Physical Therapy Ratings and Reviews – Negative Reviews Aren’t So Bad

Here are some thoughts about negative physical therapy ratings and reviews, why they aren’t so bad, how and why you should respond to them, as well as positive reviews too.

Before I get into it, you should know that an occasional negative review is actually beneficial.  Don’t believe it? Check this study out (available as a PDF from a Google search).

Disclaimer, we aren’t HIPAA experts or attorneys.  For legal questions, please consult with a compliance company such as bcmscomp.com or your own attorney.

HIPAA and Responding to Physical Therapy Ratings and Reviews

A cursory Google search with various search terms related to HIPAA and responding to reviews resulted in the following conclusions:

  1. If a patient has already revealed his or her personal health information in his or her online review? Doesn’t this authorize a provider to acknowledge that the person is a patient? After all, this individual has already admitted this in the review. The answer is “no.” Per HIPAA regulations, regardless of what a patient says in his or her review, you are NOT authorized to release any private health information in your response.  According to Deven McGraw, the deputy director of health information privacy at the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  https://www.reputationdefender.com/blog/doctors/online-reviews-and-hipaa-what-you-need-to-know-about-responding-to-patient-reviews
  2. Numerous responses to Google, Yelp, and Facebook ratings and reviews include Protected Health Information.
  3. There seems to be no legal precedent that we could find related to litigation, fines, or complaints regarding a response from a physical therapy practice to a positive or negative review.
  4. There are legal cases surrounding physicians’, chiropractors’, and dentists’ responses to negative reviews.
  5. In a 2016 ProPublica post, Yelp gave ProPublica access to their ratings and reviews for study and the authors noted: “We identified more than 3,500 one-star reviews (the lowest) in which patients mention privacy or HIPAA. In dozens of instances, responses to complaints about medical care turned into disputes over patient privacy.”
  6. HIPAA Journal made no reference to fines related to responses to negative online reviews in this post.
  7. Common sense suggests that you shouldn’t discuss the patient’s case at all in a public venue such as ratings and review sites.
  8. Responding to positive reviews in such a way that it acknowledges that the review was a patient, while apparently a HIPAA violation, hasn’t resulted in any negative consequences for providers.
  9. Most patients write positive reviews so, you won’t be responding to many negative patient reviews. Reference
  10. Best practices are to respond to reviews with generic language and a focus on office policies, e.g. thank the reviewer but don’t acknowledge they were are patient.

Background – Physical Therapy Ratings & Reviews on Your Website vs. Online Directories

I define online reviews [when I say reviews, I am implying both a star rating and text review] as those posted to directory sites, such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook to name a few.  Our data, from over 1700 PT websites, indicates that Google is the first place that most prospective patients see you online; therefore, online reviews at Google matter the most and you should have a system to capture them. Like many other systems, E-rehab has a great system (we have many clients with over 100 Google reviews) that either directs patients to the proper place to write a review on Google My Business or to write a review for their website.

I speak to many practice owners that are so focused on Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews that they forget that the second most common way prospective patients get to your website is by directly going to it…in other words, they type your web address/URL into their browser.  For this exact reason, you want to make sure that you have reviews on your home page, not only Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

Jay Baer, marketing and customer service expert, articulates this well in his post: 

But there’s a second type of review that is just as important: first-party reviews. These are the reviews that are on YOUR website. They’ve been common on e-commerce websites for years, but are now popping up on retail, restaurant, and professional services sites.

You’re going to see more and more first-party reviews because they help convince customers late in the funnel, by ratifying their decision to make your enterprise the finalist for their purchase.

Bad Reviews Aren’t So Bad but You Must Collect Reviews from All of Your Clients

In a study by reevoo.com (that’s worth the download), they noted that bad reviews are helpful to consumers in the following ways:

Consumers want complete information
We all know that no product or service is completely perfect. Consumers want to know the few negatives so they can weigh them up against all the good points and make a fully informed decision.

Consumers don’t always agree on ‘bad’ points
A bad point to one purchaser is often irrelevant to another – and can even be an advantage. One guest could hate a hotel because there were ‘too many’ children but, to someone planning a family holiday, that’s an advantage.

Consumers don’t look at reviews in isolation
The mere presence of bad reviews isn’t enough to put most consumers off: it’s the ratio of good to bad that matters. A few bad reviews carry much less weight with readers when they appear alongside dozens or hundreds of good reviews.

Consumers notice when there are no bad reviews
Shoppers are suspicious when the reviews don’t include any complaints. They won’t assume your product or service is just that good – they’ll assume it’s so bad you have to censor customer feedback.

If you read the ebook, you’ll notice that it is primarily about products, not services, or specifically physical therapists.  Nevertheless, their conclusions on how consumers utilize review information is likely to apply to the PT private practice space.  At the very least, it should give practice owners better perspective on the value of reviews to consumers and alleviate some of the anxiety when you receive a bad review.

But, you don’t want to just sweep a bad review under the carpet.  You need to take action.

Responding to Negative and Positive Physical Therapy Ratings & Reviews is Important

It’s important to respond to reviews because as much as anything, you are writing the response for other people that will be reading the reviews.

According to Software Advice’s 2019 updated survey, patients would like providers to respond to reviews.  However, do so with care.

Importance of medical providers responding to negative reviews

Below are tips, that when followed, may keep the patient coming back and prevent prospects that have examined your reviews from choosing another practice instead of yours.

1) Respond fast –  51.7% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their negative review within seven days. The quicker the response, the better. Patients that see you respond quickly to their issue helps them to understand that you are a customer-service oriented practice. By delaying a response, you risk never getting any business from not only that customer, but future patrons as well.  Prospects who read these reviews and see you respond in a genuine, caring way are very likely to still choose you because they see you are actively involved with making sure your patients’ concerns are addressed.

Case Study: in 2018, I helped several clients respond to negative physical therapy ratings and reviews.  Two clients that I helped said that a patient read the response and chose their practice.  Not to say that I have some magic formula to respond, it was more about being polite and timely.

