Back before the internet was born, word-of-mouth and maybe a telephone directory were the main engines that built a practice. Today, the phone book has been replaced by Google, and the World Wide Web serves as a loudspeaker for your reputation, which many now call your “webutation.” Do you know your webutation? If you don’t, it could be hurting you or your practice. At the very least, ignoring your webutation represents a missed opportunity for growth.

Your webutation is the culmination of all the online information about you. This is often information that you had nothing to do with generating, and it can come in many forms:

  • Medical rating site listings
  • Blog post mentions
  • Social media comments
  • Court-case mentions
  • Licensing issues
  • Published research
  • Educational and hospital affiliation profiles

The list above may spark some ideas of what your online presence looks like, but to really know, you need to Google yourself. In fact, you should probably also Bing and Yahoo yourself. These search engines are the portals your patients use to find out about you, and it’s a good idea to know what is coming up when they type in your name.

What if you find something you don’t like? What if it turns out you have a negative webutation?

Start with Page One of Search Engine Results

Before you can do anything about a negative webutation, you need to know that you have one and where the negative comments are coming from. Tennessee neurologist Gretchen Campbell, MD, recommends you start with the very first page of results that come up when you have entered your name into a search engine like Google.

This first page is the most important barometer because it is where the most recent and most relevant information about you will be found. It is also where the people searching for you will usually stop searching. According to research done by the online marketing firm HubSpot, 75% of searchers never go beyond the first page of results.

Be THE Source of Your Own Best Information

The most effective way to influence what comes up on that first page is by being the source of your most relevant information and by keeping that information up to date.

For most doctors today, the top search results will include at least one medical rating site like HealthGrades, WebMD, or Vitals. Dr. Campbell recommends starting with HealthGrades. It is free to set up your own profile, and you can beef it up to most accurately represent you. She says that if you haven’t set it up and directed patients there, you probably won’t have too many reviews. However, if you only have three reviews and one of them is negative, it’s not going to look good.

Even the very best doctors have unhappy patients. This is the nature of the job. But, you don’t want that one bad review to be the biggest impression people have of you. To remedy this, Dr. Campbell gives her patients the URL to her rating profiles and asks them to rate her. You can’t (and shouldn’t) ask for a positive review, but if your patients like you, getting more of them to rate you will help even out any negative reviews.

The same will be true if the negative impression comes from social media or blog comments. These also favor most relevant and latest information. Make sure your social media profiles are up to date and represent you in the way you want. Taking part in the conversations that pertain to you will make sure that information you put out will be the most likely to come up first in a search.

To combat a negative online impression, Oregon neurologist Jeff Kraakevik, MD, recommends being active on Twitter or starting a blog. If you are regularly putting out high-quality, positive content, that is what will show up when people search for you.

Be Professional And Don’t Engage with Trolls

Before you get active on social media or post content to the internet, it is important that you know the rules. You don’t want to be a source of your own negative webutation. Dr. Kraakevik recommends thinking about the internet as you would an elevator with a camera aimed at you. Be professional. You never know who might be watching or listening.

You can learn more about online etiquette and how to avoid HIPAA violations in social media policies published by the following groups:

If you find negative comments, Campbell says that it can sometimes be a good idea to respond. Try to be objective, if there is a kernel of truth in a comment, respond with professionalism and concern and a solution to the problem. But, be careful, says Dr. Kraakevik, and watch out for internet Trolls. These are people (and sometimes bots) that are solely motivated to stir up trouble. Engaging with them can serve to amplify instead of mollify the problem.

Remember that while just about anybody has the opportunity to say whatever they want to about you on the internet, you also have a voice. Make it your voice that rises to the top.