This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
Just like other small business owners, veterinarians depend on people saying good things about them online to grow their practices. However, because feelings can run high when it comes to animal welfare, veterinarians are at special risk of reputation attacks, which often take the form of negative social media posts and bad reviews. In fact, 1 in 5 veterinarians have been targeted or have worked with someone who has experienced this type of online attack.
The good news is that there are several ways you can safeguard your online reputation and minimize the damage to your practice if someone tries to tarnish your good name.
Fill out your business listings on review sites
When people search for your veterinary clinic online, the first results they’ll see are your business profiles on review sites like Yelp, Google, VetRatingz, and Angie’s List. If you haven’t filled out your practice’s profile on these sites, you are missing out on the opportunity to position your brand in a way that presents you in the best light. More importantly, you should claim your business profile before someone else does.
“Sooner or later, if you’re not already on one or more review platforms, someone will make one for you so they can leave a review—and usually those who will go out of their way to do so are the unsatisfied ones ready to bash you with a scathing review.”—Nathan Yerian, CEO of LocalSignal, a marketing software firm for local small businesses
Further, by establishing your practice on these review sites, you’ll be notified of incoming reviews and therefore be able to respond to them sooner.
Respond to negative reviews
Unhappy customers rarely complain directly to the business they are upset with. Instead, they tell their friends (often via social media). Then, these friends share the story with their friends, which means that a customer’s original story—whether it’s true or not—can quickly spread across the Internet, often substantially deviating over time from the original complaint. These word-of-mouth reputation attacks can easily gain valuable, page-one real estate in your practice’s search results, making them the first things people see when they google you.
To avoid this situation, you need to rapidly post a response to any bad reviews. Of course, if your practice is the target of a large harassment campaign, it might be impossible to reply to all negative reviews. However, you should still try to respond to as many as you can.
Because nearly 90% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, the way you respond to a complaint can affect how potential customers view you. Therefore, your responses should always remain professional and include a clear company position regarding the problem, an apology for any misunderstandings, and a suggestion to move the conversation offline.
Ask for reviews
Reviews are indispensable for veterinary practices. They are how people learn about you, and they’re what make people decide to do business with you. Since most reviews tend to be positive, it makes sense to get as many reviews as you can.
The best—and easiest—way to generate more reviews is to simply ask for them at the time of service. In fact, 70% of consumers are willing to give a review when asked.
Other than verbally asking your customers, you can post signs in the office about your preferred review sites. You can also add links to your review sites on your website and at the bottom of all your emails.
Another method is to send out your own surveys. You can create your own or use a service like the one ReputationDefender offers to easily build and send out custom surveys to your clients.
Build customer trust with your website
Potential clients visit your website for one reason: to judge whether you are a good veterinarian. Let your positive reviews, testimonials, and other social proofs speak for you by displaying these items on your homepage.
You should also promote any accolades or accreditations your practice has earned. Is your animal clinic or hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)? If so, make sure to include the logo on your website’s homepage. Have you received any special certifications or awards? Ensure that these items have high visibility on the page.
Improve your customer service
The most effective way to deal with negative online comments and reviews is to avoid them in the first place. This might mean stepping up your customer service.
Nearly 75% of individuals who leave negative reviews do so to help future customers avoid having the same bad experience they had. If you can assure unhappy customers that you take their concerns seriously and will work to fix their problems, then they will be less likely to take their frustrations out in an online review.
Publish your own content
If someone is trying to ruin your online reputation by posting negative content, you need to mitigate the damage that this content can cause. The best way to do this is to drown out the bad content with new, positive content that you own. Because Google tends to value content you create over content created about you, your own blog posts or social media activity will rank higher in the search results over time, thus pushing down your negative search results.
And research shows that most people don’t ever look beyond the first page of the search results. Therefore, publishing your own content is a good way to make negative articles, comments, and reviews less visible.
Monitor what people are saying about you
You can’t respond to what other people are saying about you if you aren’t listening. As such, you need to monitor the Internet for mentions of your name. A good way to start is to google your name and several variations of your name. For example:
- Dr. Firstname + Lastname,
- Dr. Firstname + Lastname + Veterinarian
- Dr. Firstname + Lastname + City
To automate this process, there are several tools you can use, including our Reputation Report Card, which quickly scans the Web for your name and evaluates the strength of your online reputation. You can also take advantage of reputation monitoring tools like Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts, which notify you whenever a new mention of your name appears online.
For more information
Don’t worry if these steps seem like a lot of work. Many businesses successfully manage their online reputations without any help. However, if you think you might benefit from expert advice, feel free to give us a call. We offer complimentary consultations 24/7 to answer any questions you might have about the online reputation management process.
You can also take advantage of the self-help articles located in our Resource Center. Some good topics to start with are: