Tom Seery, CEO, RealSelf
First announced in the technology blog techcrunch, Google made a significant change this week to the way patient reviews of doctors (and all local businesses) get displayed in Google Places. This has important implications for online doctor reputations.
Prior to this week, reviews from 3rd party sites were used to develop an aggregate number of postings and star rating for a doctor. Ratings were pulled in from services like Vitals, RateMD, HealthGrades, Yelp and dozens of others. Most SEO experts had posited that the reviews aggregated in a Google Places listing impacted a doctor’s ranking in Google search results. Hence, many doctors instituted programs where they asked patients to add reviews to these rating sites.
Going forward, Google is only displaying reviews posted directly to a doctor’s Google Places profile. (Can’t find yours? Go to http://maps.google.com and search for your location and name). It’s too early to know whether Google’s algorithm uses these reviews as a ranking factor in search results. It’s fair to assume they do have some influence, and at the least, the star ratings remain highly visible to consumers in search.
This Google update has a few key takeaways for doctors:
1) Your star rating shown on Google local search results is likely entirely different now vs. last week
2) Be proactive about protecting and building your online reputation– suggest to patients that they post a quick review on Google Places (vs. a doctor ratings site) — this may help your SEO performance
3) Ranking on Google is not the end all, be all. Millions of prospective patients are visiting sites that allow for deep research of a cosmetic procedure such as RealSelf.com and makemeheal. Getting your patient reviews onto these sites remains important to the word-of-mouth marketing of your practice.
A key reminder from this update is that Google constantly changes the rules; remain cautious of vendors who promise rankings in Google or other quick marketing fixes.