2) When you respond, don’t be defensive or argumentative – First, thank them for letting you know there was an issue. Then, offer your sincere apology that it even happened at all. Tell them that this is not typical of your company and that you are giving this issue your utmost attention. If possible ask them to contact you so you can resolve it as quickly as possible. How you resolve the issue is up to you.

Some patients just want to be heard. Others will try to extort money from you, or in other words, will tell you they are going to write a negative review if you don’t forgive their copay or co-insurance. Responding to them by letting them know that you went through a rigorous process of sharing your financial policies with them and verifying insurance before they came in (assuming you did of course) and what their responsibility was is often a good way to handle these.


Don’t be Afraid to Share Your Side – While some physical therapists would prefer not to defend themselves fearing ongoing negative dialogue, other experts argue that you should tell the story as it went down. Neil Patel SEO expert and blogger extraordinaire, states in this post:

Don’t be afraid to tell your side of the story…Bad reviews are not always your fault. But when a number of things add up to a negative customer experience, your business might suffer.  If somebody were to falsely accuse you of a crime, you would do anything in your power to prove your innocence.  When a review is simply untrue, you might need to do the same.  Sometimes, you need to share your side of what really happened.

I happen to agree with this.  Too many consumers write negative reviews  about health care without thinking.  Some have the crazy notion that insurance is going to cover everything (and fail to read the financial fine print on PT intake forms).  Setting the record straight can sometimes lead to the patient removing the review.  This was an experience I had with a client in Brooklyn.  She wrote a negative review, we responded properly, and she removed it.

If indeed you do take a position of defending yourself, make sure you don’t violate HIPAA regulations.  You might choose to say something like this in response to a negative review: “Thank you for your review.  We take all reviews very seriously both positive and negative.  Because of HIPAA regulations, we cannot discuss patient cases publicly.  However, we make every effort to avoid situations like the one you are suggesting, given our policies…x, y, z.  That said, patient satisfaction is our highest priority and we are absolutely willing to discuss this matter.  Please contact the owner at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.”  By responding in this way, you are articulating to other readers that your reputation and the care of your patients is important, you have policies surrounding care complaints, and you would like to address the given negative review in a legal and private manner.  Readers are likely to respect an organization that responds in this manner.


3) Ask Them to Update Their Review If you were able to successfully resolve an issue offline, ask the patient to return to the directory site and update their review! Don’t try to post yourself stating that the issue was resolved. It is best coming from the patient. They may not update their response, but it does no harm to at least ask and may go a long way to, once again, increase your reputation online!

Still others are just unhappy people and that’s okay.  As I indicated earlier, having a few bad reviews isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, when it comes to purchasing many goods and services, maximum purchases occur from vendors when their online reputation is less than five stars.  I haven’t seen that play out in the rehabilitation profession but if you have a very large volume of reviews, >100, it could be an advantage.

4) Responding to Reviews is a Differentiator – in a large data study by reviewtrackers.com (worth the read), they indicated that 63% of consumers never hear back after they post a negative review.  In a cursory inspection of 50 different physical therapy practices, we too noticed that neither positive or negative reviews received responses from PT practices most of the time.

5) Responding to Positive Reviews is an SEO Factor Finally, why bother to respond to positive reviews?   Google confirms that it helps with local search rankings.

In a statement released by Google on a Google My Business support page titled Improve your local ranking on Google, they stated:

…businesses should “interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.”  This statement is then followed by “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”

Just like you should have a process to capture ratings and reviews, responding to reviews is another positive ranking SEO factor you can control that will help…and of course we highly encourage this.

[IMPORTANT: The best defense to physical therapy negative reviews is to get your patients to proactively review you.  Having 60+ positive reviews drives business.  It gets patients that are comparison shopping or are sitting on the fence, off the fence and increases the likelihood that they will call you.]

If you don’t proactively capture the customer sentiment from almost all of your patients and just passively let unhappy patients post negative reviews, that may be all that is present.  If you do capture the reviews from all of your patients, you get a balanced picture of the customer experience as noted in pie charts.

Reference: https://blog.reevoo.com/ebook-bad-reviews-good-business/

Again from the Reevoo ebook, they sum it up well:

Proactively reaching out to invite all customers to review gives happy ones the little nudge they need to get reviewing. By collecting reviews from a whole spectrum of customers, the bad reviews are properly diluted by the crowd of satisfied purchasers.

A Good Infographic from Software Advice Describes What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

Reference: https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/how-patients-use-online-reviews/

In Summary – When it comes to Physical Therapy Ratings and Reviews, Know the HIPAA Regulations, Don’t Ignore Reviews, Embrace Them, Respond To Them, and Understand There’s Value in Good and Bad Reviews

Replying to negative reviews shows those reading that you are proactive and concerned about things that are important to your patients. This can serve to improve your online reputation. But ignoring these issues is the same as turning your back on them, something that could give your practice a black eye and may even turn consumers away..

I hope you are finding this information useful to your practice. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to give us a call at (800) 468-5161 or send an email to dave@e-rehab.com .

Why an In-Depth Understanding of Your Patients Is the Only Marketing Strategy You Need

Successful marketing is about more than tracking analytics, building a social following and getting traffic on websites.

Ultimately, successful marketing is about knowing your patients. No matter how great your marketing efforts are, it doesn’t matter if you can’t connect with the audience.

So, if you want to be truly successful, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your patients.

What is a Patient-Centric Marketing Approach?

Patient-centric marketing uses personalization to deliver services, messages, and content to the patient that provides them with the answers they need. This applies not only to marketing but also to your entire organization.

Putting your patients first can improve your relationship with them and retain more patients over time since they feel valued.

With patient-centric marketing, you stop telling your patients what they need, which comes across as unappealing and untrustworthy. Instead of pushing services and aggressively asking for the therapy appointment, with patient-centric marketing, you craft your messaging, content and services around addressing their needs first.

