What you should know before creating an online reputation management strategy for your medical practice
Online reputation management is the process of proactively monitoring, requesting, and responding to online reviews of your practice. Online reviews influence how prospective and existing patients and referrers discover your practice when searching online. Comprehensive online reputation management includes requesting online reviews and feedback from your patients, monitoring the reviews generated from your requests, and the messages you leave in response.
Online reputation management serves medical and dental practices by helping showcase differences among local healthcare providers. Prospective patients look for these differences in online reviews.
Proactive online reputation management ensures prospective patients discover authentic, recent, and relevant reviews. People trust what other people say when evaluating which local practice to select, and prospective patients almost always include online research during their selection process.
Google reviews matter because Google is the “new front door” where many prospective patients first learn about local providers. Typical online research includes reading the top online reviews and responses from the practice, hours of operation, and the ease of scheduling an appointment.
Reputation management software helps complete the cycle by encouraging patients to leave a review of their own, helping guide more traffic to the practice’s page.
Once a small global repository, today, the web overflows with millions of local businesses including every sort of medical practice: MDs, specialists, dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, therapists, treatment centers, and wellness professionals like physical therapists.
A potential patient such as “Donna in Denver” once had to specifically search for “Dentists in Denver.” The top results would have been 3rd party listings on sites like Healthgrades, Vitals, or RateMDs.
Today, Donna just searches for “Dentists near me” and Google automatically highlights the top results near her. Google knows where Donna is located and displays results just for her. Searches that include the term “near me” have increased over 900% over the past decade.
Local search results are displayed by Google on the 1st page within “Google My Business” or Google Maps. Most searchers see what is called the “local 3-pack” which highlights the top results (often the top 3 results).
Dr. Ryan Corte has called Google
The new front door to your practice.
Third-party listings are generally not displayed at the top of the results today.
Search engines attempt to display highly relevant results for every search. A practice physically near a searcher has an advantage, but location is just one factor. To rank well, medical offices, clinics, and practices need to have a clear strategy for managing their online reputation.
What does “local search” really mean? Google understands the differences: in New York City, “local” may be within a few blocks, but in Deer Isle, Maine, “local” travel might be off-island.
There are dozens of factors that influence local search ranking, including travel times, typically used transportation, the type of practice (e.g. general or specialized), and the nature of the care (e.g. emergency, preventive, or elective).
Each city, town, or even county is different, but the goal is always for your practice to develop and maintain a strong local online reputation. Strong online reputations work in every locality: Denver, Duluth, and Deer Isle.
As a medical professional you know expert advice is important, but be wary of so-called “experts” claiming Google sets specific requirements for online reputation management. Search engines like Google offer only general advice.
Google’s advice for healthcare providers can be summarized as,
What matters most to your patients, is what matters most to us.
You and your staff are the experts at understanding your patients. Your work to continuously improve patient experience is critical to your ability to manage your online reputation.
Every practice (from urban to rural) will need a different strategy to strengthen their reputation. Your objective shouldn’t be a set number of stars or even a specific number of reviews. Consider your location and the number of similar practices near you when setting your objectives.
Make sure you are highlighting everything that is unique or special about your practice. To maintain and improve your online reputation, you’ll want to get reviews from all of your patients (not just a selected few).
Getting reviews from every patient increases the authenticity, diversity, and “freshness” of your reviews. You or your staff should also make sure that meaningful responses are left for every review: even the “bad” ones!
They do, but probably not in the way you might think. It’s expected that authentic organizations (including medical practices) will have a few negative reviews because a perfect “5-star rating” can seem “too good to be true.”
Patients perceive a few negative reviews as evidence that your practice is authentic. That is why it’s important that you respond to all your reviews: patients want to be listened to. Prospective patients want to see that your practice is actively listening to all their patients, whether there was a problem or not.
Every practice is different, so each needs an online reputation management strategy of its own. A local reputation management strategy supports “the public face of your practice” and should reflect the nature of your clinic(s), the number of providers, your location(s), the age of your practice, the frequency (or lack) of repeat patients, and other factors including the name of the practice.
Reputations are dynamic, evolving over time. A practice reputation isn’t going to bloom (nor wilt) overnight. Reputations take months, even years to build up. Be wary of a “quick fix” and anyone offering one!
Google’s algorithms will find it suspicious if you’ve earned 3 reviews in the last few months (or years) and suddenly you earn 30 or 60 or more. Likewise, after a year or two of steady reviews, if they just stop, that is also suspicious.
Google continuously learns what people want, and adapts local search results to help them find it. That’s why listening to all your patients is a key part of your reputation management strategy.
Content marketing, SEO, and reputation management work together to boost a practice’s reputation. They are the strategies and tactics that allow prospective patients to easily discover and select your practice.
Using these tactics together makes it easier for prospective patients to find your practice and learn what current patients are saying about it. Most medical and dental offices have lots of happy patients but aren’t effective at requesting online reviews from all patients.
Content marketing for a local practice is the strategy of generating fresh content relevant to patients and referrers. Patient reviews authentically “speak to” or are the best “answer” to searches from prospective patients, such as “dentist open on Saturday near me.” Meaningful responses to reviews demonstrate a practice is listening to patients.
If a patient review left on Google is highly relevant, the practice can gain rank. When relevant snippets from reviews may be displayed. Reviews are a significant factor influencing how a medical or dental practice will rank.
Prospective patients filter the results using star rankings. However, Dr. Ryan Corte says
Google defines search engine optimization (SEO) as small modifications that over time have a noticeable impact on your [practice’s] ranking in “organic” search results. Local SEO refers to modifications impacting local searches like “a doctor near me.” Organic results are ranked by earning relevance versus ads, which are paid for.
Authentic patient reviews significantly contribute to a practice’s SEO and content strategy. Google favors fresh reviews, because potential patients are drawn to recent reviews. Every new review is “a small modification” that “over time” ensures your practice can be discovered and selected.
If you want to achieve the best online reputation, steady repeatable progress is key. Reputation management software like Doctible is critical because it offers a low cost, highly automated process for requesting patient reviews and facilitating responses.
Medical and Dental practices tell us that before they started using reputation management software it was very hard to engage with patients and most didn't leave a review. Our customers have found online reputation management software is far more effective.
Doctible customer, Dr. Ryan Doctor Corte tried everything else before trying Doctible,