As digital platforms become the primary avenue for patients to choose their dentists, an effective online marketing strategy should highlight a commitment to excellence, patient comfort, and cutting-edge dental care. Managing how people see your practice online, known as dental reputation management, can lead to a flourishing practice full of satisfied patients.
Bolstering your dental practice’s online reputation requires a proactive and multifaceted approach. Here are some effective strategies that dentists can implement to enhance their online presence:
- Create an outstanding and responsive website for your dental practice;
- Claim all dental review profiles and accounts;
- Improve patient communication and interactions;
- Encourage reviews from satisfied patients;
- Monitor the internet for mentions of your dental practice;
- Learn to identify fake online reviews and respond with confidentiality obligations in mind;
- Report damaging content (ex. Fake online reviews) to review platforms for Terms of Service violations; and
- Pursue legal action to compel the removal of defamatory content (if appropriate).
At Minc Law, we help healthcare professionals, including dentists, manage their online reputations. We have extensive experience helping medical providers navigate their unique situations, such as adhering to confidentiality and ethical obligations, when striving to bolster a positive image on the internet.
In this article, we will delve into dental reputation management, including key statistics, ways to strengthen your dental practice’s reputation, and how dentists repair a damaged reputation.
What is Dental Reputation Management?
Dental reputation management involves the constant monitoring, cultivation, and management of how the public views your practice. In the digital era, this encompasses managing online reviews, social media engagement, and enhancing Google search results related to your practice.
Much like other healthcare professionals, your practice will need to implement proactive strategies to protect and strengthen your reputation. These strategies include:
- Crafting engaging content for your website and blog,
- Keeping track of and responding to online mentions of your practice,
- Using effective SEO practices to boost your branded content in search results, and
- Monitoring and responding to reviews about your practice.
By actively managing your dental practice’s reputation, you ensure a positive image that can help attract new patients and maintain the loyalty of existing ones.
What Are the Benefits of Reputation Management For Dentists?
Potential patients increasingly turn to the internet to find their next dental care provider. Browsing multiple third-party review sites and reading online content to help them determine the best fit for their dental needs is now the norm.
Dental reputation management focuses on tracking and managing your practice’s online footprint. When a potential patient searches the internet for a dentist, you want them to find content that presents your practice in a favorable light.
A recent survey of 1,500 Americans aged 18 and up provides some illuminating statistics about how people choose a dentist or dental clinic using Google. The survey results make it clear that dental reputation management plays a pivotal role in patient decision-making.
When participants were asked which dentist they would choose from several options, the most popular response was the one with the best online reviews, with 43.3% of respondents favoring this choice. The survey also revealed that 18.4% would choose the top-ranked dentist in search results. Interestingly, this figure rose to 22.5% for respondents aged 55-65 and 23.8% among those aged 65 and up. Website design was also a determining factor, particularly among younger respondents.
Another study conducted by Moz.com found that a single negative review could lead a business to lose up to 22% of its customers. This problem amplifies when there are multiple negative reviews. For businesses facing three or more negative reviews, approximately 60% of customers choose to avoid the business.
A positive online reputation, coupled with high rankings on Google and a professionally designed website, can capture a significant share of your market – no matter the industry. This combination can put your dental practice on the map for potential clients.
The benefits of reputation management extend beyond attracting patients – it also helps you maintain the trust and loyalty of your existing patients.
Please see our comprehensive resource explaining the importance of online reviews for businesses in today’s digital landscape!
Positive Reputations Attract Patients
Consider this: more than 86% of dental patients use online reviews to select their dentist. This percentage highlights the seismic shift in how patients make their healthcare decisions. Traditional word-of-mouth recommendations have taken a backseat, with online reviews front and center.
The consequences of this change are profound. If your dental practice has a rating of less than four stars, prospective patients may move on without giving your practice a second look.
Your Website Will Gain More Traffic
Your website can be a powerful advertising tool, yet many dentists view it as a business listing rather than a vehicle to convert visitors into patients. As you enhance your business profile with links to your website, it will likely become a magnet for traffic.
Distinguishes Your Practice From Others
Boosting your online reputation gives you a competitive edge, allowing your dental practice to stand out from others in your area. Surprisingly, many dentists have neglected to manage their online feedback, leaving a prime opportunity for those who do. By actively handling reviews and feedback, you can distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace.
Improves Your Search Rankings
Search engines like Google and platforms like Yelp use algorithms to crawl the internet and rate your content. Typically, these algorithms evaluate content based on expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
The more positive feedback your practice garners, the better your ranking will be, both organically and locally. To maintain and boost these rankings, your team should regularly encourage satisfied patients to post online reviews. If your practice does not receive new feedback for a month or two, your position in search results will likely slide. Therefore, continuous engagement and prompt responses to reviews are key to maintaining your practice’s visibility.
What Are Common Reasons Dentists Have Poor Online Reputations?
Despite your best efforts to provide top-notch service, you may occasionally encounter challenges that can impact your online reputation. Unfortunately, not all patients can be pleased, and sometimes, these patients voice their dissatisfaction through negative online reviews.
