Tag Archives: Yelp

The Secret to Getting More Online Reviews

What is the best method for doctors to get patients to write more reviews?

I’ve been asked this question on a near-daily basis for years and my answer hasn’t really changed much.

Still, almost every day some newfangled product or platform comes along to save the day and solve the problem of how to get more good reviews, scaring busy doctors with fear-based email marketing and threatening their reputations. The options are endless and confusing… expensive software add-ons, iPads in the lobby, kiosks, QR codes, even fake surveys.

fakedOne well-known company developed an entire program asking patients to fill out a survey on an iPad in the office. Somewhere in a dark room in another state (perhaps even another country) they took the comments from that iPad survey, created a fake Google, Yelp, or RealSelf account and post the comments from the survey responses as reviews. They went so far as to spoof their own IP addresses to pretend they were a different person each time.

When they got caught, they defended the practice, saying “it’s really the patient’s words, so what’s the problem?” Well, there’s just this little obstacle in the way called the TERMS OF SERVICE of EVERY WEBSITE OUT THERE.

Google flat out commands you not to impersonate others or misrepresent your identity:

“Impersonation: Don’t post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or connection with the place you’re reviewing.” –Google

Any time Google sets a standard for how they’d like us to do something, a number of people instantly set out to trick them, and the rest of us comply. Why not just follow the recommendations? Why so much manipulation? It’s as if the lessons of the last decade didn’t stick… fake keywords, fake articles, fake websites full of fake inbound links, fake stock photos, fake guest blogs, and now fake reviews.

Step into my time machine… Remember when stock photos were very expensive and people didn’t think they’d get caught “borrowing” images for their websites? Stock photo giant Getty Images didn’t like that so much, so they developed software to go out and find their stolen images and recoup their costs.

Many doctors received nasty legal letters with expensive fines for copyright violations. In most cases, the doctors didn’t even know the images hadn’t been paid for, but they were still on the hook. If you think you can’t get caught repurposing other sites’ reviews, just remember stock photos. The way I see it, the big companies are going to get awfully tired of their content being stolen and do something about it.

If you think you can’t get caught repurposing other sites’ reviews, just remember stock photos.

So what is the best way to get online reviews?

Occam’s razor. The doctor needs to simply ask the patient personally.

A fellow internet marketer who I respect reminded me of this recently when we talked about this issue, and he had been trying every method under the sun for his client’s practice, and the only tactic that actually worked was when the doctor asked.

Here are a few different methods for asking. Do what you’re comfortable with.

thank-youClassy: One very stately and elegant surgeon I know takes a few minutes to hand-write a few notes on his personal stationery, without addressing them. When a patient is happy, he steps away, fills in the name, and hands the patient the handwritten note on their way out. (This is my personal fave.)

Email response: If a patient writes you a personal email with compliments, reply and ask them to share it on one of the sites you like and trust. Google yourself and see which sites are at the top, and send them to whichever is the highest quality source on the top half of page 1 – don’t bother with the others. Let it go, let it goooo…! I give you permission to not worry.

Personal email: Even if you wrote one request per week, you’d be generating more reviews than your competition.

3 cool and affordable tools that support the process:

1 – Use your own website: Make a dedicated page on your site that says where to go. Don’t combine it with actual patient reviews, put those front and center on their own page (or multiple pages).

2 – Review Concierge: Designed just for doctors (not restaurants, bars, bike shops, mechanics, pet stores, etc.) and comes with a fantastic link you can share with patients to direct them to the best site where they already have an account to write a review.

3 – RealPatientRatings: Does not compete with your efforts to get online reviews. It is a different piece of the same puzzle and is highly effective at quantity and freshness. Behind the scenes, you get actionable intelligence to help grow your practice and to generate crazy-huge amounts of review content for your own website. Which is where you need it the most, because it’s where most of your patients will learn about you first. You only get one chance to make a first impression and this happens within the first 8 reviews read by your patient.

“Having a perfect 5 star rating everywhere isn’t what you want, it’s not believable at all and has the opposite effect — it diminishes trust.”

3 tips for review success

1 – CHOOSE WISELY: Avoid sending your patients to sites where reviews can be easily faked. This includes sites like Vitals, Healthgrades, RateMDs. If you send your real patients to write reviews there, that profile will rank better, and you’ll be exposing future patients to the possibility of fakes.

