Craft your image

If you don't build and maintain your online presence, others may do it for you — and present an unflattering portrait
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Jul 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

You've spent your career building a stellar reputation for exceptional service and patient care. The last thing you need is one disgruntled client waging a smear campaign online—a campaign that drives your muddied name to the top of the search engine results.

Are you just sitting by and letting the naysayers control your online image, or are you prepared to take matters into your own hands? As potential clients hit the Internet for doctor reviews and practice profiles, it's becoming more important than ever to invest in a strong online presence. Here's how to get started.

TRACK YOUR REPUTATION

Before creating an online strategy, it's a good idea to see what's already being said about you on the Web. And there are a lot of free resources that can help you track your name or practice name on search engines and websites. Three common tools include Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, and Twitter Search. Once you set up the search criteria, many of these services will e-mail results directly to you.

If the search results that appear under your name or your practice name have nothing to do with you, it's even more urgent that you begin building your online profile.

SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

When we see negative Internet reviews, we address them head-on. (See my article "Extinguish Negative Reviews" in the June issue). But more than simply responding to unhappy clients, my practice team proactively crafts our online image.

The best way to combat negative content is to post positive content. Unfortunately our happy clients aren't typically forthcoming with their positive feedback. Oh sure, they'll tell their three friends, but not until the subject of pets or vets comes up in a conversation. Well, we can take those positive reviews meant for the few and multiply them for the thousands. All you need to do is ask.

We developed a campaign where we ask our happy clients to submit reviews on our behalf. To make it easier, we created a review form asking for specific honest comments and an overall review based on a 1-to-5 scale.

It's important for the reviews to be detailed, where the client cites a specific event or aspect of the practice or doctors that they really like, as these seem to be more believable and are more likely to be printed. Then, you need to ask them to submit the feedback to whatever review site seems appropriate (Google, Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch, and so on). Sure, these reviews are solicited, but they are also authentic and true.

You know those wonderful thank-you notes that we've all received from appreciative clients? Well, these can make great reviews too—so don't be afraid to ask those clients for permission to post their comments on review sites, your website, and your Facebook page.

Our practice took this strategy one step further and enlisted the help of a company that submits the reviews to various sites. Because it can be difficult to have your negative reviews removed, it's important to encourage positive reviews that will, in essence, push negative comments deeper and deeper so they won't be displayed as prominently. Sites use several factors to determine where to place reviews, but chronology seems to be the most relevant criteria. So it's important to concentrate your efforts on sites with the most recent negative reviews.