User Reviews Trump Paid Ads for Patients — and Doctors

user reviews

Perhaps you saw the figures released earlier this year from the number-crunchers at Nielsen. Looking at what sources of information people trusted most, the company found that less than half (47%) of the people surveyed trusted paid advertising. Depending on the outlet — TV, magazines or newspapers — that was a drop of 20–25% from 2009.

Instead, says Nielsen, they were more likely to trust recommendations from friends (92%), followed by other consumers’ online opinions (70%) and content found on branded websites (58%). And while the first should be obvious — one-to-one recommendations from friends have always been the gold standard — the other two are expected to play a more powerful role in the years to come.

Consider the following stats from, which underscore the increasing importance of online conversations as Millennials begin to dominate the marketplace:

  • 84% of Millennials report that user-generated content (UGC) has at least some influence on what they buy, compared to 70% of Baby Boomers
  • 64% of Millennials feel that companies should offer more ways to share their opinions online in the future
  • 51% of them say consumer opinions found on a company’s website have a greater impact on purchase decisions than recommendations from family and friends

That last one is especially telling as it represents a seismic shift in who these new consumers are listening to, where they’re choosing to do so and what they’re going to demand from those that they ultimately give their business to.

Question is, will they find what they’re looking for on your practice website or somebody else’s?

Doctor Takeaways

1. Prime the pump by encouraging UGC on independent sites

At RealSelf, we’re proud of the “roaring conversations” that our community of 3 million users engage in on everything from Accutane to Zoom Whitening. By extension, doctors who encourage patients to post reviews get a de facto introduction to a highly targeted audience that represents a great opportunity for conversion.

2. Tighten the bond by adding reviews to your practice website

As noted above, more and more consumers expect the providers they patronize to incorporate UGC on their branded websites. For doctors, this not only shows that you “get them” but that you truly value their input. At the same time, posting reviews on your site can lead to a better ranking in search results because reviews are what many of those consumers are looking for.

3. Act fast to convert those motivated visitors into new patients

Whether visitors to your site come from a search or referral, they’re still nothing more than leads that need to be qualified. With the power of the Internet at their fingertips, these potential patients not only expect quick responses to their inquiries; they also have no compunction about reaching out to multiple providers at once. Have a response plan in place for those leads, set reasonable expectations and then beat them, and you’ll beat the competition as well.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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  • Mike Wilton

    Great tips here. One word of caution I have is the suggestion to post reviews on your website. One thing doctors need to be aware of is if they are reviews from sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, Avvo or other sites that Google may pick up they should not be duplicating these on their site. Joel Headley of Google came out and stated at SMX East this year that Google will take down reviews they find as exact duplicates across the web.

    The RealSelf widget should be safe, but I would strongly advise doctors not to copy reviews and add them to their site and they should definitely make sure if patients are reviewing them on multiple sites that they are unique.

    • Tom Seery

      Great point. The RealSelf review widget is served in an iframe and is not crawled and indexed by Google. A great example of non-indexable reviews posted on a website is four seasons hotels. They’ve added TripAdivisor’s prominently to their homepage “Reviews at a Glance” using a widget:

      • Mike Wilton

        Thanks for the response Tom! I actually went back to your guys’ post on using the Real Self reviews widget from a few weeks back and poked around on that doctors site and saw that it was an iFrame. Good deal. Just wanted to make sure any docs reading didn’t go crazy with posting their reviews on-site. The last thing we want is for doctors to lose legitimate reviews, especially on Google.

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