When Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote: “The pen is mightier than the sword” in 1839 he had absolutely no idea how in the 21st century a few keystrokes would become even mightier than that pen. Online reputation management has become a continuous source of frustration and worry for dental practice owners. If you are a dentist, chances are you’ve lost a few hours of sleep over a negative review on Google, Yelp, or Facebook at one time or another. But it’s important to understand that it’s not just the negative online reviews that are causing dentists much stress, it’s a lack of online reviews.
Why are online reviews so important?
Reviews matter because potential new patients will decide whether to visit your practice based on your online reputation and because online reviews affect how your dental practice will rank in local search results.
More Great Online Reviews means more new patients for your dental practice.
According to an article published by Inc.com:
91% of people read online reviews
84% of people trust online reviews as much as friends
68% percent of people form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews
What does it mean for your dental practice?
It means that potential patients read online reviews before choosing a dentist, and they trust these reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or a neighbor. The next time you have a new patient come to your office, ask them how they came to choose you. You should not be surprised to hear, “I read some of your reviews online and decided to come in.”
Proactively gathering a lot of positive, authentic reviews on a consistent basis should be a part of your marketing plan. The impact of online reviews is powerful as potential patients are more likely to call a dental practice with a lot of positive reviews, and they are more likely to schedule and keep their appointment. But there is more…
Online Reviews and Star Ratings stand out on Google search listings.
Google gives weight to niche review sites, such as Yelp and Healthgrades and practices with a lot of positive reviews are more visible on Google. And so do humans. Potential patients looking for a dentist are more likely to click on a listing with a lot of stars. Thus, practices with more positive online reviews are more likely to get more organic traffic with more clicks and more conversations. Ultimately, authentic, positive reviews from your real patients will help your practice acquire more new patients with little effort.
Online Reviews move your dental practice to the top of Google search.
Online reviews are highly influential to your rank on local. Google views online reviews from your patients as social signals that your practice is relevant. There are a few other factors but in general, the more reviews your dental practice has on Google, the higher it will rank in local searches, both in the organic results and in the local pack, a set of three Maps-based results featuring the most highly ranked practices.
According to a report by an SEO company Moz, frequency, quantity, and diversity of reviews are one of the top 5 factors that influence whether a dental practice will make it into the local pack and one of the top 7 that affect how a business will rank on organic searches.
Review velocity and freshness are also relevant, as potential patients will not give as much weight to older reviews as the reviews posted within the last three months. Google also gives preferential treatment to frequently updated content and might reward dental practices with a continuous stream of fresh online reviews.
Simply put, if you want your dental practice to rank higher on Google and to have more new patients find you online and click on your link, you need to implement an online review management strategy in your practice and get more authentic, 5-star online reviews.
The only problem is - very few satisfied patients review their dentist online.
Although over 90% of prospective patients read online reviews when choosing a dentist, very few are motivated to write reviews. A study by the Kellogg School of Management found that only 1.5% of consumers write online reviews regularly. And, when they do, they are more likely to write reviews following fun or exciting experiences, such as travel, dining, and entertainment. Let’s face it - going to the dentist doesn’t qualify as a fun or exciting experience. Most of your satisfied, even extremely happy patients are not sufficiently motivated to review your dental office online.
As a dentist, unless you encourage your patients to review your practice online, the only patients sufficiently motivated to write reviews will be a few disgruntled patients, determined to exact their revenge online.
With only 1.5% of your patients leaving objective reviews, you cannot afford to put your review acquisition strategy on autopilot. If you do, you’ll either have few reviews or your reviews will be skewed to the negative by a few keyboard worriers, determined to ruin your online reputation. Proactively inviting your real patients to share their feedback online will help you get the positive reviews you deserve and help potential new patients find you online.
Is there an easy way to get a lot of great online reviews from real patients?
The key to getting reviews for your dental practice is to be proactive and create a review funnel. Here are a few ideas:
1. Focus on providing review-worthy experience.
Going the extra mile assures that you’ll have plenty of happy patients and gives them something worth writing about.
2. Invite feedback.
At the end of every appointment, ask patients how their visit went. Asking about their experience shows patients that you care and offers you a valuable insight into how your practice is doing. It might also inspire them to write a review after they leave the office. Most importantly, asking for feedback allows you to catch an occasional unhappy patient and address the issue before they have a chance to vent online.
3. Ask your patients to write reviews.
Asking for reviews can feel awkward, but it’s often the most effective approach. To make it less intimidating, wait until the opportunity to ask happens naturally in the conversation. When a patient remarks about their positive experience, be sure to thank her and let her know how much her kind words mean to you. Then, invite her to share her experience online to help others who might be looking for a great dentist.
You might say: “I really appreciate your kind words. Your feedback would really help our prospective patients to feel more comfortable with us. I am wondering if you could do us a favor and take a few minutes to write what you just said in a quick online review? “
4. Finally - make it easy for patients to review your practice online.
Sending a text message with links to your Google My Business, Facebook and other online profiles makes it convenient for patients to find you and leave a review.
Of course, we know that it’s not always easy - or comfortable - to ask for reviews. Your team may not always find the time or the right words to ask patients to write reviews.
YAPI makes getting authentic positive reviews effortless.
YAPI automatically sends personalized review requests to your patients in real-time and invites them to write reviews directly on the sites that matter the most. YAPI also allows your patients to send their feedback directly to your office so that you could address the issue and keep the patient.
With YAPI, you can grow your online reviews and get found by more new patients. To learn more about YAPI, click here to sign up for a complimentary live demo. Don’t miss our next article that explains how to stay HIPAA compliant when responding to negative reviews.
Dr. Gina Dorfman is one of the Co-founders of YAPI and a practicing Dentist in Santa Clarita, CA. She opened up her first practice in 2002. She is also a published author and speaker. Dr. Dorfman loves spending every minute of her free time with her husband and their kids, Mila and Lenny.