Ultimately, if a patient knows they have other options and feel undervalued by the clinic’s lack of attention, they’ll move on.

knowing the value

The Value of Knowing Your Patients

More and more businesses are taking advantage of the power of blogging and content marketing, meaning that the internet is flooded with content everywhere you turn. As a result, patients no longer need to waste time on low-quality content that doesn’t serve their needs.

If you want to stand out among this crowd, you need to create unique content that’s relevant to the needs of the target audience. When you can create content that fits their needs, you develop trust and value with your practice. This makes patients more loyal to your practice and its services.

Having loyal patients who return to your clinic when therapy is needed offers many benefits to your physical therapy practice, not only in revenue but in positive brand reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations.

In fact, repeat patients are 65 percent more likely to convert over new prospects. This means reduced marketing costs and more new patients for you. Loyal patients are also more likely to support your efforts to generate new business since they want to share their experiences with their family and friends. This boosts your trust with new patients and gets you more cash revenue.

So, when you stop guessing at your customers’ wants and needs and start paying attention to the feedback they give you, you get both long-term patient relationships and increased profits.

patient persona

How to Get an In-Depth Understanding of Your Patients

Developing these relationships and this understanding of your patients takes time, however. Your patients’ needs may change over time, and you need to change with them.

Here’s how:

Build Your Patient Personas

A patient persona is a guide to the audience you’re trying to attract to your business. A patient persona describes one ideal patient or client in detail, giving you insights about their behaviors, demographics, background and other unique identifiers.

A truly in-depth buyer persona goes beyond this knowledge, however. It dives much deeper into understanding the patient’s life and the challenges they face. What are their problems? What influences their decisions?

The key to all of this is not to guess, of course. When you create buyer personas, you can’t just create a patient. It needs to be based on the loyal patient base you have.

If you’re trying to reach a different audience, you can even create multiple personas to target new patients, while also keeping your loyal patients happy.

Keep in mind that these may change over time as well, so you should watch how they evolve and continually find new ways to reach them.

Listen on Social Media

Many people are comfortable displaying much of their lives on social media. This can provide you with valuable insights about them and how they feel about your business.

If you only pay attention to posts and comments that relate to your business, however, you’ll miss out on insights from them about what they need from a product or service. To get a real understanding of the target audience and what they expect from your business, you need to go beyond the mentions.

Social listening tools can be helpful for this. Mention is one of the best tools to monitor your brand anywhere. It gives you insights about who’s posting about your business, where they’re located and what influence they have. From there, you can do a little more research into these potential patients to learn more about them.

You should also work to connect with your audience when they come to you. With the availability of therapists online, most patients expect quick responses when they inquire online. Be sure to pay attention to questions, comments, and feedback to you about your business, so you can get an idea of the problems your audience is experiencing.

Use Surveys

If you’re not getting the answers you need from social listening, don’t be afraid to ask your patients directly. Surveys provide you with opinions and insights that you may not have otherwise, and they’re easy for patients to participate in.

Keep in mind a few things, such as:

  • Keep your survey short and simple.
  • Humanize your message to let them know that their feedback has a purpose.
  • If your survey is a multi-page form, use a progress bar to let patients know how long they have to complete the survey.

Ultimately, the idea behind the survey is to keep it as quick and painless as possible for participants.

Pay Attention to Visited Content

Whether it’s videos, blog posts, infographics or images, patients engage with a variety of content throughout the day. To understand what they want and need, you need to pay attention to the type of content they visit.

The best way to learn more about popular content is with Google Analytics. This will show you popular content and the patterns that may arise, as well as the type of content that works better for your audience.

Don’t forget to check out your competitor’s social media pages to see what posts get a lot of attention as well. Using this information, you can create more content that’s aligned with what’s working for your competitor.

Look for Lost Conversions

In addition to learning about current patients, you can learn a wealth of information from the leads that don’t convert. This process is a little more involved, but it can provide you with valuable insights.

First, let’s look at the patient’s journey:

  • A patient is aware of a problem (usually some form of joint, muscle, and/or nerve pain)
  • A patient considers the options to solve that problem (often this starts at Google, then may progress to asking a family member, friend, doctor, or coming back directly to you)
  • A patient decides what solution to try (often based on their insurance coverage, the geographic location of a practice, and/or a practice’s ratings and reviews).

If you find that you lose patients in the consideration phase, you may be not doing enough marketing/advertising/or sales to let your community know that you exist. Of course, not every patient coming in contact with your clinic will make an appointment, but it’s still important to find leaks in the sales funnel.

With this in mind, you want to create content for each stage of the patient’s journey, so you can address any concerns they may have along the way.

building trust

Final Thoughts

When it comes to marketing, don’t assume you understand the patient better than they know themselves. Instead of telling your patients what they need, focus on providing them with information and solutions that address their needs, so you can create a loyal following that grows your business.

Why Every Private Practice Should Use Google My Business

Google-My-Business-for-Physical-Therapists

Google has made life much easier for physical therapy practice owners with the launch of its exciting new tool, Google My Business. It combines:

  • Google Places,
  • Google Maps,
  • Google Analytics & Insights
  • Google+

They are all under one easy-to-use dashboard and now, managing multiple Google accounts has never been simpler and the marketing advantages are endless.

What’s more, it’s free with no hidden costs. Here’s a quick summary of some of the services included in Google My Business:

Google+ (Google Plus):

Google Plus Page for Physical Therapy Marketing
Here’s a Google + Page that’s great for your physical therapy online marketing

G+ (Google Plus or Google+) This is Google’s answer to Facebook. It’s a social networking platform that allows you to share messages, photos, videos and links to your followers, directly from the My Business page.

Reviews: Google is the number 1 business review platform online. Google My Business has an entire review platform that gives practices a place to manage ratings and reviews in one location.

Google Analytics: You can very quickly and easily see all of your websites stats right on your business dashboard.

Insights: Insights gives you vital information on your visibility, engagement and trends in the market.

Maps: Manage your businesses location and information available on Google Maps.

