This is the first of a three-part series on Reputation Management. As such, this section serves as a “101 course”, brushing over common questions and concerns relating to negative reviews…
So you got a bad review. Can it be removed?
Most of the time, the answer is unfortunately no.
Now, I know what you are thinking… You literally just said that this blog was going to be about taking down negative reviews. How can you say that I can’t do anything about it?
Well, most of the time you can’t get it removed, but in those situations, you CAN take action to lessen the impact. In part two and three of this series, I will cover how you can suppress and lessen the impact of the reviews you can’t remove. But for those that you can remove, keep reading because…
Some reviews can be taken down.
It’s important to know the difference between the reviews that can be taken down and the ones that can’t so you aren’t wasting your time. In order to have a chance of removing bad reviews, you have to dive into the details of each review site’s rules of ethics. Join me as I go through all the major review sites, tell you if it is possible to get a review taken down and show you how to do it…
What are the important healthcare review sites?
Let’s not waste time on the sites that don’t matter when there are plenty of ones that do. Here is a list of the sites that matter:
We’ll now work our way down our checklist as we review each site. Keep in mind the following:
- Where are reviews from this site going to show up?
- How can we tell if a review can be removed from the site?
- How do we actually remove it?
Google reviews probably show up in the most places out of all the other review sites. They show up in Google Search results, on Google+ and on Google Maps. This means, for example, that when prospective patients finally come to their appointments and use Google Maps to find your location, they can see a negative review and potentially change their minds. Also, many of the sites we will talk about show up in the Google Search results with a star rating, but Google reviews will actually display some of the text from the reviews in a large block of the screen. So, Google is the most important site that we will discuss.
Unfortunately, it may be the most difficult site to get a review removed (Facebook might be worse). In order to remove a review, it has to violate Google’s Terms of Service or you must submit a court order to Google to get the review taken down. Let’s look at the applicable sections of Google Terms of Service:
- Reviews must be real. (Obviously, it can be very difficult to prove that a review is not real. You are better off going the legal route if this is your complaint with a review.)
- Reviews cannot be sexually explicit or contain profanity. (These are the easy ones. Google is more than happy to remove these.)
- Reviews that are abusive, hateful, threatening or harassing. (Also easy to get removed.)
- Reviews that impersonate another or misrepresent an affiliation with a person or entity. (Again, you are better off going the legal route.)
- Reviews that contain an advertisement. (These are also easy to get removed.)
- Reviews that are off topic. (Easy to get removed.)
If you have a review that violates one of these items, you need only to navigate to the review, hover over it with your mouse and click the little flag icon that pops up. Then select the applicable reason, enter your email address, and Google will be in contact with you on their decision. You do not need to be an owner or manager on the page in question to submit a removal request.
Facebook is pretty important. Although they were a late comer hitting the review scene, they instantly became a major player. Individual doctors rarely have their own Facebook pages to worry about, but practices with physical locations do have to stay on top of their Facebook reviews. Facebook reviews show up on your Facebook page and the cumulative star rating will show up in search results.
In order to get a review taken down from Facebook, it has to satisfy one of the following:
- It is not related to the page.
- It is profane or sexually explicit.
- It contains harassment or hate speech.
- It contains threats or violence.
- It contains language about drugs, guns or adult products.
If it does not satisfy any of the criteria, there is nothing you can do. Facebook is notoriously difficult to reach. Unless, of course, you are spending a lot of money with them for advertising.
If your review is in violation, all you need to do is navigate to the review’s page, click the drop-down arrow on the right of the review in question and select “I don’t like this review”. Then, choose the appropriate option and submit. You have to be an administrator on the Facebook page in order to request that a review is removed.
Yelp isn’t exactly known as a healthcare review site, but if you are a doctor with a physical location, you probably have a Yelp page. Yelp pages can show up in search engine results and are also used on Apple Maps. Thus, a similar scenario to the one previously mentioned about Google Maps could play out with Apple Maps and a bad Yelp review. So, in terms of overall importance, Yelp ranks #2, but in terms of traffic, they are #3.
Yelp is very similar to Google in terms of getting reviews taken down. It has to violate their Content Guidelines or their Terms of Service in order to be removed. To summarize, it must violate one of the following:
- Reviews cannot contain inappropriate content. (This means no threats, harassment, sexually explicit content, hate speech, etc. It seems that profanity is not always grounds for removal.)
- Reviews cannot be written by those with a conflict of interest. (So reviews written by your employees, family, friends, competitors, etc. will be removed. This can be difficult to prove.)
- Reviews cannot contain promotional content. (So if someone leaves a review containing an advertisement, you can get it removed.)
- Reviews cannot violate someone’s privacy. (Any reviews that contain photos of people who did not consent to be in the picture or include the names of people other than the business owners can be subject to removal.)
To actually get a review removed, all you need to do is click the flag icon next to it and hope that Yelp’s review team determines that it violates their Content Guidelines or their Terms of Service. If it is for a business page, you need to be the owner of the page to submit a review.
HealthGrades is the next in our list, which I am basing purely on who gets the most traffic. HealthGrades can and usually does show up very high in search results when people are looking up a specific doctor. Like Facebook, the results also have the cumulative star rating next to it, so your overall rating shows up before people even go to the HealthGrades site.
The HealthGrades section will be short because there really isn’t any way to remove reviews, and there usually isn’t much of a reason because HealthGrades does not have text reviews. People just submit star ratings on a number of different criteria and the total score is calculated from all their ratings. There is no text field for horror stories. The only thing that can happen with HealthGrades is that someone submits reviews over and over again. They have their own internal systems to prevent duplicate reviews, but if you feel that your profile is getting spammed, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your complaint.
Vitals is next in terms of importance and is actually the only other review site that receives enough traffic to take it seriously. Just like HealthGrades, it shows up in the search results with the cumulative star rating of the doctor you are searching for.
Out of all of these sites, it is the easiest to get reviews removed from. Vitals requires that a review violates one of the following for removal:
- The review must be your own. You cannot write a review for someone else, save for a minor or a ward.
- The review cannot be written by an employee.
- The review cannot contain third party names.
- The review cannot be sexually explicit, threatening, harassing or promotional.
There are a couple of things that make Vitals easier to work with. First of all, you can simply click “Report Abuse” next to reviews with which you have issue. You can also reach out directly and fully explain your case by sending an email to email@example.com. And, if your review cannot be taken down, if you manage the page, you can hide up to two offensive reviews regardless of whether or not they violate anything. The only problem with the hiding feature is that the reviews still factor into the overall star rating of the profile. So it is better to get a review removed if possible.
Do you need additional support?
If you need help getting negative reviews taken down, we can quickly identify which ones can be removed and do so for you, even if it is not on one of the sites mentioned above. We also can constantly monitor your online reputation for quick reaction time to new reviews. As a full-service digital marketing agency with a specialty in healthcare, we are uniquely equipped to help you manage and grow your online reputation.
Whatever we can do for you, our goal is always to help you grow. If it sounds like we could help you out, contact us here or give us a call at 973-998-8008.
In the meantime, stay tuned for the future parts of this series. We will cover How to Suppress Negative Search Results and How to Increase Good Reviews – all focused around healthcare, our expert niche and also an industry in which your online reputation is uniquely important.