Your online reputation: Understanding what people are saying about your practice on the web

Word of mouth has always been a dentist's best form of marketing. The Internet amplifies this one-to-one phenomenon, allowing conversations about you and your practice to spread exponentially.

by Glenn Lombardi

Word of mouth has always been a dentist's best form of marketing. The Internet amplifies this one-to-one phenomenon, allowing conversations about you and your practice to spread exponentially. Patients are talking about you online, and you must have a plan in place to monitor, promote, and manage a positive reputation for your practice on the web.

When people search for a dentist in their area, they will often do a search on Google, consult Google Maps, and check user reviews on Yelp. To understand what people are saying about your practice, reputation management is of paramount importance. Many people do not realize that search engine results and online reviews have the ability to make or break a practice.

Take control of your online reputation

At minimum, you should be monitoring your practice's reputation by conducting periodic searches to see what information about your practice is accessible on the web. You may find that reviews have already manifested in various online review sites. If you're lucky, all of these reviews will be positive, but don't be surprised if one or two are negative. Let's face it — even the most accredited and experienced dentist can't possibly satisfy every patient that walks through the door, but you can take critical steps to avoid potentially harmful reviews from getting out of hand.

If you already have a website, then you've taken the biggest step toward managing and building a solid online reputation. With your website as the hub of your practice's web presence, you'll need to implement a local search strategy. This involves optimizing your website for local search, claiming your owner-verified Google Place Page, submitting your website to online directories, and acquiring reviews from your patients. A third-party provider can work with you to implement a local search engine optimization strategy and natural review management program tailored for your practice's needs.

Generate quality, natural reviews

Before starting an online reputation management process, it is extremely important to understand that Google's rankings are based on natural, quality reviews, and not a high quantity of solicited reviews. Reputable review sources such as Yelp are considered more trustworthy by Google because real live people visit these communities to leave natural comments about your practice on their own accord.

Actively petitioning or soliciting your reviews may be tempting, but this method is manipulative and can lead to bigger reputation problems for your practice in the long run. Google actively tracks where reviews originate, and uses advanced algorithms to determine the integrity of those reviews. Petitioned reviews are classified as less valid, and therefore will assume it was not written under the same pretenses as a natural, unsolicited review.

The most successful practices acquire reviews organically, a technique that is often achieved through good customer service and high quality patient care. You can also implement a simple, easy process to encourage patients to review your practice. Hand them a review card as they leave your office with easy steps for leaving a review online. Patients pleased with your staff's service will be happy to take the time to review your practice. Acquire five to 10 reviews each month, and within a year's time you will already have generated enough positive reviews to negate any damaging comments that will inevitably emerge from time to time. Be sure to also include review links on your practice website for easy and instant access for patients.

Managing your online reputation

Today more than ever, people are turning to search engines and other trustworthy review sources to find everything from local restaurants and florists to hair stylists and auto repair shops. The Internet is the new phone book, and that means even a person's choice of dentist is highly influenced by where your practice ranks on the search engines and what other patients are saying about you online.

While you can't prevent patients from reviewing your practice, you can increase the number of positive reviews you acquire through proper online reputation management. Managing your online reputation can be an overwhelming task, but by contacting your web presence provider, you can take immediate action to properly manage your online reputation.

Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, a provider of dental websites and Internet marketing strategies, including social media, search marketing, reputation management, and mobile websites. Officite has built thousands of websites that have generated more than a half million new patient appointment requests since 2002. For more information, visit www.officite.com or call (800) 908-2483.

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