules, no matter how inane they may be.
What you can (and should) do:
- Make sure that your patients know that you are on these review sites. This includes in-office signage, flyers that are handed out to patients, traditional and digital newsletters, etc.
- Make it as easy as possible for your patients to submit reviews. Include links in your e-newsletter or in a standard post-appointment follow up email. Create guides on how to create accounts and submit reviews and put them in waiting areas in your office. One thing to remember, especially if most of your patients are older, is that many are not tech-savvy and might need a little help to submit their reviews.
- Focus on past patients, too! Don’t solely focus on current patients. Make sure you are reaching out to old patients on your email lists to encourage reviews.
- Encourage reviews on multiple sites. Don’t just pick one site and run with it. Not every patient uses the same review site during the searching process. You want to have lots of good reviews on all of them.
- Craft good, HIPAA-compliant responses to reviews. People like to receive feedback to their reviews, positive or negative. Responding shows that the doctors or practices engage and that they care. Responses, if crafted well, can also take the sting out of a negative review.
Many healthcare practices are behind the curve when it comes to reputation management. They don’t think to pursue reputation management at all until they see a negative review, and even then, they are only interested in trying to get it removed. Don’t fall into this trap! Online reviews are the internet version of word-of-mouth advertising and should be a major part of any healthcare digital marketing strategy.
Points Group is a full-service marketing and consulting agency with a specialty in healthcare. We are fully equipped to create and execute your reputation management strategy and that includes increasing your review volume. Contact us online here or give us a call at 973-998-8008.