You want all of the positive reviews, and that’s not a bad thing. But how you get them is another story.
Google has always had a policy in place to safeguard against false or spammy reviews, but over the last year they’ve made huge strides in making sure that they’re cracking down on any and all unethical review techniques. One such technique is called review gating, in which a business initially finds out if the experience was positive or negative before sending their consumers or clients outbound to a review source such as Google. In essence, this is practically soliciting only positive reviews, and misrepresenting the actual reputation sentiment of a business. The positive side is that you can avoid this and still be successful in gaining plenty of new positive reviews.
Why Did Google Change Their Policies on Reviews?
If we had the answer to that question on hand, we’d probably be the most famous agency in all the land. It’s just one of those questions that marketers have to consistently ask, and often don’t get a solid answer to. In this instance, though, there’s a completely simple answer: to keep it real.
You may remember last year when Google stopped allowing anonymous reviews to combat people who were flooding businesses with either too many positive or too many negative comments from the same user. Although some people were annoyed that it would require them to create a Google account, it was a smart move. This created a more humanized approach to reviews, which allowed industries, especially healthcare, to create a more trustworthy presence online. The new release on Google’s content policy was outlined below, mainly in the second bullet point:
Why Is Review Gating Bad?
Even when soliciting new reviews, you should always want both the good and the bad. At the end of the day, the hope is that your patients will love you and your practice enough to leave an honest review, which is ideally positive. However, a bad review can be humanizing, and your response can say a lot about your practice overall. Review gating, although not an iron clad way of preventing negative reviews, basically traps a patient into only going outbound to Google if their experience was over 3 stars. If it was 3 stars or below, they’ll be given a thank you message, or be sent to a form to email you with their feedback. However, if they’ve given you a 4 star or above, they’ll be provided with the opportunity to document their experience on Google.
Seems fishy, right? That’s because it is! This is giving an inaccurate representation of your practice, as your negative reviews have potentially been funneled solely back to you, and the client has been tricked into thinking that their review will actually be made public. If Google recognizes this, and decides to penalize you, you will lose a great deal of your positive reviews, effectively tarnishing your reputation in the blink of an eye. Don’t be that practice!
How Can I Avoid This?
At the end of the day, your reputation matters, and you do want positive reviews. That’s why you should focus on doing reputation management. But, make sure that you’re doing so in an ethical manner!
At Practis, we take a list of your patients and provide them with either an SMS or email message stating that we want to hear about their experience. On this page, however, we’re not going to weed out the negative responses. In fact, we invite them to leave their review on whatever source, and highlight this option at the top of our message to them. At the bottom, they’ll also have the ability to contact you directly with any negative feedback. With this format, people are receptive to the idea that you’ll be listening to their negative responses and actually digesting it for use within the practice rather than simply publishing it to Google and letting it be. For that reason, most of your negative reviews will be sent direct to you at the practice and not blasted out online!
Be Proactive and Avoid It!
Be warned that the idea of review gating is going to look phenomenal when presented to you. A new, shiny item that can get me positive reviews? SOLD! But, we warn you, be proactive and avoid review gating opportunities. While Google may not penalize you now, or even if you have the ability to “get around” their policy with sneaky methods, it’s not going to serve you well in the long run. Focus on ethical, healthy review solicitation tactics and you’ll find yourself performing much better organically, and have patients that trust you before they walk in the door.
Contact Practis today to learn more about our reviews management opportunities. You can give us a call at (704) 887-5300, or shoot us a request online!