VetNetwork Blog

Veterinary Hospital Online Reputation Management – Part 2

2 Comments Posted by Vet Network in Business Info, General, Social Media on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012.

Introduction – Veterinary Hospital Online Reputation Management – Part 2
Our second article about online reputation management for your veterinary hospital is more in-depth than the previous one that we posted several weeks ago. This updated article deals with most concerns that veterinary practice owners have about the comments that disgruntled clients leave on consumer review websites and how to confront them. If you have questions about managing your clients’ comments or would like to initiate an Online Reputation Management program for your veterinary hospital or clinic, call VetNetwork for more information.

Veterinary Hospital Online Reputation Management – Part 2

You work hard to provide the best veterinary care to your clients’ pets as well as to build a positive image of your practice in the community and online with your veterinary website. However, all it takes is a single online rock thrower to ruin all of that hard work with a dishonest or spurious review on a social media or business review website.

In fact, for veterinarians, the risk of a malicious online comment is even greater than in most other businesses. If an animal dies despite your best efforts, the client may still blame you. They can then take that message to a range of ratings websites—such as Yelp, Vetratingz.com, Yahoo, and on and on—and write such a nasty review that all of the good ones you have received seem pale in comparison.

And as any business owner knows, the dissatisfied clients—whether justly so or not—are the ones who are most likely to complain, and complain loudly.

In fact, take a moment to Google your veterinary hospital. You will find it has been rated by current and former clients and you most likely will find at least a handful of negative reviews. Are potential and current clients reading these and avoiding your practice? Your veterinary online reputation could be deterring potential clients. You need an aggressive online reputation management service.

To monitor for and mitigate these negative reviews, as well as any negative content about you on the Web, you need to take veterinary Online Reputation Management seriously.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Online Reputation Management for your veterinary clinic can come in a few forms. You can do it at your veterinary practice as an ad hoc function or you can hire a professional online reputation management services firm to do this for you.
As an ad hoc function, you will simply monitor websites that allow consumer reviews—such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, or CitySearch—for any negative reviews of your veterinary hospital. You can also use Google to perform searches of variations on your vet hospital’s name to look for bad reviews, negative blog posts, or any other online content that is unflattering to your veterinary practice. Once you have found a negative review you can attempt to have it removed or post a rebuttal. There is a fuller listing and description of your online reputation service options below.

As a paid service, firms offering online reputation monitoring and management (such as VetNetwork) not only monitor and find negative content about you, but remove and/or mitigate it as well. Most of these services will monitor for negative reviews, comments on blogs and forums, and outright slurs.

Mitigation can include petitioning the website owner to remove the content—sometimes this includes creating legal documents. We should note that removing content can be very difficult to do unless it is clearly slanderous. They will also create positive content—websites, blog postings, forum comments, etc.—and then go through a search engine optimization process to ensure it posts higher in search returns for your veterinary hospital than the negative content.

Why You Should Manage Your Online Veterinary Reputation

Over the past five or more years there has been a proliferation of online consumer communities and websites that allow pretty much anyone to post a review of your animal hospital. For example, while searching for animal hospitals online, this comment was found at Yelp.com: “Do not be fooled by the appearance of this clinic. The outside is nice, but the vet is FAR from that. He is old, mean, and is ROUGH (borderline abusive) with the animals…” and it gets worse from there.

Consider this fact: the vast majority of pet owners seek out veterinarians online by viewing a prospective veterinarian’s website. They also rely on the opinions of others when making determinations as to whether to stay with a veterinarian or select a new veterinarian for their pet. Websites that include customer reviews are:

• Yelp
• Yellow Pages
• Merchant Circle
• SuperPages
• DexKnows
• CitySearch
• Google Places
• Yahoo Local
• Angie’s List

For a sense of what people are able to say about a business, take a look through these websites’ ratings, reviews and comments. By way of example, Yelp.com reports that in one month they received 41 million visitors that browsed through more than 15 million reviews. Oftentimes, these reviews include additional comments from other visitors.

What makes these websites potentially dangerous is that Google will find reviews of your veterinary practice and post them high up in search returns for your hospital, thereby damaging your online reputation. Google Maps page will also list review sites when presenting a map indicating the location of your hospital.

Additionally, as any veterinary practice owner or manager knows, people who are happy with your services rarely go out of their way to let others know. Meanwhile, those with a nit to pick, no matter how big or small, will go out of their way to share their dissatisfaction and crush your online reputation as a veterinary professional. These people include:

• A customer that feels poorly treated;
• A disgruntled employee seeking to air their grievance publicly;
• And a vendor unhappy with an unresolved dispute.

And these websites aren’t all that you have to worry about. Current and potential clients can also find comments in blogs, forums, Facebook, and a host of other social media.

Simply stated, you need to know what is being said online about your practice and you need to respond to negative, dishonest or inaccurate comments. Allowing negative reviews—especially those that are hyperbolic or untrue—to go unnoticed is a huge mistake.

Of course, the flipside of the coin is that if you actively manage your online reputation, prospective clients are more likely to find reviews and comments consistent with the quality of your practice.

