Ok, so you Google yourself one morning while sipping your cup of coffee and something shows up that is less than flattering about your practice. It’s staring at you from the first page on Google and to make matters worse, your competitor has an advertisement about their practice on the same page.
Online reputation management is a fast-growing and very necessary business. And if you find yourself in a real bind (meaning lots of bad reviews, a very disgruntled employee, nasty competitors with a death wish against your practice), then we suggest you look a little deeper at <em>Dr Marketing Tips</em> because we’ve outlined the tools you need to fix this. If you find that you simply want to improve your ratings, make sure nothing too crazy gets out there etc., then follow this post series over the next week or so for some easy do-it-yourself tips to managing your online reputation more effectively.
Tip #1 – Create Custom Content and Do It Often (How often we’ll discuss later)
<span style=”color: #607db2;”>Creating content for your website is essential</span> to help you achieve the highest possible organic rankings in search engines. If you think content creation is for the birds, you’re right. It’s for the really smart birds that get lots of traffic on their site. In this day and age, content is king. Roughly 68 percent of online searchers don’t go past the first search results page and roughly 85 percent of all Google searches result in someone only clicking on the organic content – the stuff that’s not paid for. Obviously, that’s where your site needs to be if people are going to look at it. So, how do you get your site there with content?
Let me take a moment to stress that content is not the only key to appearing high up in search engine rankings. You also have to have a stout search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, utilize some form of social media and constantly monitor what you’re doing. But content helps. A lot. And regular, relevant, custom content helps push down those negative comments, rants and rankings that will keep you up at night.
You’re the one who did it and now it’s time to own up to it. What could I possibly being talking about? Well, you (or one of your staff perhaps) went out there and started a Facebook page or a Twitter account or built your website, etc. Now, you need to take responsibility for what is happening with these accounts.
First, in order for your social media efforts to be successful and help you build your practice and improve relationships with prospective patients then you need to be providing regular content (see Tip #1) and communications via your Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts. We know that you don’t have a lot of time but certainly there is somebody in your office that can help (or, we’ve provided all the tools you need at Dr Marketing Tips). There are many free tools out there to simplify the process, like TweetDeck or HootSuite to name a few.
Wherever you have an account, you need to be monitoring what people are saying about you. Sign up for Google Alerts and monitor your name and the name of your practice. You might as well monitor your biggest competitor too. At least if you are monitoring yourself online, you’ll be aware of something that may get out there where you might need to react.
You might ask, “What does using social media have to do with managing my online reputation?” Well, postings on Facebook and Twitter are part of your online profile and will show up in your search results. If you have a disgruntled employee or angry patient and they are bad mouthing you on one of their social media sites or even your social media site, then it’s going to show up sometime somewhere. If you are the one putting the positive, relevant information out there consistently, then it’s going to push down those negative posts. And with 68 percent of searchers not going past the first page, you need to push that bad stuff off the first page as soon as possible.
The last time you did a search on your name or practice you most likely saw a listing with a star next to your name? Maybe three out of five stars? Or, an excerpt of somebody describing an experience at your office?
Online consumer rating sites are popping up every day and your practice is not included in their service (see our article, Physician Rating Sites – Friend or Foe?) . These sites provide an outlet for patients to share their experience with others. Users post reviews, ratings and comments – and they all have an impact on whether a potential client will choose your office over a neighboring competitor.
Different sites use different jargon to determine rankings, but what you need to be concerned with is what patients are saying about their experience at your office. The more ratings you have, the higher ranked you become. The better the rankings, the more patients will call for an appointment, at least that’s how it works in theory. Conversely, negative reviews will help to keep your waiting room empty. And, all ratings and user comments (good or bad) will show up in your online profile and subsequently become part of your efforts to manage your online reputation. See this report by Katie Couric on CBS Nightly News about this very thing.
There has been some question as to whether the sites matter as much for physicians as they do to a restaurant, let’s say. A recent study released by Tara Lagu, a physician at the Tufts University School of Medicine, says that patients aren’t too interested in rating their doctors, especially if the experience was sub-par. The study examined 33 physician rating sites and they found that 88 percent of the reviews were positive, 6 percent were negative and 6 percent were neutral.
That’s great news right? It could be. The data may prove to be inconclusive however, as only 190 reviews were used for the study. Either way, you’ll want to make sure of two things:
1. Your office is listed. You’ll want to be listed and reviewed by, at least, several patients. The sites even give you an opportunity to claim “ownership” of the page if it is your business. Claiming ownership and spending ten minutes to update your profile is incredibly useful, not only for search engine optimization, but it also serves as a free listing for you to put your brand, phone number, location and even photos on the site. Take advantage of the opportunity.
2. You aren’t one of the negatively reviewed doctors. You want every review to be as positive as possible. Stars, thumbs up, numerals – whatever the system the site uses, you want to be at the top.
One of the most common questions physicians are asking right now include: “What are these sites?” and “How can I change my ratings?”
Ask your patients for help. One easy thing we’ve done for our clients is to create a small card (size of a business card – but it could be a postcard, a sign in your office or even a tablet computer handed to your patient while they wait) that our doctors can put in the pocket of their scrubs. When you come across a patient who you believe has had a positive experience with you and your practice, hand them the card and ask them to ‘rate their experience’.
We have a client made up of 18 physicians and countless front-line employees and support staff. Part of our program with this client is to provide regular monitoring of physician rating sites. We were in our monthly marketing committee meeting this week providing a review of the month’s activities and found that the one doc who sees the oldest patients (i.e., the patients we would not expect to be going online) actually had the most reviews. His patients are so loyal to him that they want to share with the world. He’s also the one physician we would have thought would have had the least positive reviews but it became glaringly obvious that his bedside manner with patients is completely different than his business manner.
Ultimately, you will not make everybody happy but whatever you can do to create a positive experience for your patients will help in maintaining good reviews and managing the reputation you have worked so hard to establish.