Most doctors can manage their reputations informally through customer relationship management and how they treat their patients. But most are unfamiliar with more practical ways of managing their reputational risk.
Word of mouth is no longer local. Although most doctors operate locally, happy patients (your clients) now head online to tell their friends and family about their positive experiences. The same applies to a poor experience. Google works similarly to the human brain. It will put much more emphasis on bad results than good results. Likewise, the human brain has a negative bias that is more sensitive to negative news. So, one bad result that manages to make its way on the first page of the SERP can ruin a doctor’s whole reputation. There are many factors to assess:
- How are you currently viewed by patients?
- How often are you getting referrals?
- Are you meeting the bedside expectations and practical expectations of patients?
Answering these basic questions should help doctors determine where they stand with their community. Perception is reputation. Managing beliefs and perceptions will favor a healthy reputation – online and offline.
The Anatomy of ORM for Physicians
While medical treatment is necessary for our society and doctors for our health, doctors with bad reputations are definitely seeing fewer patients walk through the door. Before identifying the signs of an unsavory online reputation for doctors, we at Searchreputation.net explain to doctors in “medical terms” what a good reputation looks like in the eyes of patients.The SERP can be divided into three parts:
The Brain & Heart
The brain and the heart represent the first three results in the SERP. Depending on the patient, they will think with their head or their heart when they see a bad review or result that high up about their doctor. Whether they think with logic or emotion, neither is good in this situation.
The stomach is where things may shift in perception often oscillating from good one day and bad another. It takes a lot of traffic behavior change for Google to shake the first couple of results. So, it will test what’s in the middle first. Most individuals will be less phased by what they see in the middle. The click-through rate from position 1 to position 5 drops by 24.13 percent on desktop and 17.1 percent on mobile phones. On phones, people are much less likely to scroll. So, the CTR for the first three results in mobile phones has skyrocketed recently.
The Rest of the Body
The last couple of results – and everything after that – are the rest of the body: the supporting functions (or, in this case, the supporting results). The everyday consumer won’t be as influenced by supporting search results as they would be by higher ranking results. Interestingly enough, most people will simply change their search if they don’t find what they are looking for within the first eight results.
Vital Signs of a Bad Reputation
Unfortunately, the anatomy of online reputation management is not as well defined as it is for doctors who study the human body. Google’s algorithms are much more complex and constantly changing. So, what determines the reputational risk of doctors?
- The gap between perception and reality.
- Changing expectations and perceptions.
- Operations and communications.
When a reputation crisis hits, it’s hard to quantify how much damage it will do in the short and long terms. The best gauge is quantifying qualitative responses.
- Are you a doctor who has no bedside manners?
- Do you make your patients wait an hour and a half with an appointment and only see them for five minutes?
- Are you reliable?
- Are your secretaries and nurses unresponsive?
Depending on your answers to these questions, evaluate how you meet the expectations of your clients. An accumulation of poor experiences will reenforce the unreliability of a doctor. Don’t overestimate how much people may or may not like you. Looking yourself up is the best way to tell. How? Enter your name with various keyword combinations. Start with your full name and dr. in front. Then, drop your first name, add your city on the end and interchange words like reviews, complaints, pissed, ratings, comments, and news. Anything bad come up? Your lifeline as a doctor running a business with “clientele” might be cut short.
So you’re a doctor with bad reviews, perhaps a minor disciplinary action, but you can still practice. How do you restore trust in clients?
- Evaluate your practice. 81 percent of Americans believe that the first impression of a physician is extremely or very important. This is strongly associated with bedside manners, how much time they spend getting to know their patients, and quality one-on-one time.
- Replying to reviews. While many ORM firms might suggest removal (always an option but not always the most ethical method of changing up the SERP), try responding first. Not only does it respond to the user, it shows anyone who comes across the result that you’re reaching out and willing to start a discussion.
- ORM, PR, SEM, SEO, every acronym you can think of. A combination of online reputation management, social media, public relations and press releases, search engine marketing, and search engine optimization will contribute to better shaping your online image.
- Maintenance: Don’t ever stop. It’s nearly impossible to not have an online presence. Often times, patients create that online presence for doctors themselves.
While removing reviews and negative results is neither ethical nor guaranteed, it is a possibility. Speak to a lawyer or your online reputation managers about these possibilities. Take control of your online reputation by managing what is being said about you online. The moment you stop engaging online, you’ll quickly lose control of your online reputation. One post can ruin it all. Again, the negative bias Google has can ruin your whole image with one post, one comment, one review. Always be ready to counter it and get ahead of the game by spreading positive and attractive content.