- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On August 3, 2015
- Online reputation management, SEO
The growth of doctor review sites like Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, and ZocDoc makes it abundantly clear that online reviews play a major role in healthcare decisions. Even Yelp is part of this movement; one survey found it to be the most trusted healthcare review site, so it’s not just for pizza and bagels. But reviews play another role as well, and that’s helping patients find you in the first place.
72 percent of Internet users say they’ve looked for health information online in the last year, and 77 percent of those users began their journey on Google or another search engine. Whether they find your health system and your doctors depends on the strength of your local SEO, and all those reviews are some of the most important factors in the melting pot of local search rankings
As I wrote a few weeks ago, Google loves reviews because its users love reviews. Perform any local healthcare search, especially for an individual physician, and you’ll see many of those sites near the top of the results. If you were to search for your own doctors, chances are that some of them would outrank pages you’ve worked hard to optimize. It’s not coincidence; the Google algorithm has learned from millions of searches that its users want to read reviews, and it’s designed to give them what they want.
Find out which review sites matter most
The problem is that if that your system has more than a few locations, the task of maintaining all those review sites can quickly get out of hand. It’s critical, then, to identify the best sites to work with and prioritize them. You can do this by searching for a location in your system that already ranks well, or identify one in another system, and taking note of the sites that rise to the top. Searching for a few locations will help you eliminate outliers.
Don’t forget about your Google My Business listing—It’s a source of reviews as well, and you only need five reviews for a star rating to appear next to a location in local search results.
Actively seek new reviews
Review frequency matters to search engines. Instead of waiting for patients to come to you, seek them out as part of your patient engagement process. Doing this with every patient will help prevent penalties that could occur if you suddenly go from no reviews to many reviews.
Automatically follow up appointments by emailing patients and asking them to rate your services. Some appointment calendar platforms will do this for you, or other services will do it separately. When patients rate you well, provide them with instructions for posting their comments online. Set up notifications for negative ratings so you can follow up and make things right for the next appointment.
Monitor reviews in your search results
Most people only read between two and six reviews before forming an opinion about a hospital or doctor, so a short stretch of negative reviews could be turning prospective patients away. There’s no way to remove negative ratings from review sites, but you can counter them with positive ratings from happy and satisfied patients.
Host reviews on your website
An alternative to dealing with Healthgrades, RateMDs, and the rest is to host the reviews on your own website. The boost those pages will receive from Google could very well push them above the other sites, leading prospective patients straight to your system’s site and bringing them one step closer to conversion.