What You Can Do to Monitor for Negative Content for Your Online Reputation

You may feel overwhelmed, but there are concrete steps you can take on your own to monitor and find negative content online. They include:

Establish an ORM Process – Online reputation management should not be a haphazard, ad hoc activity for your veterinary practice. Whether you are a single doctor veterinary hospital or multi-department specialty center, you need to establish a methodology for monitoring and reacting to negative reviews and comments.

There are a number of reasons for this, but of most importance is ensuring your response is appropriate and proportional to what has been said. Your goal should not be to act emotionally and risk inflaming a grievance and starting an online (and very public) argument. Instead, your process should focus on resolving the conflict as well as removing the offending comments.

Get Good at Monitoring the Web – You will need to routinely perform searches of rating sites, blogs and forums that may mention your practice or a doctor at your practice, and any other place where negative content could be posted and your online reputation marred. As such, Google can be your best friend by performing searches of your hospital’s name as well as the names of doctors and veterinary staff. It is more than likely that the most recent mentions of these search terms will appear higher up in the search return.

You can also purchase, download for free, or sign up for services that will help monitor the Web for you. For example, Google Alerts allows you to create a number of alerts based on specific search terms. You can use your name or the name of your hospital and Google will monitor the Web for you and send an alert each time a new posting is found that is relevant to search term. You can also create multiple alerts to safeguard your online reputation.

Other resources for online reputation monitoring include Google Me on the Web, Technorati.com, Keotag.com, Blog Patrol, and BoardTracker. All of these are designed to conduct thorough searches of the Internet for mentions of specific tag words and then report on what is found.

Own Your Google Places and Yahoo Local Pages – By claiming ownership of the pages for your hospital on these websites—if you have a business name, address and phone number, you have a page—you can have some control over the content on them. If you have not claimed ownership of your page on these sites, you should do that immediately.

The process for claiming your business listings varies by site. You can find the listings by doing a Google search for your business and adding your city and state. Chances are you’ll find several listings that do not link directly to your veterinary website. These may include CitySearch, Yahoo Local, or Yelp listings. You may be surprised by the number of listings that have been created without your knowledge.

The first listing to claim is Google’s Places page. You’ll recognize this listing by the “map pin” icon. When you view this site, you’ll see a “Business Owner?” link in the upper right corner. By clicking this link, you can add a number of things to your listing including your hours, photos, and descriptions of services. You do need a Google account to sign in and claim your listing. To verify that you are the business owner, Google will call your business phone with a PIN number. It has to be entered in the final screen to claim the account. The other sites are similar, and most business pages are free to claim.

How You Can Fight a Bad Review

The first thing you need to know is that it is very difficult to remove a negative review for the sake of your online reputation. In fact, if the reviewer is accurately stating their perception of what occurred, the website will not remove it lest they lose credibility with consumers that depend on their reviews.

Most effective strategies deal with mitigation, which often means diluting negative reviews with positive content related to your veterinary  hospital. We will describe this further down, but a professional online reputation management firm will be able to help you create and search engine optimize positive content so it appears higher up in search results than the negative content.

In general, the following should help you respond to or mitigate damaging content:

Seek Out the Site Administrator – If a review is posted on a site such as Yelp.com, seek out the administrator and let them know that you are displeased with a review or comment, why and that you would like to see it addressed. While it is very difficult to get content removed, if the posting is clearly inaccurate or crosses the line into libel, then you have a chance. Remember, these sites depend on the accuracy and credibility of their reviews in order to be successful. If reviews are nothing other than mudslinging to tarnish online reputation, consumers will go elsewhere for information. By communicating with the site administrator you are helping to maintain the integrity of their website.

When you contact this person, you should be polite and succinctly state your case of why the review should be removed. Anger will get you nowhere.

Add Your Own Positive Review – It is also possible to dilute the effect of one or two negative reviews by ensuring your page on Yelp or any other popular customer review website has a number of positive reviews of your practice. You can write one or two yourself, but should enlist the help of employees, other doctors in the area, friends and satisfied clients.

Be aware, though, that these sites use filters to weed out fraudulent positive reviews. Many business owners claim that Yelp, for example, purposely filters out good reviews in order to force business owners to pay a high subscription fee to be able to respond to negative reviews. A Google search of “Yelp complaints” will provide a day’s worth of reading.

Common review filter triggers include:

• Geographic – is a business is located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and receiving many positive reviews from Philadelphia, then that looks suspicious.

• Timing – If a negative review all of a sudden triggers many more positive reviews right after it, this may raise the alarm.

• Frequency – Businesses that receive a small number of reviews and then experience a sudden increase can trigger the filter.

• New Users – if a number of new users suddenly go to a specific business to write positive reviews, this can look suspicious.

Respond to a Bad Review – As a business owner, you can provide a response to a bad review on most of these sites as well as in the comments sections of blogs or directly in a forum. When responding, write only the facts, correct any wrong information, and be polite. It is important to be cool because you don’t want to start a war with back and forth comments.

