For healthcare providers, online reputation management has never been more important than it is today. The growing need for a spotless reputation has stemmed from a change in how patients search for doctors — discerning patients seek providers they can trust.
In an effort to stand out in a sea of options, healthcare organizations are recognizing the need to build perfect reputations not only for their office locations, but also for their doctors. The good news is, striking a balance between the two is within reach, and, when done correctly, can help practices increase online visibility to edge out competitors and boost patient acquisition.
Defining Healthcare Reputation Management
Reputation management is the practice of monitoring, influencing, and maintaining the public perception of organizations and individuals. For healthcare, it involves actively managing online and offline channels to shape and preserve a positive public image to attract new patients and retain current ones. This is most successfully accomplished through the accumulation of high-quality online patient reviews.
The Importance of Google Business Profiles for Doctors
Today, 49% of patients say they would not book an appointment with a healthcare provider who has an incomplete Google Business Profile (GBP), also known as a Google listing. An incomplete listing is like waving a red flag at potential patients, signaling them to look elsewhere.
An unoptimized Google listing with a handful of low-quality patient reviews isn’t any better. A 2020 survey found that doctor ratings are the #1 factor influencing patients in deciding whether to book an appointment. Further, 80% of patients in a 2022 survey said they found doctors with at least 5 reviews to be more trustworthy than those with fewer.
Attracting new patients isn’t just about being seen in search results — it’s about being seen in the right way.
Appear in Local Search Results
A strong Reputation SEO strategy is the key to dominating local search results and edging out your competitors. Simply put: the more listings you have, the more likely you are to appear in the coveted Google 3-Pack, where patients will want to choose your practice over your competition.
The 3-Pack plays a crucial role in shaping the online presence of healthcare providers, dominating the top spot in 93% of all local (“near me”) searches. If you haven’t claimed and optimized your listings, the likelihood of your organization appearing in the 3-Pack is minimal.
The process and effort behind claiming, verifying, optimizing, and then maintaining listings for each of your practice’s doctors may feel daunting; however, it isn’t as time consuming as it seems. The initial creation of listings is where the brunt of the work comes in. After that, many practices leave the difficulty of optimization up to reputation management solutions like rater8, which automatically solicits patient reviews to improve all of a practice’s listings.
Maintenance isn’t much of a headache either. As a rule of thumb, refreshing your practice’s listings at least once per year helps ensure that prospective and returning patients alike can easily access accurate and reliable information.
Remember, online reputation affects both doctors and locations. That said, it’s important to avoid building listings for the sake of having dozens of them. Make each one count by tailoring it to the specific location or provider you’re showcasing. At rater8, we recommend creating one Google listing for each of your practice’s office locations, and one listing per doctor at each location where they see more than 10% of patients.
Some may argue that with more listings come more problems, such as a diluted overall rating across all listings. Fortunately, rater8’s robust pollin8™ algorithm solves this issue. All patients are automatically routed to the appropriate doctor’s listing, based on the appointment location. This ensures a polished and balanced online image.
Dakota Eye Institute is one such success story. Prior to joining forces with rater8, their practice location listings already had many high-quality patient reviews; however, their individual doctor listings told a different story. A narrow focus on promoting the practice’s location listings meant their provider listings were often overlooked; therefore, their overall patient-facing image was unbalanced and incomplete.
With dozens of provider listings in need of optimization, Dakota Eye was missing out on countless opportunities to get in front of, attract, and acquire new patients. Since working with rater8, Dakota Eye has bolstered their doctor listings and become a dominant online presence in their highly competitive market, positioning them in the Google 3-Pack for nearly every relevant search result.
While Google takes into account factors like relevance, distance, and prominence, the key to getting to the top is quality. Google is committed to providing users with the best possible results. This means there’s no way to “pay to play” — it’s all about merit and developing fully optimized listings for your practice.
Maximize Local Reach for Patient Acquisition
With 46% of Google queries seeking local information, creating a listing for each of your office locations and doctors enables your practice to reach a broader patient base across a larger geographical area. This will also help push your competitors further down the search results page, even if their location is closer to some patients than your office.
For instance, when a patient searches for “best cardiologist near me,” Google takes into consideration their precise location, ensuring results are tailored to the patient’s specific area. Therefore, if the patient finds your amazing, 4.8-star cardiology practice, but then notices the office is 20 miles away, they might not be inclined to book an appointment.
However, if they see a Google listing for your satellite office just five miles away, or if they see the listing for one of your highly rated cardiologists who works at the satellite office, they’ll be much more keen to schedule a visit. If the listings for the satellite office or cardiologist didn’t exist, it’s likely the patient would have taken their business elsewhere, opting for convenience over star-rating.
Although the use of doctor referrals has steadily declined over the past few years, they’re still patients’ second most important criteria in selecting a doctor, outranked only by online reviews and ratings.
Despite referrals maintaining a high level of importance in patients’ healthcare decisions, 88% of patients still read doctor reviews after being referred. Further, half decide not to book with a referred doctor if their Google listings are incomplete.
With so much information available online, doctor referrals have become just one data point among many in patients’ research strategies. This means medical practices can no longer stand on the strength of referrals alone. With reviews and ratings outweighing the importance of referrals, optimizing the online reputations of your doctors is crucial in preventing referral leakage.
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At the heart of the healthcare industry is a commitment to delivering a seamless patient experience from start to finish. While certain aspects of the patient journey remain beyond your immediate control, taking care to maintain and update your medical practice’s information online is an effective way to keep your organization running smoothly while preventing unnecessary confusion.
Imagine a doctor sees patients at multiple locations but has only one verified Google listing. On appointment day, patients will undoubtedly visit the doctor’s listing to get directions to the practice. If the doctor’s affiliated business address is for the primary office location, then patients who are scheduled for a visit at a satellite office can easily end up at the wrong address. The result? Confused patients arriving late or missing their appointment times — an operational nightmare!
Having enough listings to cover all your bases doesn’t just prevent confusion — it enhances visibility across the entirety of your practice, making it easier for patients to find and access the care they need.
The importance of building polished Google listings cannot be overstated. While many tend to believe it’s more important to optimize their location listings, the reality is that location and doctor listings work in tandem. A positive online image, spanning the entirety of a practice, enhances patient trust and loyalty, contributes to better online visibility, and drives greater acquisition and retention.
A successful reputation management strategy involves cultivating an abundance of high-quality online reviews, showcasing the patient voice, and actively engaging with patients to shape and maintain a positive online image. It could take years and a fully dedicated team within your practice to achieve a perfect online image — or it could take just months with rater8.
rater8 offers an easy, hands-free way to build a balanced reputation for all of your doctors and office locations, so your practice can truly shine. Our automated, state-of-the art-solution was designed specifically for healthcare providers — we understand the industry’s unique challenges and goals. We’ll help you grow and optimize your online image so you can attract more patients and thrive in a hyper-competitive market.