Responding to Negative Reviews II: Sometimes the Best Response Is to Change the Conversation

Responding to Negative Reviews II: Sometimes the Best Response Is to Change the Conversation

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Let’s face it — having done your best to help a patient, you have every right to be dismayed when you discover they’ve posted a scathing online review. As previous posts have noted, there are appropriate ways to respond to them and inappropriate ways to respond, but sometimes, the best response is to bite your tongue and let the internet do the talking.

How? By minimizing the impact of a negative review by ensuring it’s viewed in the context of as much positive content as possible. From gathering more reviews from satisfied patients to posting SEO-friendly content, here are some strategies that prove that “the solution to pollution is dilution” (and a few that will likely exacerbate the problem):

Do get current patients to post reviews: Nothing puts a bad review in perspective like a lot of great ones. Compare your practice management software, newsletter subscription lists, and the major review sites to find recent patients who haven’t posted reviews and send them a reminder that “paying it forward” will help other aesthetic consumers make more confident decisions.

Do claim your social profiles: Simply put, the more places you appear — especially on high-ranking sites like Facebook, Yelp, and RealSelf — the less space there will be in search results for that one-off, one-star review.

Do update your blog: While Google, etc., don’t share the secret sauce they use to determine search rank, they all give extra weight to fresh content. (Presumably, fresher means the content offers more current, and therefore, more relevant information.) As with your social profiles, a new blog post can provide good SEO juice, pushing a negative review down — or even off — Page 1 of potential patients’ search results.

Don’t pay for rave reviews: Whether it’s encouraging employees to write rave reviews or searching the internet for sites that tout their rosters of reviewers-for-hire, trying to counter bad reviews with a slew of fake reviews is unethical and/or illegal. All major review sites prohibit the practice and are getting more adept at spotting, and more aggressive about going after, the offenders. In 2008, RealSelf filed suit against the now-defunct Lifestyle Lift, and earlier this summer, Amazon sued three of its sellers it believes to have engaged in the practice.

Don’t offer incentives for reviews: Although offering incentives, e.g., a discount on a future procedure, isn’t illegal, the law states that any such incentives must be disclosed. More to the point, most major review sites, including Yelp and RealSelf, prohibit the practice.

Don’t fall for reputation management scams: Given the crucial role online reviews play in people’s purchase decisions, it’s no surprise that reputation-management is a growth industry. When considering hiring a company offering such services, the issue at hand is how they propose to resolve the situation. If they adhere to the best practices above — helping you generate more good, legitimate reviews; creating high-quality content, etc. — they may be able to help. If, on the other hand, they promise to get negative reviews taken down — a notoriously difficult endeavor — chances are you’ll end up as unhappy as the patient whose negative review created the problem in the first place.

Image by F Delventhal via Flickr

Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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