Be Honest – Try to do some research into why the person may feel they were not treated well by your business. It may be that they have a point. Offering an apology and a discount of some sort may smooth rough feelings and may lead to a revision of the negative review to positively reflect your efforts to reach out and resolve the issue.

Handle the Issue Privately – Though there are exceptions, it is in your best interests to try and manage the issue privately, if possible. A string of charges and counter charges or even a courteous public airing of the issue are likely not in your best interest.

If you do need to respond publicly, such as in a comments section, keep to the facts, be honest about the issue, and plainly seek positive resolution. If you screwed up, apologize. If the review is inaccurate, state your view without embellishment. Readers will be savvy enough to read and see your point of view for the sake of your online reputation.

If it is a Blog or Forum – Blog and forum owners and writers also depend on their credibility to maintain the value of their reviews and insights. If they get it wrong, they are more than likely going to want to correct a misstatement. They also will enforce rules of honesty and integrity in their comments section and remove comments that are dishonest or over-the-top. Forum owners also have rules for postings and generally want them followed. If you believe a post to a forum crosses the line, politely point it out.

Learn from The Reviews – Receiving a negative review doesn’t feel good, especially if there is some merit to what is said. However, while you should still address them, you can also learn how to sharpen the appeal of your business and improve your brand and online reputation. If people consistently complain about your website, listen to them and fix it. If they complain about your customer service, improve how you handle customers.

Professional Online Reputation Management Companies

A simple Google search will turn up a number of professional online reputation management companies such as Reputation.com, ProfileDefenders.com, BigBlueRobot.com, and OnlineReputationManagement.com.

The services offered by these companies often fall into three categories: reputation monitoring, reputation protection, and addressing damaging content. For the whole online reputation service package…

Online Reputation Monitoring: This is much as it sounds. The online reputation monitoring company owns proprietary software that is constantly analyzing content from ratings sites to search engines to social media to blogs to forums and anywhere else your online veterinary reputation could be damaged. When negative content is found they will notify you and offer methods for mitigating or removing it.

Online Reputation Management and Protection: This refers to techniques to ensure that when a prospective client seeks information about your practice, they find content that positively reflects the medicine you practice and your brand. This can include placing positive content on review sites, issuing press releases online, mentioning your practice on forums, etc. These efforts often are matched with Search Engine Optimization efforts so this content is at the top of search results for your practice.

Online Reputation Repair: When negative and dishonest content is found, these companies will mitigate and/or work to remove it through a take-down request. Mitigation could mean using technical means to undermine the search engine ranking of the material so it is essentially buried in search results. For example, they often hire professional writers experienced in Search Engine Optimization and can quickly create mini-websites with positive content. These will appear higher in search returns than the negative content for your online reputation.

These companies can also do this through blogs, social media, as well link-building to positive listings and content about your veterinary hospital to help you get back a good online reputation. They also can create a news page on your hospital with press releases and current content that is optimized to appear high up in a Google search.

These online reputation service companies also advertise that they have expertise and relationships with review sites, blogs, forums, etc. so they are able to issue strong takedown requests to remove damaging content. They also can prepare information for legal action to remove negative content, especially if it is dishonest or libelous.

However, while mitigation strategies are proven to work, it is still very difficult to have a negative review removed. It needs to clearly cross a legal line or the stated policies of the website.

It is also important to note that most online reputation management (ORM) strategies take time. In one case, Google Places continued to display a negative CitySearch review for seven months after it was removed. Search engine optimization methods for your veterinary hospital can take time too. Getting to the top of search results is often a hit or miss and can take weeks or months to fine tune.

Lastly, while these online reputation services offer a lot, they can also cost a lot. For their full ORM packages, many companies charge thousands of dollars per year. Fees can vary widely depending on the depth of reputation management service you need or desire as well as the size and scope of your veterinary practice. Monthly charges can range from $100 to $300 per month and even as high as $15,000 per year. Therefore, you really need to think about your needs and risk in order to create a cost/benefit analysis of what will work for the online reputation of your veterinary practice.

In all, it is incredibly important for business owners to know what is being said about their companies before any significant damage is done to their reputation. The best means is to institute an ORM methodology that is focused on resolution and building your brand.

The professional staff at VetNetwork is ready to help you manage your veterinary hospital’s online reputation. Since VetNetwork does not accept clients outside the veterinary profession, we understand your problems and your specific veterinary marketing needs. From total veterinary marketing packages to websites, logos, brochures, direct mailings, email newsletters, SEO and reputation management programs, the entire staff at VetNetwork is totally committed to helping you build your practice.

Article Written and Copyright © by VetNetwork 2012
www.vetnetwork.com

2 Comments for Veterinary Hospital Online Reputation Management – Part 2

Kerry | January 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

What kind of services do you offer in relation to this topic and how much per month are we talking about?

Scott Linick | January 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

This article is very thorough and informative. Does your ORM program offer all 3 reputation topics that you mention;monitoring, protection and repair. I would be interested in the cost of this program.

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