Few business-related internet entities have caused as much controversy as Yelp!, but love them or hate them they aren’t going anywhere. As…erm, aggressive…as some of Yelp’s growth strategies may be, there’s no question that they work.
With an audience approaching 150 million unique visitors per month—just in the United States—Yelp is far and away the leading general-purpose business review site in the world, and it gives you plenty of potential to find and attract new patients…
…if you know how to use it.
Amazingly, many doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and other healthcare providers completely ignore their Yelp profiles. They assume that people just use Yelp for restaurant reviews, and don’t see any reason to include Yelp in their active online marketing efforts.
While it’s true that restaurant reviews make up a large chunk of Yelp’s traffic and an even bigger chunk of the platform’s fame (and infamy), TONS of patients use Yelp to help them choose medical professionals.
In fact, a 2014 study found that more patients used and trusted Yelp for physician reviews than any other site, including healthcare-specific sites like Healthgrades and RateMDs.com.
Why Yelp is so Popular With Patients
There are a number of factors contributing to Yelp’s popularity among patients, from the sheer size of the site and the comprehensive listings it provides to its familiarity and perceived trustworthiness. A story that appeared in the New York Times earlier this year sheds light on one of the most important reasons patients love Yelp, and might help you understand the importance of investing some time in garnering Yelp reviews.
“[In Yelp reviews], patients reported on aspects of care that extended beyond the patient-physician encounter. They were concerned about staff, access to the hospital and convenience. They also cared greatly about the bedside manner of the doctors they encountered…
“Researchers…found that Yelp reviews did cover most things the [hospital consumer assessment] survey tallied. But they also covered an additional 12 criteria not in the survey.
These included the cost of a visit; insurance and billing; scheduling; compassion of staff; family member care; and the quality of many staff members. All of these things were important to patients, and all might be correlated with outcomes. More important, nine of the 15 most prevalent criteria in reviews were not included in the survey.”
Simply put, Yelp lets reviewers mention anything and everything they look for in a healthcare provider, and other patients use Yelp because they’re looking for the same detailed, in-depth information about potential new doctors.
It’s little wonder, then, that Yelp profiles are frequently among the top search results for many search queries about specific businesses or business types—including medical services and individual providers.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Yet despite all of Yelp’s prominence among patients and prowess in helping your practice get noticed, loads of healthcare providers are either ignoring or actively avoiding Yelp as a digital marketing tool. Not only are they missing out on lots of opportunities for new patients, but they might actually be losing potential and existing patients because of what is—and what isn’t—on their Yelp profile.
Any time any site publishes information about your medical practice without your knowledge, you’re at a liability. You have no opportunity to correct or respond to negative feedback or misinformation, and you have no way to capitalize on anything positive that’s being said. When it’s a site as large and powerful as Yelp, the effects can be truly devastating. And there’s a very good chance you already have a Yelp profile whether or not you know it.
(It’s OK to take a second to check. In fact, we encourage it. We can wait…)
Shocking? It shouldn’t be. The internet lets anyone say almost whatever they want on any subject that comes to mind, and part of the task modern healthcare professionals must face is monitoring their online reputations and ensuring patients see accurate—and hopefully positive—information about you and your practice.
Most successful providers go far beyond simply monitoring their online profiles, of course, and take an active hand in promoting robust online health.
When it comes to Yelp, it’s easy to ensure your profile is not only doing no harm, but is proactively preventing mistaken impressions while garnering the reputation—and the new patients—you deserve.
Taking Control of Your Healthcare Practice’s Yelp Profile
Hopefully you have a solid idea of how important Yelp can be in attracting new patients and building your medical practice. It’s one of the best ways to make sure you end up at the top of relevant search results, and it’s a portal plenty of patients use to find new healthcare providers. Now here are a few tips for getting every marketing boost you can out of Yelp.
- Claim your profile. The first step in marketing with Yelp is claiming your practice’s profile, or your individual doctor profile if you practice without a separate business name. If you’re a semi-independent part of a larger practice, claiming or creating a profile just for you is also a good idea. Once you’ve claimed your Yelp listing, you’ll be able to engage with patients who leave reviews and whole lot more.
- Display accurate info. Once you’ve claimed your profile, you can edit your name, location, contact info, and business hours. Not only will this make it easier for patients to find and contact you via Yelp, but consistent and correct business info across all of your online profiles is an important SEO step for your practice’s website.
- Add photos to be more appealing. Uploading photos to your Yelp profile will give you a more friendly, professional, and trustworthy look. Show off your state-of-the-art equipment, your inviting waiting room, and your smiling staff—and of course, add a few pictures of yourself!
- Link your Yelp page to your website. Linking all of your social media and review/listing-site profiles to your primary website is good practice for a number of reasons. It makes it easier for patients to click through and learn more, it increases the likelihood of a new patient contact, and it’s good SEO (the more links you have coming into your practice’s website from outside sources like Yelp, the higher your page will rank in relevant search results).
- Link your website to your Yelp page. You’ll want to link from your site to your Yelp profile, too; you want to create a two-way street to make things easy for patients and to maximize your SEO benefits. You’ll get more patients clicking through from your site to leave reviews on Yelp, which will give you a more active profile and help attract new prospective patients.
- Ask for reviews and increase your rating. Chances are most of your patients are very happy customers (if they aren’t, all the marketing savvy in the world isn’t going to do you a great deal of good). Ask your patients to leave you a review on Yelp—make it low-pressure and easy by sending a post-visit email asking how happy they were with their care and including a link directly to your Yelp profile with encouragement for them to click and share their thoughts.
- Consider paid advertising on Yelp. If your budget has room, paying for advertising on Yelp can lead to a great deal more prominence on the site. Not only will your paid ads appear alongside your competitors’ profiles, but your own profile may appear higher in “organic” search results on Yelp, and your best reviews might also become more visible to prospective patients (like we said, Yelp may be controversial, but it works).
Making sure your own website ranks well in searches and is continually updated with accurate information is important, but doing the same with third-party review/listing sites can be even more important.
Follow these steps to make Yelp a centerpiece of your digital marketing efforts, and you’ll see an ROI that both you and your patients can appreciate.