A decade ago, the primary method for customer feedback was either talking directly to a manager or filling out a small “comment card” that allowed the customer to rate their experience and note ways that they think the business could improve. Thanks to sites like Google+, Yelp, and even Vconnect.com, that has hall changed.
The Internet is now one giant comment card, and businesses that don’t heed the demands and negative reviews of their customers could find themselves in serious trouble when it comes to earning new business, rising in Google search engine rankings, and cultivating good favor even among existing customers or patients.
For businesses that haven’t considered the importance and potential impact of online reviews, it’s worth looking at how these brief online comments influence a business’ website traffic, customer satisfaction levels, and the willingness of new customers or patients to trust their care and convenience to any company.
Good Reviews Increase Website Traffic and Conversions
It has long been known in the world of customer service and patient care that the strongest marketing tool was a word-of-mouth referral. That’s still true, of course. Increasingly, however, recommendations from anonymous users via services like Yelp are taking the place of traditional word-of-mouth recommendations. When search users try to find a company’s website, its Yelp page is almost always one of the first five results. Google’s ability to parse and display meta data means that it can show the business’ Yelp or Google+ star rating on the search results page, allowing the user to get a sense of the business before they even read the full-length reviews posted to these services.
Those search users who find mostly positive reviews of the business are far more likely to click through to the company’s website via Yelp, or return to Google’s search results page and click through to the business’ website that way. Once on the website, they’ll be on the hunt for information that confirms the reviews they just read: They’ll look for smiling customers, glowing testimonials, supportive doctors, and marketing copy that sells them on the product or service.
Business Traffic Can Languish if Online Reviews Head South
Businesses that suffer from a “one star problem” on sites like Yelp will find it much harder to generate new foot traffic at a bricks-and-mortar location than a business that averages between 3.5 and 5 stars in its reviews. The reason for this is simple: Visitors view negative reviews as being honest, trustworthy, and a word of caution. No one wants to open themselves up to the kind of negative issues that are often disclosed on Yelp, from difficult billing practices to poor service and shoddy treatment in dental and medical front offices.
Businesses need to remember that word-of-mouth referrals increasingly come online, and they increasingly come from anonymous sources on Yelp, Google+, and Foursquare. These recommendations must be kept positive, or customers will go elsewhere without giving it a second thought. The best way to prevent such reviews is to provide positive customer experiences, but those businesses already plagued by such reviews might consider more aggressively marketing their benefits and focusing heavily on customer service, satisfaction, and long-term relationships.
Great Yelp Reviews Boost a Company’s SEO
Finally, the impact of positive reviews on a company’s search engine optimization tactics is measurable and definite: Those companies with a great rating find it easier to appear atop Google’s search results rather than in the back pages of irrelevancy. This is actually on purpose. In recent updates to its search ranking algorithm, Google shifted away from a merely keyword-based approach to relevance. Now, the company focuses on customer experience, engagement, reviews, and reputation. A business that has impressed its clientele is likely to win Google’s favor as well. That means greater search engine relevance, higher levels of website traffic, and a better chance at winning over local customers in search of a dentist, doctor, or retail establishment.
For this reason, it’s important to focus a significant portion of both SEO and marketing efforts on positive Yelp, Google+, and Foursquare reviews. Encourage customers to rate their experience on Yelp as soon as they head home, and be sure to link to online review sites from the company’s own webpage. By mixing official web copy with crowd sourced, local reviews, businesses can increase their foot traffic, website traffic, and overall search relevance in a big way.
Reviews Represent an Increasingly Important Aspect of Marketing and Search
Once concerned only with getting customers in the door, today’s marketing and search optimization efforts have to be concerned with how the company rates, how many stars it’s been given by previous customers, and how well Google views the business through its own lens of reputation management. By encouraging positive customer experiences, and focusing on guiding customers toward review sites like Yelp, businesses will increase their position while opening themselves up to positive, honest, and constructive feedback from local customers.
Below are some tips on managing your personal and professional online identities to enhance your business and reputation:
- Social media matters – While Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are powerful ways to connect with friends, family and even attract new patients, create a separate profile for your business and your personal life. Your friends don’t want to hear about the latest advances in fighting gingivitis and your patients don’t want to hear about your trip to Costa Rica. Encourage new and old patients to “like” your business pages and offer promotions for teeth whitening, “invisible” braces and other cosmetic procedures to build your practice.
- Network with colleagues – Becoming active on a site Web Dental and Dental Companion will allow you to use social media to connect with established colleagues, and meet and mentor new ones. You can network with other dental experts to share knowledge and discuss difficult cases, and even discuss practice management techniques.
- Google yourself – Set up Google alerts to tell you the minute someone mentions your name online. This will give you the opportunity to hear what your patients are saying about you, and help you take control quickly if there are negative things spreading online. Also, monitor doctor ratings sites like HealthcareReviews.com or RateMDs.com to find out how you rank against your competitors.
- Build a website and blog – There are a number of free programs such as WordPress or Blogger to help you easily build your own website, without knowing any code. Create a website to showcase your practice areas, education and subject matter expertise. It’s an easy way to create a positive online image and gain new patients and referrals. You can speak to one of our Top Consultants who can quickly create a blog on your existing website or create a new, professionally-designed website to generate more leads and referrals.
- Hire the best online reputation management company – A reputation management company will elevate positive content and minimize the impact of negative content. Beware of firms that guarantee they will remove a negative post. Search engine algorithms are closely guarded secrets and change frequently. However, certain fundamental online and search marketing techniques have proven successful in helping doctors overcome online defamation – that is what a “white hat” online reputation management firm will bring to the table.