May 29, 2012 Leave a comment
Independent eye care providers (sometimes known as ECPs) are crucial links in the chain of optical care that we all depend upon. ECPs are on the frontline of screening for optical disease and providing prescriptions for corrective lenses, glasses or contacts.
As with every business, the way consumers find and consume services is rapidly evolving with changes in communications, technology and the Internet. Today, more than ever, the consumer is empowered with innovative tools to research and rate their service providers. It is also important that service providers stay aware of their reputations online and actively participate in the management of them.
‘Word of Internet’ Replacing ‘Word of Mouth’ in Advertising
Online consumer reviews have quickly become similar to family and friends as a trusted source of ‘word of mouth’ recommendations. Econsultancy has reported that 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; while an amazing 70% trust opinions of unknown users. Nielson Online has reported similar statistics that when making purchase decisions, North American Internet users trust recommendations from people they know and opinions posted by unknown consumers more than advertisements on television, on the radio, in magazines and newspapers, or in other traditional media.
The rise of Google Reviews and Yelp
Relatively recently, Google changed how it displays business reviews. Instead of aggregating third party consumer review data from sources such as Citysearch, Inside Pages, Merchant Circle, Judy’s Book, Yelp, and more, Google has decided to only showcase the Google Places reviews. This decision has greatly increased the importance of Google reviews for all small businesses.
Google also highly ranks consumer reviews from Yelp within it’s general search results. This means that Yelp.com reviews are also very important to the reputation of eye care service providers.
Management of Reviews and Ratings
Both Google Places and Yelp allow and encourage business owners to create accounts, verify and claim their businesses profiles. Below are a list of best practices in managing business reviews within Google Places and on Yelp.com.
- Create accounts on Google Places and Yelp and claim existing business account profiles or create new ones.
- Completely fill out business profiles. Include information on business hours, services, locations and promotions. Post photos and/or videos.
- Review all existing reviews and respond to them regardless of whether they are positive or negative. If an individual negative review appears to violate the review platform’s policies, notify Google or Yelp of the violation so that it may be removed. In the case of Yelp, the review in violation of policy may simply be filtered out of the default search results.
- Encourge customers to post a review of their experience with your business on Google or Yelp. This may be done via email, or through other normal customer communications. All reviews must be unbiased so the business may not offer any financial incentives to write reviews.
Criteria for removing reviews on Google
Google may remove individual reviews that include any of the following:
- Inappropriate content: Reviews that contain or link to unlawful content, or content that violates Google Places content policy. This includes reviews that have plagiarism or are copied from other sites.
- Advertising and spam: Reviews that contain advertising or the posting of similar or duplicate reviews. Reviews with links to other websites.
- Off-topic reviews: Reviews based on someone else’s experience, or that are not about the specific place in the business profile under review. Reviews that are largely personal rants.
- Conflict of interest: Reviews about a competitor or by a competitor. Any review on the behalf of others or any misrepresentation of the reviewers identity or affiliation.
Criteria for removing reviews on Yelp
They may consider removing a review from your search results on Yelp if it violates one of these general content guidelines:
- Inappropriate content: Threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other such content is not allowed.
- Conflicts of interest: Customer reviews must be unbiased and objective. Examples of biased reviews would be those of owners, employees, agents or competitors.
- Promotional content: Spam or off-topic promotional content and links are not allowed.
- Relevance: Reviews must be relevant and appropriate. Rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience are frowned upon.
- Privacy: Publishing personal information such as names or photos without permission is not allowed.
- Intellectual property: Copied or plagiarized reviews and photos are not allowed.
Links to Google Places and Yelp