Running any kind of business involves a certain amount of public relations work – and most doctors, lawyers, and small business owners don’t have PR teams on staff. When it comes to the medical profession, the importance of a good image is doubled. Reputation management for doctors isn’t an easy task, but it’s an important one for physicians to understand.
How the Internet Affects Doctors’ Reputations
We live in an age in which everything is public. Unfortunately, that “everything” includes negative information as well.
There are a lot of things that can happen to medical professionals that can negatively impact their reputation. Many of these things are very easy for competitors, disgruntled patients, or others to make public. Here are some examples:
- Negative patient reviews
- Court cases
- Medical licensing issues.
Even if none of these has happened to you, one of them very easily could. Also, you’d likely be surprised if you sought out your online reviews.
Even the best physicians occasionally have negative reviews. These reviews can damage the business side of your practice before you’re even aware of them. Many of your patients and potential patients probably read reviews regularly.
That’s why one of the most important aspects of reputation management for doctors is knowing how to check on your own medical reputation online. Forearming yourself with knowledge is the surest way to fix any reputation problems. This includes both problems that you have now and those that may develop in the future.
How to Check Your Reputation as a Doctor Online
Plenty of consumers know how to do research on you – it’s practically public knowledge. You need to know how to do so too.
There’s the simple way, of course: simply running a Google search on your own name. That may actually get you pretty far. However, there’s a lot more you need to do to get a true sense of your online reputation.
How to Deepen and Widen Your Online Reputation Search
Google is the most popular search engine, but your patients and potential patients probably use all three to a certain extent.
- Use a wider variety of specific search terms.
Instead of searching for your name or the name of your practice, try searching for things like “[Your Name] Medical License,” “[Your Practice Name] Reviews,” or “Should I go to [Your Name]?”
The more specific your search terms, the more specific your results. You can bet your patients are asking Google and the other search engines these types of questions. Why aren’t you?
- Search for yourself or your practice on consumer review sites such as Yelp!
- Try searching for reviews by patients you know may be creating negative content associated with your name or your practice.
- Look online for information on court cases you’ve been involved in, or other specifics that could drastically affect your online reputation.
It’s important to be very honest with yourself here about anything that could result in your medical reputation getting dented.
Search for anything you can think of that could negatively impact your public image. Even personal problems not related to your practice can sometimes spill over into your professional life.
Proactive Reputation Management for Doctors
Congratulations! By completing a fairly wide and deep search for information on your public reputation, you’ve already taken a big step towards better reputation management.
However, reputation management for doctors involves a good deal more than simply knowing what’s out there. To keep your reputation spotless and your patients coming in, you also need to consider some of the following:
- How often you should check up on your online reputation.
- The amount of positive information about you online.
- How to run deeper online reputation searches.
Let’s look at these in order.
How Often to Check Your Online Reputation
The first step to maintaining a positive reputation is frequently checking on that reputation. You can’t fix problems you haven’t seen. Also, reputation problems tend to fester and grow the longer they’re left alone. Seeing a bad review can make another patient more likely to post one, for example.
As such, it’s important to consistently check all properties related to your practice online. Is there a Yelp page for your practice? Have patients written Google reviews regarding your care? Be sure to check these frequently.
You should also look yourself up on Google, Yahoo, and Bing fairly frequently to make sure there aren’t any negative news articles, blog posts, or other types of online content being circulated that regard you.
Luckily, it’s easy to check the status of your reputation on Google constantly with the search engine’s helpful service Google Alerts.
How Much Positive Information You Should Hope For
Even if there isn’t any negative information about you or your practice available on the internet, is the web doing all the work it could be doing for your practice? If there isn’t a large amount of positive information out there, the answer is no.
Why do you need to worry about how much positive information on your practice exists? There are several good reasons:
- Negative information is going to crop up eventually. No one lasts long in the medical industry – or any other field, for that matter – without getting at least one negative review. Being proactive about generating positive content can offset the effects of future negative content.
- Good information on you or your practice existing online can work like free advertising. All those same people that you worry about being scared off by bad information could be brought in by good information.
There are several ways to create more positive content for your practice detailed in the next section, “How to Fix Your Online Medical Reputation.” It may be worth looking over even if your reputation is already spotless!