Most of these issues, however, can be prevented with a commitment to exceeding patient expectations. Here are some of the most common reasons patients are dissatisfied:
- Long waiting times: patients value their time, and extended waiting periods can lead to frustration. Ensure your practice has efficient scheduling and promptly communicates any delays.
- Poor communication: clear, effective communication is key to patient satisfaction. Be clear about treatment plans, potential costs, and what the patient can expect during and after procedures.
- Unexpected or excessive costs: financial surprises can lead to negative feedback. Always be transparent about costs and potential insurance issues, and provide options for payment plans if needed.
- Impersonal service: patients appreciate feeling cared for on a personal level. Make sure your team takes the time to get to know each patient and addresses their concerns and questions fully.
- Customer service issues: patients come to practice often dealing with discomfort or worry. Regardless of their attitude, they expect courteous treatment from you and your staff. If any member of your team appears impatient or dismissive, patients may perceive this as rudeness. It is important to foster a culture of patience and empathy in your practice to maintain a positive relationship with your patients.
Proactive Strategies For Dental Practices to Boost Their Online Reputations
There are many opportunities for a dental practice to improve its online reputation. With a proactive approach and the right strategies, you can counteract negative feedback and cultivate an online presence that attracts new patients.
Create an Outstanding Website For Your Dental Practice
Your website plays an important role in a patient’s choice of dental practice. It serves as your online storefront, setting the tone for potential patients and reflecting the quality of your service. To maximize your website’s potential, consider the following strategies:
- Obtain backlinks from authoritative sources to boost SEO,
- Use relevant keywords to boost your search engine ranking,
- Provide links to related content on your website,
- Highlight any awards or recognition you have received,
- Inform patients about your knowledge and experience,
- Showcase positive reviews,
- Use multimedia content like photos and videos,
- Make your website accessible and user-friendly, and
- Ensure your site is easy to navigate.
Claim All Dental Review Profiles & Accounts
Popular dental review sites include Google My Business, Healthgrades, Yelp, 1-800-DENTIST, WebMD, RateMDs, and Vitals. Claiming your practice listings on these review platforms is a key component of online reputation management. This ensures that you have control over the information these sites display about your practice.
Be sure to complete your profiles on relevant platforms with links to your website, photos and logos, operating hours, contact details, and available services. Also, keep your profiles updated and promptly respond to reviews. Active engagement on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn can also help you connect and interact with patients.
Improve Patient Communication & Interactions
Building strong relationships with your patients is vital for managing your reputation. Clear and empathetic communication can go a long way in achieving this goal. Here are several strategies to enhance your patient communication:
- Efficient scheduling: to reduce patient waiting times, build buffer periods into your schedule to accommodate procedures that may take longer than anticipated. Also, inform patients that appointment times may vary slightly to set proper expectations.
- Empathize, respect, and listen to your patients: actively listen to your patients without dismissing their concerns. They want to be heard and understood. Even though you may already know the underlying problem and the best treatment, it is essential to allow the patient to express themselves fully. Treating patients with kindness can also make them feel more comfortable.
- Keep patients informed: explain dental procedures and treatments in detail, addressing any concerns that patients may have. Be transparent about the costs associated with their treatment, including any unexpected procedures due to additional findings, like tooth decay.
- Professionalism: even in the face of a dissatisfied or upset patient, you and your staff should remain composed and polite. Addressing their problems may even turn their experience around and lead to a positive review.
- Follow-up: reaching out to patients after appointments shows that you are truly concerned for their health. It can also help you catch potential issues that may arise after treatment and prevent negative reviews.
Encourage Reviews from Satisfied Patients
The power of positive testimonials cannot be overstated. Consider the following approaches to inspire patients to share their experiences:
- Facilitate the review process: make sure the process of leaving reviews is straightforward. Incorporate links to review platforms on your website, social media profiles, and email messages.
- Solicit feedback: After a positive appointment, gently request patients to post about their experience. Emphasize how their feedback can assist others in making informed choices about their dental care.
- Connect post-appointment: send follow-up messages after appointments, expressing gratitude for their visit and reminding them to leave a review if they were pleased with the service.
- Promote positive testimonials: highlight positive reviews on your website and social media. These testimonials can even encourage other patients to follow suit.
How Dentists Can Clean Up Their Online Reputations
As a dental professional, you may encounter situations where you need to clean up your online presence due to outdated information, negative reviews, or unfavorable publicity. While these issues can seem overwhelming, there are effective ways to address these challenges and regain control over your online reputation.
Remove the Negative Content at Its Source
One of the best ways to clean up your online reputation is by removing any harmful content from the source. This will ensure the information is completely deleted from the internet, so it cannot appear in search engine results or get copied onto other websites.
This usually means you must reach out to the person who posted the content and ask them to take it down. If you are in a disagreement with the person, you may also need to take extra steps to ensure they do not post something negative about you again.
Determine the Legitimacy of the Review
Negative reviews, especially fake ones, can hurt your dental practice. They can dissuade potential patients, impacting your growth and overall reputation. That is why it is so important to identify and address these reviews promptly.
Here is how you can spot fake dental reviews:
- Cross-verify with your records. Confirm if the reviewer’s details match any of your existing patient records. A mismatch could indicate a fake review.
