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November 15, 2017

Case Study: Digital Firefly Marketing Tackles A Major Reputation Management Case

Digital Firefly Marketing helped a major university hospital manage two surgeons' online reputations.


The clients are world-renowned doctors who work for a major university health system. Although well-respected within the medical community, they were sued for malpractice. Google searches turned up many news articles about the cases and other mentions of the lawsuits. This negative press was overtaking their search results. They came to Digital Firefly Marketing in 2015 to restore their online reputations.

Malpractice Data and Ethical Considerations

As with all reputation management cases, context is everything. We began by taking a close look at malpractice suit statistics. In a 2015 survey, 47% of doctors said they had been named in at least one suit with other doctors. 12% of those doctors said they were the sole doctor named in a malpractice suit. That’s more than half of doctors being sued for malpractice. Does that mean you can’t trust your doctor?

There are correlations between how risky medical procedures are and how often patients sue doctors in those fields. The most sued practitioners are OB/GYN’s and women’s health professionals, who have an 85% malpractice rate. This is likely due to the high stakes involved in pregnancy and childbirth. The second most sued doctors are surgeons, 83% of which report being named in a lawsuit. Surgeries are obviously more risky than a regular trip to the doctor for a cold.

Most lawsuits go on for 1-2 years. 28% are settled without a trial and only 16% ever get to a verdict. Nearly half are dismissed some time prior to verdict. Most telling: only 3% of those 16% of cases that end with a verdict have a ruling in the favor of the patient or family.

Considerations in this Case

We examined the specific lawsuits related to these clients. The incidence was low, but news regarding them had populated Google’s front page. Although the circumstances were tragic, there was never a finding of fault. We agreed to take the case.

Our Approach

We initiated a reverse SEO campaign to boost the visibility of positive content and diminish the impact of the negative articles. First, we performed incognito searches to survey the search results and identify the most important keywords and phrases associated with the doctors’ names. These established the basic framework of the campaign. We also analyzed the negative content to understand what sort of positive content would be the most competitive.

Monitoring Negative Articles

We created a spreadsheet to track the positions of negative search results as the campaign progressed. In the initial survey, we found 35 search results that referred to the lawsuits in some way. These included news articles, press releases, forum posts, doctor review websites, social media posts and publicly available legal documents. Not all of these appeared with every keyword, so we monitored the search results for each keyword separately.

We then began creating unique content for the doctors tailored to these and other strategic keyword phrases. Each week, we tracked the negative articles and chose new keywords depending on which were rising to the top of the search results. We created informational content aimed at educating the public on the doctor’s surgical specialty. This included pre, during and post surgery expectations and limitations, summaries of important studies related to the surgeries, and much more. During the course of the 15 month campaign, we added 226 pieces of new, positive pieces of content to outcompete the negative content. In the last six months of the campaign alone, we wrote 175 unique blog posts for the doctors.

Adaptation of the Process

While we saw traction immediately, it took persistence and innovation to sustain. Occasionally, negative articles flooded the front page. In analyzing the results and what we knew of the lawsuits, we discovered that Google’s historical data was coming into play. Other times of year also showed surges in negative search results, too, such as winter holidays, the deceased’s birthday and important dates related to the lawsuit. The anniversaries of the surgeries, deaths and case filings all resulted in more of these articles on the front page.

Over time, we regularly saw negative results pushed to the second page with limited appearances on the first page above the fold. The unique content created by the Digital Firefly Marketing team also began appearing. These strategies in parallel achieved two important things. First, they educated those searching for the doctors rather than raising concerns over scheduling medical care with two of the world’s most renowned surgeons in their field. Second, they did so honestly. There were no direct rebuttals to the lawsuits or any information that touched on the malpractice issues.

Final Outcomes

During the final month of the campaign, we saw just four unique articles across the five keywords we were still monitoring. Three search terms saw two negative articles on the front page, only one saw all four, and overall 70% were below the fold. This is quite a contrast to the campaign baseline. The doctors’ overall Google results are far more positive after our successful reputation management campaign.

The information on the lawsuits is still available on the internet. Anyone undergoing a surgical procedure receives general information regarding their risks from their doctors or health institutions, too. We do see one of our roles, however, as leveling the playing field. A single high-profile malpractice suit, even in the absence of any negligence, can damage a doctor’s reputation on the internet. These doctors are still highly sought after by patients and well-regarded among their peers in the field.

The Digital Firefly Marketing Difference

Our reputation management team has the complete skill set to run successful reverse SEO campaigns. From deep keyword research to creation of unique, engaging content, we have all the tools necessary. Our content writers are excellent researchers with a wide range of interests and areas of expertise, too. We have a writer with a PhD in Molecular Biology on staff, for example, whose experience was helpful for these clients. This enabled us to vet studies and rewrite them so that they were appreciated by a more general readership.

Contact Digital Firefly Marketing today if you need help with your online reputation.

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