- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On April 1, 2015
- Online reputation management
Do you know what people are saying about you online? If you don’t, you could be losing patients or donors.
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t even try a new restaurant without checking its reviews on Yelp first. And if you’d put that extra effort into choosing dinner, why should choosing a doctor or a hospital be any different? More and more consumers now think that it shouldn’t be.
Google spent a year tracking the activity of people who researched hospitals online and then analyzed the behavior of those who actually found a doctor or hospital and contacted them to make an appointment. 76% of patients used hospital sites to do their research, and an almost identical percentage used search engines. 52% used other health information sites as well.
The first percentage is excellent news for hospital marketers, because you have absolute control over what people see when they visit your website. It’s especially encouraging if you’ve optimized your content to rank highly for prime keywords. But the others are less comforting, unless you know exactly what people will find if they click on the second or third search results instead.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to step into a prospective patient’s shoes for a few minutes. Here are a few steps you can take to see what they see.
You probably do this already as part of your SEO efforts, so here’s an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Instead of just taking note of where you rank relative to your competitors, spend some extra time actually looking at what the actual results say. Open up an incognito window so your cookies and browsing history don’t influence the results and start entering keywords.
Searching for keywords both with and without your hospital’s name attached will give you a more complete picture of what’s visible to people who are Googling you. Search for your top doctors as well, especially those with more name recognition.
You’ll probably see a lot of directories that you might usually skip over. Don’t! Many of those directories have reviews attached, and a single negative comment could have a significant impact on whether you convert leads into patients or see them go to other hospitals. Make sure you prioritize sites specifically intended for hospital and doctor reviews like Healthgrades, ZocDoc, and RateMDs.
If you feel like it’s appropriate, you can often reply to reviews, but even if you don’t choose to do that, any reviews you find are valuable feedback that your colleagues can use to improve operations at your hospital.
Encourage patients to post reviews
If your hospital doesn’t have a profile on any of those sites, set one up! Then set up ways to remind your patients that they can tell others about the great experience they had with your doctors and staff. It’s a great way to keep the calls-to-action in your email newsletters and blog posts fresh instead of repeating the same ones over and over again.
Of course, Google isn’t the only place people go to when they’re looking to find out about a hospital. Keep an eye on what people are saying about you on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks as well. Many people turn to their Twitter followers or Facebook friends when they’re looking for recommendations. Those tweets often end up in Google results as well, so if something at your hospital is causing people to reach negatively, there’s more than one way for prospective patients to find it.
When you’re done standing in your searchers’ shoes, don’t just forget about it and move on. The internet, especially social media, moves in real time, so it’s important to make monitoring your online reputation part of your regular marketing efforts.