The New Google is the Old Yelp?
By now we all know that fake negative reviews have become a major issue for doctors on many online review sites. While Google's recent decision to remove Yelp, RateMDs, & Demandforce reviews from the star-ratings on their places pages is understandable, it is raising problems since their initial approach to filtering out fictitious reviews left directly on Google still needs some work.
While we don't know a single doctor who appreciates being extorted by an online review site, there have been strides taken over the past year by some of these sites to address the phenomena of fictitious reviews being left by non-patients & competing doctors. But, with Google starting to build their own database of online reviews, we appear to have reverted back to the days of Yelp - circa 2008.
Since Google's review algorithm is relatively young, we're seeing it being taken advantage of by some practices. For example, a practice in the San Diego area created 2 separate places pages with 5-star, "Best Ever" reviews displayed prominently on each profile:
Dental Practice on Google Places #1
Dental Practice on Google Places #2
Dig a little deeper though, and you'll find that the faceless profiles belonging to "eRIN" & "Sammi" have each given 30+ 1-star reviews to competing local practices in the San Diego area:
eRIN's Google Reviews
Sammi's Google Reviews
At this point, it no longer matters if it truly is a top-notch practice with a highly skilled doctor - actions like this make them look dishonest and leads potential patients to start wondering about what else the practice isn't being straightforward about. (And, we can't imagine it's going to make for a pleasant local society meeting next month?!?!)
We're confident the brilliant people at Google will find a way to deal with this problem, but for now it appears anybody can get their fake reviews displayed on places pages with relative ease. In the meantime, please don't fall victim to the temptation of doing this for your own practice. With the growing transparency of the social web, getting caught is becoming inevitable - and the backlash simply isn't worth it.