The 2024 Ultimate Guide to Google Reviews for Optometrists

Google reviews for optometrists

How can a handful of words and stars wield such power over the success of your optometry practice? In the digital age, Google Reviews serve as the lifeblood of visibility and credibility for healthcare providers, including optometrists. It’s a part of human nature to seek safety in numbers, and when we see a practice with lots of positive comments and overwhelmingly high star rankings, it’s a powerful signal.

If you don’t currently have a strategy for collecting reviews, then you need to start. Because your competitors are doing it and you run the risk of being left behind in the marketing game.

What are Google Reviews?

In case you aren’t familiar already, Google reviews are comments that a customer can leave for any business with a Google Business Profile. Comments are usually accompanied by a star rating for the customer experience, one star meaning very poor; five stars meaning very good. Customers can just leave a star rating without a comment if they wish.

In addition, people can “up vote” each review with a “Like” button, that signifies the review resonated with them, was particularly helpful, or maybe echoed their own customer experience.

Google’s “People Often Mentioned” and “Sort By” features enhance user experience by categorizing and sorting reviews, yet the company has not specified the exact number of reviews needed to activate these functionalities.

Business owners can (and should!) respond to each and every review.

Why Are Reviews Important for Optometrists?

Reviews shape the online reputation and visibility of an optometry practice. Firstly, the quantity, quality, and recency of reviews play a significant role. A substantial number of positive, recent reviews not only suggests that a practice is popular and trusted but also indicates an ongoing commitment to patient satisfaction.

Moreover, the keywords within these reviews have a direct impact on search relevance. When patients mention specific services, like “children’s eye exams” or “contact lens fitting,” Google will sometimes include a snippet from that review in the Local Map Pack search results. This targeted visibility is of huge benefit when it comes to attracting patients who are looking for the exact services offered.

Higher star ratings naturally attract more attention and trust, leading to higher click-through rates. This is because star ratings are one of the first things a potential patient sees in search results, making it a key factor in their decision to click on a listing.

How Can I Get More Reviews?

Remember that it’s the vocal minority with a negative experience are always going to be most more motivated to leave a review than the masses of patients who are happy but intent to just go about their day. Think about your mundane, everyday interactions. If you bought a new tyre for your car would you immediately jump onto Google and leave a positive review? What if you put on the tyre, drove half a kilometer down the road and it exploded? Would you leave a review now? Would it be a flattering one? I doubt it.

“So how do I get more reviews from the silent majority?” you may be thinking.

Well the simple answer is … ask for them. Your front staff should be trained to ask ALL patients if they would mind leaving a review on your Google listing.

And HOW they ask is also important. There was a psychological experiment conducted at Harvard University that showed people are 50% more likely to agree to a favor request when you explain the reason behind the request. So train your staff to use an expression like “It would be really great if you could leave a review on our Google Business Profile because that helps us to serve the community as an independent practice.”

In my own opinion, the reason a lot of the reason practices don’t ask for reviews is because there is a myth that you are annoying people by asking. But in reality, many people are pretty familiar with leaving reviews about businesses, whether that be through Google, Yelp, Facebook or some other platform. The secret is to make it EASY for them to do so.

There are a few ways you can reduce friction process:

  • Have an automated follow up SMS or email the day after the appointment which includes a direct link to your Google Business Reviews form
  • Display a QR code in the reception area that opens the reviews form on your patients’ phone
  • Print the QR code onto a business card with all your office details that you give to patients

Use the following link from WhiteSpark to create your QR code:

https://whitespark.ca/google-review-link-generator

What about leaving an IPad in the reception area for patients to write a review? I probably wouldn’t do that one. For a couple of reasons.

  • Patients need to be logged into their Google account to write a review, so there are obvious security issues with having hundreds of patient’s sharing the same digital device
  • It’s not ideal to have dozens of reviews coming in from the same IP address anyway. Google may get suspicious about whether these are all genuinely different people.

Who Can Leave Reviews?

Obviously you should ask your patients. And the best time to ask is soon after the appointment when their memory about the consultation and positive feelings about their experience are still fresh in their mind.

But in fact, one does not need to be a paying customer to be able to leave a review.

In Google’s own words “contributions … should reflect a genuine experience at a place or business.” So that includes anyone in your business circles who has interacted with your practice, which could include suppliers and business partners. For example, if you work with other medical professionals such as ophthalmologists to co-manage eye care patients, there is nothing to prevent you from leaving a review about each other’s business.

I wouldn’t encourage you or your employees to leave a review of your own practice. That would be crossing Google’s red line on “Content that is based on a conflict of interest.”

Are There Rules About Asking for Reviews?

There are a number of other rules that you must not contravene. Penalties for any of the following could range from having ALL your reviews deleted, up to and including having your Google Profile suspended.

