Human relationships are trust-based, and this truism carries forward to the relationship between a doctor and his or her patients. How do they know you will achieve the results they’re seeking? Trust. How is that trust established? Reputation. In the online world, the leading method of building a strong, positive reputation is through patient reviews. How other patients rate your service is the strongest indicator of the quality of your product, more so than social media or any other indicator. That’s why it’s important to let your patients know they can assess the qualities of your practice, whether that’s on your Google+ page or Yelp.
Online Reviews and Your Business
According to a recent survey published by Nielsen, an information and measurement company headquartered in New York City, 82 percent of Yelp users visit Yelp for the explicit purpose of buying a product or service. The same study establishes that 93 percent of users habitually make purchases from a local business after visiting Yelp. 55 percent of users call, visit, or make a direct purchase from a local business directly after visiting the site. Nine out of ten Yelp visitors make a purchase within a week of reading local reviews. Those numbers are made even more extraordinary by the fact that the site boasts of 102 million unique visits each month on average.
Yelp represents an important market and tapping into it should be considered a crucial facet of any successful online marketing campaign. But, it’s not as easy as offering your patients 10 percent off on their next appointment, and in fact those tactics suffer from a high risk of backfiring — especially when Yelp, or any other review site, decides to shut down your account! Visitors are looking for much more than the number of stars your practice has, and even the quantity of reviews you have might not matter as much as you think.
Review readers want to know what others have to say about your business. The aforementioned Nielsen survey data shows that 44 percent of Yelp users base their purchasing decisions on the review text, compared to the 26 percent of users who go by the number of stars a local business receives. In fact, what your patients have to say about your practice may be more important than word-of-mouth marketing between family members and friends. Case in point, only 14 percent of Yelp visitors base their decisions on reviews left behind by friends or family. What the data suggests is that your business should be passively encouraging patients to leave honest, unbiased reviews that truly reflect the quality of service at your practice.
Reviews also affect your business indirectly by influencing where your practice’s website(s) rank on search engines. In the 2014 edition of their annual “Local Search Ranking Factors” survey, the Moz team found that reviews make up nearly 10 percent of what determines your website’s position on a local search ranking page. By comparison, user behavior on your website — e.g. how long they stay on the site and how many pages they visit — comprises 6.9 percent of what determines your rank and your social media presence adds up to roughly 5.8 percent.
Google or Yelp?
There are a number of review sites out there, with two of the biggest being Yelp and Google. So, which one should you target? First, “targeting” anything should be avoided, since the algorithms these review sites employ to monitor their reviews are smart enough to catch anything that signals manipulation. That means you shouldn’t promise your patients something in return for a positive review. Neither should you write fake reviews. These will get caught and they will be taken down, and administrators could go as far as taking your account down altogether. Instead, simply let your patients know about the option of leaving a review — point them to the review sites you’re on through newsletters or let them know in-office. It’s also recommended that you link to your review pages on your website.
Second, it’s not a question of Google versus Yelp versus Angie’s List. The constituencies of each review site do overlap, but they also differ — think of it as tapping into different markets. Furthermore, users on different sites may have different purposes and ends, so by focusing on one you may fail to address the concerns of others. The right approach is to let your patients review your practice where they please; although, if you see that your Google+ page is lagging with respect to your Yelp page, then maybe there’s an informational disconnect in that your patients may not know about your Google+ presence. If that’s the case, as aforementioned, simply let them know that it exists. Ideally, you should have a healthy number of reviews on each of the major review websites, namely Google+ and Yelp.
What is a “healthy amount?” That’s a good question! There is no concrete figure. Providing us with that type of information invites manipulation, and that’s exactly what Yelp, Google+, et cetera are looking to avoid. The simple, if ambiguous, answer is: the number of reviews, and the reviews themselves, should be organically determined. (This is part of the reason why rewards programs for reviews are counterproductive, since they’ll lead to a non-natural rate of increase in the volume of reviews for your practice.)
Now Media Group Can Help
Successful online marketing is multi-faceted in that there are a large number of different factors that determine how accessible your practice’s online presence is to prospective patients. At Now Media Group we specialize in creating comprehensive marketing strategies that aims at addressing exactly what prospective patients are looking for — high quality information and signals of trust. Give our San Diego, CA based office a call and speak to one of our consultants today, so that we can help connect you with future patients. Contact us, Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 3:30PM, at 858-240-4544.
Director of Marketing at Now Media Group, with a background in quantitative economics and analytics. Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International.