YouTube & Hangouts: Video chats with key members of your physical therapy practice (think expert interview, patient testimonials, doctor interviews, etc.).

As mentioned earlier, this is all a free service. If you currently use Google Places for business or Google+ Pages to manage your online presence, you will already have been upgraded.

Not only that, but they are fine-tuning the My Business platform for mobile use too, and it is available in both iOS and Android.

6.5 Ways That You Can Take Advantage of Google My Business
Right Now and Quickly Overtake Your Competition

1. Be easily found on Google
Brand awareness is vital for any practice. How can you gain patients if people don’t know who you are or what types of services you offer? As a small private practice, you know how hard it can be to get high rankings on Google, especially if you’re in a big market with corporate and hospital brands.

So in order to create better brand awareness your first step would be to create an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to make your site more searchable on Google. Research has proven (and you probably know from your own personal experience) that 75% of Google users never scroll past the first page. This highlights how without good Google rankings, you are simply missing new patients.

This is where Google My Business comes into play. When you create a My Business account, fill out all of the information Google requests, as it will increase the odds that your practice will show up on a Google Search, Maps and Google+.

You’ll need precise information about your location, your office hours, contact information, website address, email and fax numbers, and at least 10 pictures of your practice.

IMPORTANT: Make sure that the information you put on Google is the exact information NAP (business Name, Address, Phone number) that you have on your website and any other places where your practice is listed online. Consistency is very important in SEO and it can affect your search engine rankings if there are any inconsistencies.

The more information you add, the more Google’s search algorithms will work to help your search ranking.

Together, all of these features will give your patients an inside look at your practice. As a result, when potential patients are comparison shopping or simply doing a broad search for “physical therapy and a location”, they will be more likely to find your Google My Business listing and visit your website.

2. Connect with existing and potential patients
Not only can you manage your practice listing (AKA Google online phonebook listing), you can also manage your Google+ page from your My Business dashboard. It has taken a while for people to get used to the Google+ social network, and most people still prefer and use Facebook and other social media sites, but bear in mind that your Google+ business page increases the trust in your practice name and gives you significant boost to with respect to your Google Local SEO listings.

Google is always trying to provide its users with the best, most relevant experience. As such Google takes note of those who comment, shares or +1 your G+ page posts, captures this information, and identifies your audiences identity, activity and interests. From there, they can even deliver your Google+ page content to your followers in the organic search results. It’s truly amazing how Google provides users such a customized experience.

The other advantage of using Google+ is this; while other social media sites place a “no follow” tag on any link you post, Google+ doesn’t. So if you posted a link on Facebook for example, any links that you put in your posts (to your website in attempts to improve search engine optimization) will not influence your practice’s Google search results. Google, on the other hand, treats them G+ posts as web pages, which then helps increase your sites visibility and page rank.

But even without the SEO benefits, Google+ is also a terrific way to engage with past patients and build a long term relationship with them, which will increase the trust in your company.

Just as on any other social network, if you expect any kind of results on Google+, you need to be consistent and post regularly. If you have a practice blog, post the links on your page and ask your audience to read and share them. Post fun pictures of you and your employees so that your followers can get to know you better and have a clearer picture of who you are. It will encourage brand loyalty.

It is worth reminding you that any content you share should be relevant and interesting to your audience. You don’t want to keep posting promotional offers like Free Screenings or Discount Massages. The point of Google+ is not to push your physical therapy services on people, but to create a close-knit community, which will inspire trust and loyalty in your practice.

3. Hang out with your clinicians
If you are not already familiar with it, Google Hangouts are another great way to demonstrate your clinical expertise. You can hang out with up to 15 people at a time.

It’s the perfect way to build an online video marketing strategy for free. Use it to answer questions, share information about your new services or even give online demos of treatment.

4. Check the Performance of your activity
It’s helpful to post on Google+ and host Hangouts with your patients, but it could all be a waste of time and effort if they are not producing the desired results.

This is where the Insights tool comes in for your Google+ page and Analytics for your presence across all Google platforms. Both of these tools make it very easy for you to see how many views you’re getting, and you can even see how many people are reading your specific Google+ posts. It even gives you information on how many people have checked out your practice on Google Map searches.

5. Encourage and Respond to Patients’ Reviews
Whether you love them or you hate them, some patients want to leave a review about your practice. It’s part of online culture and people will either want to rave or complain about any experiences that they’ve had.

Side Note: the most common “bad reviews” are about patient billing and payment. It’s worth knowing this and making a little extra effort to make sure patients understand your physical therapy billing practices and policies.

Since online reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising, it’s worthwhile to make it easy for patients to post ratings (0-5 stars) and reviews (text comments about your practice). Chances are positive reviews will generate more business for you too, as many patients decide to make decisions based solely on what their peers have to say about your practice. Google My Business makes it easy by allowing you to claim your practice listing so that patients can add their rating and review by simply by Googling your name and clicking on the blue Google+ page link under your business listing.

The dashboard even makes it easy for you to promote the reviews on your Google+ page and monitor reviews on other platforms like Yelp. This will help you to easily respond to positive reviews, while professionally and politely dealing with any negative reviews. You will have a great pulse on the online reputation of your practice…certainly an asset for any physical therapy practice these days.

6. Create an AdWords Express Account
It probably won’t surprise you that at the bottom of the My Business dashboard, there is a button that will bring you to an AdWords account. After all, advertising is where Google makes 95%+ of its money.

The “express version” if AdWords, in my experience is very easy to use for private practice owners, but your ads will often show up for keywords that aren’t related to your business. This will result in unnecessary clicks and expense. Nevertheless, it still super easy to quickly create ad campaigns. It’s very similar to the right-side and inline Facebook ads, where you simply write your ad and set your budget and then Google AdWords will do the rest the work.

6.5 Stay Informed on Your Mobile Device
Just as 30-40% of your patients are likely to visit your physical therapy practice website while browsing on their smartphones, Google My Business will allow you to do manage My Business with either both iOS and Android apps. The mobile streamlined dashboard makes it easy for you to simply swipe through all of your tools and data, allowing you change dates, manage ads and modify your online presence from wherever you are.

