How NOT to Get Better Online Reviews
84% of people trust online reviews as much as their friends’ recommendations, and about 91% of people have read reviews for local businesses in the last year. Obviously, your reviews are important to the success of your practice. You probably already knew that. But what if I told you there was a way to guarantee that most of your online reviews were 4 or 5 star ratings?
There is! Unfortunately, it might be the worst thing you can do for your online reputation. It’s called review gating, and it’s a very bad idea.
What is review gating?
Review gating is a technique that encourages positive reviews, and prevents potential negative ones. Here’s how it works:
After a patient’s visit, your online reviews service sends them a message (usually a text or an email) that asks them to rate their visit on a 5-star scale. If the patient responds by saying they would rate you 4 or 5 stars, great! The service then asks them to leave their feedback online, and helpfully includes links to Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, and other online reviews sites. Voila, all your happy patients have been guided to leave their glowing reviews where the whole world can see them.
If the patient responds negatively, then the service keeps their feedback private. Only you can see it, and they aren’t given links to reviews sites. So in order for someone to give you a negative online review, they’ll have to make the effort of finding your profile and posting it on their own. Thus, the good reviews come much more easily than the bad.
What’s wrong with that?
Though it’s a good way to give your practice a leg up on the competition, there’s a problem with it. Google, the de-facto rulers of the internet, have decided that they don’t like it. In April of this year, they added review gating to the list of practices that aren’t allowed. And if you want your business to be found online, it’s in your best interest to play by Google’s rules.
What if I still want to gate reviews?
Maybe nothing bad happens, maybe Google deletes all your reviews overnight and makes you start from scratch. If someone reports you to Google, that’s exactly what could happen. And while someone reporting you may seem far-fetched, one complaint from a tech-savvy patient could be enough to start an investigation. For that reason, continuing to gate your reviews is like heading to Vegas and betting your entire online reputation on black. The risk isn’t worth the reward.
How common is review gating?
Almost every online reviews service worth its salt had been doing this for the last couple of years. Now, the opposite is true – any valuable online reviews service won’t touch review gating with a 10-foot pole. Ask your reviews service if they gate reviews. If the answer is no, good. If the answer is yes, run. If the answer is “what’s review gating?” then run even faster, because if they don’t know about this, they’re in the wrong line of work.
If you want more reviews, and you want them earned the right way, LocalMed has you covered. LocalMed Reviews doesn’t use review gating, and instead sends review requests that are pre-populated with 5-star ratings. Patients are free to respond however they like, but rest assured, if they’ve had an appointment, they’re getting a review request.
To learn more about online reviews, review gating, schedule a demo here.