What Practices Need to Know About Google’s Review Guidelines

If your practice asks patients to leave online reviews, you might be violating Google’s review guidelines without knowing it. Here’s what you need to know.

What Medical Practices Need to Know about Google’s Review Guidelines

It’s not a secret that amping up your practice’s online reviews is a great way to improve your local search rankings and attract new patients. But many practices don’t know about essential details of Google’s review guidelines that, if violated, could result in Google flagging your Google My Business account and taking down your reviews.

When you’re asking your patients for new reviews, make sure you’re staying compliant with Google’s terms of service. Here’s what every practice needs to know about Google’s review guidelines.

How to Request a Google Review

How do you decide which patients you ask to leave you a Google review? If you’re asking only people who you know are satisfied, you could be violating Google’s review guidelines.

It’s seemingly harmless, but if you’re cherry-picking which patients you ask for a review based on who you think will leave positive feedback, you’re doing what’s known as “review gating.” 

And Google takes review gating very seriously.

In its review guidelines, Google explicitly states that businesses shouldn’t “discourage or prohibit reviews or selectively solicit positive feedback from customers. The search engine made this change to its Terms of Service back in 2018, but if you’re not familiar with details of the guidelines, you could miss it. 

If you’re asking every patient to write a review, inevitably, you’ll receive some not-so-positive feedback, but think about it as an opportunity. Publicly responding to negative feedback appropriately can show people your practice’s dedication to customer service.

Review gating might seem harmless, but it’s not worth the risk. Remember, Google can remove all your reviews for violating its guidelines.

How Many Patient Reviews You Can Request at Once

When you put a system in place to get more online reviews, it’s tempting to ask every patient in your patient management software to leave a review at the same time, but if you send out a mass request, you could be in violation of Google’s review guidelines.

Google’s policy says that businesses shouldn’t “solicit reviews from customers in bulk.”

It might sound counterintuitive, but getting a steady stream of reviews over time is better than receiving dozens of them at once. 

That’s because recent reviews carry more weight with consumers than old ones. According to a BrightLocal survey, 40% of consumers only read reviews written within the past two weeks. If most of your practice’s reviews are from several months (or even years) ago, it could be a red flag for someone who’s looking for a new provider.

At Zingit, we automatically ask your patients for Google reviews following a specified time interval after their appointment, so you keep receiving a steady stream of recent and relevant reviews.

 

What You Can Offer Patients in Exchange for Reviews

Waiting and hoping your patients leave positive reviews isn’t a great strategy to improve your online reviews, but if you’re thinking about offering your patients an incentive to leave a review, think again. 

Google’s review guidelines say that a business shouldn’t “offer… money in exchange for reviews.” While the guidelines don’t explicitly prohibit offering something like a cup of coffee for a Google review, any kind of incentive certainly violates the spirit of the rule.

A 2020 survey shows that 68% of customers will leave a review if you ask them — no incentive necessary!

Who Owns Your Practice’s Reviews

Let’s say your practice has an excellent reputation on Google and gets new reviews every week. You want to use some of your positive feedback on your website or social media. No problem, right?

Well, not exactly.

Even though your patient is leaving a review on your practice’s Google My Business listing, you don’t own the review. According to Google’s review guidelines, your reviews belong to your patients.

The good news is that if you ask and receive permission from your patient, you can use their review content for marketing your practice.

It’s important to understand that you don’t own your Google reviews. The person who wrote the review owns it, even if it’s published to your Google My Business listing. Google requires you to obtain consent from the reviewer if you want to use the review for your marketing purposes.

How to Describe Your Google Rating

How to describe your Google rating is another review guideline that can be missed easily. If you want to tout your star rating on Google, avoid using phrases like “Google-rated” and “Google rating.”

Google doesn’t rate your practice — your patients do. If you have a 5-star rating, be sure to specify it’s a “5-star rating on Google” and not a “Google 5-star rating.” It’s a subtle difference but one that Google specifically prohibits in its review guidelines. Additionally, if you’re talking about your rating on Google, Google also expects you to include an “as of” date.

Getting more Google reviews is a proven way to boost your presence in local search results, but Google will punish you for violating its guidelines. If you’re interested in seeing how Zingit helps our clients get more reviews automatically — on average, 23 new reviews in the first month — sign up for a free demo.

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