2 – QUANTITY OVER PERFECTION: Focus on quantity over perfection. Having a perfect 5 star rating everywhere isn’t what you want, it’s not believable at all and has the opposite effect of diminishing trust. It’s quantity and freshness that matters most for building trust and driving conversions.

3 – COMMON SENSE: Remember what your mom said. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! If you’re being pitched something that can’t be explained very well, if it filters out the bad reviews (which you need to be believed), promises to get you 5 stars everywhere, or fully takes away the personal request aspect, just be skeptical. Even the best software solutions are no match for a personal request. And asking is free.

Curious about each website’s terms of service?

Every company’s website has a page outlining their rules that can be easily found. The other important piece of information to know is how their reviews are collected, moderated, and published.

RealPatientRatings patent-pending process results in more 100% verified reviews faster than any other platform, returns them to you to power your own website and marketing efforts, and delivers actionable intelligence to make unbiased practice decisions.

Google and Yelp Terms of Service and Content Guidelines “Cheat Sheet”

Controversy surrounds the topic, but the guidelines are clear if you bother to read them. The rules aren’t complicated:

Google does not allow you to have a kiosk or a review station in your business.

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And forbids writing a review on behalf of another person.

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Source: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2622994?hl=en

Yelp doesn’t want you to ask for reviews either.

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Source: http://www.yelp.com/guidelines
Source: https://biz.yelp.com/support/review_solicitation

Don’t post your Yelp reviews on your own website. Yelp doesn’t allow you to use their content. This language has been in place since 2011.

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Source: http://www.yelp.com/static?p=tos_archived

Click to download our printable Terms of Service and Content Guidelins Cheat Sheet

Surgeons are 13x more likely to receive a 1-star review on Yelp

Have you ever had a Yelper give a “1 star” (Highly Dissatisfied) rating to your practice? If you’re like me, you might be able to accept that 1% of your cosmetic surgery patients won’t be highly satisfied.

But what if that Highly Dissatisfied number is 13%? Wouldn’t that defy belief? Yet, based on Yelp’s own statistics, 13% of its ratings are from Highly Dissatisfied reviewers. To make matters worse, MarketWatch confirmed in the fall of 2013 that up to 25% of Yelp’s reviews are fake.

ljcsc-yelp dist

Yelp ratings distribution in 2011 for La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre

I founded RealPatientRatings® because as the leader of an established and respected cosmetic surgery practice in San Diego, CA, I was livid about the grossly inaccurate view of our practice as presented on Yelp.

Our overall rating equated to a C+ and I knew from our past survey responses that La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre was not a C+ practice. Most astonishingly to me, 33% of our Yelp reviews were negative or neutral. It made no sense. I could not rely on such a flawed system to represent our practice.

100% verified ratings distribution on RealPatientRatings.com for La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, 2014

100% verified ratings distribution on RealPatientRatings.com for La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, 2014

After RealPatientRatings began soliciting feedback within a closed system, it turned out that our score from our real patients was a solid A with an overall rating of 94.6%. The negative and neutral scores were only 4%, which made a lot more sense.

As RealPatientRatings grew and the statistics for our fellow members reflected those of my own practice, I continued to watch in astonishment at the low ratings on sites that allow anyone to post.

Last month I discovered Yelp’s overall distribution of ratings across all of their reviews, which has since been taken down. This distribution matches the numbers that so inaccurately described our practice.

yelp-ratings-distribution-sept-2013 ratings

The distinction between verified patients and Yelpers is significant.

Among those Yelp reviewers are many non-patients, not just for my practice, but for every business listed on Yelp.

With almost 50,000 verified ratings having been generated by RPR, our data provides scientific and accurate insights about how cosmetic surgery patients rate their doctors – absent the trolls, fake reviews and murky algorithms used by sites with flawed review systems.

Surgeons are 13x more likely to receive a 1 Star review on Yelp.

These startling differences in results prove the impact of fake reviews on your reputation and on the likelihood of consumers to choose you as their provider.

According to RPR data, 95% of verified patients rate their satisfaction with their cosmetic plastic surgery experience as either satisfied or highly satisfied.