Claim Your Page Today

With Google My Business, you will find all of the best Google tools are right in front of you by simply by logging into your dashboard. It makes management of your online presence easy.

[info_box]As you can see, Google My Business is a robust practice brand management platform; but, as with all aspects of online marketing, your web performance is only as good as you can make it. It’s very important that you include as much relevant information about your practice as you can. If it’s done right, it really can make a difference between your online success or failure.[/info_box]

If you are in any doubt or would like more helpful tips and advice on how to make the most from this great tool, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

5 Crucial Physical Therapy Online Marketing Tactics

online-marketing-for-physical-therapists

Do you get upset and frustrated with the constant changes that take place in the world of online marketing. Are you confused about how to create a complete online physical therapy marketing strategy?

You Don’t Have to Be…

While marketing online can seem overwhelming, with just a little knowledge, patience, and perseverance, some simple physical therapy online marketing tactics should be part of your overall practice marketing strategy.

It’s 2014. You can’t expect to make it as a small physical therapy practice unless you use the Net to grow your new patient baseand maintain a competitive advantage over the big-box clinics. With over 80% of all Americans seeking out health information online, you need to embrace online marketing opportunities.

I get calls almost every day from practice owners asking me how to get found online? Who should they trust? Is it worth the money? They want to know what systems and processes they should put into place to attract website traffic and convert them into patients.

In the offline world, brick and mortar practices need to be found first when people are searching for the practice by name. Think about it. You are a referral-based business. It’s crucial for your practice to survive and even when patients are referred to your clinic, they will first look you up online to make sure you are a credible practitioner.

Once prospective patients arrive at your website, you need to have the right copy and content to make sure they are performing your call to action, which is (not to sign up for a newsletter) to pick up the phone and make an appointment.

As such we’ve put together five essential marketing tactics, that will give your practice’s online presence an edge over the competition.

Some are easy and free and others require some money and expertise.

1. Get Your Physical Therapy Online Brand In Order
First of all, make sure you have a beautiful website that makes a great first impression and reflects the 5 star service you provide. Read through each page, correct spelling errors and grammar problems, make sure links work and everything is up-to-date. For example, check the copyright year at the bottom. Does it say “2010?” If so, it makes you look dated and out of touch with technology.

Is your address and phone number at the top of your home page? There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to find a simple phone number to contact a practice and make an appointment. Make the user experience a fast and easy one. In other words, don’t make your viewers think.

Is your website mobile-optimized? If not, then you are simply disrespecting and making it difficult for 30-40% of your viewers. At E-rehab.com, you can’t buy a desktop website from us anymore. We feel it is important to lead our clients and there’s no better way to do it then with a mobile-optimized website.

2. Claim your Important Online Business Listings
After your website and an email newsletter, the most valuable online marketing tool for your practice is Google. Use Google My Business to set up your G+ page, map listings and more.

It’s a fact. The search engines, like Google, have replaced the yellowbooks in referring patients to practices, and Google My Business is critical tool for making this is happen. Listing your practice with help you gain credibility, generate more traffic, and help you build your online reputation.

3. Reviews – The 21st Century Version of Testimonials
Reviews on sites like Google+, Facebook, YP.com and Yelp are extremely influential. Have you ever read the reviews on Amazon before making a purchase? Of course you have. Your patients are doing the same thing.

If you don’t have any reviews (i.e. no online reputation), start encouraging your patients to review you online. However, don’t just blindly e-mail all employees and their spouses. It’s all about “review velocity”. If you get 20 reviews in one week when you had none the previous week, that looks suspicious, and worst case scenario, you could get your Google account suspended. Getting ratings and reviews is not as hard as you may think and most patients are happy to do it if you just provide them with simple instructions. Make it part of your company culture. Kindly ask your patients to “provide you with a review if they think you have earned it.” A few will, most won’t, but over time you can build quite a reputation online.

Don’t be fearful of negative reviews either. No one can please everyone. We all have a bad day (especially when dealing with insurance companies and documentation as well as treating patients). If you are lacking good reviews, those negative reviews stick out like a sore thumb. So be proactive and start collecting good reviews from your patients. That way, when a bad review comes, and it most certainly will, it will actually give you some credibility (what I mean here is if you have 20 positive reviews and 1 negative review, it mirrors your customer service reality; because, no one can please everyone all of the time).

Also, when you get a bad review it’s critical that your response be swift, professional and polite. Let the person know that you want to make their bad things right: offer them something to give you another chance (but don’t waive copays or refund money – this could get you in trouble). Acting immediately goes a long way in diffusing a bad review. Not doing so will cost you more in the long run and you may sacrifice new business and not even know about it.

4. Build Your Social Networks
There are hundreds of social networks but don’t fret, you don’t have to use all of them. At the very least set up a Facebook and Google+. Later you can experiment with Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

The old saying is that no one buys through social media. Instead, use social networks to stay in touch with your followers. Provide them with interesting and valuable information about your company culture, your profession, something cool that’s going on in the community, or something a strategic partner (massage personal training, physician) is offering.

There is a familiar saying: “People buy into you before they buy from you.” That is especially true on social media. If your social media is current, provides valuable information, videos, articles, and photos, people will engage. If you haven’t posted for 3 months, no one will care anymore about your brand on social media.

5. Use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to Attract New Patients
Google, Bing and Yahoo want your practice to be found by patients searching for physical therapy services in your community. If they don’t deliver the search results people expect, users won’t continue to use them. In other words, the search engines want to deliver relevant search results about you and your practice but you need to help.
To ensure that viewer get the information that they are looking for, search engines index (or catalog the words on your website) what a website is all about and how important that website is regarding certain keywords. This is where we get into Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Being a physical therapy practice owner, your website is going to be all about the physical therapy services you provide, the area you serve and most important, your business name. These keywords should be found in text content on your website, your meta data and blog posts. It’s likely that the search engines therefore will recognize that your website is genuinely dedicated to physical therapy.

