How to Improve Your Dental Practice’s Online Reputation
“The truth is, every dental practice already has an online reputation,” Dr. Len Tau writes in Raving Patients: The Definitive Guide to Using Reputation Marketing to Attract Hundreds of New Patients. “The only question is whether it’s an asset or a liability. If you have a consistent, professional online presence and a steady flow of legitimate and positive reviews, your online reputation is likely a big asset. If you have an inconsistent presence, no presence, negative reviews, old reviews, or no reviews, your online reputation is a liability because it’s the first thing people see when searching for you online.”
Unfortunately, many practices don’t manage their online reputations well. As practice owners, we know much of the power of our online reputations. And we know that online reviews play a big role in what our online footprint looks like. But our day-to-day operations often keep us from collecting reviews and engaging in the type of online marketing that builds trust with patients and potential patients.
If you want to control more of the process and improve your online reputation, here are some tips to get started.
Don’t play hide and seek.
Be front and center for your potential patients, with not only a snappy website but also all your reviews on Google, Yelp!, ZocDoc, and beyond.
When you search Google for my practice, Denton Smiles Dentistry, for example, you’ll see the Google My Business section on the right side of the screen, our website on the left, and then five-star reviews on such sites as Facebook. We’ve earned five stars by being excellent dentists—and also collecting and sharing feedback from our patients, which attracts more patients.
When an outgoing, loyal patient compliments you about their experience, ask them to share a review online for you. Offer to text them a link to leave you a review later on. Wait until about an hour after their appointment so you know they’re home or at work and settled in, and then send them a text and link to leave you a review on Google.
Take a Hansel and Gretel approach to online reviews.
We all have a digital footprint, left by everything we’ve done online, professionally and personally. I think of it like Hansel and Gretel. As you might recall, Hansel and Gretel were siblings who left their home for the forest and left a trail of pebbles so they could find their way back. The pebbles worked. But the second time they left their home for the forest, they had no pebbles and left breadcrumbs instead. Lo and behold, birds ate the breadcrumbs and the siblings got lost and discovered a witch’s house disguised as a candy cottage.
Hansel and Gretel eventually outwitted and triumphed over the witch, getting home safely to live happily ever after. But their story is a cautionary tale about what happens when we leave the wrong trail behind us.
Creating an effective online presence requires us to build an effective digital footprint or “trail” for ourselves. Much like the breadcrumbs left behind by Hansel and Gretel, low quality or redundant content will cause Google to sweep away your digital trail or footprint.
Quality content includes a consistent flow of online reviews, short videos and other content on your social media channels, and helpful content on your website. Don’t buy into some low-quality promise from some SEO company that pushes shady practices. Focus on consistent patient reviews and regularly engaging with your community on social media.
Handle bullies carefully.
Sure, patients will post negative reviews, no matter how perfect your practice may seem. Maybe they’ll have a conflict with a hygienist, feel angry about a pricey treatment, or just experience a bad day before they see you.
When a patient complained about our practice on Yelp!, for example, I responded directly, thanking him for his feedback and explaining more about our team members’ backgrounds and the fact that sometimes, personalities don’t match. Instead of running away, it’s your job to confront the reality of negative reviews so that the five-star ones can keep shining.
But, remember two points if you reply to negative comments. First, don’t violate HIPAA. Many practices mess this up. Second, you really aren’t speaking to that reviewer; you’re speaking to other potential patients looking you up. Ask yourself what another patient would think if they saw the exchange. Would they be more or less likely to want to be your patient?
Be intentional and consistent to improve your online reputation.
Stop reading this article for a minute. Open another window—a private or “incognito” window—and Google your business. By going private or incognito, you get results that are not skewed by your personal search history. You’ll see what potential patients see when they search for your practice.
What do you find?
Chances are, you’ll find some surprises: some good and, perhaps, some not so good. That’s not the end of the world. No practices are perfect. But you can consistently improve your online reputation by systematically and consistently collecting online reviews and engaging consistently online in a positive way.
Use these tips to get started and, if you want more help, join me and thousands of others in the Nifty Thrifty Dentists Facebook group where we work together to help each other grow.