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Navigating Yelp For Your Practice


The Pros and Cons of Online Practice Engagement

Looking for a new gym? A good restaurant? A doctor that takes your insurance? Most people start their searches in the same place: online. A recent survey found that 93 percent of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the past year, with 34 percent searching every day. It’s a good idea to claim your business on Google and add photos, contact information and hours to help new patients find your practice, and to make sure your practice website is up to par.  

Another place to pay attention to your online presence is Yelp. Even if you don’t think of it as a popular place to look for doctors, we assure you, your patients do. Recently, Yelp has made some changes that make it better for advertisers and an ideal platform for discovering new, trustworthy businesses like yours. 

What Yelp’s updates mean for your practice

In May, Yelp announced new updates to its ad platform, making it possible to advertise on Yelp in a very similar way to advertising on Facebook. Here’s a look at a couple of the major changes and how they will impact businesses.

Callout: Yelp’s new updates for advertisers let you reach more potential patients.

  • Custom Location Targeting. Previously, businesses could only run ads in a small area around their geographic location. Now, you can run ads anywhere on the map. This is particularly appealing to medical specialists, because it means that you can advertise outside your immediate area to reach more potential patients. For example, if you draw refractive surgical patients throughout your region, you can now target surrounding communities.
  • Connect Audience Model. Yelp Connect is Yelp’s version of a Facebook post. Yelp launched the service to help restaurant owners communicate in more ways with their existing and potential customers. In March 2020, in response to the pandemic, Yelp Connect was expanded to all categories to give business owners a way to share updates around changes to their hours, operations, etc. Yelp saw a 615 percent year-over-year spike in the use of the service in April 2021. 

Previously, business owners could promote their posts only to people who followed their business on Yelp or those within their immediate area. Now, you can also promote them to people who engaged with similar businesses and people who searched for relevant categories. It’s an opportunity to get in front of a new audience. For example, you can promote your practice to people searching for eyeglasses. This makes Yelp a powerful new channel for new-patient outreach.

The downside of online reviews

Of course, just like other social media platforms, Yelp has its critics. Brian Dooley, host of Medical Practice Trends Podcast, wrote an article on LinkedIn warning about how Yelp filters reviews and other ways it hurts businesses.

In MedPage Today, a radiology practice shared insights for understanding how managing online reviews can shape your practice’s success. The article recommends proactively requesting reviews from patients, such as by a pop-up window on your patient portal or web site, with the goal of increasing the volume of overall reviews. Even “if only 10 percent of them leave reviews, you will be able to get fair ratings from all your patients–not just the unhappy ones. Keep in mind that 40 five-star reviews are equivalent to just one negative review.” Unfortunately, Yelp does not allow businesses to solicit online reviews. However, Google, Facebook and other review sites have no such restrictions. 

Callout: This is what practices can and should do about a bad review on Yelp and other social media platforms.

Is there anything a business can do about a bad review on Yelp? Unless it violates Yelp’s terms of service or content guidelines, which forbid harassment and hate speech, for example, it’s virtually impossible to have a bad review removed

What you can and should do is respond to the review. HIPAA guidelines do not prevent you from responding to online reviews as long as you do not share specific details about a patient or visit. Complaints about lengthy wait times or a lack of appointment availability are common in negative patient reviews. A simple reply can go a long way, such as “Thank you for your feedback. We’re committed to a better patient experience and are trying to improve wait times.” This shows that the person has been heard and acknowledged. You could also invite the patient to contact your office directly to see if you can resolve the problem off-line. 

Social media platforms and review sites like Yelp can be powerful marketing and engagement tools for medical practices if you understand the rules and leverage them for your specific purposes.

Schedule a Demo with one of our Account Executives for a customized Yelp strategy for your practice.


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