A starter guide to Google reviews for healthcare businesses

Focusing on client reviews is one of the best ways to boost your clinic's reputation and drive growth via word-of-mouth. In this post, we'll explain how to get started on the world's biggest review platform and do more with your client reviews online.

Michelle Geslewitz·

Three people with speech bubbles containing positive review icons.

Check with your governing body for rules on using reviews and testimonials in marketing before taking any of the advice offered in this post. See the section 'What are my legal obligations around using reviews in marketing?' for more details.

These days, a lot of attention is paid to the power of digital marketing on search engines and social media, particularly around how effectively they can be used to target new prospective customers. While all that sophistication may help businesses get their brand name in front of people, it's still not enough to earn that all-important customer trust. In fact, trust in online advertising is significantly lower than traditional mediaand for a good reason.

So it's no big surprise that we've seen the rapid growth of third party review platforms like Google My Business (GMB). The prominence of these platforms proves that reviews are more than just a vanity marker for your local business. They can provide instant credibility for your clinic and help potential new clients establish a human connection with you.

97% of users check online reviews for local businesses. That makes reviews one of the most important ways to help your business stand out online, and you can do it without spending any money.

Reviews are your online reputation and can influence your clinic’s growth in a powerful way. For example, are you aware that even if you haven't yet taken the number one spot in the Google Map pack for your services, having a higher star rating than your top competitor can earn you more clicks?  Maps users may even filter out lower-rated businesses from their search results.

And, did you know that keywords mentioned in your Google reviews can also increase your business's visibility in Maps to people ready to book your services? Just like the keywords on your site, keywords in reviews enhance what Google knows about your business.

Here are the basics of online reviews, including how to get them, respond to them, and make them work harder for your healthcare business.

Why ask for reviews on Google My Business (GMB)?

There are many review platforms out there, but 63% of users will specifically check Google before visiting a business. As the world's largest search engine, your presence on Google has an enormous bearing on how many new potential clients can find you online, especially in your area. So, if you’re interested in increasing your clinic’s online reputation, Google is a great place to start.

If you don't already have a GMB listing, now is a great time to get started! It’s free to create a profile, and doing so can help your practice stand out to local people Googling your clinic or your service keywords. Our previous blog posts explain how you can create or claim your Maps listing and how exactly you can use your profile to boost traffic to your business from Google.

A screenshot showing that the Google rating for businesses appears right below the main navigation buttons in search results

Google features ratings and reviews below the main buttons for navigating - on and offline - to the business itself.

Reviews are featured prominently on your GMB listing and Google Maps, and are a major factor to visitors deciding which business is best for them. To get an aggregated star rating next to your business name, you'll need at least four to five reviews. The more reviews you have, the more likely visitors are to trust your overall rating, and there’s a massive potential boost to your business in having a lot of positive reviews.

What are my legal obligations around using reviews in marketing?

In many countries, there are standards in place regulating the use of reviews and testimonials for all advertising activity. Sometimes these include specific rules for healthcare practitioners. The first step in any plan to use reviews in marketing is to understand how your country's legislation applies to your profession. This may include policies on what kinds of reviews you are permitted to use in your marketing.

If you are in Australia, start with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Aphra). Their site outlines the national policy on the use of reviews in healthcare marketing and has self-assessment tools you can use to make sure all of your advertising complies with regulations.

New Zealand has its own set of special regulations for providers of therapeutic services who wish to use testimonials in their marketing. We found this resource on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website which outlines the local code.

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulates advertising claims and use of testimonials. These rules are not specific to healthcare providers, so it's worth checking with your association for best practice rules, too.

In Canada, check the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. Section seven pertains specifically to use of testimonials.

No matter what kind of marketing you're doing for your business, it's important you are familiar with your country's local regulations. There may be further guidelines for testimonials enforced by your modality's governing body or college, so make sure to check with them, too.

What are the best ways to get reviews?

No one likes asking for compliments, but regularly requesting reviews is one of the best ways to gain the full benefits of word of mouth marketing online.

As we already mentioned, it's crucial that you check with your governing body whether you are permitted to ask clients to leave reviews. Even if you can't actively ask for reviews, clients may decide to write them unprompted, and we’ll cover how you can make the most of them.

If you decide to ask for reviews, a good rule of thumb is to ask promptly (i.e. within a day of your client's appointment), so the experience is still fresh in their mind. You can ask in person at the end of the session or by including a custom link to your GMB listing in an email or SMS after their appointment.

Bear in mind that anyone can review your practice on Google, even if you have not claimed your business listing.

What are the basic rules of Google Reviews?

Here are the most important policies you should know before you start inviting clients to review your clinic.

First, Google does not allow businesses to incentivise reviews with service discounts, cash, or gift cards. This is in the interest of authenticity. If it was easy enough to buy reviews this way, the credibility of the platform would drop. More importantly, reviews left for the sole purpose of gaining some kind of reward are more likely to be slapdash and lack details that can really help your clinic stand out, like references to particular treatments or clinicians. You also want your reviews to read as naturally as possible, and if they are ‘organic’ they’re more likely to come across as authentic.

