Online reviews burst onto the mainstream Internet scene around November 2010 when Google switched over to a local search platform. With the advent of local search, Google started to visually include social indicators to help rank websites within a local environment. One of the lead indicators at the time was online reviews because they were public and Google could index these reviews quickly and easily. Even Yelp reviews were wrapped into the online reviews on Google in 2010 until Google dropped them. Google partly made this dramatic change to local search in response to Facebook integrating the search engine, Bing, into its software.

What might have been a quick decision on Google's part to compete with Facebook has now morphed into a mainstream decision. As of April 2013:

Dang! Just when veterinary hospitals were hoping online reviews would be a passing fad, it turns out they are here to stay. Why? Because they are having an impact on human behavior.

The struggle

There is nothing like the surprise of a negative review to get your heart racing and your emotions seething. Let's face it: When a less-than-savory review is placed on one of your review pages, it hits home. It hurts. And the opposite is true also. The sheer joy when a positive review is placed that reflects the hard work your team incorporates in the practice every day makes you feel as if you are on top of the world. Who wants to deal with the emotional roller coaster? Very few veterinary hospitals. So, they don't. And there lies the problem.

The myth
There are a couple of myths that are swirling around the marketplace. Both of the myths are embedded in the I-do-not-want-to-deal-with-online-reviews struggle. The myths are:

If we do not look, there will not be any reviews posted.
If we have someone else managing our reviews, they will still show up on Google.

Constantly, I am peppered with questions, such as, "How do I turn off my review areas?" (Answer: You cannot--they are owned by other companies.) "People cannot just go leave reviews whenever they want, right?" (Answer: Yes, anytime. Day or night.) "How do I have the negative reviews removed?" (Answer: With difficulties, and if you can, the process will be as painful as a root canal.) "If I cannot have my reviews turned off or removed, people can leave reviews whenever they want, and I have intense distaste to managing reviews, then I will just hire someone else to do it, right?" (Answer: Maybe. That depends on your definition of "managed.")

Online reviews have gone through a few intelligent evolutions since becoming mainstream in November 2010. The latest version of Google reviews, for example, requires a person to have an account on Google before writing a review. When the review is written, the person writing the review will see a message that their name will be attached to the review. Basically, if you have something to say, you have to stand behind it. With this concept, companies that were hiring people to go and leave rave reviews on Google about a business no longer could. Google flags people who leave a high volume of reviews day in and day out. This is a good concept.

Here is the rub. A company can assist your business in managing reviews by doing the heavy lifting in "claiming" or acquiring your user name and password and can coach your staff in how to ask and respond to reviews. Your staff needs to ask your clients to post reviews directly on Google, Bing, Yahoo, City Search, etc. There are no shortcuts. If another company asks and posts reviews from your pet owners on their website other than Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., those reviews will not be seen by people searching on those search engines. Period.

When researching online management providers, here are a few questions to ask to see if they can assist your business.

  1. Where are the reviews posted once they are written? (Correct answer: Directly on Google, Yahoo, and Bing by the pet owner, not the online review management company's website.)
  2. Who owns the reviews once they are posted? (Correct answer: Google, Yahoo, and Bing, not the online review management company helping your business.)
  3. Does our company have to assist to "claim" my Google+ Local Area, Yahoo Local, etc? (Correct answer: Yes, because these companies will contact the hospital to verify they are the ones requesting the user name and password, versus someone trying to hijack the identity of the business.)

The bottom line is that it's time for hospital owners to embrace the concept of online reviews. They are here to stay. By being proactive with your brand management, you can help improve your bottom line and create better, long-lasting relationships with your clients.

Beyond Indigo Pets is here to help you navigate the sometimes scary world of online reputation management. Take advantage of our free, one-on-one consults by calling Melissa Neff at 877-244-9322, ext. 100, or emailing her at [email protected].


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