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How patient reviews influence your practice's search engine ranking

Prioritizing reputation management for doctors is essential to achieve a high search engine ranking and reach more patients.

Patient submits patient review of doctor

The majority of people consider patient online reviews to be the most critical online resource when choosing a doctor, dentist, or another healthcare provider, according to the PatientPop report The patient perspective 2019: online reputation. In fact, 70 percent of people say they consider a positive reputation to be “very important” or “extremely important.”

Clearly, patient reviews have a big impact on whether patients choose you, but that’s not all: Patient reviews also affect your search engine ranking. Read on for a look at how patient reviews are used to determine the position of your practice in search results.

3 important review signals

Major search engines keep their algorithms secret, but clues often exist that offer insights on factors used to determine rankings. This includes signals specific to patient reviews. In fact, review signals contribute an estimated 15.44 percent to local search ranking factors, according to Moz.

1. Quantity of patient reviews

The number of patient reviews your practice has impacts your search ranking. If your practice has more patient reviews than your competitors’, it will seem more popular. This increases the chances it will score a higher search engine ranking.

2. Velocity of patient reviews

Also known as frequency, velocity is the regularity at which patients leave reviews. A practice site with a positive velocity tends to realize a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) boost because it indicates an increase in popularity, according to Backlinko. Conversely, a negative velocity typically sees a SERP decrease because it’s a sign the site is decreasing in popularity.

Look: Common mistakes doctors make when requesting patient reviews

3. Diversity of review sites

About half of patients (48.8 percent) read reviews on Google, according to PatientPop. But that doesn’t mean practices should exclusively focus on increasing their reviews on Google.

According to Moz, it’s important to develop a much broader array of sites where you get reviews because Google uses review site diversity and the number of sites that you’re reviewed on as a ranking factor in its local search algorithm.

What patients look for in reviews

It’s important to know that review quantity, velocity, and diversity are important to search engines. It’s also important to know what makes reviews meaningful to patients.

The BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2019 took a deep look at what people really want from reviews. Here’s what the findings revealed.

1. Patient review recency

More than half of people (58 percent) are concerned with the recency of patient reviews. Specifically, 48 percent of people need a review to be written within the past two weeks for it to impact their decision. 

Perhaps even more telling is that 84 percent of people consider reviews older than three months irrelevant. Therefore, it’s important to continuously request patient feedback from your current patients.

2. Overall star rating

Not surprisingly, 57 percent of people focus on the star rating of a business. In fact, only 53 percent of people would even consider using a business with less than four stars.

3. Quantity of reviews

When it comes to the number of reviews a business has, quantity matters to half of people. On average, people read 10 reviews before feeling like they can trust a business.

4. Legitimacy

Nearly half of people (49 percent) keep a watchful eye for fake reviews. Nearly the same proportion of consumers (46 percent) believe they’ve read multiple fake reviews in the past year.

Reputation management for doctors is all about building trust with patients. Therefore, it’s important to never take a less-than-genuine approach to acquire reviews from patients of your practice.

Check out: The dos and don’ts of patient reviews for healthcare practices

5. Sentiment

Some practices believe anything less than a five-star review from their patients will severely damage their online reputation management efforts. But this isn’t necessarily true. 

According to BrightLocal, the notion of what makes a review positive is subjective, and some people may be swayed by the sentiment of the review to decide whether they think it’s positive. For example, a four-star review that praises the courteousness of the staff and attentiveness of a doctor but criticizes a practice’s lack of parking won’t necessarily turn prospective patients off.

Also see: 5 positive payoffs to negative patient reviews

6. Practice response

People notice when you engage with patients who write reviews of your practice. Specifically, more than one-third (39 percent) of people look for a business to respond to reviews.

Looking a bit closer, 46 percent always read local businesses’ responses to reviews, highlighting the importance of taking this step.

Read: How to respond to patient reviews

7. Length and detail

For 37 percent of consumers, all reviews do not carry equal weight. These people want more substance, so they zero in on the length of the review and the level of detail included.

8. Photos

People want to be able to envision themselves at your practice. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 32 percent of people pay attention to whether photos were included with a review. 

Ensure your practice looks best online by always keeping the outside and inside of the building tidy and organized.

Patient reviews are essential to the success of your practice. Necessary to both boost your search rankings and attract new patients, the importance of reviews cannot be emphasized enough.

Want more information on patient reviews? See the whitepaper “The doctor’s guide to responding to patient reviews and other online feedback.”

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PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to thrive in the consumerization of healthcare and promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

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