Of course, putting your business out there for reviews is a little scary in that you don’t have direct control over who leaves a review and what they write. Getting a review removed is difficult unless it breaches Google’s terms of service. If you suspect a review breaks the rules you can flag it for removal by pressing the little flag icon next to the reviewer’s name. Fake reviews breach Google’s terms of use, but it can be difficult to prove a given review isn’t authentic. In many cases it’s better to respond directly, which we’ll cover in just a bit.

A screenshot of a Google review with the flag button circled.

If you need to report a review for violating Google's terms, you can use the flag button to let Google know.

Google also discourages business owners from requesting reviews “in bulk”, or as part of an email campaign to their entire client database. But, adding your GMB link and asking for reviews on your social media pages is considered OK.

Finally, employees are not allowed to leave reviews for their employers. It can be tempting to ask your team members or friends to review your business in order to get your initial numbers up, but this may come back to bite you if your prospective clients catch on.

How can I make it easier for my clients to leave reviews?

The review process on GMB is pretty simple in that clients can do as little as select the number of stars they want to leave. Reviewers don't need to leave a comment for their review to be published, but they will need to create or use an existing Google account to leave a rating.

Here are the steps your clients can follow to review your clinic on a desktop - you can copy and paste them into an email to your client if you wish:

  1. 1.Open Google Maps while logged in to your Google account. you’’ll know you’re logged in because your photo or first initial should appear in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. 2.Search for [CLINIC NAME] and click the listing that appears on the map.
  3. 3.In the left-hand panel, scroll down to the reviews section on the GMB entry and click “Write a review”.
  4. 4.A new window will appear asking you for a star rating and comment.

Responding to Google reviews

Google now allows GMB listing owners to respond to all reviews, and you can turn on notifications to the email associated with your GMB account. That way you'll know when someone has left a new rating. It's worth replying personally to those clients who have taken the time to rate your clinic, as it's an opportunity to show the public how you interact with and value your clients. How much you write is up to you, but even a simple "thank you" can go a long way to helping your client feel appreciated and noticed. Your response will permanently feature on your clinic’s GMB, so treat it as an opportunity to show the world what your clinic is all about.

Handling negative reviews

It may initially seem like a nightmare scenario to receive a one or two-star review, especially if you feel it's unfair. Responding to a negative review on your Google My Business account isn't about arguing with the person who left you a low star rating - you can follow up with the individual privately to try and salvage the situation, and it is possible for users to edit their reviews after publishing them. Instead, your GMB response to a negative review is about putting your best face forward to the public. You can tell your side of the story, but it's best to be calm, empathetic, and stick to the facts.

If the negative review is legitimate and led you to make changes in your business, mention that in your response, and cover off the steps you’ve taken to fix things. One or two less-than-stellar reviews with a solid apology or explanation from you, the business owner, won't be as damaging as the opposite: no response at all.

Making the most of reviews

Google automatically shows your rating when someone Googles your practice or when your clinic appears on Maps, without you needing to do anything special. This can greatly influence your clickthrough rate from Google to your site, as clients may choose the best rated service over the others.

Adding “social proof” to your homepage is a tried-and-true way of encouraging your visitors to book an appointment. If you want to show off a high rating, the simplest way is to include your Google Rating stars on your website, social media, and in your other marketing materials. Google offers a free marketing kit that makes it easy to share your rating and reviews everywhere your potential clients may be looking.

A screenshot from Google's marketing kit, which allows anyone with a GMB listing to create marketing visuals based on reviews.

Google has a number of free design templates available that can be used to promote reviews on and offline.

There are also widgets with varying levels of sophistication that you can add to your site to automatically display your Google star rating to visitors or pull in the most up-to-date reviews. This is a powerful way to signify to your visitors that you are trustworthy, but also requires some technical know-how.

A screenshot of a practitoner site with reviews and awards prominently displayed.

If you can't find a widget for your business site or you're not sure how to implement one, you can also use static images to show your review rating.

Beyond sharing your overall rating, reviews are an ideal source of potential future keywords and messages to include on your clinic’s site. There’s nothing quite like tapping into your clients’ own words to meet their expectations, and this may inspire you to add new content to your site, explaining how you can solve their biggest problems versus simply listing out your treatments and services.

Google will create filters for your top review keywords over time within the reviews app, which is another handy way to make sure the language you use on your site corresponds to the terms people are likely using to find services like yours. For example, if you have reviews commenting that your clinicians are "friendly" or "calming", consider adding those adjectives to your marketing copy on your site.

If you’d like more detail on the key aspects of gathering reviews or more information on the other platforms out there, check out the relevant sections in Moz’s local SEO fundamentals.

Author information

Michelle was born in Chicago and now lives in Leamington Spa, UK. She currently works on growth marketing for Cliniko, looking after paid marketing channels, social media, SEO, content and more.

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