Is There a Way to Run Deeper Online Searches?
The answer to this question is complicated. For now, I’ll say yes and no.
There is no secret “deep search” feature hidden somewhere on the internet. A lot of less ethical online firms, including some in our own industry, like to say something like this exists in their advertising. It’s nothing more than a sales tactic.
However, there is a way to search more deeply than you already have. The way to go deeper on the internet is to go wider.
In addition to Google, the other major search engines, and Yelp, you should be checking less obvious places. These include social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and the like), as well as consumer reporting sites. Look through legal documents posted online, through licensing board records, and at minor review sites that haven’t achieved the status of Yelp.
Google and the other major search engines are the main factors determining your online reputation. However, things go much deeper than that. Different internet users trust and find different sources.
Some may almost exclusively use Facebook for news and reviews. Others don’t trust Yelp for whatever reason, and use alternatives. The most savvy internet users will look at more complex documents like public records to determine whether or not to get treatment at your practice.
Because all of these internet users are potential patients, you want to be sure you have all your bases covered. That does involve putting some work in now, but it could make a huge difference to your practice later on.
How to Fix Your Online Medical Reputation
There’s a lot of work involved with creating and keeping a spotless reputation in the internet age. However, with the right amounts of time, knowledge, and hard work, anyone can do this for themselves. Although Google and the other search engines have created this unique 21st-century problem for doctors and other professionals, the search engines also offer the best means to solve it.
The key principles of reputation management for doctors are very simple, even if the practice itself is complex. Here they are:
- Negative information affects your practice because it appears on the first page of Google. According to Search Engine Journal, a whopping 75% of search engine users never get past the first page.
- Pushing the negative information off of the first page of Google, then, would provide an instant boost for your business.
- The only way to push negative content down is to create positive or neutral content that ranks higher in Google and other search engine results.
- The art and science of making web content more attractive to search engine algorithms is called SEO, an abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization.
All of the top companies in the world use SEO to a certain extent. Some have internal SEO departments, or rely on marketing and PR employees to do SEO. Others hire out. In fact, there is a huge SEO industry serving both small businesses and the corporate world. One subset of that industry is professional reputation management.
Reputation Management for Doctors Tip No. 1 – Creating Positive Information
The first and most important thing you can do to start better managing your medical reputation, then, is creating positive information.
Negative content about you won’t simply disappear on its own. Something has to take its place. Furthermore, having more positive content related to you and your practice available on the internet can only be good for your business.
However, many doctors don’t know how to create positive, professional web content at all. On top of that, there’s an additional step: making sure that the positive content you create ranks higher than the negative content on Google. If the positive content ranks higher, it pushes the negative content down. If the positive content doesn’t rank as highly, no one will ever see it.
Here are a few quick guidelines for creating relevant, useful positive content that will rank highly on Google (and the other search engines). There is also some great information in the video at the end of the last section.
Creating Positive Content for Physicians, Step by Step
1. Use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to create positive content about your practice. These platforms, while they may not seem important, can be extremely useful. They have high “authority” with the search engines, meaning they almost always automatically rank highly in searches.
2. Create other free, high-authority profiles such as those available from LinkedIn.
3. If you don’t already have a website, create one. If you do have one, consider expanding it. Do you have a blog? A blog can be an amazing way to create positive content about your practice.
4. Consider writing press releases and submitting them to news media, or guest posting on other medical blogs. Although you don’t directly own these other sites, filling them with information you’ve created and tying it to your name can work wonders for your online reputation.
Reputation Management for Doctors Tip No. 2 – Hiding Negative Information
The good news on this front is that you’ve already put a lot of the work in by creating positive content. However, there’s a little bit more involved with getting rid of negative information. This is one of the most important components in the puzzle of reputation management for physicians.
To make your positive content rank higher on SERPs (that’s an abbreviation we SEOs and reputation management professionals use for Search Engine Results Pages), you’ll need to do some SEO work.
More good news: for public profiles like Facebook and LinkedIn, the SEO work is essentially already done for you. However, if you’re creating positive content on your own website or another less ubiquitous web platform, you’re going to need to optimize it for search engines.
