Reputation management has become a huge piece of the online marketing puzzle.
Many dentists now spend money each month on search engine optimization (SEO) to increase the likelihood that their website will appear on the first page of Google search results for different keywords. Others maintain a significant budget for Google Ads to increase visibility and traffic to their website. In fact, many dentists I know spend at least $1,000 a month on Google Ads.
More recently, reputation management companies have joined the online marketing landscape. Companies like Podium, Birdeye, and 5-Star Reviews charge a monthly fee for their proprietary software platforms, which can be used to send optimized review requests to your patients.
In response to the profitability of these companies, most online marketing companies specializing in SEO and Google Ad Words have added reputation management packages to their services. The value of online reviews and of the services these companies provide is borne out by statistics:
- 97% of consumers use online reviews to select local businesses.
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends.
- 57% of consumers will only select a business if it has a four-star rating or better on a five-star scale.
So while it’s important for dentists to increase their online visibility, it’s critical to make sure that your online business listings are associated with positive feedback. Many dentists pay for exposure through Google Ads or RateMDs even though they have few reviews or, worse yet, a low rating bolstered by many negative reviews. If you’re paying to be found, make sure that anyone searching for you wants to take the all-important step of choosing you and clicking through to your website.
Increasing Your Online Reviews
I currently use a review management platform provided by a major reputation management firm. It has been great for streamlining the review request process for us while simplifying the review posting process for our patients. However, the default setup offered by most of these companies is heavily automated. A stock message is sent to each patient post-appointment to solicit feedback in the form of an online review.
This is likely because we dentists commit ourselves so heavily to what goes on in the operatories that we don’t have much time to devote to things like reputation management campaigns. So, why wouldn’t they automate the process to make things simpler for us?
Automation certainly will increase the number of reviews you accumulate. However, automated messages seem insincere and even annoy most people. Also, too much time passes between the end of the patient’s appointment and when the review request is sent. The likelihood of a conversion goes down with every passing minute. Additionally, the automatic approach makes it less likely that you’ll ask each patient about a review yourself before your software sends the request much later in the day.
When I used the automated, day-end approach to review requests, I had a conversion rate of about 5%. I would get one review for every 20 requests I sent. But when I tweaked a few things, I was able to get my conversion rate above 50%, or more than 10 times better than the automated approach. You can employ these strategies too. 0
First, personalize your review request. I have a saved framework or paragraph for review requests that I modify before sending it off to patients. I take a moment in my office after the appointment to insert the procedure we completed together, mention any fun things we chatted about, and encourage the patient to reach out to me with any post-operative concerns. This guarantees that the patient knows the message is unique and that I’m the one who sent it. That has massive value!
Next, ask for the review yourself. Before you send your request, let your patient know it’s coming. I usually take 20 seconds in my operatory to thank them for their patience and to ask for online feedback. This kind of thing makes many dentists cringe, but it doesn’t have to be awkward.
There is one big pressure release valve that you can use to diffuse any awkwardness, though. Let them know that negative and constructive feedback is more than welcome! This way, you make it clear that you’re actually interested in useful, honest feedback and that you’re not soliciting a positive review.
So, I simply let patients know that I’d like to send them an e-mail that allows them to quickly leave a rating and relevant comments for us and that I’d be grateful if they share their honest opinion.
Then, send the request immediately. Don’t wait to send an automated request at the end of the day. It takes 20 seconds to have the review request conversation post-operatively and another 20 seconds to send the request from your office’s computer. I also let the patient know that I’ll be sending the request via e-mail in a minute or two but that they can leave the review at their own leisure. Interestingly, I find that about 50% of the reviews that I get are left within an hour of my personalized request.
Finally, choose E-mail over text or SMS. I learned this lesson the hard way. Some people find contact on their cell phone more personal then e-mail. In my first three days of sending review requests by text message, I upset two patients. I know both patients well and had a wonderful rapport with them to that point. They are still patients with me, but they made it clear that the text message contact for a review was unwelcome.
I’ve never had anybody respond negatively to requests sent via e-mail, though. Moreover, my conversion rate with e-mails is more than five times higher than my conversion rate with text. So, make sure the request you send through your reputation management platform goes out via e-mail, because it makes a huge difference.
Guiding Your Patient’s Review Structure
If you’re a dentist who takes the time to learn about SEO, you’ll probably know that reviews and several sub-factors associated with them affect your Google ranking. One of these sub-factors is your overall review score. Another is the number of Google reviews you have. A third is “review velocity,” or that rate at which you accumulate new reviews.
There also is a qualitative factor that affects how much power each review has in boosting your ranking. It relates to the presence of keywords in your patients’ reviews. Keywords are words that people type in when they’re conducting a Google search. For instance, “New York dentist,” “dentist in New York,” or “dentist near me” are all very popular search keywords. Other keywords relevant to dentistry would include treatment names like “wisdom tooth extraction,” “dental fillings,” and “dental implant.”
So, here’s something you can add once you’ve perfected the basic review request approach. In your e-mailed review request message, let your patient know that including your city in the review can help people to locate you. I often provide the example of the keyword “city + dentist.”
If you’re a dentist in New York and your patient’s review includes the term “New York dentist,” then that review has suddenly become many times more valuable. If you get even half of your reviews to include a “city + dentist” keyword, you’ll have a very competitive and high-exposure website before long.
Reputation management is the branch of online marketing that involves monitoring your online reviews and includes any attempts made to increase the volume of feedback available to potential customers. Spending money on improving your Google ranking and, thus, your online visibility has limited value if you have a poor online reputation.
Reputation management can be carried out cost-effectively and with little to moderate effort while yielding a great return on investment. If you spend a little time getting involved in your own reputation management campaign, it will pay huge dividends!
Dr. Hornby graduated from the Schulich School of Dentistry at Western University Canada, in 2012. He is a dentist in Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario and operates Enamel Republic Family Dentistry. He has a special interest in online marketing, website SEO, and reputation management. He has no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.