By Sean White
This article highlights the importance of online review and reputation management for a dental practice. Topics include how Google uses reviews in search ranking, developing a reviews strategy for a practice, requesting reviews from patients, and handling negative reviews.
Before consumers decide on a product or service, they consult online reviews. Online reviews are a crucial part of a dental practice’s word-of-mouth strategy in the digital age. More than the joyful experience of seeing happy clients review your business, positive reviews serve as a key ranking factor in Google search results. They also help potential patients gain trust and confidence in your practice.
When searching a company name in Google, information is often displayed in the knowledge panel, including their rating (1-5 stars) and the number of customer reviews. Seeing a 5-star rating with 400+ Google reviews lends to a favorable first impression. From a word-of-mouth standpoint, potential customers would find more than 400 positive recommendations from past customers to be very persuasive.
More than just Google reviews, Google is also aggregating reviews from other websites like Facebook, Healthgrades and AllReviewSites.com. Reviews from these websites, positive and negative, affect your practice’s Google search rankings. For this reason, it’s important to diversify where on the Internet your practice is being reviewed.
While it’s true that accruing positive reviews is good for your search engine rankings, Google also favors businesses that respond to their customer reviews. If a patient takes the time to leave a review, it’s always best to respond, even with just a thank you. Responding can initiate conversations, help with patient retention and referrals, and improve your practice’s search rankings on Google.
At Whiteboard Marketing, we’ve found that businesses with more reviews also move to a higher position in Google’s Local 3-Pack (pictured above). This search engine feature shows the top three local results for a relevant search. The inclusion of star ratings and the number of reviews tells us that:
- Google takes this information into account when ranking local businesses. Notice how these practices are displayed in order from highest to lowest star rating and the number of reviews.
- Google knows its searchers find this information helpful and use it as a deciding factor when researching a business.
Reviews and Reputation Management for Your Practice
Your first step in applying the above knowledge is to designate a review ambassador for your practice. This person could be your practice manager, front desk worker, hygienist or anyone who is moderately comfortable with using technology.
Work with this person to conduct a review audit on your practice and answer the following questions:
- How does your practice generate reviews currently?
- How recent are your reviews?
- Where are the reviews appearing? (Google, Facebook, Healthgrades, etc.)
- Are you sharing positive reviews on your social media channels? (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Have you been responding to the reviews you receive?
How Do I Ask for Reviews?
The results from your audit may uncover a need to attain more reviews. We recommend a consistent review-generation strategy for any practice. Examine how all of your communication channels can be used to solicit reviews from your patients, and remember to vary your request methods as your strategy evolves. Here are a few suggestions for ways to ask your patients for reviews.
1. Verbal Requests
Make it a part of your standard protocol to request reviews from patients while they are visiting your office. For example, at the front desk, when a patient checks in, ask him or her to review the practice on Google from their cell phone while they are waiting for their appointment.
If you utilize automated communications at your practice, let your patients know they can expect a post-appointment text or an email asking to leave a review. Use this as an in-person opportunity to let them know how much a review means to you and your practice. Directly requesting this from the patient gives you a higher chance of receiving their review.
2. Old Fashioned Paper Reviews
You may have a senior segment of your patient base who is uncomfortable with using digital devices and will therefore not leave a review online. But they still have great things to say about your practice that are worth sharing.
Make stationery available at your front desk designed to look like a review form submission. It could be as simple as a paper pad with a star rating option and a note section for details. You can then enter that information into your website’s review section to keep it up to date and active.
3. Signage and buttons
Visual ways to request reviews include posting signage in your office and having your staff wear buttons with phrases like your reviews mean a lot to our practice. These reminders can initiate conversations with patients and call attention to the importance of reviews while motivating patients to submit one themselves.
4. Get Your Team Involved and Set a Goal
Involving your entire team in this initiative ensures a steady inflow of reviews. Discuss goal-setting and incentives in morning huddles with your team. For example, a goal to generate 30 reviews per month would give your practice 360 reviews a year, which will significantly benefit your Google search rankings.
Determining the reward as a team boosts motivation for your practice’s review strategy. Depending on your staff’s personality and the culture of your workplace, the incentive could be monetary, like gift cards, or social, like a pizza party. Post your goals in your staff’s break area and discuss updates regularly.
