Online Review Sites Vs. Referral Sites

Online directories are comprehensive platforms that allow users to learn about and directly contact businesses. In the senior care industry, there are generally two types of online directories that users will come across: referral sites and review sites. The most well-known referral sites are “A Place for Mom” or Sites like these are generally gaited, meaning they require the user to sign up for an account to view a full profile. On the other hand, review sites like Google+ Business or Yelp require nothing from the end user to read reviews or get information.

In the senior care field, referral and review websites have become popular sources for those hoping to find and evaluate senior living options. In the past however, most senior care facilities worked with one or two referral sites in hopes that that would be enough. As a result of that, review sites were ignored. Today, more and more facilities are starting to treat their listings as an extension of their website. Not only because they are free, but because in many cases viewing listings in an organic search result will be the first interaction that potential residents will have with your business.

Below we’ve outlined the various pros and cons of using referral sites and review sites so you can decide what’s more important.

Referral Sites


Choosing a residence can be a difficult process. Referral sites provide assistance in narrowing down the choices.

  • Free for user: Referral sites are often free once they sign up for an account.
  • Comprehensive details: They provide a comprehensive list of residences with detailed information about the facilities.
  • Expanded search: These sites often provide free tools to help users with their search.
  • Lead management: Somes sites offer local advisors that will speak with leads ahead of time.


While assisting users in narrowing down their choices can be helpful, it can also end up costing your business in the end.

  • Extra steps: Referral sites act as a third party, so it’s one more step between you and lead.
  • Low quality: Leads from referral sites tend to be low in quality with poor conversion rates.
  • Time management: You have to proactively manage not only the listings, but also the leads themselves.
  • Bias results: If you are not a paid member of these sites, you might lose leads to other paid members.

Review Sites


While online reviews may seem like a small piece of the bigger picture that makes up your online presence, more and more users are relying on these sites when deciding what assisted living facility to choose.


  • Trusted source: Your Google+ Business profile is one of the first things users will see when searching for your services. Not only is it first, but it’s free for users to read reviews and it’s trusted.
  • No middleman: Users will be able to click to call you directly without logging in or signing up. You can also link from various review sites back to your website where users can contact you directly.
  • Control the message: Reviews sites like Google+ Business and Yelp are totally under your control. You can update the content, reply to positive reviews and dispute any negative comments.
  • Improved Local SEO: Online reviews are critical to your SEO strategy. In many cases, review sites appear ahead of your website in the search results. The more positive reviews, the better your ranking.
  • Even negative reviews can be positive: You can turn a negative experience into a positive one by simply responding to a negative review in a respectful way.



Review websites are in the business of providing users with the most accurate information to help them make a decision, but there can be some negatives.


  • Open to anyone: Because these sites aren’t gated, anyone can leave a review.
  • The need to respond: If a business does not respond to reviews, especially a negative one, it can look bad to potential users. It’s important to be proactive, which can take time and resources.
  • Lack of reviews: If you do not have a plan in place, it can be difficult to generate reviews for your business. Lack of reviews can sometimes be worse than negative reviews in the eyes of a consumer.


In the end…

The most important thing you can do is to have a plan in place to generate online reviews to improve your visibility in the search results. Although the internet has transformed marketing in many ways, some things remain as reliable and consistent as ever. One of them is the power reviews. Building up your online reviews and taking control of your communities online presence will allow you to manage your leads internally and not risk losing them to competitors.