Five secrets to improve your online reputation

We've all said it. We constantly think it. Then it happens. So, what do you do when the "it will never happen to me" turns into "what do I do now?"

by Lance McCollough

We've all said it. We constantly think it. Then it happens. So, what do you do when the "it will never happen to me" turns into "what do I do now?" Eventually, reputation management becomes an issue for every business owner. Here are five insider secrets that will help you avert your reputation crisis:

1. Google alerts: Signing up for Google Alerts allows you to receive notifications every time your predefined keywords are mentioned on the web. Simply go to www.google.com/alerts and input queries you wish to be notified about (e.g., your practice name, your name, etc.), how often you want to be notified, and provide the email address where the alerts should be sent.

2. Encourage feedback: Feedback builds credibility, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. Positive reviews online can help boost search engine rankings, provide new patients with a sense of trust, and help quiet the negativity of one unsettling review.

An exorbitant amount of negative feedback is bad, very bad. But the occasional bad review is not the end-all and be-all of your reputation. Though undesirable, responding to a negative review in a courteous, professional manner shows patients that you care and want to solve the issue at hand.

An absence of online reviews is also a red flag. Without a solid understanding of other patient experiences, prospects feel like a practice without reviews is more of a gamble. Thus, they are less likely to select said practice as their provider.

Don't forget about moderating your blog comments. Your practice blog is a great way to educate patients and prospects about your services; however, if former patients are leaving negative comments about their experiences, you may inadvertently be losing new patients. Luckily, blog engines allow administrators to moderate comments. Changing your settings and requiring comments to be approved before they are published could prevent you from unknowingly perpetuating negative feedback.

3. Realize it takes only one fatal flaw: Major corporations have had their fair share of meltdowns and know it takes only one negative customer experience to explode online, causing significant damage to their reputation.

When large companies experience negative feedback that goes viral, they promptly respond to the problem, admit they did wrong, vow it won't happen again, and revamp their procedures. Should you suffer the setback of viral negativity, follow mega-corporations and take responsibility -- "right" your "wrong" -- and generate a plan to prevent the situation from reoccurring. Just as the initial negative complaint was publicized online, publicize your renewed customer service policy, and remember to always provide patients with superior care.

4. Use available resources: There are free online resources that can help you build your personal online reputation. Brand Yourself is a self-guided reputation management firm that allows users to control the spending they put toward personal reputation management link building. A free account with the company enables users to influence the Google search results for their chosen name. The user can then link profiles, add backlinks, and manipulate their pages to help rank desired pages while bumping less favorable pages down in the search engine results. To start your free account, go to https://brandyourself.com/.

5. Consider a reputation management professional: A good reputation can take years to build, and you do not want to let negative online reviews destroy it. To prevent this, you may want to consider hiring a company such as Demandforce. This type of professional reputation management improves patient satisfaction and your online reputation by allowing you to personally respond to unhappy patient reviews. This service helps to deter negative publicity from being circulated online for prospective patients to see.

Remember to continually monitor what Internet users are saying about your brand. With the ever-increasing popularity of online review sites, it's no longer a matter of "if" but "when" you receive your first negative patient review. When that time comes, you will want to respond with integrity to keep your online reputation glowing, but you will also want to adapt your services and professional approach to prevent a situation in the future.

Lance McCollough is the founder and CEO of ProSites, a leading website design and Internet marketing company for dental professionals. ProSites helps doctors attract new patients and grow their practices through innovative website solutions, search engine optimization, mobile websites, social media, and local search marketing strategies. To learn more, visit www.ProSites.com or call (888) 332-2114.

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