Do NOT incentivize reviews

Google is very clear on this point. They are OK with businesses asking for reviews (in fact they encourage it) but you CANNOT incentivize customers to leave a review even if your request doesn’t specify incentives for “good” reviews. It is still contrary to Google terms and conditions to offer incentives for ANY kind of review. Offering anything of monetary value in return for a review would be a red card against Google’s policies.

Do NOT “review gate”

Is it OK to ask all patients about their experience and then ONLY invite the ones that offer good feedback to leave a review? No. This is called review gating and is contrary to Google policies. The policy says they will take action against reviews that are the result of “discouraging or prohibiting negative reviews, or selectively soliciting positive reviews from customers.”

Do NOT buy reviews from Black Hat SEOs

Perhaps you’ve heard stories of businesses buying phony reviews from shady online vendors. All I can say is that I highly discourage it. Google has a lot of very smart people and very sophisticated systems in place to sniff out and punish fake engagement. Don’t ask me how they know. But they KNOW.

Fake reviews are also illegal in Australia, and can be subject to court action from the ACCC.

You CANNOT incentivize customers to leave a review even if your request doesn’t specify incentives for “good” reviews

Google Policy

What Does AHPRA Say About Reviews?

The Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHRPRA) have guidelines which they say are “developed to help practitioners and other advertisers understand their obligations when advertising a regulated health service.” These serve the noble purpose of ensuring a fair and level playing field, stopping people from making false claims, and dissuading patients from having unrealistic expectations.

So let’s talk about those guidelines.

In truth, I’ve seen some contradictory statements from people connected to Optometry Australia about how these rules should be applied, so your mileage may vary.

But the consensus view is that two factors are important:

  • Is the review clinical (meaning does it refer to symptoms, diagnosis and outcomes)
  • Do you, as the practitioner, have control over the online space where the review was offered

If the review refers to the variety of optical brands on your frame board, the friendly staff in reception or the amount of available parking, all of those are non-clinical and AHPRA shouldn’t have an issue with any of it.

However, if the review is along the lines of “Dr Phil is amazing. He was able to completely cure my myopia in just two weeks!” that is clearly clinical and more problematic.

If THAT review was put on your Facebook Page you should remove it, because you have editing controls over your Facebook content.

However, if the review was left on your Google Business Profile, you do NOT have control over that. So, in AHPRA’s own words:

“Advertisers do not have to remove or try to remove a review on a website or in social media over which they do not have control.”- AHPRA.

Responding to reviews also gets a bit tricky where clinical services are mentioned. If you reply to a review that mentions clinical symptoms, diagnosis or outcomes you must reply with wording that clearly advises “…results may vary…”

e.g. In response to the Dr Phil example above, it would be best to respond with something along the lines of:

“Thank you for your kind review. Of course, results vary from patient to patient, but I’m delighted that you’ve experienced such a positive result.”

Bottom line. When you are asking for Google reviews, it’s probably best not to be too prescriptive about what you would like patients to say in the review. If they happen to talk about your in-clinic services, that’s a lucky circumstance. But specifically asking for THAT “could” get you into hot water with regulators.

NOTE: Everything above comes with a BIG FAT DISCLAIMER label attached, because you should seek your own first hand advice and make your own marketing decisions. I have no special legal training or regulatory compliance experience.

Can I Use Google Reviews On My Website?

You might be asking yourself, “Is it OK to repost positive Google Reviews on my website if they DON’T include mention of clinical services?”

Google’s official position is that reviews are covered by copyright provisions, and the copyright resides with the person who left the review. So they advise that it is necessary to ask permission from that person before using the review for promotional purposes, such as displaying it on your website.

Google brand resources guide on reviews
https://about.google/brand-resource-center/guidance/user-reviews/

Also keep in mind that if you decide to show your reviews on your website you cannot use terms that imply the ratings come from Google instead of users e.g. Don’t use terms like “Google-rated” or “Google rating”.

What Can I Do If Patient Reviews Don’t Show Up?

A patient writes a review but for some reason it doesn’t show up in your Google Reviews. At some point you might experience this. It’s a common complaint among business owners and there could be any number of valid reasons. Or it could just be Googles review approval algorithm going hay-wire.

If it happens to you, try the following:

  1. Wait. Sometimes it can take up to 30 days for a review to appear.
  2. If it still doesn’t show after 30 days, ask the reviewer to take a screenshot from their phone and send it to you.
Take a screen shot of your Google review and submit it to Google support.

Once you have their screenshot, you can submit it to Google Support and (politely) ask them to include the review on your Google Business Profile.

Anecdotally, it seems that if you’ve been through this appeal process once, you don’t get a recurrence of blocked reviews. It’s as if your account gets a “green light” status.

Use this URL to submit your request for review.

https://support.google.com/business/gethelp?issue_description=contact+support

Watch the video from Silverback Marketing where they describe the process.

