stethoscope and quote marks by Columbus website design firm Sevell

Why should doctors care about social media review sites? Because like a good website, social media sites, especially the ones people look at for reviews of doctors' practices, help patients find you.

And when patients find you, instead of you having to find them, it makes your practice more profitable. Being a Columbus website design firm working with plastic surgeons and other doctors, this is something we keep up on, and want to share.

When both the New England Journal of Medicine talks about Online Patient Reviews of Physicians, and The Journal of the American Medical Association finds social media reviews worth talking about, you know you need to pay attention. If you've not taken steps to get reviews on social media sites, you're already way behind the curve, and behind many of your competitors.

What are the most popular social media sites for doctor reviews?

As a doctor or surgeon, you might be surprised to know the five most popular websites your patients and prospects are looking at are, in order of prominence: Yelp, Google+, Healthgrades, RateMDs and Vitals. At least for now, Yelp has been shown to have the most impact on healthcare professionals.

While Yelp, Google+, Healthgrades, and RateMDs all have almost equal credibility, most patients don’t readily think about Healthgrades, RateMDs and Vitals. And that’s why Yelp and Google+ are so important, and why, for this blog, we’re going to focus on those two social media platforms.

Just how many people check online reviews?

Studies have shown about 75% of people of people check online reviews before deciding what doctors to consider. It's not surprising to learn more and more people are going online to check out doctors before selecting one. With that much online activity, your reputation can easily be impacted by what people are saying about you.

No matter how much weight you  put into these statistics, your potential patients  consider the value of online medical practice reviews worthwhile. These reviews can affect your medical practice’s reputation. Like your website, these online reviews might be the first thing patients learn about you. And with one too many bad reviews, it may mean these reviews are the last  thing people want to learn about you.

A quick overview of how popular these sites are.

See the screen shot of a Google search for Phoenix plastic surgeons to see how well these social media sites show up.

Google search results as show by plastic surgeon web design firm Sevell


Healthgrades’ reviews can also show up on page one of Google when a patient searches for your practice, which is awesome if you have good reviews.

Healthgrades’ website, which has over 100 million users, might even show up on the first page of Google if someone searches for a general term for what you do, like "pediatric doctor Columbus,” or “Dallas cosmetic surgeon.”


While patients can anonymously leave reviews, Vitals filters negative reviews and doesn’t allow reviews that aren’t constructive, so they do curate the comments, which is good.


With a million doctor profiles and over two million posted reviews, there’s more than 100 million people searching this site before making their health care decisions (at least according to RateMDs).

RateMDs will take down fraudulent reviews if you can prove it isn’t true. They also add awards to your profile if you receive good reviews on a regular basis.

Claim your business on both Google and Yelp so patients can find you.

Assuming you’ve claimed your business listing on Healthgrades, Vitals and RateMDs, you really need to claim your business listing on both Yelp and Google+. If not, you're falling further behind other doctors in your industry with each day you wait. Being a business owner, you have to also be a marketer. And being a marketer means getting your business on social media.

It's simple to claim your business listings on both Yelp and Google so you at least have a start at having a presence on social media. Claiming your listing is step one. Getting reviews is the next step, and that process is worthy of it’s own article.

Positive patient reviews on different social media websites has become necessary to find patients, or more accurately, for patients to find you. And it is becoming more important as the healthcare industry has to reach out to customers just as every other industry does.

Google business listing screen shot by Columbus web design firm

What if you have negative comments ?

Obviously, what people are saying can have a positive, or negative, effect on your practice. However, the question becomes, what if there are one too many negative comments about your practice? What if someone on your staff had a bad day and it’s reflected in on online review? Is there anything you can do about negative reviews? Or do you have to just bite your tongue and hope not many people see it?

Turns out, there are things you can do to combat negative reviews on Yelp.

All reviews are filtered and eventually find their way into the “not recommended” section. You can find that at the bottom of the screen in gray.

screen shot of Yelp review for reviews not currently recommendedWhen reviews go to the “not recommended” section, they’re no longer visible. So for your great reviews that end up there, you can pull it out and given new life. To see how to do that in detail, see MarketingLand’s article, 5 Yelp Facts Business Owners Should Know (But Most Don’t).

In one case, a dentist on California is suing someone who left a bad review, and evidently, they weren’t the only ones who have done that.

What if you have negative comments on Google+?

To do this, you’ll have to “flag" the review so Google can look it over. Then Google’s people (yes, they do have people working on these things: not just algorithms) will review it and may, or may not, remove it from your Google+ listing.

To read how to do this in more detail, check out Google’s article called "Flag and fix inappropriate reviews”

What to avoid when getting Google+ reviews.

We know one to two of these things from personal experience, but there’s an important list of things that will prevent a review from showing up, or remove one, on your Google+ page.

  • People put their domain names as links in their reviews (because it gives them a back link)
  • The exact same review appears somewhere else online (Yelp, a testimonials page on your website etc)
  • The person writing the review is also the manager of your Google+ page
  • The person writing the review works for you (how Google knows this we’re not sure)
  • Whoever is writing the review is using the same computer, or has the same IP Address that you use to sign into when managing your listing
  • You have an iPad or computer at your office for patients to use to write reviews. If the reviews are from the same IP address as other users who left you other reviews, it will make Google think you're pushing people to write reviews
  • Someone was trying to post a review on several different times on several different dates
  • You've collected a bunch of reviews in a relatively short period of time
  • If you have several locations, if the person who wrote a review has also reviewed multiple other businesses with the same name
  • If whomever reviewed your company has a completely blank Google+ profile
  • If you hired an SEO company to post reviews for you (somehow it looks suspicious)
  • If you're offering incentives for people to write reviews. It’s a federal law that people disclose if they’re getting some benefit from writing a review, or posting anything positive about your company.
  • If the number of reviews is abnormally high compared to other businesses in your industry.

The battle between Yelp and Google.

robots battling with Yelp and Google logos on them by Columbus Oh web design guys.While Yelp is its own powerhouse for online reviews, Google influences everything search-related. So as time goes on, you'll probably find Yelp reviews not showing up as much in Google searches. So if Google is pushing those listings down, and a lot of your traffic finds you through Yelp listings in search results, then turning your focus Google+ is the next logical step to take. And as those of us in the SEO world know, there’s no arguing with Google.

The battle between Yelp and Google is all the more reason to have a great website that is search engine optimized, especially for mobile. The reason your mobile site is becoming more important than the desktop version of your website, is Google is starting a "mobile first" algorithm program that uses Googlebots to search and index your website, but based on the mobile  version of your site, not the desktop  version.

The reason this new algorithm affects your Google ranking is that people are looking at the mobile version of your website while on a bus, car, coffee shop, or any number of locations where the internet connection isn't so great. It's not great because they're using a shared connection or don't have access to their 4G network. And without a high-speed internet connection, the mobile version of your website could load very slowly. And that counts against your website because load time is, and has been for a while, a ranking factor in Google's algorithms.

Bottom line is...

Social media management is a time-consuming effort, and if you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself, it's best to hire someone who lives in that world week-in, week-out. Because like everything you do, if you don't do a good job of it, you might as well not do it at all. And that brings us back to you being behind the rest of your industry with your social media marketing.