Online reviews have been a mainstay in the digital landscape for more than a decade, but the way patients leverage them and what they influence has changed over time. Not surprisingly, the shift has been even more dramatic as of late due to COVID-19.
In a 2019 Bright Local survey, 81% of consumers said they read online reviews for local businesses in general. Now, a whopping 87% do. When it comes to healthcare, 89% of patients are scouring the net for reviews before they make a call. What will they find out about you and how will it influence their decision?
Below, we’ll break down why your dental practice needs to incorporate online reviews in your marketing strategy, go over the latest stats, and cover a few things you can do to ensure you’re getting the most mileage from your online reputation.
1. Online Reviews Impact SEO and All Your Digital Marketing
During our recent webinar “Online Strategies Dentists Are Using to Grow Now,” Practice-Web COO Neel Kothari and DocSites Cofounder Kayvan Mot broke down the online ecosystem and how to make the most of it.
Millions of People Search Google for Dentists Every Month
To understand what’s happening, it’s important to consider the patient journey—how patients find out about your dental practice and what encourages them to book their first appointment with you. Quite often, the answer to the first part is “Google.” By checking Google Ads data, we discovered there are more than one million searches for the term “dentist” every month and 1.5 million for “dentist near me.” Those are only two out of the dozens people use.
Your Reviews Can Determine Your Rank in Google
Google is usually very tight-lipped about what it’s looking for when it decides where a site ranks, but it’s very clear about how online reviews impact local search: “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers can improve your business visibility.” Not only do the number of reviews you have matter, but the quality of those reviews is important too. Moreover, the types of things people say about you get picked up by search engines too.
Let’s say you do a dental implant for someone and they’re so thrilled they head to Google and specifically say, “My dental implant from Dr. Smith looks and feels like my natural tooth.” That phrase and review may well start showing up when people look for implants in your city. If multiple people do it and your digital footprint and SEO are shored up, you’ll likely start getting a whole lot of new clients wanting dental implants coming in from Google.
In addition to this, online reviews increase traffic to your website. That’s another signal Google looks for when determining rank because it signifies popularity.
Fast Fact: Google displays information in a multitude of ways. When the algorithm determines you’re looking for a local business, before it delivers its standard list of results, it will return a map with businesses in your area and a list of those businesses, complete with company info and their star rating from Google Reviews. In other words, Google is both a search engine and a review site. It’s also worth noting that, outside the star rating, how your practice appears in this section is largely determined by you and can be managed by setting up a free Google My Business (GMB) account.
18% Stop Searching After They See the First Result
A small study from a New York marketing agency found that 18% of people simply choose whichever dentist tops the list in Google. It sounds extreme, but HubSpot data echoes the sentiment and contends 75% don’t look at anything after the first page.
2. Online Reviews Can Build Trust
Ranking well is important and online reviews can help you do it, but remember, most patients don’t stop their journey at Google. The vast majority is looking for a reason to trust you before they’ll book. Having your credentials and affiliations listed online is a good start, but nothing tops reviews.
The latest Bright Local survey says 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family. This is an important distinction because personal recommendations are revealed to be the most trusted source of information according to virtually every study out there.
Once trust is established, many people will pick up the phone then and there and book. Failing that, you’re generally a free teeth whitening deal away from converting that visitor into a patient.
3. Your Dental Practice Can Attract New Patients Through Online Reviews
Not surprisingly, Google dominates the review sites space, with 63% of consumers turning to it for information, per Bright Local. Facebook comes in at number two, with 54% of consumers using it. Yelp and the BBB round out the top four, at 32% and 28%, respectively.
Your Reviews Will Be Discovered Organically
This is an important detail, as two of those sites allow people to find your practice, not only organically, but completely unintentionally. As people recommend your dental practice on Facebook, that information is shared out, as if two friends were chatting about their dentist at a school football game.
With Yelp!, competing businesses appear on listings, which means someone looking up the dentist down the street could be swayed to check your practice out. The platform also allows people to follow and friend fellow reviewers, which means they’re exposed to content (and your business) by way of network, similarly to the way Facebook works.
Your Website Will Be Found More Often
Earlier, we touched on how reviews can boost your SEO and why that matters in terms of clicks—the higher you rank, the more clicks you’ll get. That naturally means you’ll bring more people to your website, and thus, more new patients.
4. You’ll Get Feedback You Can Use to Improve
Statistics vary on this, but just about everyone agrees that people are far more likely to leave a bad review than they are a good one. There’s actually an Inc article that breaks down the math and concludes it takes 40 positive experiences to make up for one bad online review. Ouch.
The silver lining here is that you can use the feedback you receive to reward your team for creating positive experiences (make a BIG deal out of it and mention the employee in your morning huddle if they’re mentioned in a review) and you can take steps to improve if you receive a less-than-glowing recommendation.
