On April 12, 2018, Google made an important update to its Terms of Service for online reviews. The updated Google review policy is a clear message to businesses that were utilizing a biased approach toward review solicitation. The policy states that going forward, businesses should ask for reviews from all its customers, irrespective of whether their experience was positive or negative, and in doing so, they (businesses) should not pre-check their customer’s intention before asking them to submit reviews, i.e., they should not resort to ‘review-gating’ anymore.
“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
Review-gating generally looks like this:
- You send a message to your patients asking if their experience was positive or negative
- If the patient replies positively, another text message and email with a review submission link is sent, asking the patient to leave a review online
- If the patient says he/she had a negative experience, a link to submit their feedback is still sent, but the option to post the review online is omitted this time (This is called “review-gating” as the potential negative review was ‘gated’, making it more difficult for an unhappy customer to post a review).
Rather than allowing the unhappy patient to post their review online, they are redirected to a private feedback form to submit their comment. A notification is also sent to your office regarding the same so that you can contact the unhappy patient to resolve their issue. Your intention here may sound pure and honest, but that’s not going to fly with Google anymore.
What should healthcare businesses do to ensure compliance with the new policy?
You’ll need to reassess the online reputation building strategy of your healthcare practice. In case you’re using a review management tool to send out emails requesting for review submissions, make sure the email templates are updated according to Google’s latest guidelines.
Also, do not restrict the unhappy patients (who had a negative experience) to post their comments only through a private feedback form. Instead, allow them to openly submit their feedback (just as you would allow it for a happy patient) by giving the option to post it on Google or any other review website/websites you want to add.
Avoiding following these guidelines will put your practice in trouble sooner or later. Google can—as it has already previously done in many cases of offense— erase any trace of reviews relating to that business. If that happens, it will do severe damage to your practice’s online rankings, which means stalling your healthcare business’ growth.
Below is what Google has to say on this matter
“We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law.” [https://policies.google.com/terms]
To make it clear here, it’s of no concern to Google whether you’re engaging in a fair and honest review solicitation process or not. Its only concern is that businesses who have an account with Google My Business (GMB) are no longer able to “discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
As a GMB listing helps your practice rank prominently in local searches on Google, you cannot afford not to follow the Google’s guidelines.
To learn more about why it’s essential to list your healthcare practice on Google My Business, and how doing so helps your practice rank prominently in local search results, read our blog “Google My Business Listing Optimization Guide for Doctors.”
RepuGen has taken steps to ensure that our review platform is following Google’s guidelines and will be posting an article shortly that details what steps we have taken to ensure our clients aren’t being penalized by this new policy.
Ajay Prasad is a serial entrepreneur, a business strategist, and a healthcare marketing expert with almost three decades of experience. He is the founder and CEO of RepuGen. He has built this innovative reputation management software from scratch, incorporating multifaceted artificial intelligence (AI) which has allowed for rapid growth, maximum outreach and a 95% user satisfaction rate.