How to Manage Your Online Dental Reputation

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a patient review is worth its word count in gold – or platinum – or whatever is today’s trending precious metal. Still not sure? Let’s put it this way, 70% of dental patients said that online ratings and reviews influenced their choice of dentist.

And, in case you thought you were safe from Google, remember that online ratings and reviews also factor into your practice’s search engine rankings. Search engines consistently tweak their ranking algorithms to return the best results possible, and this means delivering highly recommended doctors.

The Value of Online Reviews for Dentists

Online reviews create the perception of trustworthiness and transparency. The prevalence of social media and the increasing number of review sites available (Yelp, Angie’s List, Rate MDs, etc.) means that your practice is conspicuous by its absence.

Trust us, if prospective patients can’t find any reviews on your practice they aren’t going to think, “Wow! That dental office is so good that not one patient felt the need to share their experience.” More likely, the train of thought will go something like this, “Why hasn’t anyone left a review on that dentist? What are they hiding?”

Your Online Dental Reputation Matters

Remember junior high – those few years between childhood and adolescence (when things really got awkward)? For most of us, this period predated the ability to tame our pesky cowlick or find the right shade of cover-up. We hadn’t yet mastered talking to the opposite sex, and for many this era was further enhanced by such trends as feathered bangs and acid-washed jeans. Unfortunately, it also coincided with the establishment of our reputation, version 1.0.

Are you cringing yet at the recollection? Before we undo all of the therapy it’s taken to get past those impressionable years, let’s get to the point. We’re human and poor judgement plagues us all at one time or another. Things that seem reasonable in the moment, like getting glamour shots at the mall, later prove to be a mistake. In the past, the consequences of questionable judgment were relatively short-lived and limited to those in close proximity, but thanks to social media and the Internet, our brief lapses in judgement can now be shared with more people than ever…forever.

Embarrassing trends aside, unflattering publicity in any form can have a very real impact on the success of your practice and, just like Dep styling gel, it doesn’t take much. Every patient you see can potentially blemish your reputation with a few key strokes. One experience with a dental hygienist who’s a little overzealous with the pick can turn into trending hashtags that haunt you – #YourPractice #BleedingGums.

Think no one reads online reviews? We’d hate to call you wrong, so we’ll just say you’re mistaken. According to a Nielsen report, opinions and reviews posted online are key influencers in the decision-making process – second only to recommendations from friends and family.

What’s a doctor in the age of rampant reviews to do? While you may be tempted to publically discredit critical reviews (#StopWiggling), we don’t recommend it. Instead, use negative comments as an opportunity to highlight your professionalism. You’ll benefit more from a caring response to those trending hashtags than a curt reply. In this instance, try conveying concern for your patient instead of contempt. “We’re sorry to hear you had a less than pleasant experience. #YourPractice has been treating patients for over 10 years and strives to deliver the highest level of care possible.”

Should you hang back and wait for an opportunity to defend your reputation? Definitely not. “The best defense is a good offense” certainly applies here. One of the best ways to counter unfavorable reviews is to proactively leverage your best asset – satisfied patients. ProSites’ recently released Reputation Marketing feature is designed to help you do just that.

How to Manage Your Online Dental Reputation

Any seasoned dentist probably hears the words reputation management and immediately thinks of that one 1-star Yelp review that seems to haunt them. A quick search through dental forums reveals the frustration that most dentists feel when speaking about reviews. Ironically, reputation management has developed a “bad rep” because small business owners don’t think about it until they’ve been hit with a scathing review.

However, most dentists overlook how to harness the power of their reviews through reputation marketing. While reputation management has become synonymous with PR crisis management, reputation marketing allows you to harness the power of online reviews to promote a positive image for your dental practice using three components:

Monitor Your Online Dental Reviews

This is a no-brainer; your dental practice needs to know what patients are saying about you. While there are several pricey automated solutions out there that can help you keep track, it is possible to find this information yourself for free by using Google alerts and claiming your online profiles on the top review sites for dentists. These include:

Pro-tip: use an email address that several people can access to claim the listing. This way, when you get an alert saying you have a new review, someone at your office can respond in a timely manner.

Acquire Online Dental Reviews

The foundation of any successful dental practice is satisfied customers. Happy customers leave positive reviews and positive reviews fill more chairs.

Understanding the power of online reviews is only half the battle; getting patients to leave them is the other half. But, how do you make that happen amidst the daily juggling required to keep your practice running?

Most of the time, all you have to do is ask. Here are some ideas to make the asking natural & easy.

1. Ask about their experience: Train your front desk staff to ask patients before they leave your practice how their appointment went. Alternatively, they could also ask them if they’d fill out a short satisfaction & feedback survey. Either of these can be done after their appointment & while they are booking their next one.

If they had a great experience, it’s an easy next step to ask them to leave a review online. Have your team tell satisfied patients that you’d love for them to share their experience online. They can mention that the practice has profiles on certain online review sites. Or better yet, give them a flier that details what site you’d like them to leave a review on & how to do it.

Conversely, if they had a poor experience, your staff could address issues immediately rather than hearing about it online.