5. Utilize Your Patient Communication System
Solutionreach, Lighthouse, Demandforce and RevenueWell are examples of patient communication systems through which you can request reviews via text and email messages. Ensure you have automated your review request messages to send after each patient visit. If you do not have an integrated email program, register at AllReviewSites.com to establish this feature for your practice.
For more engagement opportunities, send review request emails every quarter to your active patient list. You can also send a one-time email to your entire list (active and non-active) requesting they review their most recent experience at your office.
Be sure to modify the language in these communications so the messaging doesn’t get stale. Also, diversify where you’re asking them to leave the review. Reviews aren’t as helpful if they are only found on one review site instead of being evenly dispersed between websites like Google, Facebook and Healthgrades.
Dealing with Negative Reviews
Take time to respond to every single review—positive and negative. As in any industry, negative reviews are inevitable. Prospects are interested in seeing how you handle these negative reviews, so respond promptly and professionally. Use these opportunities to demonstrate your practice’s excellent customer service. Quick responses and taking corrective action illustrate to a potential client that you listen to feedback and care about your customer’s experience.
On the other hand, if you have several positive reviews that surround the lone negative review, a prospective patient might give you the benefit of the doubt. One displeased customer out of hundreds will not ruin your practice’s good reputation. However, if you are noticing a trend of negative reviews, pay close attention to their reasoning. Analyze what improvements could be made in your practice to yield more satisfied customers.
Keep in mind, over time, negative reviews lower your practice’s Google search rankings. It’s essential to closely monitor all websites where your practice is reviewed. These reputation management procedures ensure that negative reviews are dealt with in a way that does not deter people from doing business with you.
Do Not Incentivize for Positive Reviews
It is in your best interest not to incentivize patients for positive Google reviews. In the past, this issue mostly went unchecked. However, Google now scans for this kind of activity and forbids it. Incentivizing for positive reviews brings into question the integrity of your practice and the reliability of Google reviews.
For example, if a dentist offered customers five-dollar gift cards in exchange for positive reviews, that review may look something like this:
“Hey, thank you very much for the gift card. I love your practice and enjoy every visit.”
Google is likely to detect the incentivized review and remove all of that practice’s positive reviews. Those reviews are challenging to get back once they have been removed, so it is best to not take the risk at all.
Make Your Reviews Easy to Find
As you collect positive reviews, make them visible everywhere you can. This includes adding a review page to your website and sharing positive reviews on your social media pages. Unique reviews or ones that highlight specific staff members perform well on Facebook as engaging content for your patients and prospects. We also recommend including a recent review in your email signature. While corresponding with patients and prospects, this could spark curiosity in them to seek further information about your practice.
Patients Looking for COVID-Safe Practices
Dental practices were shut down in the early days of COVID-19, making it a poor time to ask for reviews. But now that you and your team have adopted new COVID-19 protocols, prospective patients are interested in learning that information. Especially in the age of COVID-19, patients are looking for dentists they can trust to keep them and their families safe. There is no better place for prospects to glean that information than from a positive and detailed review by a current patient.
Reassuring reviews that describe a patient’s safe and comfortable experience at your practice helps build trust with potential new patients. Obtain this valuable type of review by sending patients a specifically worded request like: Please tell us how we did regarding COVID-19 protocols. Your feedback means a lot to us.
Don’t underestimate the influence reviews can have on your search rankings and your practice’s position on Google’s Local 3-Pack. If you’ve never considered online reviews and reputation management as part of your marketing strategy, start by auditing your practice’s current reviews and review collection methods. Once you and your team have established a plan, commit to that plan for the most consistent results possible.
Remember every touchpoint with your patients, in-person or online, is an opportunity to request a review. Make reviewing your practice as easy as possible and readily available on your social media channels, via text and email messaging, and on paper in the office. Diversify where your clients submit reviews. Distributing reviews on Google, Facebook and Healthgrades will ensure you do not put all your eggs in one basket.
Consistently monitor your practice’s online reputation on review sites and respond to each review. You can respond to positive reviews in batches when you have time. However, reply to negative reviews as promptly as possible. Promote positive reviews on your website, Facebook, Twitter and anywhere a prospective patient could see them. Remember, potential new clients are watching!