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Inside Dentistry
November 2022
Volume 18, Issue 11

Positive Online Ratings Are Essential to Success

Soliciting five-star reviews can boost your conversion of prospective patients

Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS

When a prospective patient from your area opens up Google on his or her computer and types in the word "dentist," out scrolls a whole list of dentists' websites, which hopefully includes your practice. In addition to the websites of area practices, searching for a dentist often returns results for websites that allow patients to rate dentists using stars or another system. Modern consumers are relying more and more on online reviews when choosing a place of business. This makes those stars ultra-important to the continued success of your practice.

Just Ask

One of the best ways to improve your online ratings is to ask patients for good reviews, but the timing can be important. If a patient is happy at the end of his or her cleaning, then have the hygienist ask for a review. If a patient is happy at the end of his or her dental treatment, then it's a good idea to alert the front desk. If that patient is still happy after he or she has paid the bill, then the receptionist can ask for a review. You don't want to receive reviews from patients who gush about your wonderful dental treatment but then get upset at the bill when they check out.

Always ask for a five-star review. A lot of people think that a four-star review is a good one. However, it's not uncommon for dissatisfied patients to leave a one-star review. That significantly reduces your average star rating, and it takes a lot of five-star reviews to get your average back up to an acceptable level. That's why you should train your staff to specifically ask for five-star reviews. It doesn't hurt to add something like, "If you don't think that we are deserving of a five-star rating, please let us know how we can work on improving our service to earn one from you."

Popular Review Sites

It can be helpful to offer patients a sheet of directions explaining how to post a review on the various sites. Many of the sites require reviewers to log in, which can scare some patients away unless you have provided them with specific instructions on how to post. An added plus of sending directions home with patients is that they can serve as a good reminder for patients to get the job done. In preparing your patients to post five-star reviews, what sites should you be instructing them to direct the reviews to? There are many popular review sites, including the following:

Google. Google is an all-important site where you should have good reviews. It is the mother of all search engines, and oftentimes, your star rating will be posted next to your listing. A more favorable rating on Google will also contribute to better search engine optimization, which will ultimately get your practice listed on the first page of search results. Reviewers do have to log in, but an existing Gmail account can be used.

Facebook. Facebook is a well-established social media platform, so good reviews can go a long way. Quite a few of your patients will already have Facebook accounts, and it is super easy for them to leave a review.

Yelp. Because of Yelp's partnership with Yahoo, Yelp reviews are now listed in with Yahoo search results, which makes it an important site on which to have a good presence. Although your patients will need to set up a Yelp account in order to leave a review, giving them some good directions will hopefully spur them on.

Yellow Pages. Many think of Yellow Pages as the big printed telephone number directory that no one looks at any more. However, Yellow Pages still has a formidable presence on the Internet.

ZocDoc. This is an increasingly popular site that helps patients locate healthcare providers based on their needs and insurance. Participating doctors need to pay a fee for new patient bookings, but good reviews here can extend your reach.

Manta. This small business directory has been connecting people with services for more than 20 years. Be sure to claim your free listing so that you can respond to your reviews.

Angi. Formerly Angie's List, this site is also oriented toward the service industry, which is where dentistry resides. You must be a member to see the reviews, so that cuts down on the potential traffic, but the good thing about Angi is that you will always know exactly who provided a review so that you can contact any unhappy patients and hopefully resolve their issues.

Healthgrades. I have seen Healthgrades listings appear high up in many Google searches, so it wouldn't hurt to get a few five-star reviews on its site. Like with many other sites, claiming your listing on Healthgrades is free.

Remember to Follow Up

Keep a list of those patients who you have asked for a review and follow up with an email. In the email, include a link or two to particular websites that you would like patients to direct their reviews to. It's common for people to tell you in the office that they will write a review only to get home and promptly forget. When they read a targeted email, they will be at their computers or on their mobile devices and will be more apt to post a review. The easiest way to ensure positive reviews from patients would be to have them post the reviews on a computer in your office while they are there for their visits; however, many of the review sites are savvy to that and will block an IP address that has been submitting multiple entries.

For a less labor-intensive approach to improving your reviews, there are a number of services available that, for a fee, will email selected patients for you and ask them for reviews. Although it's possible to inadvertently email a disgruntled patient with this approach; thankfully, most people will tend to give you a glowing review.

The Internet already has a strong influence on prospective patients' decisions regarding who their next dentist will be, and this influence will continue to increase. To stay ahead in the business of dentistry, one needs to cultivate as many five-star reviews as possible.

About the Author

Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS, a master of the Academy of General Dentistry and a diplomate of the American Board of General Dentistry, is a clinical assistant professor at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University and maintains a private practice in Lilburn, Georgia.

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