The challenge is that there are often many other physical therapy websites competing for viewers on the search engines. Some have deep pockets too.

Another challenge is that you, the practice owner, are going to get almost daily calls from so-called experts wanting to market your practice online. Who can you trust, which services work in the physical therapy market? These are E-rehab.com’s strengths and we encourage you to call us and find out more.

It’s a Volume Game Now

Payment is declining; therefore you have to see more patients to make a profit. By implementing these 5 steps, your online presence for your private practice is very likely to improve.

We realize that many private practice owners feel discouraged…left behind.

[fancy_box]Just pick up the phone and give us a call, toll-free at 800-468-5161 x 1101 for a free consultation. I promise you won’t be sorry.[/fancy_box]

How NOT to Capture Physical Therapy Reviews

Don’t try to gain an unfair advantage over their competition by paying for reviews…it could cost you.

physical-therapy-reviews
Facebook post suggesting that reviewers of the practice could WIN!

 

Physical Therapy Review Incentive
Don’t pay for reviews – it could come back to bite you.

I was browsing the net and ran across a Facebook page that offered to incentivize its fans if they were willing to post a physical therapy reviews on Yelp for one or more of their locations.

There are a number of reasons why physical therapy practice owners don’t want to do this.

1. It’s illegal in some states (New York for one). https://officialblog.yelp.com/2013/09/yelp-and-ny-ag-go-after-fake-review-industry.html

2. It’s against Yelp’s terms and conditions. https://officialblog.yelp.com/2013/12/paid-reviews-dont-have-a-place-on-yelp.html

3. It’s unethical

4. See bullet point number one again.

If I Had a Dollar for Every Yelp Complaint

I’ve had dozens of clients call me and complain about Yelp filtering good reviews, removing good reviews, not removing bad reviews that are against their own terms and conditions, their sales people calling and if the practice doesn’t advertise, reviews are removed, etc.  Yelp is an imperfect and for-profit company.

Shift Your Focus to Google…and Do It Right

I do recommend you shift your focus to Google.  While Yelp is popular for reviews, Google get a lot more people using it to look for your PT practice.  You will stick out like a sore thumb if you have 6+  Gold Star (or green star reviews) Google reviews and your competition has none.

I also understand the market is competitive and there is nothing wrong with competing for business.  However, when it comes to misleading people by providing fake or paid Yelp reviews, there’s no place for this.  Take the time to learn Yelp’s Terms and Conditions and to earn them the “good old fashioned way”, by providing great care and asking properly.

Take the high road.  Don’t buy reviews.  It’s the right way to publicize your physical therapy practice.

 

Google Makes a Big Change in Local Search Marketing Stars

In working with clients to get them listed on page one of Google since 2003, we’ve seen a lot of changes.

Most of those are barely noticeable by the layperson that uses Google once or twice per day or less.

However, in a recent update, Google has made a change to local search results that most everyone will notice…Green Stars.

Why the green ratings stars instead of gold?  We can only speculate.  Perhaps it is to draw less attention to organic local business listings in hopes that users are more likely to click on ads.

Maybe it is to differentiate itself from Google.

Whatever the reason may be, I am sure Google will have a public explanation soon.

We First Noticed the Color Change Last Week on Aug 24th.

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Google Green Stars Much More Prevalent on Sept 4th

We now are seeing the stars in all the search results that involve the phrase physical therapy and a city (i.e. local searches).

Screenshot_30


What Does This Mean for Small Private Practices – Not Sure

We will find out soon but our guess is that if the local listings are less attractive and more Google users click on ads, it will give some minute advantage to bigger practices (e.g. POPTS and corporates) that are using Google AdWords.

Whatever the outcome, getting your physical therapy practice listed in the A-G Google Local Business Listings (AKA the 3 Pack or 7 Pack) is still a great objective, less expensive than Google AdWords and your listing will stand out compared to your competition if you have the new “Google Green Stars”.

Personally, I don’t care for them but that’s just my opinion.  What do you think?

Video Marketing Services for Physical Therapy Private Practices

E-rehab.com is now offering video marketing services for physical therapy private practices.

Other than a direct referral from a doctor or a patient, there aren’t many better ways to market to your community than with the video endorsement of the quality of your physical therapy services.

What would a prospect think if they searched for you and saw videos similar to these with your name on them?

Ratings and Reviews are Quickly Becoming a Highly Trusted Marketing Channel

Use the Power of Video Marketing

There are some very effective ways to achieve top Google positioning and beat your competition

Back in 2006, when Google paid $1.6+ billion for a tiny business above a pizza parlour, many wondered if the management at Google had lost it!

However, that tiny business was YouTube and in just a few years later it has officially become the number 2 search engine (second only to Google itself).

The growth of video is crazy.  It already accounts for 70% of the search engine results on Google with text trailing in third behind images. In fact Cisco Systems, the world wide leaders in networking and the way we connect on the Internet, predict that by the end of 2015, video will drive 90% of web traffic.

If you are marketing your local business online and haven’t started to use video marketing yet, it’s time to get started.

Generate more Physical Therapy Referrals and Improve Customers Service with Video

They say that ‘a picture is worth 1000 words’. If that is true, imagine how much more effective video can be. It is a scientific fact that humans make a decision based on emotions. Motion pictures have the power to tap directly into the emotions of a viewer with a combination of video, words, voice over and music in a way that words simply can never achieve.

Business surveys have proven that videos convert visitors into buyers three times better than a normal sales letter.  With a sales letter the viewer can scroll down the page very quickly and not read the benefits of your rehab services or the reasons why they should should choose you.

With a video on the other hand, you control the whole sales sequence, unfolding your presentation in the way that shows your office, your services, your clinical expertise in the best possible light and only revealing the call to action at the precise ‘magic moment’ when your viewer is primed with the benefits your service will provide them.

The result is more happy patients and more calls from prospects that are comparison shopping.

