Article written by Amanda Kanaan, owner/founder of WhiteCoat Designs. Originally featured in KevinMD.com - Social Media's Leading Physician Voice
Look no further than online patient reviews to discover what is good, bad, and downright ugly about your practice. Some will say it’s important to monitor these reviews in order to improve patient care or manage your online reputation, but there’s another hidden advantage that is perhaps the most valuable of all – to boost your website rankings.
By participating in free review websites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, and even Yelp, you can help maximize your website rankings and ultimately the number of patients visiting your site. Though it’s important to optimize your listings on every review site with a description of your business and a link to your website, perhaps the most beneficial review source of all is Google Places.
Google Places (the section of Google search results that lists local business and a corresponding map) not only combines all your reviews in one place, but it also allows you to directly respond to those reviews from Google users and plays a major part in your organic search results.
Recently Google decided to merge the organic results with Google Places. That means you have an even greater chance of ranking on page one of the search engine results just by optimizing your Google Places listing. Just like they use to rank website results, Google Places also has an algorithm (think of it like a secret sauce recipe) that is used to determine in what order listings appear. This is where the online patient reviews come in, which is one of the top factors Google uses to calculate your ranking in the Google Places results.
Here’s how you can use online patient reviews to boost your ranking in Google Places and thus the local organic search engine results.
1. Claim your listing. Google Places pulls information from 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’ll want to fill out your profile as completely as possible. That includes adding a link to your website 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 completion rate. Make sure it reaches 100 percent to be most effective.
3. Manage reviews. 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 hurt your reputation as long as there are three or four positive ones right next to it. Facebook and Twitter are great resources for asking 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 rank.
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 (and free) way to promote and grow your practice. You might as well use them to your advantage.
Amanda Kanaan is a medical marketing author, marketing speaker, and consultant. She blogs at WhiteCoat Designs and can be reached on Twitter @whitecoatdesign. WhiteCoat Designs provides cost-effective medical website design, medical marketing and social media services to doctors and the healthcare industry.