Unfortunately, there is a lot more involved with search engine optimization than I could ever get into here. However, there are a lot of great sources out there that can help you learn SEO, such as the Moz Blog, which covers a wide variety of important SEO topics in depth regularly. It’s a great place to familiarize yourself with the basics. Also, it can help you understand the latest developments in the field once you’ve become an advanced SEO yourself.
You may also be interested in this video. It’s very long, but it is one of the most concise and complete introductions to SEO I’ve ever come across.
Getting Rid of Negative Content – Beyond SEO
In addition to SEO, you need to think about how to get rid of negative content on platforms such as Yelp. Because Yelp is such a large and frequently-used platform, you’ll never beat it on SEO alone. Other review sites, such as Facebook and Google Reviews, work in much the same way.
However, there are two ways to minimize the effects of negative reviews on these sites:
- Try to get as many patients as possible to write positive reviews – the law of averages will be on your side when customers look at your Yelp or other review site profile.
- If a patient you have a good relationship with writes a bad review, consider contacting her or him directly. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make things right, and the patient may end up taking down the review.
- However, never be pushy or defensive when you’re doing this – that will only end up making your reputation that much worse.
Don’t rely on Yelp or any other review site to take down a negative review, though. Unless you can prove a review is fraudulent or overly malicious, it’s here to stay. Even if you do have a case, the review companies move slowly on this issue.
Furthermore, if you have a lot of negative reviews on sites like Yelp, ask yourself if there’s anything you’re actually doing wrong.
Even the best doctors make mistakes, and patients are sometimes malicious in reviews without thinking of the consequences. However, have an honest conversation with yourself and your staff about ways to combat negative reviews. Honesty and a good reputation and outlook in the real world will not solve all your problems online, but they might help a great deal.
Reputation Management for Doctors Tip No. 3 – Hiring a Professional Reputation Management Service
For some doctors, all of this reputation management work can simply be too much. You have a practice to run, after all.
Many doctors, as well as lawyers and other professionals and business owners, hire outside help for this. There are pros and cons to hiring outside reputation management help, as with any business decision.
Hiring Outside Reputation Management Help for Doctors: Pros
1. Hiring professionals to carry out reputation enhancement and management tasks leaves you with more time to focus on your main work: taking care of patients.
2. Utilizing a professional service can also bring about positive results faster than managing your reputation on your own.
3. Professional reputation managers do this for a living, and know a great deal about reputation management for doctors and other professionals.
4. Perhaps the biggest benefit associated with hiring professionals to do this sort of work, besides the time it will save you, is how long-lasting the changes will be. Because professional reputation management firms have a deep expertise in the field, they know how to get you longer-term results than you’re likely to get on your own.
5. Many firms also offer affordable recurring contracts, checking up on your reputation and offering help in the future should you need it.
Hiring Outside Reputation Management Help for Doctors: Cons
1. The major drawback to hiring professionals is the expense. Reputation management services aren’t cheap. However, some firms in this industry are much more reasonably priced than others, and the positive changes professionals bring about can get you more patients.
2. While there are many upstanding, legitimate reputation management and SEO firms out there, there are also a few illegitimate business to watch out for. Signs to look out for on this front include overly aggressive sales tactics and too-good-to-be-true offers or pricing.
3. It’s also important that you talk with any SEO professional or reputation manager you’re considering hiring about their stance on white hat and black hat SEO tactics. Black hat tactics can hurt your practice in the long run.
Online Reputation Management for Doctors: Your Options
If you suspect you need to start a reputation management program for your practice, you have a few options:
- Do it all on your own.
- Hire professionals right away.
- Ignore the problem.
- Do what you can on your own, and learn a bit more about the science of reputation management and enhancement, before hiring professionals.
The fourth option is the one we most highly recommend. Although there’s a lot to be said for hiring professionals, there’s also a good amount of work you can do on your own. Furthermore, managing your own online reputation can be a hugely positive learning experience.
The worst option, of course, is number 3. Ignoring this problem will at best be very problematic for your medical practice, and at worst could be entirely fatal for it. With a compromised reputation, the prognosis is not good.
Here at Reputation Enhancer, we help individuals and businesses get rid of negative listings on Google and other search engines. We do so using a highly personalized approach. Because of our low overhead, we can offer these services at lower prices than almost any of our competitors.
If you’re interested in talking to us about our services, please fill out the form below or give us a call.