In reality, extreme dissatisfaction is rare

Only 5% of patients rate their experience among the neutral, dissatisfied and highly dissatisfied categories, of which only 1% is highly dissatisfied.

Contrast these numbers with the ratings distribution published on the Yelp website for all its listings. Remember, anyone (including your competitor or former employee) can represent themselves as your patient and write a negative review on Yelp. While Yelp is working actively to identify and remove such reviews, their own data shows how far they have to go.

Only 67% of Yelp reviews are from highly satisfied (41%) and satisfied Yelpers (26%).

The remaining 33% of Yelp’s ratings fall into the neutral, dissatisfied and highly dissatisfied categories. Looking only at the 1 star ratings, a whopping 13% are highly dissatisfied which is 13x greater than with RPR’s verified ratings.

Comparing Yelp and RealPatientRatings® Data.

MarketWatch’s 25% estimate of suspicious reviews is quite close to the mark. As you will see from the analysis below between realpatientratings.com and Yelp, there is a difference of 28% in favorable ratings between verified reviews and an open system like Yelp. Or in the reverse, a difference of 28% in unfavorable ratings when moving from an open system to a verified system of reviews.

  • Considering Positive Ratings Only (4’s & 5’s). There is an absolute decline of favorable ratings of 28% on Yelp vs. RPR. Or, a relative increase of 42% of positive responses with RPR’s verified reviews rather than Yelp’s system.
  • Considering Negative or Neutral Ratings Only (3’s, 2’s and 1’s). There is an absolute increase in negative ratings of 28% on Yelp vs. RPR. Or, 660% relative increase in unfavorable ratings on Yelp vs. RPR.

This data goes a long way to explain the frustration of most surgeons with Yelp and with other flawed reviewed sites that allow anyone to post a review. Indeed a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit affirmed Yelp’s right to manipulate its ratings for money.

Meanwhile, consumers are using these faulty ratings and reviews as if they present a true and accurate picture of practice quality. They are making important choices based on erroneous information about the level of patient satisfaction in our practices. To the extent you don’t acknowledge this consumer reality, and the ratings about your practice are not accurate, you can anticipate a decline in new patient flow.

The only rational answer to this situation is to have your own ratings and review strategy. If you want more prospective patients:

  • Profit from the increasing consumer demand for ratings and reviews
  • Publish 100% verified third-party ratings and reviews directly on your practice website
  • Ensure that an accurate and current assessment of your practice’s quality is available 24/7

Every day more consumers are using reviews to decide which doctor they will choose.

When RealPatientRatings began in 2011, Pew Research reported that 12% of adults had consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors or other providers.

Three years later, these numbers have reversed… now only 12% of consumers do NOT read online reviews, and 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Given this massive shift in consumer behavior, the effect of flawed and distortedly negative reviews sites is an even greater problem for physicians.

All this leads to RealPatientRatings. We’re so convinced that you’ll experience increased conversions that we offer a free trial. 

Marie Olesen
Founder, RealPatientRatings®

5 Must-Read Reputation Management Articles for Plastic Surgeons

Forbes: Is Online Reputation Management Worth The Money?


The cost of reputation management services who claim to be capable of cleaning up your online profile range from free to upwards of $1000 a month, but are they worth it?

Critics say these sites don’t do anything you can’t do yourself.

Doctors who ignore online reviews put their reputation on the line

MediBeauty advises that “No one would suggest that cosmetic surgery is an “impulse buy” but the fact remains that people are increasingly adept at getting a good sense of a doctor’s reputation quickly.”

BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2013

A revealing look at how consumers read reviews and how their opinions are affected by the reviews they read, specifically concerned with reviews & purchase of local business services and not product reviews.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People!

A comprehensive guide to Yelp for businesses, covering every angle of the coveted and often-frustrating acquisition of Yelp-worthy review content.

How Ratings + Reviews = Revenue

A RealPatientRatings webinar, originally broadcast July 31, 2013.

What is “reputation management” anyway? Like everything in online marketing, it’s constantly changing. Learn how to focus on proactively protecting yourself, and convert more leads and cases with the marketing features available to you as a member of RealPatientRatings. We’ll show you how to do more with what you’ve got by using the 3 most important reports on your reporting dashboard, and how to and interpret the data to generate more revenue without spending more money.