Protect Your Online Reputation

By Mark Feltz, DVM
for Veterinary Practice News

March, 2011 Issue

It’s difficult enough to build your veterinary hospital’s brand without having to worry about rock-throwers attacking your reputation on the Web.

The growth of online communities means anyone can undermine your hard work to build a positive practice brand. Many pet owners look online for veterinary hospitals and rely on others’ opinions when deciding where to take their pets.

Satisfied clients rarely go out of their way to let others know they’re happy. Those with a bone to pick, no matter how small, tend to make an effort to share their dissatisfaction and  they usually use high-profile online forums.

Key people who can hurt your online reputation include:

Negative reviews and comments about a hospital are likely to turn up on websites such as,,, and many more. They also can be found on blogs, Facebook, and a host of other social media websites.

According to, as of December 41 million visitors browsed 15 million reviews, on which readers can comment, in just 30 days. That’s a lot of opinions.

Hospitals need a defense against the online chatter. Allowing negative reviews to stand is a huge mistake—especially those that are hyperbolic or untrue.

What You Can Do

One may feel overwhelmed by the task, but specific steps can protect and enhance the online reputation of a practice. They include:

Establish an online reputation management process: Online Reputation Management should not be a haphazard, ad hoc activity for your practice. Whether a single-doctor veterinary hospital or a multi-department specialty center, hospitals need to establish a protocol for monitoring and reacting to negative reviews and comments.

A response needs to be appropriate and proportional to the review. Don’t react emotionally or risk inflaming a grievance and starting a public argument. Instead, focus on resolving the conflict and removing the offending comments.

Consider hiring an online reputation management firm: Most veterinary hospital owners are too busy to manage these matters on their own. There are professionals who can monitor the Web for mentions of a practice and also have the relationships and skills to ensure that negative reviews and comments are removed, or at least dulled. Fees vary widely depending on the depth of service, as well as the size and scope of a veterinary practice. Monthly charges can range from $20 to $300, and even as high as $15,000 per year, so shop around.

Consider purchasing online reputation management software: Several good software products, such as,,, Blog Patrol, and, are designed to conduct thorough searches of the Internet for mentions of specific tag words, and then report the findings.


What else can you do? Continue reading this article...