How to Get Online Reviews for Your Medical Practice
Do you trust and choose businesses that don’t have any online reviews? No? So why would your patients?
If you want your waiting room to be full nowadays, you need to be found online. Since most people don’t venture far past Page 1 of the Google search results, your site needs to rank well. And for that to happen, you need online reviews – and we’re going to tell you how to get them.
Before we jump into the deep end, let’s start with the basics – like why online reviews are so important for your practice’s success.
Humans and Search Engines Agree – Your Online Reputation Matters!
If you read that first paragraph—as most people are prone to do when reading a blog post—you picked up on the fact that reviews have something to do with getting found online, but what exactly is their role in search engine rankings?
Well, search engines like Google want to provide their users with the best possible experience. This means compiling a list of websites that are trustworthy and have a stellar reputation.
One-way search engines can determine if a site is relevant and trustworthy is by factoring in how much time the average user spends on it – which is a prime reason your website needs to have compelling, interesting content.
Another is by factoring in online ratings.
Essentially, if Google finds two sites that are completely equal in all facets—bounce rates, average time spent on page, etc.—but one has an average 4.7-star rating and the other has a 2.3-star rating, guess which ranks higher?
Obviously, it’s not going to be the lower-rated one!
Being a factor in how your site ranks in search engine results pages (SERP) is important, but there’s more to the story.
See, search engine algorithms aren’t the only ones paying attention to those reviews – so too are actual humans.
At this point, 97% of consumers are reading online reviews (according to BrightLocal’s “Local Consumer Review Survey 2017”).
Given how common this practice is, the odds are quite high you do it yourself!
And when people read reviews, they factor other peoples’ experiences into their decision whether to spend their hard-earned money on products or services (such as the medical treatment you provide).
In fact, BrightLocal’s research also determined that “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
It is difficult to overstate the importance of that statistic for a simple reason:
Personal recommendations are the most powerful form of marketing.
All of this makes it pretty clear – you need to have a good online reputation.
Cultivate Your Online Reputation by Getting Reviews!
We know firsthand—since clients tell us as much all the time—that most doctors actually do have a general understanding about the importance of online reviews, even if it’s kind of vague. (And hopefully we could give you some clarity on the matter!)
The big problem is simply not knowing how to get patient reviews.
We’ll discuss strategies that can bolster your online rep in just a moment, but it’s best if we begin by covering some of the “don’ts” to keep in mind when it comes to getting online reviews.
There are certain practices that cause more harm than good for both how search engines rank your site and what people think of your practice, such as:
- Incentivizing reviews. Exchanging anything for a patient’s review—and especially on a 3rd party’s site (like Yelp or RateMDs)—can not only cost you your organic reviews, but may also result in a fine.
- Having patients leave reviews at your office. This isn’t necessarily a bad thought – the patients are already there, so why not have a kiosk where they can leave a review before they go, right? The problem with this, though, is that Google can identify the IP address and may penalize you for it.
- Writing reviews for patients. Trying to manipulate what people say about your practice is unethical. Period. You cannot dictate what a patient says about you.
Understanding what not to do is vital for making sure your SERP rankings and online reputation aren’t penalized or tarnished.
With regards to what you should do, we need to get back to the basics. If you want something, sometimes you need to ask.
And the truth of the matter is this:
If you aren’t asking your best patients to speak up, you are missing out in a major way.
You have other ways to ask patients if they’d be willing to leave a review for your practice (hold those thoughts) but the absolute gold standard is to ask in-person.
Some people struggle with asking someone in front of them to give them a review, and that’s completely natural. After all, there’s a certain “fear of rejection” that can come into play. The way to overcome that, however, is to put yourself in the patient’s shoes.
If you were pleased with the service you received and were then asked to leave an online review, would you?
Keeping the “if you were pleased” part in mind, the odds are pretty good you’d do it.
At our core, humans like feeling helpful. Social psychologists typically attribute this to either social exchange theory or social responsibility norm.
With specific regards as to why someone would want to leave a review after they’ve received outstanding service, a better explanation is the reciprocity norm – an unwritten social rule that makes us feel obligated to help those who’ve helped us.
Again, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask patients for reviews.
One final thought about this is the added bonus of being able to use your own discretion in choosing which patients you want to ask for reviews, and which ones are better left unasked.
Beyond asking your patients at the end of their visits with you, another way to request reviews is through an automated email campaign.
You might think that there’s a risk your email will ask someone who would leave a negative review to do exactly that – but we have some good news:
When you use an email campaign like this, there are measures that can filter out potential bad reviews. (And this is really the same as choosing not to ask an irritated customer in-person.)
We know this can be done because it’s exactly what we do when clients ask!
Now, there are certain measures that should be taken to optimize your emails’ open and conversion-to-review rates. Fortunately, we are well-versed in creating emails that work for you and your practice.
Speaking of your practice, another strategy for getting patient reviews is to have your staff members ask for them.
In this case, it is imperative that you first impart why this is so important to your team. This should be easy to do, since your employees benefit when your practice is strong.
You also need to establish and communicate a set of guidelines covering when team members should ask, and how to know which patients are the right ones. If you don’t develop guidelines, you could end up with multiple team members asking the same patient – which could turn a potential review into a non-review or, worse, a negative one.
Finally, you may want to include a dedicated page on your website about this.
If you decide to take this approach, the wording of the content needs to be very carefully written. The general message of the page should be educational in nature – saying “if you want to leave a review, here are places where you can do so and the steps you need to take.”
It can be beneficial to frame the conversation in a “Would you like to help others?” kind of way.
The inherent risk with this practice is that it not only makes it easier for happy patients to leave reviews, but also patients who aren’t exactly about to sing your praises. That said, strategies can be developed to manage this risk (such as combining a reviews-centric landing page with a targeted email campaign).
After You Start Getting Reviews
We discuss this in greater depth in another blog post, but you need to understand that getting online reviews isn’t the end of the process for you.
You need to manage your online reputation, and this means addressing reviews – both good and bad.
Let’s start with the more obvious case.
When you get a negative review, it can be rather disheartening. That makes complete sense because someone is basically attacking your practice and it’s hard not to take that personally. But you need to adopt a different mindset:
Negative reviews are actually an opportunity!
How you respond to a less-than-sunny review says a lot about your character – and that matters to people who are considering your practice. Further, if you handle the situation correctly, you will even find that negative comments and reviews are taken back and replaced with positive ones.
But for positive reviews, you can just sit back and relax, right?
If you respond to positive reviews, it’s more likely that other patients will leave them.
Manage Your Online Reputation with VMD Services!
At this point, you understand why you need online reviews and strategies for how to get them – and that means you’re ready for the next steps: creating and implementing your review strategy.
We know that can seem like a daunting task—because it is—but you don’t have to do it on your own!
Instead, contact VMD Services and let’s discuss how your practice can be found online by the patients who are looking for the care you provide. Our team is experienced, skilled, and looking forward to helping you grow your practice.
All it takes is a simple phone call—you can reach us at (833) 823-3335—to get started today!
Fill your waiting room with the kinds of patients you want to treat.