2. Send patients a follow-up text or email: While reiterating the importance of their satisfaction you can ask them to share their positive experience online. Bonus points if you save the front desk staff time by using an automated patient communication system (FYI – this method also ensures consistent outreach).

  • Strategically placed signage in your lobby is another way to plant the online review. Invite patients to share their experience and ensure the review site URLs are listed clearly. You might be surprised at the number of loyal patients that use their time in the waiting room to post a positive review before they even sit in the chair.
  • Right up there with making the ask of patients, is making it easy for them. No matter how happy or loyal a patient is, if sharing feedback is a challenge, they’re not going to do it. Make the process simple – incorporate review site links in follow-up texts and emails, include preferred review sites on appointment cards, and don’t overlook your own website.

Your website’s reviews page is one of the most convenient places for patients to share their experience – no membership or email account required. Just make sure to stay abreast of what’s posted on your website.

ProSites’ reputation marketing feature allows you to determine which comments appear on your practice website. Patients can submit reviews, but nothing goes live on your site until you hit ‘publish’. Plus, when patients rank their experience 4+ stars, they’re automatically prompted to share their review on popular review networks such as Google+, Yelp, and Bing, which also makes you more visible to prospective patients.

Market Your Dental Reviews

This is where reputation management differs from reputation marketing. While reputation management focuses on suppressing negative reviews through monitoring and acquiring new reviews, reputation marketing focuses on amplifying positive reviews you already have. The easiest way to do this is by using ProSites’ free Reputation Marketing tool to help you collect and showcase positive reviews on your dental practice website. You can also include your best patient testimonials on practice marketing materials such emails, post cards, webpages, and social media.

Caution – use this power wisely or it could backfire. Only post glowing reviews with five-star ratings, and you run the risk of your practice coming off faker than Lee Press-On Nails. No one is perfect, including doctors, and setting unrealistic expectations is more likely to damage your credibility than enhance it. To add legitimacy to your Patient Reviews page, a good rule of thumb is to display a mix of three-, four-, and five-star ratings with a heavier dose of fours and fives.

How Dentists Improve Their Online Reputations

We have all said it. We constantly think it. Then it happens. So, what do you do when the “it will never happen to me” turns into “what do I do now?” Eventually, reputation management becomes an issue for every business owner, so here are 5 insider secrets that will help you avert your reputation crisis.

1. Google Alerts

Signing up for Google Alerts allows you to receive notifications every time your predefined keywords are mentioned on the Web. Simply go to and input queries you wish to be notified of (e.g. your practice name, your name, etc.), how often you want to be notified, and provide the email address that you want your alerts sent to.

2. Encourage feedback

Feedback builds credibility, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Positive reviews online can help boost search engine rankings, provide new patients with a sense of trust, and can help quiet the negativity of one unsettling review.

An exorbitant amount of negative feedback is bad. Very bad. However, the occasional bad review is not the be-all end-all of your reputation. In fact, a negative review can build credibility, proving that your reviews are legitimate and come from real patient experiences. Just be sure to respond to negative feedback in a professional and respectful manner and attempt to resolve the issue at hand.

An absence of online reviews is also a red flag. Without a solid understanding of other patient experiences, prospects feel like a practice without reviews is more of a gamble, thus are less likely to select said practice as their provider.

Don’t forget about moderating your blog comments too! Your practice blog is a great way to educate patients and prospects about your services; however, if former patients are leaving negative comments about their experiences, you may inadvertently be losing new patients. Luckily, all blog engines allow administrators to moderate comments. Changing your settings and requiring comments to be approved before they’re published could prevent you from unknowingly perpetuating a poor reputation.

3. Realize it only takes one fatal flaw

Major corporations have had their fair share of meltdowns and know it only takes one negative customer experience to explode online, causing significant damage to their reputation.

When large companies experience negative feedback that goes viral they promptly respond to the problem, admit they did wrong, vow it won’t happen again, and revamp their procedures. Should you ever suffer the setback of viral negativity, follow mega-corporations and proceed to take responsibility, “right” your “wrong”, and generate a plan to prevent the situation from reoccurring. Just as the initial negative complaint was publicized online, publicize your renewed customer service policy and remember to always provide patients with superior care.

4. Use available resources

There are free online resources that can help you start managing your online reputation. Brand Yourself is a self-guided reputation management firm that allows users to control the amount of spending they put towards reputation management link building. A free account with the company enables users to influence the Google search results for their chosen name, such as “ABC Podiatry”. The user can then link profiles, add backlinks, and manipulate their pages to help rank desired pages while bumping less favorable pages down in the search engine results. To start your free account, head over to

5. Consider a Reputation Management Professional

A good reputation can take years to build; and you don’t want to let one negative online review destroy your reputation. To prevent this from happening, you may want to consider hiring a company like Demandforce. This type of professional reputation management improves patient satisfaction and your online reputation by allowing you to personally respond to displeased patient reviews and prevents such negative publicity from being circulated online for prospective patients to see.

Remember to continually monitor what Internet users are saying about your brand. With the ever-increasing popularity of online review sites, it’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when” you receive your first negative patient review; and when that time comes, you’ll want to respond with integrity to keep your online reputation glowing, but you’ll also want to adapt your services and professional approach to prevent a situation in the future.

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