This article continues my series on how therapists and psychologists can grow their practice. My last post looked at why therapists must own their website and online presence, instead of relying on renting online ads. Ownership of digital assets is vital for those who want to take their practice to the “next level.” The reasons why you should have your own website, and focus on digital assets which you own outright, is two-fold. First, focusing on assets which you own outright will provide you with a higher ROI than what you would see from renting ads or directory listings. Second, ownership of your digital assets provides a compounding effect which allows your revenue to go like this:
While your expenses stay flat like this:
Last time I checked, the pairing of growing revenue and stable expenses was a good thing.
In this article I’m going to look at an issue that causes a lot of frustration for therapists – managing your online reviews, including the negative ones. So, let’s look at a) why you need to care about your online reviews, b) how to set up your local review profiles, and c) managing your online reputation and removing negative reviews. Let’s get to it!
Therapists need to be pay attention to online reviews
Why do therapists need to pay attention to their online reviews? Well, in 2016, Pew Research Center reported that eighty-two percent of U.S. adults at least sometimes read online reviews before deciding to pull the trigger on a spending decision. Moreover, forty percent of adults said that they always look at reviews before making a decision. This means that having no reviews for your business gives them nothing to go off of. Worse, having only negative reviews can be the kiss of death in terms of potential clients possibly calling you. While this may seem problematic to a mental health professional, given that they generally can’t ask for online reviews, the need to manage your online reputation actually creates an opportunity. That opportunity stems from the fact that most will completely ignore their online reputation. This means that you, in turn, can set yourself apart from your competition by increasing your chances of receiving good reviews and dealing with the bad ones. So, let’s look at how to ensure that people can leave you reviews (and that you show up in Google Maps) and how to manage your online reputation.
Setting up your practice’s local profiles and getting listed in Google Maps
One of the easiest ways to grow your practice is to make sure you’ve set up your various local profiles and that you complete them to the extent possible. The most important of these is getting your business listed in Google Maps. To understand the importance of this, simply go to Google and perform a search for both “therapists near me” as well as “[name of your city] therapists.” Right underneath the paid ads, you’ll notice the various therapy practices that appear in Google maps. Adding your practice to this list, again, is free.
To create your Google Business profile, which will place you in the maps, visit the Google Business Profile creation page. Log in with your Google account and you can go through the various steps of completing your profile. The first of these is to search for your practice and, if it isn’t already listed, add it to Google as shown here (note that Google doesn’t have a category for “therapist” – so you’ll want to use “counselor”):
You’ll then be given the ability to add your office location (so you can show up in Google Maps). Make sure you then complete the profile to the fullest extent possible (including adding your business hours, contact information, a description of your business, etc. – you’d be surprised at how many profiles don’t have this information completed). Also, under “services” make sure you list all of the various services you provide (IE – marriage counseling, grief counseling, etc.). Once Google has verified your business, and you’re added to the maps, you’ll be eligible to show up for people who are searching for therapists in your area. You’ll also want to list your business on Yelp and other similar websites – just remember, however, that Google Maps is easily the most important place to list your business due to its high placement in search results.
Managing your therapy practice’s online reputation & removing negative reviews
Online reputation management can be difficult for you as a therapist, given that there are limitations on who you can ask to leave a review for your practice. Generally speaking, therapists are not permitted to ask current or former clients for online reviews. This makes managing your online reputation more of a challenge than what is faced by those in other professions. With that said, it is more common than many believe to have negative reviews about your practice removed.
Every platform has its own rules and guidelines about what users may post as a review. If these rules are violated, then it is possible to have the review removed. Google, for example, has a webpage devoted to what types of content it will permit in an online review. Google does not, for example, allow content that is “off topic” or which represents “fake engagement.” This means, among other things, that if someone leaves a review that is not related to the actual service the business provides then it can be removed as it is off topic. It also means that someone who was not actually a customer of the business cannot leave a review. We’ve been successful in getting negative reviews removed from Google, on behalf of clients, on these and other grounds.
In order to dispute a review with Google, it must be clear from the review itself that it violates the guidelines. As an example, we successfully had a one-star review removed on behalf of a client when the reviewer stated that their friend had used the business’ services and had a bad experience. In other words, it was clear from the review that the person writing it was not actually a client of the business. We have also been successful in removing reviews because they talked about the business’ advertising, and not the business itself, and in instances where the reviews were clearly spam.
The process of challenging a review on Google is straightforward. The search engine has published a page on how to dispute and remove reviews from your Google business profile. Simply go through the process and you will receive a decision back from Google. Also, there is an appeal process in the event the initial request is denied.
Other review platforms have their own policies as to how you can challenge/dispute reviews. If you have any questions about disputing a review, then the answer will depend on the specific platform.
It goes without saying that it is important to provide the highest level of service to your customers. Doing so a) makes it less likely they’ll leave a bad review, b) makes them more likely to leave a good one, and c) makes them more likely to be a referral source.
Do you want to make sure those who find your office are picking up the phone and calling? Managing your online reputation is an important aspect of this. Setting up your online profiles, and assisting with review management, is often part of our therapist website design and marketing services. If you need help with getting your online presence established, then contact us online or by telephone today. Also, make sure you subscribe below to get tips delivered straight to your inbox.
 Online reviews and ratings – Pew Research Center, December 19, 2016. Accessed at https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/12/19/online-reviews