Author Archives: Marie Olesen

Fake ratings put good doctors at great risk

Unless you were under a rock, you saw the recent story about Amazon taking legal action against over 1000 individuals who wrote fake reviews on their site.

This bad behavior is not limited to Amazon products. Right now in aesthetic medicine, a handful of website and SEO companies are including fake ratings on doctors’ websites. This puts their clients at risk, potentially damages their reputations, and opens the website and/or the practice up to punitive action by Google or worse. 

How do you know if your ratings are fake?

Example of fake ratings placed on a practice’s website.

If you have a star rating on your website, try clicking on any part of the ratings. Typically, it will not be linked to a source where you can read reviews. There will be no supporting documentation to represent the rating or explain how it was calculated. The number does not automatically increase with new reviews and can be plainly seen by Google or anyone reviewing the source code.

When faked, the number of total ratings shown is typically very large – often 400+ total ratings.  We have rarely seen a plastic surgeon with this many ratings from any legitimate source, other than RealPatientRatings itself which generates ratings in a closed system by including every patient without exception.


How are they doing this?

By including schema tags for aggregate rating and review count, typically in the footer on every page. It is often placed unobtrusively alongside social media items as in the example shown here:

Five reasons why faking your ratings is too risky:

1. Breaking trust with consumers: Nothing makes a potential patient angrier more than being lied to. If someone uses a Google search result and clicks through to your website, they expect to see reviews or ratings. When they discover that there’s really nothing there, this not only frustrates them, but diminishes their trust. If they are looking for real ratings and reviews, they will move on to a practice who meets their needs, and this relationship begins online.

2. Signaling distrust to Google: Google rewards the most trusted sites with higher rankings. Google hates anything fake. Over the years we have seen this pattern repeatedly: fake keywords, fake article sites, fake press releases, fake links, and so on.

Successful and ethical SEO tactics mean behaving like a true brand. Why would you take such a risk and include fake ratings on your site? A quality brand wouldn’t dream of doing this. Google has the smartest engineers in the universe writing algorithms to detect and devalue low quality content and fake backlinks. How could fake ratings not be equally or even more hated by Google? I am already seeing evidence of Google beginning to detect and eliminate these fakes.

3. Ethics: Is it ethical to misrepresent your ratings to get patients to come to your website? Imagine your website being reviewed by your society’s ethics committee…how would that go? Having fake ratings sends a negative message to every colleague in your market that you’re either willing to cheat or have no idea what your SEO provider is doing?

4. FTC’s Truth in Advertising Guidelines: Would the FTC agree with you having phony ratings? Since 2010, they have had a division solely devoted to cracking down on deceptive internet advertising. 

The Federal Trade Commission’s Truth In Advertising rules provide some useful guidelines: reviews must be “truthful and substantiated,” non-deceptive, and any material connection between the reviewer and the business being reviewed must be disclosed.

5. Fraud: While talking with our members at the recent ASPS meeting in Boston, a RPR member with several hundred legitimate ratings showed me how two other surgeons in his market were displaying phony ratings. This doctor is also a lawyer and suggested that misrepresenting one’s rating could be construed as fraud and result in civil action if the patient believed the statistics and was wronged somehow.

Fix it now before the damage is permanent

I expect the fake ratings trend to continue, and that we’ll see a future algorithm update address it. I also expect those websites with fakes to be “dinged” or punished by Google. If you have a fraudulent aggregate rating on your website, we recommend taking it down immediately. If you weren’t aware it was there, you may also rethink your relationship with your web company.

If this is happening to you, whether you’re aware of it or not, it is still your responsibility to manage and monitor the behavior of the website companies or SEO professionals managing your presence. 

My suspicion is that if most the doctors knew what they were risking by having fake ratings on their websites and understood how damaging it was to the patient relationship, they would be very unhappy about it. 

This Week in Reviews: From Amazon to BrightLocal

Fake reviews are bad for everyone. Both consumers and the businesses and medical practices that serve them need reviews to be delivered purely and accurately.

On Monday, Amazon filed a lawsuit against 1000+ people who have been writing fake reviews and undermining consumer confidence. I applaud Amazon for reinforcing this important issue.

Amazon’s action is good news for the 92%* of consumers who now read online reviews and for the companies and medical practices who play by the rules. Consumers need credible information and reward transparent products and services with their custom.

This week we also discovered BrightLocal’s 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey that covers the gamut of consumer behavior related to ratings and reviews.

BrightLocal’s research addresses fakes as a growing consumer concern. Their research shows increasing consumer dependence on reviews, up 6% to 92%. Only 8% of consumers do not use reviews in 2015, down from 88% in 2011 when I founded RealPatientRatings.

Searches for Doctor/Dentist reviews are second only to restaurants and surpass the categories of General Shopping, Clothes Shopping and Hotels/B&Bs.

Fake reviews in medicine are particularly dangerous which is why our entire system prevents fakes at RealPatientRatings™. Our patent-pending process ensures 100% verified reviews with real patient feedback that consumers and medical providers can rely on.

Key ‘Takeaways’ From BrightLocal Research*

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014)
  • Star rating is #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
  • 44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant
  • Consumers are becoming more concerned about fake reviews

Despite the challenges, ratings and reviews are a growth strategy for the business and practices that are willing to embrace transparency about their products and services.

Unlocking the Secret to Great SEO

For this week’s American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses (ASPSN) meeting in Boston, two members of the RealPatientRatings team were asked to create poster presentations. 

Eva Sheie, our Director of Online Strategy, drew up on current research and many years of experience to develop this poster, titled Unlocking the Secret to Great SEO.

Today’s effective SEO strategy is centered around trust in two ways: trust built with Google, and trust built with patients considering your services. Find out which kinds of internet marketing can get you into trouble, and discover which tactics result in greater trust with both Google and patients to generate more conversions, more consults, and more cases.

Click this image to enlarge & download a printable PDF.

See the RealPatientRatings Team in Boston

bigstock-Boston-Skyline-at-night-Massa-95892542We are proud to announce that our founder, Marie Olesen, and our Director of Online Strategy, Eva Sheie, will be presenting on practice management, social media, and search engine optimization at several events during this week’s American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) meeting. 

If you’re headed to Boston, stop by and see us in booth #1163 at the exhibit hall and find out what’s new with RealPatientRatings, or join the team at any of the following courses throughout the week. 

ASPS Boston: October 16-20, 2015

(PR170) New! Hot Topics from Re-Boot Camp
Faculty: Allyson Avila, Wendy Collins, Sandy Roos, Eva Sheie
Date: Friday, October 16, 1:00 – 4:00 PM
Location: 204b, BCEC

(PR261) Finding Hidden Revenue in Your Practice
Faculty: Marie Olesen
Date: Saturday, October 17, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Location: 211, BCEC

(PR560) Lost in Google Space: Can anyone really get you to the top of the search results?
Faculty: Eva Sheie
Date: Tuesday, October 20, 7:00 – 9:00 am
Location: 208, BCEC

American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses (ASPSN)

Moderated Poster Session
P2. Unlocking the Secret to Great SEO, Eva Sheie
P4. Implementing a 5 Star Patient Education Process to Drive Retention, April Linden
Date: Sunday, October 18, 5:00 pm – 5:30 pm 

American Society of Plastic Surgery Professionals (ASPSP)

Steal from the Best: How to Use Reviews to Grow Revenue
Faculty: Eva Sheie
Date: Monday, October 19, 9:15-10:00