This morning I lectured at the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic (a local CE organization) about website marketing. In my presentation I demonstrated internet trends as they pertain to user searches for healthcare information. One of my slides had a graph illustrating the use of review sites in researching and rating doctors.
While this study was in 2008, I was surprised the numbers were as low as they were. Consider that 80% of internet users have searched for health information. Only 20% (of all users) have accessed doctor reviews. A bit over 1/3 that were looking up a doctor read reviews. Only 7%of those using the internet to find a doctor have posted reviews. I remain relatively unimpressed.
You are the bagman… I am the dentist… goo goo g’joob…
You may have come across any number review sites that sell their services whereby you can “manage” your online reviews. It’s an odd relationship, to say the least. The idea is that anyone can post (anonymously) reviews about your practice. Normally, you’d have no control over anything. There’s no confirmation of the veracity of any reviews, good or bad. It’s the wild west. HOWEVER, if you’re willing to pay the owner of the review site… say $800 a month, or so… You can (presumably) remove negative reviews or those you deem fake or nefarious. If you don’t sign up, and pay up, then you’re review page is left to the wolves. Lovely, eh?
There have been numerous reports of these review sites attempting what amounts to extortion. If you pay them, they let you control your own reviews. If you don’t pay… suddenly, your good reviews start disappearing while your bad reviews persist. The review sites deny (of course) the accusations. However, the reports of these incidents are significant and there are lawsuits being filed.
Wait… no… YOU’RE the bagman?
Then a few years ago, along came another company (of attorneys, I think) that offered “online reputation protection” services. The following is only my interpretation and opinion. I may very well not have it quite right. From what I heard, this service goes for $1,000 – 1,200 per month. Ya think these companies see us (dentists) coming?
Their approach to “online reputation protection” includes having patient sign a contract assigning the copyright of any online review over to the dentist. The dentist OWNS the review and can demand the patient remove it, if he or she deems it unflattering or untrue.
I went to a seminar by a “reputation protection” company a year or two ago. Honestly, I found the whole idea unsettling and distasteful. The notion of having a new patient relationship start off on a confrontational foot just didn’t sound good to me. “If you want to be my patient, you must sign this agreement (not to disparage me online).” No thanks. I prefer to keep my patient relationships on a more friendly basis. Call me crazy.
Shootout at the Lincoln Center Corral
There is currently a big three-way legal dust-up between a patient, a dentist, and a reputation protection firm in New York City. What a mess (for the dentist). Can you say the “law of unintended consequences?” Click on the link above and see if you can read the article without shaking your head.
There have been a number of other lawsuits against review sites, too. It seems to be a double-edged sword. Good reviews can make you look good. Bad reviews… well… not so good. Reviews can be posted by ANYBODY… even someone who has never stepped foot in your practice…. anonymously.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
If you go to some of the popular review sites, it quickly becomes very obvious that many of the reviews are dubious, at best. I wonder if some of them are intended as spam similar to the fake comments with spam links I get on my blog here. To wit… I just looked at some local reviews. One was for an orthodontist I happen to know. He got a 3-star review (out of 5). It reads:
This place is located on XXX road at XXXXX XXXX florida. Its very nice and has very well trained pros that work there. Its a doctors office for basicly everything and even a dentist office. It has decent landscaping.
Mind you, the city was spelled incorrectly. It’s a solo practice, not “well trained pros that work there”. It’s NOT a “doctor’s office for everything.” It’s an orthodontist’s office. This “reviewer” has obviously never been there. I suspect this “reviewer” may not even reside in the U.S.A. based on his / her command of the English language (spelling). But, maybe two stars were deducted for just the “decent” landscaping, eh?
Kill’em with kindness
Some experts suggest that a couple of bad reviews lend credibility over a review page that is 100% positive. Furthermore, those experts recommend you not agonize over a few bad reviews and simply drown them with good reviews from your happy patients. OK… maybe not bad advice. Certainly, the legally-embroiled New York dentist is regretting (and rethinking) her reputation management strategy.
For some time now, one of the motivations for dentists to encourage reviews posted by patients was that it would supposedly improve the SEO (search engine optimization) of your website, making it more visible in Google search results. My contention is that a well-optimized website doesn’t need help from these dicey review sites.
Google doesn’t send them flowers anymore…
Furthermore, Google’s recent algorithm update, code name “Panda,” allegedly demoted a lot of review sites (that were clogging up search results). Of course, Google’s own reviews maintain their status. So, consider whether or not you want to spend any time, energy, or money in paying multiple “bagmen” to manage your online reputation on various review sites.
Something to think about, Dental Warriors.
PS… I’ve changed my mind… sort of! Read my next article about online reviews here: Google Reviews.