5. You Could See a Revenue Boost of 9% Per Additional Star
A Harvard Business School researcher took to Yelp! Some time ago to identify what impact a star rating had on revenue. The findings: for each additional star a company earned, their revenue jumped 5-9%.
This study was focused on restaurants, but the concept is universal. If your “brand” is premium and people like it, demand goes up. More people want to come to your business and they want to visit more often.
Additional research backs this up, indicating that customers are willing to pay 31% more to companies with excellent reviews. To be fair, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Those brands could simply be delivering better service, which would naturally improve reviews and increase perceived value/ customer spend. This goes back to point four, though. Reviews can help you and your team operate at the top of your game.
Best Practices for Managing Your Online Reviews and Reputation
Clearly, getting positive reviews is essential for your dental office, but how do you get them and keep your online reputation positive? Let’s take a look.
Don’t Fake Reviews
According to the people surveyed by Bright Local, the number-one factor in a review is the star rating. For that reason alone, many try to game the system to boost their rating by either posting their own reviews or hiring review writers. The problem—the second thing people look for are signs your reviews are legit.
The debate rages on as to whether people can detect fake reviews, but platforms like Yelp! Have surprisingly sophisticated algorithms that weed out questionable reviews and tuck them in the “Not recommended reviews” section, which is essentially the uncounted space at the bottom of a profile where reviews go to die. More concerningly, those who are caught posting or buying fake reviews or even incentivizing authentic reviews may wind up with a giant consumer alert splashed across their page, courtesy of Yelp!.
Regardless, fake reviews destroy consumer trust and, particularly in an industry like dentistry in which trust is everything, you stand to lose quite a bit by trying to game the system.
Control the Flow
Bright Local concludes that just 48% of consumers will consider using a business with fewer than four stars, so it’s essential that you keep your ratings up. The good news is, you can do this ethically, simply by using a pre-screener before you send your patients to review sites.
At Practice-Web, we have a Smart Tool that does just this. With pwReviews, your patients can automatically receive a note after their appointment to leave feedback. Positive feedback can be automatically shared on your practice website, helping boost trust to convert visitors into patients. The system can also automatically request that your happy reviewers be asked to leave reviews on Google, Yelp!, and any other platform of your choosing. That way, you have greater control over your overall star rating and reputation, so you get maximum benefit from your online reviews with very little effort.
Keep Review Sites Fresh
It’s important that you not only claim your online profiles or listings, but that you fill them with helpful information about your practice. Consider giving a virtual tour of the office, sharing photos of the team, or showcasing some of your best work. Update your profiles regularly, especially as hours or contact info changes.
More recently platforms like Google and Yelp! are encouraging businesses to add details about the safety measures they’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID. This is something you should capitalize on too, as 67% of consumers say they’ll blacklist a company if reviews indicate they don’t have coronavirus-specific health and safety measures in place. Simply reassuring people that your office is taking every precaution can go a long way to making them feel more at ease about appointing.
Make Sure You’re Getting New Reviews
Even if 100 happy patients leave glowing reviews, you can’t stop campaigning to get more. Recency is a major factor in the weight readers give your reviews. About half will only look at the last two weeks of reviews and 73% will only look at the past month, per Bright Local data.
It’s also worth noting that 28% of readers will look for more reviews after reading one good one and the typical person looks at ten, so maintaining volume is essential.
Respond to ALL Reviews
It’s always best to speak to an attorney about legal issues, but it’s generally agreed that even confirming someone is a patient is against HIPAA guidelines. That makes it a bit tougher to respond, but doing so further solidifies your practice is caring and trustworthy to readers. A simple thank you is usually enough for positive reviews. Negative ones are a bit more tricky. Be sure to watch the webinar replay shared earlier to hear the strategies presented for coping with negative reviews.
Add an Online Booking Button
Many platforms—including all the big ones—allow you to include a “book now” button or similar. This makes the process so much simpler for patients. Since they’re not stuck waiting for business hours and booking falls within the natural flow of their research, they’re far more likely to appoint then and there when they’ve found sufficient evidence your practice will provide them with great care.
At Practice-Web, we have an Online Scheduling Smart Tool that fully integrates with our software, so you can place booking links on your practice website and on review sites. Appointments will automatically appear on your schedule and you’ll receive all patient data too. Best of all, it works with all the workflows you’ve set up, so they’ll get their automated reminders with everyone else and their insurance benefits can be automatically checked if you’re using those features.
Get Online Reviews for Your Dental Practice
Totally new to Practice-Web? Start with a free personalized demo. Our team is glad to walk you through all the profit-boosting features as well as pwReviews, Online Scheduling, and any other Smart Tools that interest you. Click here to request your complimentary demo.