Just for a moment, pretend you’re a patient looking for a general dentist. What is the first thing you do? You open up the browser on your laptop or your phone and type in something like “dentist near me.” Or, if you have dental insurance, you might first check the insurance company’s website to find a nearby dentist in your network, after which, you’re heading straight for Google to see what that dentist is all about. In any case, your first instinct is most likely to go online and find as much information about any practices that capture your attention. First, you’ll go to the practice’s website, because that’s the most obvious place to get the information you need. If the website is appealing and it seems like the practice has everything you’re looking for, what do you do next? Do you call them up right away and book an appointment? If you’re like 98% of consumers, you’re going to look at the practice’s online reviews before you do anything.
That’s right, according to BrightLocal’s 2022 Local Consumer Review Survey, 98% of people read online reviews at least occasionally, and 77% read them always or regularly.
Additionally, according to the same survey, 82% of people think that online reviews are important when choosing a healthcare provider.
These figures alone are a pretty compelling argument for making sure your dental practice is keeping tabs on its online reputation.
Online reviews are more important than ever for all businesses, including dental practices, and if you are not making a conscious effort to manage your practice’s online reviews, then you are risking its online reputation. Just consider that BrightLocal’s survey found that 40% of consumers will not even consider a business with less than an average of 4 stars and 85% stated that a business’s overall average star rating is a deciding factor for them. In other words, if you are not actively working to create and maintain a positive online reputation for your practice through reviews, then you are potentially missing out on a significant amount of revenue.
Currently, Google and Facebook are among the top sites people use to find online reviews, with Google being used most often. For Google in particular, the number of reviews a practice has affects its search ranking. Without getting into the technicalities, basically, the more reviews your practice has, the more likely a potential patient is going to find it when they search online. We always include online reviews as part of a practice’s overall marketing strategy because not only do they help build the practice’s online reputation, but reviews also play an important part in online visibility. To put it in other terms, having just a few reviews is like only having your practice’s name on the outside of the building and nothing else. Having a lot of reviews is akin to also having a sign by the road, plus billboards all around town. Which scenario do you think is better for driving business into the practice?
Of course, the number of reviews your practice has is not the only factor you need to pay attention to — the quality of those reviews also counts. In fact, as you might infer from the numbers we cited above, quality is a major driving factor in consumer decision making, especially in healthcare. If 40% of people won’t even consider a business with less than a 4-star average, and your practice has 3.5 stars on Google, it’s not going to matter how high up your practice is in the search ranking, because a good number of potential patients are going to move on to another practice with better reviews. Not only that, but because 85% of people place a high importance on a business’s average star rating, any marketing campaigns you run will most definitely be less successful than they could be because of your practice’s low star rating.
The good news is that your practice’s online reputation is completely within your control, even if you’ve paid no attention to it up to this point. It will take time and effort, but with a solid marketing strategy, you can increase the number and quality of reviews your practice receives. The first step is taking stock of what’s out there, because in order to improve, you have to first know where you stand. If the problem is too few reviews on Google and Facebook, then the solution is to start asking every patient to write a review about their experience.
It’s as simple as posting signs around the office and making sure that every team member is actively talking to patients about reviews on a daily basis. You should then send patients an easy way to leave a review by providing a link directly to your Google and Facebook page. You can text or email this information and don’t forget to follow up with a reminder message.
However, if the problem is a low star rating, then it may take a bit more work on your part. Improving the practice’s average rating requires reading and analyzing the reviews your patients have written to find out why they’re not rating their experiences higher.
It may be a customer service issue that needs to be addressed within the practice, or it may be that some patients are rating their experiences as poor based on factors beyond your control. Whatever the case may be, it is essential to get to the root of the issue and start working on turning things around.
This is also when having a savvy marketing team on your side can be a real benefit.
We’ve always known that online reviews are of prime importance in any dental practice’s marketing plan, and the dentists we work with typically see a general improvement in the quality and number of reviews their patients leave once we begin managing their online reputation.
If you want to see similar results for your dental practice, we recommend making a concerted effort to prioritize online reviews in your marketing plan.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With more than a decade of experience in corporate dental laboratory marketing and brand development, Jackie Ulasewich-Cullen decided to take her passion for the dental business and marketing to the next level by founding My Dental Agency.
Since starting her company, she and her team have helped a wide variety of practices all over the nation focus their message, reach their target audience, and increase their sales through effective marketing campaigns.
She can be reached at (800) 689-6434 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash.