Don't let bad patient reviews cripple your online reputation

Feb. 1, 2013
Current patients are a dental practice's most powerful marketing assets. This is especially true in today's digital age ...

by Glenn Lombardi

Current patients are a dental practice's most powerful marketing assets. This is especially true in today's digital age, where online information can reach hundreds of eyes in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, a few unfavorable reviews from disgruntled patients can wreak havoc on a practice's ability to secure new patients online. The good news is that by being proactive about its online image, a practice can prevent negative patient reviews from wrecking its reputation.

Why reviews matter

Why do patients refer to online reviews? They are looking for the honest opinions and input of other patients who are like them. A good referral can influence a person to contact an office for an appointment. But a few negative comments may be the factor that sways a potential patient to visit the practice down the street.

Approximately 72% of consumers surveyed in a 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In addition, 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. This not only shows potential patients are frequently screening and evaluating dentists online, but that in order to win the trust of new patients, cultivating an online reputation is invaluable.

Defending online image

Unfortunately, there's always the risk of a bad review from an unsatisfied patient. If the reviews that appear on the screens and smartphones of potential patients present a practice negatively, it can have a profound and damaging impact on its reputation. Any negative and misleading information about a dentist or practice that appears at the top of the search results will ultimately leave a bad impression on potential patients shopping for a practice.

Fortunately, one or two bad reviews will not hamper a practice's image forever. There are many ways a practice can defend and repair online identity. The practice can start with a comprehensive online strategy that focuses on building a positive image and preventing harmful patient reviews from penetrating the first page of the search results.

Proactive management of a practice's online reputation can include any combination of the following:

  • Regularly search for and carefully evaluate how your name or practice appears in the search results of Google, Bing, and other major search engines.
  • Set up online alerts that notify you whenever your name or practice name is mentioned on the Web. This is an easy way to monitor your reputation daily and address issues as soon as they arise.
  • Focus on strengthening your online presence through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Actively participate in social media conversations, which help build patient loyalty and prospective-patient confidence in your care.
  • Submit your practice to the top online review sites, including Google Plus, Yahoo, and Yelp. By claiming and updating your listings, you can help ensure the information about your practice is accurately and consistently represented throughout the Web.
  • Implement search engine optimization so that your practice's website appears at the top of the search results for your targeted keywords. Sites that appear at the top of Google and other major search engines earn the most credibility in the eyes of online users.
  • Encourage current patients to visit Google, Yelp, Yahoo, or other major consumer review sites to review your practice. Make the process simple by providing step-by-step instructions. Clear links to your review pages should be prominently displayed on your website and other marketing channels, which provide a compelling call to action for patients to read and write reviews.

Today's patients have a choice in dentists, and a practice's prospective patients will continue to seek the opinions and approval from other patients before committing to a practice. Take steps now to safeguard your practice's reputation and build a positive online identity that will encourage potential patients to choose you as their dental provider.

Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, LLC, 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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