Referrals and walk-ins are always welcome at your hearing care practice, but they represent a very thin slice of your potential patient roster. You have to build and maintain an online reputation and presence that faithfully represents your skills and services, and welcomes prospective patients to your practice.

Your website is only one part of the equation. In a business world driven by Google searches, patients who need your care can be dissuaded if they can’t easily find and contact you or, worse, encounter negative information about your practice.

To manage and protect your online reputation, you can hire a reputation management firm or take the do-it-yourself approach. Let’s take a closer look at each strategy.

  1. Partner with a Reputation Management Provider

There is no shortage of companies dedicated to protecting their clients’ online reputations and increasing their visibility in Google search results. The list includes Reputation.com, Go Fish Digital, Reputation Management Consultants, and Netmark.com.

Reputation management providers have expertise in elevating the information you want to share (your own website, positive media coverage) and pushing unwelcome information (negative reviews, lawsuits) below the first page of Google search results.

There is a catch. These services can be expensive. A 2013 Forbes report found that most reputation management programs start at about $5,000 a year, and even basic services will cost you several hundred dollars.

  1. Do It Yourself

If the price tag for professional reputation management services is too high for your budget, and if you believe there isn’t any negative information about you and your practice online, you can take a few steps to protect your reputation for free.

Your first step should be to set up a Google alert. This free service will send you an email whenever your name or your company name appears in a new place online. It could be positive and it could be negative but, either way, you need to know about it.

If you discover unfavorable coverage of your practice, including negative reviews from past customers, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle this. The right way requires you to respond to the review by acknowledging the patient’s complaint and offering to resolve it. The wrong way includes ignoring the review altogether or escalating the situation by trading insults in the online public forum (where other readers can see the exchange).

If you should encounter false negative information or a website built for the express purpose of defaming your practice, do not engage with the culprit directly. Seek advice from a qualified attorney and follow their instructions before taking any action.

Finally, whether you hire a reputation management firm or take the DIY approach, here are some helpful tips you can put into action today:

Make sure your website is responsive to all devices. More than half of all internet traffic is generated by users of smartphones and tablets — outpacing desktop and laptop computers! That means your website must be “responsive,” meaning it is designed and built to be attractive and readable on any mobile device. Check out your own website on your phone right now. If the text is too small to read and half your home page is off-screen, you do not have a responsive website.

CareCredit credit cardPromote patient perks on your website. The hearing healthcare services, hearing aids and devices you provide are of little use to patients who can’t afford them. To help more patients get the hearing care they need, consider partnering with a third party financing provider like CareCredit, which offers a healthcare credit card that gives your patients the opportunity to charge their office visits and device purchases at no interest. As a CareCredit member provider, you will be listed in their directory and also receive a proprietary marketing kit that includes promotional materials you can add to your website. The availability of healthcare credit card financing at your office may bring in more patients than you would otherwise reach.

Drive traffic with educational content. You can add credibility to your practice, boost your search engine results, and provide helpful information to prospective patients by adding educational content to your website. Search engines, including Google, scour the Internet for fresh, relevant content in response to search terms. If you don’t have the resources to create content yourself, partnering with CareCredit also gives you access to free patient education content you can use on your practice website to raise your online profile.

Testimonials promote your practiceRequest and record testimonials. You know you provide expert care, stellar customer service, and the latest in hearing technology, but your competitors undoubtedly feel the same way about their own practices. One of the most effective ways to cut through the promotional clutter is to ask your favorite patients to sit for an on-camera testimonial and add those videos to your website. This may sound difficult, but if you own a smartphone, you’re already halfway there. Click here for a free, step-by-step guide contributed by Michele Ahlman, president and CEO of ClearSounds.com.

Record a video of your own. Web visitors love video, and your website should include at least one video in which you introduce yourself and tell prospective patients what you and your practice have to offer. Speak from the heart, keep it short and simple, and don’t forget to ask for their business. You deserve it!

Whether you partner with a professional reputation management provider or take the do-it-yourself approach, do what you can to put your best foot forward on the Web. Give prospective patients every reason possible to choose your practice for their hearing care.

This content was provided to the 4MyHearingBiz community by contributing writer Tariq Kamal, courtesy of CareCredit and The Hearing Review.

Image credits: CareCredit;  © JaneLane | Dreamstime.com