However, that is only the beginning. For example, imagine trying to learn how to tie your shoelaces using just written instructions. But when you show visitors how to do it, with video, they understand instantly.

Improve Your Chances of Ranking High on Google

video rankings
video rankings

Google unveils ‘universal search’.

In an effort to better accommodate users, Google now provides universal search results.  What this means is that search results are now a mix of text, news, graphics…and yes, video.

It now takes less effort to rank your video on YouTube and it’s a wonderful opportunity to show up on the first page of Google’s search results.  Imagine how many your visitors your website would receive from ranking high on the largest and second largest search engines in the world, simultaneously.

You too can rank your videos on YouTube and Google for the most common search patients do when looking for you…your business name (we blogged on this months ago).

Follow this simple rule – include your business name and the city your practice location is in in the title, the description and the tags of your YouTube video.  In most cases, this will do it.  That’s it!

Just Do It!

There is no doubt that creating videos for your business will attract more visitors and potential patients to your website but we also know that it might all sound rather daunting.

The worst thing you can do is ignore the video revolution that is happening all around. Video really is here to stay.

The good news is that E-rehab.com is here to help you to take advantage of the easy and affordable opportunity.

Contact us today to learn more about our video marketing services and how we can create an affordable video marketing strategy that will help establish you as the market leader.

Call us at 800-468-5161 x 1101 for more information.

PS: here’s another example:

Protect Your Private Practice with Online Reputation Management

A website screen showing an online survey for collecting feedbacIf someone were to do an online search on your physical therapy practice, what would they find?

In the old days, if you had one dissatisfied patient who was unhappy with the treatment they received, they may have told on average 7-12 friends about it.

However, times have changed. With the invention of the Internet and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, that one person can now tell hundreds or even thousands of people about their experience.

It’s so easy for your potential patients to type your company name into Google and see anything from quality reviews and recommendations to reputation-damaging complaints and unresolved issues. What is more, all that information stays there for the entire world to see.

It is a company’s worst nightmare for an unhappy customer to start telling the world about their complaints. Many companies have seen their profits wiped out, simply because a group of customers have rallied together and given them a bad name.

[note_box]According to eMarketer, consumers trust other consumer reviews almost 12 times more than they trust the manufacturer’s celebrity-endorsed sales pitches and technical jargon.[/note_box]

Managing your online reputation is no longer optional. If an issue concerns your patient then it should concern you, because if not, they are going to tell the world.

The simple truth is your brand, your reputation and your practice are on the line every time a customer walks away unhappy.

Here are 10 online reputation management facts that you need to know to protect your practice:

1) Professional Marketers Say “Trust” Is Number One Important Factor For Making A Sales-Worthy Impression

The 1×1 Xchange Panel conducted a widespread survey among businesses and a whopping 84% of them believed that building trust online would be the primary focus for marketing efforts in the future.

Most marketers feel that gaining potential customer’s trust is the key to getting a sale. Do you trust somebody with a bad reputation? No? Well neither do your prospective patients.

It is essential that your practice is not only trustworthy but is reflected to be trustworthy online.

2) Most People Use Social Media To Decide What To Buy

It is no secret: social proof is powerful. One good recommendation can generate an inordinate amount of extra sales, but equally, if your social media is lacking and your name is being tarnished, your profits will plummet. To emphasise the importance of social media, Pew Statistics revealed that 4 out 5 people said that they had received advice via social media regarding what product or service to purchase.

3) More and More Large Companies Are Hiring Full-Time Online Reputation Managers

Do you want to know what big companies thing about reputation management? According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, they think highly enough of reputation managers to hire them full-time and pay them handsome salaries. The US Bureau of Labour puts the average salary of an online reputation manager between $38,000 – $72,000.

4) More Adults Are On Social Media Sites Than You Think

You can’t dismiss social media as a young person’s world any more. Again, the Pew Statistics reported that 46% of online adults are actively involved with social networking sites. Yes, the people with the money and the spending power are moving online and making decisions based on what they find there. It is vital that your site is well represented online.

5) The Public Trusts Social Media

The same Pew Statistics report said that almost half of online adults (48%) agree that getting to know new people is easier and more meaningful because you can learn things online about the people that you meet. Do you wish that your patients could get to know you better? If they knew you better then you know that they will be more likely to come to you for treatment. This is where Internet savvy companies involved with social media are doing so well. They interact with their potential customers and get the sales. By becoming involved and looking after your online reputation you will do the same.

6) People Are Using Social Media To Gain An Edge On Their Competition. That Means You.

It could not be easier for your competition to get the edge over you online and snatch the lion’s share of customers. All they need to do is search your name or your practice’s name online and read the paper trail that you have left behind from responding to patients to how you act on social media sites like Facebook. How often do you think that you are being searched online by your competitor or a fellow colleague or employee? It will be more than you care to think. The Pew Statistics report revealed that 31% of employed Internet users have admitted to searching online for information about co-workers, professional colleagues or business competitors. What will they find out if they researched you online? Are you caring for your online reputation as well as you should be? You can no longer be complacent and need to act now.

7) Social Proof Is King And Traditional Advertising Is Dying

It’s true. The results of the Pew Statistics Report showed that a huge 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations but only 14% of them trusted an advertisement. What that means for businesses is that no matter what ads you are running or how many professional-looking shiny banners you put on your website, it will be the recommendations of peers based on your reputation that will bring patients to your door.

Your online reputation goes before you and only social media and reputation management can ensure that your company is well represented online.

As a business owner, you only have one of two choices:

Choice A: You refuse to take your practice online and miss out on the huge potential that so many other businesses are experiencing. The Internet is not going to go away. Online sales are increasing year on year. People—your patients—are addicted to social media sites and now that they have found their voice, they won’t be silenced. If you ignore them or don’t engage with them, then your practice will not reach its full potential.

Choice B: Under the guidance of a professional online reputation manager, you engage with your existing and potential patients by taking your practice online using savvy Internet marketing and reap the massive rewards for doing so. Manage your online reputation and you will bring in more patients and make more money.

