The Internet has the power to help and the power to harm when it comes to building your practice’s reputation. Used correctly, it can be a wonderful tool, highlighting your expertise and providing a useful way for new patients to find you and existing patients a way to get back in touch. Left unmonitored, however, it can create problems for your practice through misinformation, confusion or unaddressed complaints. The only way to get the web to be an asset and not a hindrance for your practice is to take an active role in managing your online reputation. This process doesn’t have to be intimidating, time-consuming or tedious. These simple steps will help you put your best foot forward online.
Online Reputation Management 101
1. Google yourself.
It’s not narcissistic, it’s research. A recent study found that 66% of people look online for health information, so it’s important to know what is out there. Search for your name, your practice’s name and any misspellings or variations that might be common (be sure to “Hide Personal Results” in the upper right corner of Google – see screen shot below).
Scroll through the first few pages of results, but pay attention in particular to the first page (the majority of people won’t make it past here). What websites make up the top results — your practice’s website, your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page, doctor review websites or articles you’ve written? Is the information you find accurate? If there are any reviews, are they mostly positive or negative? Set up Google Alerts as an RSS feed or email digest for keywords (such as your name) so you can stay informed.
2. Address concerns.
If necessary, try to clean up any errors or add more information to the pages within the top results. Many doctor review or address directory websites will let you submit changes to your listing or add credentials, awards and background information. If you find negative or untrue comments, reviews or other posts in your online search, determine the best way to handle each situation (in general, it’s best not to get involved in arguments in a public forum). For example, if you read a review from a patient complaining about long waits and an unfriendly staff, you could make a comment apologizing for the experience and offering to email or speak with him privately.
3. Register with Google Places.
Registering your practice with Google Places is a free and easy step that will help you gain more control over your practice’s online reputation. Claim your business on Google and add photos and update your address, phone number and hours. New patients will be able to find you more easily this way, and existing patients can leave ratings and reviews.
4. Make your own web presence robust.
The best scenario in online reputation management is for your practice’s website to be the first place patients go to find information about you. But for this to happen, your website must be well-maintained, easy to use and helpful. Take a tour through your website. Is all the contact information accurate and easy to find? Is there a section that answers frequently asked questions or an online form or email address to get in touch with your staff? Is there a news, press release or blog section where you can post new research, awards, service changes or other information that would be interesting to your patients? Do you offer patient education resources to help prospective patients find you?
Adding content regularly gives you a better chance of ranking higher in Google results (and moving down any less desirable results). This approach also applies to social media, whether you use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any other websites.