Dentists often think about marketing their practice in terms of their websites, search engine optimization (SEO), ads on Google, and promotions on various social media platforms. The problem is that a dentist’s online identity is communicated through listings on a variety of websites beyond their own, and those must be managed well or other marketing efforts may fail.
In 2023, dentists must:
- Think of online listings as extensions of their websites.
- Constantly update their dental office’s information online.
- Make their online listings outshine those of their competitors.
- Make five-star reviews a core metric for their dental offices.
- Make online listings and reputation management the bedrock of their dental marketing campaigns.
Think of online listings as extensions of your website
Did you know that your “about” page is likely one of your website’s top five most visited pages?
Did you spend as much time designing the about page as you did designing your home page? Probably not even close. Check out the about page of your website right now. You may not be happy with what you see.
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You need to fix that, but I’m pointing that out because your website acts as an illustration of how the entire internet works. More people see your Google Business Profile and profiles on other websites than your own website’s about page. You need to consider what patients will find when they look into who you are as they use the most popular websites on the internet.
Regularly update your information
Your dental office’s information must be accurate online—always. If people find your practice listed online with old or incomplete information, you can easily lose them as future patients. The problem is that much of the information about your office is outside your control.
Google, Facebook, Yelp, and many other websites don’t hire people to check in with your office periodically to make sure that they have the correct information. They don’t even trust you to provide the correct information. They trust their users to police this information for them. If you look carefully at your listings, you’ll find buttons that allow people to suggest changes, make edits, and even attempt to claim your listings! See Figure 1.
Often these suggested edits from users are accepted and put in place with only an email notification sent to an address the website has on file. If you miss that email, your profile will retain the changed information. You have to manage what these listings show for your contact information, the pictures they list, your office hours, the services you offer, and much more. And because other people get to make changes (and robot computer programs that periodically make updates, too—yay!) to your information, management of these listings is not a one-time event. You need systems or outside help to monitor and update your listings across the internet on an ongoing basis.
Make your listings outshine your competitors’
Your online listings can be liabilities, but they can also be huge opportunities. The juggernaut platforms of the internet all favor profiles that are complete and updated regularly. Give them what they want. You should think of your listing on Google (called Google Business Profile at the time of this writing) as an extension of your social media efforts. In fact, think of every listing on the web as a social media opportunity.
Not all of them warrant as much attention, but Google is the website on the internet. Google regularly adds and changes what information you can include as part of your listing to make it more functional as a destination for Google searchers.
That’s what all of your marketing efforts amount to: a destination, including your ads to your website, of course, but you don’t know that’s how people will find you. You want people who encounter your online listings to have a great experience too.
Of course, your online visibility’s biggest opportunity and liability is how you are reviewed as a business.
Make five-star reviews a core metric for your office
Your dental office is a sea of shifting priorities. You tell your team to do one thing, and they do it. Then you tell them about another thing they need to do, and they do that. Then a third “priority” comes along, and by the time the team jumps on that, the first priority starts to slip.
Your dental marketing company has probably told you, “Hey, Doc, we need you to get more online reviews.” You probably acknowledged the need and passed it along to the team. Maybe you even had your team trained on how to do that, but if it isn’t regularly reinforced as a top priority, getting more reviews online will fall by the wayside.
You need to make acquiring new five-star online reviews a core metric for your dental practice. If you’re doing a great job at dentistry and asking for reviews, you’ll get scads of online reviews all the time. You can add systems to make that even easier on you and the patient by providing them tools to click on, but the delivery of a great dental office experience and the personal, one-on-one verbal request for a review has to happen first.
If those two components aren’t there, over time your online profiles will collect more negative reviews. Positive reviews will be rare, and review activity will be sporadic. That’s not going to make your listings outshine your competitors’.
Instead, look at your five-star reviews as an indicator of a job well done by you and your team.
When you have new five-star reviews coming in all the time:
- Your website will rank better on Google.
- Future patients will trust you more.
- Future patients will see more value in your services.
- You’ll have reviews to share on social media and on your website.
- You’ll know that your patients are happy enough to refer friends and family.
- You’ll know which team members are really killing it.
Make online listings and reputation management the bedrock of your campaign
An SEO specialist can optimize your website to improve Google rankings, but if your online listings are trashed, it will make little difference. Your dental marketing agency must prioritize activity and accuracy in your online listings, and you must too. They can’t do it without you.
Do these three things and your dental practice will grow.
- Review your online listings on the major websites and social platforms and create a list of things to fix. Then fix them.
- Review them regularly to find opportunities to add new information and fix bad information that was added.
- Make online reviews the starting point of each team meeting. How many do you have? What’s your star rating on Google? When was the last time you got a new review?
You have an amazing dental practice. There are more patients out there who would love to be your next new patients. Help them find you and make sure they like what they see. This foundational work is worth your attention, time, and investment.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.