It’s also worth double checking that the review hasn’t been blocked for any of the following reasons before starting the appeal:

  • There is a URL included in the review (promotion is not allowed)
  • The person who wrote the review works for you (conflict of interest)
  • Duplicate of review somewhere else (e.g. Yelp)
  • You are getting too many reviews in a short time period (looks unnatural)
  • You are offering incentives to leave a review
  • You are buying “Black Hat” reviews
  • Review is from the same IP address as other reviews
  • The reviewer is also a manager of your GBP listing
  • There are too many reviews on your account (an unnaturally large number)
  • The reviewer has never left a review before and has little activity on their Google profile
  • The person tried to post a review for you several times on different dates
  • The person is trying to leave the review using a very old mobile phone or computer operating system

If all else fails, you can try asking in the Google Business Profile Community for help. The forum contains moderators who may be able to review your case and pull some strings for you.

https://support.google.com/business/community?hl=en&sjid=10325680423425176219-AP

How to Respond to Positive Reviews

Thank the reviewer personally: Most Google reviews include the reviewers name, so use that. e.g. “Thank you so much Steve, for your feedback!”

Highlight positive aspects of the review: Show that you appreciate it when customers acknowledge the hard work you put into your practice. e.g. “Your kind comments about our reception staff mean a lot to us.”

Use it as an opportunity to share your values: e.g. “We try really hard to make sure everyone in the community has a positive experience when they visit our practice.”

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Getting a few negative reviews is inevitable. Some people will just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. And a few one star reviews aren’t the end of the world. In fact a business with ONLY 5 star reviews might look suspicious. A study in 2019 found businesses with a 4.9 average star rating did better than perfectly rated ones.

And there are of course, genuine cases where we “could” improve our service delivery, so think of criticism as an opportunity to improve. If there is a legitimate problem in your practice, you would want to know about it and correct it, right?

The way we handle negative reviews is important. It’s an opportunity to turn around a negative experience, but also a chance to showcase our professionalism and commitment to customer care.

Respond promptly: Replying quickly shows that you take customer complaints seriously.

Understand the issue: Take a moment to fully appreciate what went wrong. It might not even be something that’s your fault.

Apologize where appropriate: If you’ve dropped the ball, own up to it. People respect honesty. Ducking and weaving just makes things worse.

Offer a solution: A small gesture of goodwill, like offering a free service or product upgrade next time they visit can make your practice shine.

Keep it professional: Don’t get defensive or argumentative. That’s not a good look. Be constructive.

Take the discussion offline: If the specific details are complicated, invite them to call you to talk it through rather than getting lost in the weeds publicly.

What Can I Do About Fake or Inappropriate Reviews?

As I mentioned, getting a few negative reviews is normal.

And (hopefully) your overwhelming volume of positive sentiment reviews makes up for the bad ones.

But there are times when a review just doesn’t belong on your Google Business Profile. It might be an unethical competitor trying to sandbag your business. Or just a random trouble maker.

In that case you can report the review and ask for Google to remove it, if you have a good reason. Don’t report a review just because you disagree with it or don’t like it.

  • Google doesn’t get involved when businesses and customers disagree about facts.
  • There’s no reliable way to tell who’s right about a particular customer experience.

ONLY ask for review removals if there has been a clear breach of Google’s policies.

Google can take action against a review if it fits any of the following:

  • Off topic: Review doesn’t pertain to an experience at or with this business
  • Spam: Review is from a bot, fake account or includes a promotion
  • Conflict of interest: Review is from someone affiliated with a competitors business
  • Profanity: Contains swear words, sexually explicit language, details graphic violence or other illegal activity
  • Bullying or harassment: Review personally attacks a specific individual
  • Discrimination or hate speech: Harmful language about an individual or group based on identity
  • Personal information: Contains personal details such as an address or phone number

How do I request removal of a review?

You can use the following dedicated form to request removal of reviews that breach Google polices, and follow the status of your request.

https://support.google.com/business/workflow/9945796

Watch the following video where Joy Hawkins from Sterling Sky explains the removal request process (and what to do if your request is initially refused).
Note that if you appeal a rejected request, you should take note of the Case ID number Google provides you.

Reviews Will Be Important in Google’s LSA World

Hopefully by now you appreciate how valuable Google Reviews can be to your eye care business.

But there is another reason why it’s worth building up your reviews right now. Google’s Local Service Ads (LSA).

In Google’s words, “Local Services Ads help you connect with people who search on Google for the services you offer. Your ads will show up for customers in your area, and you only pay if a customer contacts you directly through the ad.”

LSAs offer a payment structure based on “per valid lead” rather than “per click”. This means that as an advertiser you only incur costs when someone calls you on the phone or sends a message.

