The Hidden Advantages of Online Patient Reviews

Written by on June 4, 2012 in Practice tips - No comments

By Amanda Kanaan

Look no further than online patient reviews to discover what is good, bad and downright ugly about your practice. It’s important to monitor these reviews in order to improve patient care and manage your online reputation, but there’s another hidden advantage that is perhaps the most valuable of all in attracting new patients – to boost your website’s search engine rankings.

By participating in free review websites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, and even Yelp, you can help maximize your website’s rankings and ultimately increase the number of new patients visiting your site. It’s beneficial to optimize your listings on as many review sites as possible, but arguably the most valuable review source of all, due to its popularity, is Google Places.

Google Places (the section of Google search results that lists local businesses) collects ratings from various sites and provides a comprehensive list of patient reviews. Similar to how Google uses a special algorithm to rank websites, there is also an algorithm associated with Google Places. Google relies on factors such as, how many reviews you have and how extensively you fill out your Google Places listing to rank local businesses, such as medical practices and in a particular order.

Since the Google Places listings are merged with Google’s organic search engine results, you have an even greater chance of ranking on page one just by optimizing your Google Places listing. Unlike some review sites, Google actually allows you to respond to reviews by Google users. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your customer service skills by promptly responding to negative reviews to show patients you are listening. You can’t delete negative reviews but what you can do is encourage your happy patients to dilute negative comments with positive ones.

One or two bad reviews will not significantly harm your reputation as long as there are three or four positive ones as well. Posting a request through a link on your website or Facebook page are great ways to ask satisfied patients to post reviews. Google recognizes when you keep your profile up to date and are an active participant in your listing, and uses this as a major part of their algorithm when calculating rankings.

There are many reasons to monitor and manage your online patients reviews, but perhaps most beneficial of all is the opportunity to improve your website rankings in Google. For good or for bad, online patient reviews are an effective way to promote and grow your practice.

Here’s how you can use online patient reviews to boost your rankings in Google Places.

1.  Claim your listing:

Google Places retrieves  information  from various online directories to create listings. Therefore, your practice may already exist in Google Places. Start by searching Google Places by your telephone number and then claim your listing(s) if you haven’t already. All you need for this is a Google account (simply sign up for a free Gmail account if you don’t already have one). Delete any duplicate listings as this may harm your rankings and do not use the same phone number for multiple locations.

2.  Complete your listing:

After you claim your Google Places account, you will want to fill out your profile as completely as possible. That includes adding a link to your website, images and a description of your practice. Be sure to use keywords that relate to your practice or specialty. Your Google Places page will show your profile’s completion rate and it is most effective when it reaches 100 percent.

3.  Use reviews to your advantage:

Some physicians are hesitant to get involved in online resources such as Facebook and patient review websites, but the truth is the conversation is happening with or without you so take advantage of the opportunity to positively brand your practice.

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