Google Reviews – I’ve Changed My Mind

Last December I wrote that online reviews can be a double-edged sword.  That article was primarily directed at independent review sites other than Google’s own reviews system.  I remain skeptical of the value of third party review sites, especially those that charge you a fee for “reputation management.”

I’ve reconsidered the potential benefits of online reviews.  But, I will also go so far as to suggest that you focus on Google’s own reviews that appear in your Google Places listing.  I’d stay away from any other review sites, especially those that ask you to pay to have control over them.  I simply don’t trust them.

Furthermore, having reviews in Google Places appears to have SEO benefits, whereas the other review sites’ benefits have been diminished with Google’s “Panda” algorithm update.

Ask and you shall receive.

Recently, my friend Jeff Gladnick (of Great Dental Websites), sent out an email newsletter suggesting that dentists ask their patients for reviews on Google.  So, I took him up on it and sent out an email to a select group of my patients, asking them to post reviews on my Google Places page.  Of course, the email had a direct link taking patients to my Places page.  As an added incentive, I included a special offer.  I wasn’t sure about adding the “coupon,” but I did it anyway.  (Edit:  This may be an issue with Google.  See comments below.  I won’t do this again.)

Email to patients requesting Google reviews.

I also recently put up signs in my office with QR codes that would enable patients to easily use their smart phones to access my Google Places page.

Sign at the front desk. Requests for both Google Reviews and Facebook "likes."

The stars are aligning!

This is a very recent effort, so I haven’t had an avalanche of reviews posted, yet.  I previously had none.  But, within a couple of days, I got five reviews.  Given the initial success and observed benefits, I will continue to ask patients for reviews.  Incidentally, 5 is the magic number to get the stars graphic (indicating the number of reviews and the average rating) in the Google search results.  See illustration below.

Google reviews in search results indicating average rating and number of reviews (highlighted by red rectangle).

What are sitelinks?

You may have noticed them under certain search results, usually high-ranking websites.  Google will not reveal how they are granted.  But, it seems that they go to sites that have longevity, high traffic, easily navigated / crawled sites, and high click-through rates from search results.  In other words, if your SEO is good, and your site ranks highly, you’re more likely to get sitelinks.  See below for an example of how sitelinks look in traditional organic search results.

Sitelinks are the additional clickable links (below the main link) to specific pages within a website.

Another interesting observation is that once I had five reviews, not only did the reviews “stars graphic” show up in the organic search / Places listing, but “Sitelinks” also showed up!  Very cool!  Apparently, sitelinks are relatively new as it pertains to Places listings.  But, they’ve been around for quite some time in traditional organic search listings.  See below for example of sitelinks contained in Places listings in search results.

Red rectangle highlights clickable Sitelinks in Places results.

Sitelinks are search engine results gold!  They make your listing stand out, AND they physically push the others further DOWN the page.  Awesome!

Mapping for success!

Google reviews also show up in Google Maps.  Some folks use Google Maps to conduct their searches.

Google Maps - notice that there's even an excerpt from one of my reviews (red arrow pointing): "Who knew visiting the dentist could be so pleasant. Dr. B..."

And, if the searcher hovers over my “pin” on the map, they also will see the reviews along with an excerpt.

Hovering over the Google Maps "pin" reveals reviews, as well!

Ask when the emotion is hot.

Another approach to asking for reviews could be right after an appointment when a patient pays you an unsolicited compliment.  “Thanks, Mary!  That just makes my day.  Would you mind posting a Google review for us?”  If your patient isn’t familiar with the process, you could have an iPad at your office just for that purpose.  (Edit:  Scratch the idea about using the iPad in your office for reviews… apparentlly there is some concern that a bunch of reviews from the same IP address may make them look suspicious to Google.)

Don’t be shy, Dental Warriors!  And, make it easy for them.  Your patients want to help you!

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10 Responses to Google Reviews – I’ve Changed My Mind

  1. Pingback: Online Reviews – Yea or Nay? | The Dental Warrior

  2. Awesome article. Spot on… I just read some research on sitelinks. I’ll be curious to hear how your coupon works as an incentive.

  3. Leon says:

    I’d think twice about offering the incentive to post reviews. A few weeks ago that was specifically prohibited, ”
    In addition, we do not accept reviews written for money or other incentives.”

    They’ve changed the wording, but it still says that you can’t use money as an incentive. A 10% discount is as good as money, IMHO. You certainly don’t want to get the wrath of google coming down on you or worse -your site. You may never show up in their results again. Besides, you’ll be nearly as effective without the incentive – a safer bet.

    Read more:

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Very interesting and thanks for bringing that up! I had not even considered it, honestly.

      It’s worth quoting and noting that it specifically mentions incentivizing POSITIVE reviews (or negative reviews of competitors). I sent out a mass email that asked for reviews. I didn’t ask for positive reviews only. I didn’t cherry-pick the recipients, so it’s entirely possible I could get NEGATIVE reviews from some of my patients. MOI??? Naaaaa! haha! 😉

      So, I THINK I’m in the clear. BUT, I’ll reconsider (think twice about) walking that fine line in any future review requests. And, I agree that the review request would be as effective without the incentive. I did have doubts in my mind about it from that perspective.

      Thanks again for your comments! 🙂

  4. Great article, more dentists need to get with it and follow your lead!

    With specific regards to on-site review stations (iPads for collecting/publishing reviews), Google is still OK with it (as of April 2012)…but its certainly good practice to have alternatives in place. We have a couple of members currently employing an on-site review kiosk of some sort, with only positive results seen thus far.

    Methods of online or offline review collection should jibe with practice communication culture. Don’t go from wallflower to butterfly without explaining reasons why – and repeatedly illustrating benefits to patients.

    Thanks for the info and keeping the social dental squad up to date – love the blog!

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