What’s really powerful about this new advertising format is that they have high visibility, prominently displayed at the top of the Google Search Results page (even above the regular pay-per-click ads) and they come with a green checkmark symbol and GOOGLE GUARANTEED in bold font.

Local Service Ads are being slowly rolled out in certain industries. Optometry was added in 2023.

And they are being rolled out in certain countries – not to Australia and New Zealand yet, but they are surely coming.

Why are reviews relevant? Well the review count and star rating are two of the few visible items on your ad that customers will see.

Also, reviews are a major ranking factor for Local Services Ads. They could determine whether your add gets pushed below others, and could affect how much you pay for each lead.

In Google’s own words: “Your rating, number of reviews, average response time and any other information about your business that may influence user preferences factor into profile quality. Higher quality profiles may rank higher and may also pay lower costs per lead.

Sooner or later this new advertising format is coming to town. It would pay for optometrists in Australia and New Zealand to prepare for that by building reviews and improving your star rating ASAP.

GBP Q&A’s – Almost As Useful as Reviews

In this article we’ve taken a close look at Google Reviews but there is another feature of the Google Business Profile that often gets overlooked, and is almost as powerful in terms of raising your practice’s online engagement and conversion rate – the Question & Answer section.

Q&A is a place on the GBP which practice owners can seed with owner-generated questions, and also provide the answers. No shame in that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say your website and GBP listing should have Q&A sections that mirror each other.

Any member of the public can ask a question about your practice – and it’s great if they do, because this gives you an opportunity for direct engagement. You can add your own unique tone of voice and flavor that showcases the authentic side of your brand.

Q&A’s are an opportunity to save on customer service time by pre-empting all the common enquiries you get.

Questions about the types of services you offer, types of payment options available, and about practice facilities like accessibility ramps or parking are all very common, so you should populate the Q&A with those.

But don’t forget the most important question of all. “What makes our practice special?” In a competitive marketplace, that’s the question going through every potential patient’s mind. So give a thoughtful answer.

PRO TIP: Did you know that if a question gets enough “up votes” (typically 3-5) Google will highlight that question in the Local Map Pack results? So ask a few friends to visit your Google Business Profile and smash that “like” icon under the “What makes our practice special?” question. It’s a free kick.

If you get inappropriate questions (off topic, profanity etc.) the question removal process is similar to Google Reviews. Just click on the three vertical dots, then click the “Report Question” option. Then wait.

Other Review Sites

Google reviews should be a powerful part of your marketing plan, but they aren’t they only place to display customer feedback. There are other forums on the internet that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Did you know that Bing and Apple Maps both use reviews from Yelp and Facebook in their business listings? So you should pay attention to those two platforms as well. Keep in mind that you’ll need to remove any “clinical service” reviews from Facebook. Also, keep in mind that it’s against Yelp’s terms and conditions to solicit reviews.

LinkedIn Profile recommendations and skill endorsements are another category that gets overlooked. One of the strategies we employ in our agency is to highlight individual optometrists within a practice as the “author” of blog posts. This is important because Google gives a boost to posts that come from sources with Experience-Expertise-Authority-Trust (EEAT). So we try to put an author bio box at the bottom of each post with links back to the optometrist’s LinkedIn profile. Getting more recommendations and skill endorsements from industry peers increases the “gravitas” of authorship.

There are various other directory websites that don’t get a lot of publicity but which rank pretty well in local search for terms like “optometrist near me”. Included among these:

WordOfMouth.com.au
TrueLocal.com.au
Cylex-Australia.com
LocalSearch.com.au

All these sites accept reviews and ratings for optometry practices listed. Anything you can do to raise awareness of your directory listings (maybe through sharing the link on your social media) can’t hurt.

Watch the following video by Ranking Academy’s Luc Durand about why you should think beyond Google Reviews for your total review strategy.

Conclusion

Let’s wrap this up. We’ve talked a lot about Google Reviews and their impact on your optometry practice. Here’s the straightforward truth: these reviews are vital. They do more than just fill up space on your Google Business Profile; they actively shape how potential patients see you online. More reviews, especially recent and positive ones, make your practice more appealing and trustworthy.

It’s not just about the number of reviews either. The content matters. When your patients mention specific services you offer, it helps boost your search relevance. Those star ratings? They’re not just for show. They influence whether someone decides to click on your profile or not. And let’s be clear, in the competitive field of optometry, you want every advantage you can get.

Google Reviews serve as a form of social proof. People trust other people’s experiences. A string of positive reviews can be the deciding factor for someone on the fence about where to go for their eye care needs.

If you’re not actively seeking out reviews, now’s the time to start. It’s a key part of maintaining a strong, positive online presence. And in today’s digital age, that’s non-negotiable. So, let’s focus on building up your reviews. It’s straightforward, essential, and Optics Digital Marketing is here to help you navigate through it.

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