- Investigate the reviewer’s profile. An account created recently or with no activity aside from the negative review is a red flag.
- Check usernames. Sarcastic or strange usernames may suggest the account is fake.
- Review timing. A sudden influx of negative reviews against a consistent history of positive feedback could signal false reviews.
- Analyze review language. Inaccurate descriptions of your services, promotional content for a competitor, or inflammatory language may point to a fake review.
Address Negative Patient Reviews
Handling negative reviews involves a delicate and strategic approach.
Preserve Evidence of the Review
Take screenshots or save copies of the negative review, the account information, the URL, and any likes or comments. It may be required later for reference or proof if the review is deleted or edited.
Report the Review For Terms of Service Violations
If you suspect the review to be fake, report it to the respective platform. Each platform has its own process for handling such reports, and fake reviews violate most platforms’ Terms of Service.
Monitor Other Review Platforms
Keep an eye on other review sites for similar negative comments. A pattern of negative reviews across platforms can provide further evidence of a coordinated attack on your reputation.
One of the easiest ways to keep an eye on mentions is by setting up a free Google Alert for your or your practice’s name. The service will send you an email notification any time your chosen terms are mentioned online.
Understand Confidentiality Obligations When Responding
Handling patient reviews can be challenging due to HIPAA guidelines. When responding to patient reviews, remember these key points:
- Do not use the patient’s name or confirm their visit, even if they identified themselves in their review.
- Do not share any specific details about their visit or treatment.
- Refrain from blaming the patient or using defensive language. Instead, apologize sincerely and express empathy.
- If possible, consider addressing the patient’s concerns privately. This can be more effective and maintain confidentiality.
When Should You Pursue Legal Action Over Fake Patient Reviews?
If you think a review might be fake, you will need to decide whether legal action is necessary as quickly as possible. Defamation claims usually have short statutes of limitations, and victims typically need to file a defamation lawsuit within one year of the review being published. For anonymous reviews, you may also need to file a John Doe lawsuit to unveil the user’s identity, which can be a lengthy process.
That being said, not all reviews merit legal action. This analysis often hinges on how much the review impacts your practice. If you have tons of positive reviews and a single negative one, the time and money required for a lawsuit may not be justified.
Conversely, legal action may be worthwhile if a review seriously damages your practice or alleges criminal wrongdoing, malpractice, or discrimination. If you opt to go this route, it is important to remember that legal action targets the reviewer, not the platform hosting the review.
What Are Your Options if a Review Site Refuses to Take Down a Fake Negative Review?
If efforts, like flagging or reporting the review, have failed to remove the content, you have options.
First, you can send a retraction demand letter asking the reviewer to delete the review. However, it is advisable to engage an attorney before sending this type of letter. A legal professional can craft a retraction demand that does not breach confidentiality norms or trigger the Streisand Effect (which can boost the visibility of the very content you are trying to eliminate).
Second, you can file a lawsuit against the reviewer and secure a court order to remove the defamatory content. As defamation lawsuit requirements can be difficult to understand, it is best to consult with an experienced internet defamation attorney.
Long-Term Strategies For Dentists to Clean Up Online Reputations
Cleaning up your or your dental practice’s reputation is not always a quick fix. Often, it requires sustained, strategic effort over the long haul.
Use Online Reputation Management Practices to Suppress Content
An amusing meme once quoted, “The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google search results.” This funny meme underscores a fundamental truth: people rarely venture beyond the first page of their Google searches. In fact, 95% of all search traffic gravitates to the first page, with the first result drawing 32.5% of all traffic.
When removal, de-indexing, or modification of the negative content is not possible, your best bet is to try to bury the unwanted content. The content may still exist online, but its impact will be diminished if no one sees it.
Engaging an ORM company can help push the negative content off the first page and replace it with positive messaging.
To prepare yourself to find an ORM service or agency that is the best fit for your practice, please see our guides explaining how to choose the right reputation management consultant and how to choose an ethical reputation management company.
Utilize Digital Risk Protection & Monitoring Services
Digital risk protection tools and social media monitoring are helpful in tracking what is being said about you online and spotting problems before they spiral out of control.
If you are serious about looking after your online image, it is a good idea to get some expert help. Professional digital safety companies can spot potential issues and stop them from damaging your reputation using a range of smart strategies and tools.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive resources explaining online reputation management strategies for doctors and why hire an attorney as your online reputation expert.
We Can Help Your Dental Practice Clean Up & Bolster its Online Reputation
We understand what it takes to be competitive in today’s online landscape and the effects a tarnished online reputation can have on your dental practice’s bottom line. At Minc Law, we provide custom online reputation management services for both individuals and businesses from all walks of life, including dentists and other healthcare professionals.
We also help healthcare professionals navigate the ethical minefield fake online reviews present and have extensive experience removing damaging reviews and content from the internet.
“Darcy was professional and patient with helping with a online reputation matter. She handled all my queries in a timely manner and she got the job done.”
July 7, 2021
If you would like to explore custom ORM pricing and services for your dental practice, reach out to schedule initial, no-obligation consultation by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.