Category Archives: Internet Marketing

The Secret Recipe for Positive Reviews

In this Thanksgiving season, our minds turn to family and friends and thoughts of warmth and comfort. Similarly, these are the sentiments of happy patients at the end of a successful surgical experience.

On the surface, you may think RealPatientRatings® is simply another doctor review website. In fact, we are conducting the largest real-time study of plastic surgery patient experience in history. As of today, 32,315 completed surveys provide incredible insights into patient expectations about their cosmetic surgery experiences.

Distilling 20,000+ reviews, we created word clouds to highlight positive and negative patterns in patient sentiment. (Word clouds give greater prominence as words appear more frequently in the source text.)

Which feelings do happy patients have in common?

Looking at the dominant words used in 5-star (highly-satisfied) reviews, the patients focus on their positive emotions, i.e., comfort, outcomes and next steps. They are happy and satisfied. They plan to stay in the practice and help it grow. Nearly all of them authorize posting of their positive reviews.

Look at the words and phrases that dominate:

  • Experience (staff, comfortable, professional, confident, friendly)
  • Results (outcome, pleased, better, best, amazing)
  • Recommend (friends)


*Word cloud generated with 75 most frequently used words distilled from over 14,000 5-star (highly-satisfied) reviews

Which sentiments do unhappy patients typically share?

If you’re a doctor whose average rating is 3.9 or lower on a 5.0 scale, too many of your patients are saying very different things about you. In negative reviews, patients most often express sentiment within the following themes:

  • Time (schedule, appointment, rushed, waiting, long, minutes)
  • Communication (call, asked, questions, wanted, needed)
  • Money (estimate, pay, price)

They are frustrated by service and communication failures and their negative reviews focus on these issues. If you want to change the tone and content of future reviews, then you need to attack these service problems at the source. Interestingly, most bad reviews are not complaints about the quality of results, but about the patient experience.


*Word cloud generated with 75 most frequently used words from over 6000 reviews with ratings of 1-4 stars (highly dissatisfied, dissatisfied, neutral, and satisfied.)

In a recent article in Forbes, How Doctors Should Respond to Negative Online Reviews, author Eric Goldman urges doctors to embrace reviews, as they’re mostly positive, and learn from the few negatives.

We agree! Most patients are happy, either satisfied or highly satisfied. Patients who rate their experience as neutral, dissatisfied, or highly dissatisfied represent only 4% of the survey totals for overall satisfaction.

Since it’s been determined in a number of studies that consumers require a small amount of negative feedback in order to confidently believe positive feedback, all the effort by doctors to quash negative reviews is really misguided.

time-for-changeWe encourage our members to embrace and use critical feedback internally to improve future patient experiences, which coincide with positive business outcomes they seek:

  • Improve conversion rates at consult
  • Increase likelihood to recommend after surgery
  • Increase potential positive reviews
  • Decrease the likelihood of negative reviews

Like any recipe, the right blend of ingredients results in a perfect dish. You can personalize it for your own practice, but the foundation doesn’t change. Be sure your service and care systems meet the needs of your patients. To the extent that they don’t, your reviews will be filled with patient frustrations about small, incidental issues that should be fixed internally rather than displayed for the world to see.

Once you address and correct any problems, your reviews will be filled with the joyful experiences of happy patients who are telling their friends and family why they should come to your practice.


7 Online Marketing Predictions (and 1 Wish) for Plastic Surgeons in 2014


1. Content marketing will be the most important part of your online strategy

seo-monster-is-deadSEO is dead and has been (in its original form) for a while now. If you still think SEO is just a magical secret formula of keywords on a web page and a bunch of inbound links, it’s time to change your thinking.

To remain competitive in 2014, cosmetic practices will need to devote more resources to content marketing. Content plays the starring role in a successful SEO strategy. Yesterday’s keyword-stuffing, city-name-everywhere-on-the-page approach no longer works.

TIP: Choose an SEO team who works in partnership with you to create great content. Remember quality is key, not quantity. Be prepared to help them, they can’t do it all without you.

2. Successful content marketers will leverage reviews to drive conversions

content-monsterReviews build online relationships (i.e. conversions and phone calls) better than any other type of content. Not surprisingly, publishing reviews on your own website can increase conversions by 2x to 8x!*

Would you like to generate 20% more leads from the web than you did a year ago? As a direct result of changing their overall marketing strategy to highlight reviews and other related content created by patients, a practice in a highly competitive California market experienced a 20% increase in website conversions (number of contact forms completed) over the previous year.

TIP: (and some other review sites) give you easy-to-install embeddable review widgets that keep your website updated automatically with review content that will engage your visitors and increase conversions.

*RPR study

3. Expect doctor reviews to continue exploding in popularity

+52% more people searched for doctor/dentist reviews in 2013 than in 2012 accodring to Only restaurant reviews were more popular! We don’t expect this trend to change.

In 2014, consumers will also prefer reviews from trusted sources over older less-trusted websites, and prefer recent reviews older reviews.

4. Doctors will be inundated by salespeople offering newfangled methods of generating reviews

scared-doctorGuaranteeing your patient’s anonymity is the most effective way to generate truly authentic reviews and collect enough reviews to have an impact on your marketing.

All medicine, especially cosmetic surgery, is a highly personal experience and true anonymity is required to acquire honest feedback.

To decide on a system for growing your online reputation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your patients feel safe enough to share their true feelings?
  • Will the patient feedback help your practice grow in a constructive way?
  • Does the system truly understand the business of medicine?

TIP: Don’t choose a method of generating reviews where patients write a review while at your office, and avoid any methods that require the patient to post online under their real name.

