By now there’s no denying the role online reviews play in the choices potential patients make about plastic surgery.
The opinions shared by others now show up in more places. They provide objective, third-party affirmation, aka social proof). And they serve as a powerful indicator of your trustworthiness.
While all this explains why people use online reviews, a study from ReportLinker.com shows how they use them. Understanding the latter can be an invaluable resource when it comes to ensuring that your medical practice reviews are among the ones they read.
Search engines and review sites dominate preliminary research
When asked, “Where do you first search for reviews?” respondents said,
- Search engines: 33%
- Review websites: 25%
- Company websites: 22%
- Accredited sources (Consumer Reports): 18%
While many people begin their research on Google, the fact that one in four says they start on a specific review site speaks to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior.
Today’s consumers are increasingly sophisticated in how they search, and they know they’ll find more relevant insights on subject-specific review sites. Whether it’s TripAdvisor for hotels, Zagat for restaurants, or RealSelf for cosmetic treatments and plastic surgery, visitors know that the “wisdom of the crowd” is enhanced when the members of that crowd have been there and want to “pay it forward.”
When it comes to credibility, content is king
Online reviews provide unbiased info, which is what makes them such a trustworthy alternative to more traditional marketing. The question is what criteria do readers use to determine whether the reviews they read are accurate?
According to ReportLinker, the top three criteria respondents cited were:
- Review content: 62%
- Number of reviews: 58%
- A fair blend of good and bad reviews: 54%
Clearly, solid content — relevant, relatable, informative — carries a lot of weight, but having more reviews, including some less-than-stellar reviews, is also an important indicator of credibility.
In the ReportLinker survey, a third of people felt reviews were reliable if a business had a minimum of 30, a third felt 11 to 30 reviews were sufficient, and a third was comfortable with less than 10.
These don’t all have to be 5-star raves either. In fact, aesthetic consumers consider a range of outcomes (and the reviews that result) as a mark of authenticity.
According to a RealSelf consumer survey comparing two hypothetical doctors — one with 10 reviews, averaging 5 stars; the other with 50 reviews, averaging 4.5 stars — 75% of aesthetic consumers said they’d be more likely to contact the doctor with more reviews and a slightly lower rating.
Small screens play a big role
When asked, “Which main device do you usually use to consult and/or write reviews?” respondents said:
- Smartphone: 35%
- Laptop: 32%
- Desktop computer: 22%
- Tablet: 10%
For younger people, the numbers were skewed even further toward mobile, with 56% of millennials choosing their phones first vs. the 40% of people ages 55–64 who initially fired up their desktop computers.
The takeaway? Optimize your practice website for mobile and make sure your reviews look great on several devices.
It’s important to have a good selection of online reviews and also make sure they’re readily accessible. That means persuading patients to write and share in-depth reviews, encouraging them to post those reviews where it counts, and employing good SEO- and mobile-friendly practices.