THREE TIPS ON PROTECTING YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION

1) Monitor your brand

One Internet writer described not monitoring your online reputation like leaving your 5-year old child unattended at the swimming pool. You just wouldn’t do it. In the same way, it’s irresponsible on today’s social marketing platform to ignore what is being said about your practice. This applies if what is being said is positive as well as negative. Remember that a poor review is always just one tweet away and 40% of these come from mobile devices so you need to be on the ball and monitor your online reputation.

2) Respond Quickly

When a patient is unsatisfied with your services, you still have the opportunity to turn things around. In fact, rather than being a bad thing, you can make a negative situation into a positive one simply by taking the necessary effort to make sure that each patient’s complaint is handled promptly and politely. 90% of disgruntled customers will stay with a company if they feel that their complaint is being taken seriously and resolved promptly. Even more amazingly, 50% of them will even advocate you in the future by telling their online followers how impressed they were with the way the complaint was handled.

3) Personal Attention

If patients make a complaint, they want to know that you care. You only get one shot at preserving your practice’s reputation, so make it count. You know what people say about first impressions, so remember this when you make a response to any complaint or negative feedback because any first impressions will be amplified. Don’t react against the comment but have a proactive approach. Your goal is not only to get the patient back on your side, but to show the potential thousands of other observers that you do care about your customers and that they can trust you.

[colored_box bgColor=”#788794″ textColor=”#ffffff”] Managing reviews can seem like a daunting task. Let E-rehab help you through the process and you’ll see your business thrive.[/colored_box]

 

Physical Therapy Marketing – 3 Ways to Capture Yelp Reviews

When it comes to physical therapy marketing online, Yelp can help.  Yelp wants patients to review your business but they don’t want you to incentivize your patients to do so.  They want it to happen naturally…organically.   Therefore, Yelp provides verified business owners with 3 ways to get patients to your Yelp business listing.  If you don’t have a Yelp business listing, click here to read the article on how to do this.

Remind Customers You are on Yelp

1. Add a Yelp Review Badge to your website.  To do this, log in to your Yelp business account, copy the code Yelp provides you and paste it into your website.

yelp review badge

Review badge on website

 

2. Include stickers on your place of business and include a QR code that will take reviewers directly to your Yelp business listing.  They are now able to review your business right from their mobile devices.

yelp window sticker  example-yelp-qr-code

 

3. Encourage a Yelp review with every email you send out and include a link to it on your mobile optimized website too.

Physical Therapy Mobile Websites - include a link to yelp

A Great Reason to Focus on Google Reviews to Improve Your Physical Therapy Search Marketing

physical therapy search engine marketing

Google made a great choice.  They have brought back their stars with reviews and made it a simple 0-5 scale again.

The old Zagat score was confusing and without stars it didn’t provide an intuitive and easy to understand visual of customer reviews.

Best of all, with Google bringing back reviews, physical therapy practice owners now have a way to stand out from their competition…get those reviews.

Undoubtedly, this is all part of Google’s strategy to push viewers/users to engage with the review process which is now intimately tied to Google+, Google’s social network.

Practically, it’s a great opportunity for you to establish a perceived competitive advantage when consumers are searching for practices in your area.

[note_box]Take Home Message: develop a process for patients to visit your Google+ Local page and provide you with reviews.[/note_box]

Physical Therapy Reputation Management – Part 1

I recently wrote this guest blog post on the Web PT blog. Below is the summary and you can follow the link for the entire article on physical therapy reputation management.

[colored_box variation=”wheat” bgColor=”#f8f0c9″ textColor=”#8d8d8d”]

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one negative one to lose it.” With this statement in mind—and 21st century technology—let’s talk about reputation management in 2013. Here are a few questions to start you thinking:

  1. Do you know your online reputation?
  2. Are there any negative reviews about your practice on the Internet? If so, do you have a procedure for handling these reviews?
  3. Do you have a proactive reputation management program in place to inoculate your practice against negative reviews?
  4. Have you considered the impact that positive reviews will have on your practice’s reputation?

What is Online Reputation Management?

Click here to read the entire article

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How to Avoid Negative Yelp Consumer Alerts that Could Hurt Your Physical Therapy Marketing Efforts

Physical Therapy Marketing

Patient reviews are powerful. Consumers trust their peers more than anyone else when making buying decisions. Studies indicate that great Yelp reviews can positively impact business growth.

Pew Internet studies indicate that 19 percent of patients consult reviews when making health care decisions.

Yelp Wrong and It Could Cost You

Yelp is continuously making efforts to obtain consistent and authentic reviews from consumers. As such they have “review filter” system in place that will flag suspicious activity.

Yelp Takes Suspicious Reviews to the Next Level

I have often written about the importance of not fabricating reviews or equally important, not using the same computer (i.e. IP address) to collect reviews.

Yelp and Physical Therapy Marketing

Yelp has taken it to the next level. If they think you are buying reviews, they will hit you with the Big Red Box that says “Consumer Alert”!

As Yelp management said in their a couple months back:

[note_box]

…the allure of a page full of five-star reviews can turn even the most ethical business owner starry-eyed and persuade some to attempt to game the system by paying for reviews.

This pretty much breaks every rule in the book, not to mention it’s just wrong to mislead consumers with fake reviews. To combat this, we’ve put on our detective hats, tracked down these rogue solicitations and are now giving you a heads up. Starting today, when we’ve determined that there have been significant attempts to pay for reviews, you may see a warning (like the one below) that some shady practices may be at play.

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If you purchase reviews or try to game the system, it could impact your business.

We recommend you get authentic reviews, from consumers that feel you have delivered exceptional care.

The Easy Way to Gather Yelp Reviews

One of the easiest ways to do this is to direct them to your Yelp page from your mobile website. The patient “yelper” then logs in to their own account and does their own review. This is one of the better and easier ways to build your online footprint.

If you have questions about this, don’t hesitate to give me a call.

So, go out and build your practice’s online footprint. It will pay off.