5. Keyword data will no longer be available to rely on

not-providedIn your Google Analytics reports, have you seen the numbers of “(not provided)” keywords growing like crazy? Changes to online privacy settings mean that our access to keyword data is dwindling and will soon be completely gone.

Although keyword data will be sorely missed by all, once it’s all gone we will have to shift our measurement of Internet marketing success to engagement statistics like pages per visit, time on site, and conversion rates.

(In this SEO’s humble opinion, this is a healthy and positive change.)

TIP: Download an Excel report of your entire keyword history for future use. Do this ASAP before it is gone forever.

6. Trusted sources of web traffic will be more important than ever

Your most important real-world relationships and affiliations will also be your most significant online relationships.

asps-find-a-surgeon.jpgFor instance, a surprising number of ASPS member surgeons have incomplete profiles on plasticsurgery,org. That means the 463,000 people who searched for a surgeon on in the last year* never had an opportunity to see them. It also means these surgeons are missing out on the powerful benefits of links from to their own websites.

TIP: Complete your doctor profile and invest in an Enhanced Profile.

BONUS TIP: There’s only one way to show surgery reviews on your ASPS profile! Our official endorsement by ASPS means that RealPatientRatings members with ASPS Enhanced Profiles can display surgery reviews on their profile for free. This important consumer content is available to help patients find vital information to help them make choices.

**Data collected between June 2012 and 2013. Statistics provided by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

7. Mobile and tablet users will account for more than 50% of your website traffic

phone-in-bedIf your site isn’t functional on smartphones or tablets, you may not have been affected much yet. This year, you will definitely feel it as the number of people using these devices to engage with content on your website continues to climb.

TIP: You don’t need a separate mobile website any more. Professional web development has already evolved past that! Responsive websites are the new standard and when built properly they automatically display perfectly on any device.

Not so much a prediction, but our wish for the future…
Surgeons will stop worrying about reviews and focus more on patient satisfaction

Everyone will routinely survey their patients

Nearly 80% of medical practices categorized as “better-performers” use patient satisfaction surveys, and send surveys out more frequently than other practices.***

Reviews aren’t something you can buy or beg for, they are a happy byproduct of patient satisfaction. Start by looking inward (surveying your patients is a great place to start) and the reviews will come naturally.

And stop trying to control the system

Doctors and consumers both truly hate the review sites that are suspected of gaming the system, and yet they still want to have control over the reviews that are published.

Just like SEO, there are no tricks or magic bullets to get solve the problem of meeting your consumer’s need for authentic reviews.

More resources: 7 secrets to getting positive online reviews

KISSMetrics: The Future of Content Marketing: Trends and Predictions for 2014

Forbes: The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014

EHR Intelligence: Most better-performers use patient satisfaction surveys Why 2013 is the Year of Responsive Website Design

The 4 Biggest Marketing Mistakes Committed in Cosmetic Practices

Thank you to our wonderful colleague Joyce Sunila of Practice Helpers for this guest post.

1. Copying retail marketing.

Discounts, loss leaders and other retail store gambits have limited relevance to the marketing of professional services. Over-reliance on them ends up conflating the hard-won skills of surgery with a commodity.

Go in the opposite direction. Convey the distinctive, impossible-to-imitate expertise that makes you more than a doctor – makes you an artist who happens to work in medicine. If you must “drive business” with discounts, make them a minor chord in the marketing symphony.

2. Ignoring how luxury brands 2

Who does Lexus look to when rolling out their latest models? Lexus owners. Owners have already experienced Lexus’s peerless service. Lexus parlays that investment to move new product.

Look to your database of loyal patients first when planning marketing initiatives. Current patients have already jumped the biggest hurdle to booking plastic surgery – they’ve decided to trust you. Parlay that trust.

3. Overpaying and under-strategizing.

There’s a well-known formula in marketing: It costs 10 times more to attract a new client than it does to bring in a current one. Doctors who rank new business above repeat business put themselves on a treadmill. They spend the big dollars on pricey services like SEO, portals and other lead-generators. What’s left over — the crumbs — go to the truly cost-effective tools like email, greeting cards, flowers, local events, etc.

This upside-down spending pattern is the opposite of strategic thinking. It drains the practice and leads to desperation.

4. Not thinking long-term.

Instead of a vision of the future, most practices work year-to-year. Their marketing swerves back and forth, each year’s initiatives correcting the previous year’s failures. This is waffling, not strategizing.

Today’s cosmetic patient is worth over $100,000 in lifetime service. Exploiting that value should be the primary goal of the marketing plan. At maturity (10+ years old) a cosmetic practice should plan on earning 50% of receivables from repeat business.

Set a goal of securing your patients’ lifetime value. Work toward that goal constantly. Use your database every way you can to put a lock on patients. They are your equity. A guaranteed flow of repeat customers is the best way to ensure growth over the long haul.

Get clear on the target to win long-term.

Joyce Sunila is the President of Practice Helpers, providing e-newsletters to the aesthetic medicine industry. She can be reached at, 866-278-3019, or visit the Practice Helpers website,

Copyright ©2013 by Practice Helpers. All rights reserved.

Infographic: The 5 Stages of Learning to Live With Patient Reviews (For Doctors)

reviews-are-goodJust for fun, a lighthearted look at the process many doctors have gone through with the evolution of online reviews from patients. Feel free to share this infographic and use it however you wish! We just ask for proper credit. Need a printable size? Contact us with the form on the left.


Click to download a pdf version of this infographic

Graphic design: Kristina Kiser at RealPatientRatings