How to Avoid Being Sorted By Yelp
The online review wars are heating up again. With Google's decision to build their own reviews (and subsequent purchase of Zagat) along with rumors of a Yelp IPO with in the next year, doctors are finally starting to recognize that online reviews are here to stay. Interestingly, some services promising legal protection from online reviews appear to have also recognized this inevitability as they've now started offering reposting services for doctors.
These third-party reposting services take positive reviews of your practice and post them for you on the major review sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Google Places, and others. At first, this may seem like a good way to take control of how you look to new patients when they research you online. Unfortunately, it isn't. Here's why you need to avoid the temptation of making this mistake…
It violates most review sites' Terms of Service.
The terms of service for most online review sites state that the review must be left by the actual patient and not a third party acting on behalf of the patient. Posting a review as a third-party is almost always prohibited, and gives the site the right to take down the review. (Plus, when a third-party creates the profile necessary to post these reviews, they not only violate the sites' terms - they also become liable for the review being left. Raising the question of why they'd want to do it in the first place?)
It can negatively affect your positive reviews from actual patients.
While there are many questions remaining about review site algorithms like the Yelp Sort Algorithm and whether they're being used in an ethical manner, these algorithms are becoming smarter by the day. (And, with a potential Yelp IPO, they'll continue to get better.) The algorithms can already tell when multiple reviews are being posted from the same address (regardless of how many new profiles are created). And, we're seeing these filters removing reposted reviews en mass & flagging the account of the doctor being reviewed - making it even harder for a positive, first-person review from a genuine patient to be approved and displayed on your account.
It makes you look unethical.
If you think review sites act unethically with how they handle your reviews to give a distorted view of your practice, it makes you look even worse to a patient when the same review of a doctor is posted across multiple sites. While most patients are more than happy to leave a review of their doctor online, they also realize that they themselves would never cut-and-paste review on multiple sites for their doctors. Thus, seeing this very thing sets off warning bells in the mind of the prospective patient as to the validity of the reviews in question. Instead of making you look good across the Internet, it comes across as a questionable act taken by an unscrupulous online marketer or an overzealous office manager on your behalf.
On the old Internet, a less-honest doctor may have been able to get away with this sort of thing. On the new social web, transparency is key. Patients have become quite web-savvy, and expect more from the web than the same old marketing ploys. They expect the new marketing - one based on a truthful & transparent view of your practice that they can trust.