4 out of 5 dentists recommend managing your reputation online.
While that number may not quite be verified, the importance of reputation management for dentists is undeniable. 92% of the over 165,000 dentists in the US are in private practice, the majority of which are the sole proprietors of their practices. This means the vast majority of dentists in the US are not only healthcare professionals, but business owners.
In 2021, nearly everyone – yes, literally – goes online first to learn more about a business, and this includes healthcare practices. How you appear online can have a significant impact on whether or not a prospective patient chooses to visit your dental practice.
How you appear online may be particularly important for dentists, who have to work a bit harder for a good impression, considering an estimated 75% of adults in the United States experience discomfort, anxiety, or fear when it comes to visiting the dentist. With people already experiencing apprehension when it comes to scheduling their next dentist appointment, the importance of presenting yourself well (and as a patient-first dentist) online is key.
Here, we’ll define reputation management, how it can help your dental practice, and what to do as a dentist to manage your reputation online.
What is online reputation management?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the practice of influencing the narrative or reputation of your business online. ORM can be proactive or reactive, depending on the needs of your business and when you begin implementing an ORM strategy.
Your ORM strategy will be a combination of SEO and marketing strategies carried out with the goal of creating a strong online presence to 1) establish yourself and your practice online and 2) create a foundation to combat negative news or results about you or your practice, should the need arise.
Although your SEO strategy can have a huge impact on your ORM strategy, ORM generally targets keywords specific to your brand or business (as opposed to wider keywords), meaning that your business must be established enough to already be receiving targeted organic search traffic to benefit from an ORM strategy.
Why does reputation management for dentists matter?
97% of people go online to learn about local businesses. The first step in reputation management is making sure you have a reputation. In other words, you need to be findable online. If your practice is difficult to find online, if the information online is outdated, or even if your site runs a bit slowly, patients are more likely to pass up your practice in favor of another. An ORM strategy will help you improve your visibility, brand, and presence in search results, improving your first impression online.
However, once you are findable online, the bulk of reputation management comes in. What people see online about you or your dental practice can have a huge impact on how they perceive your business and, thus, your practice’s reputation.
While a bad reputation may be subjective, the impact of negative results – bad press, an unsavory review – is more tangible. Businesses with one negative article online risk losing up to 22% – nearly a quarter – of prospective customers. And it gets worse – businesses with four or more negative articles can lose up to 70% of prospective customers. Negative reviews can also have a significant impact, with 92% of consumers reporting that they are less likely to frequent a business after reading negative reviews.
While this can make the conversation around reputation management seem a bit doom-and-gloom, that’s not quite the case. A proactive online reputation management strategy can provide opportunities to connect with more patients and increase the success of your practice.
As more people look online to learn about dentists and dental practices, having an online reputation management strategy can help you make a good first impression with prospective patients, gain visibility in search results (helping you reach a wider audience), and improve your relationship with existing patients.
For Dentists: 15 Tips to Manage and Improve Your Online Reputation
- Google Yourself!
The first step in developing your online reputation management strategy is to understand where you’re starting. Search for your practice and yourself in an incognito browser with a cleared cache in order to get the most accurate results.
Consider what you see. What shows up when you search for your practice, or for yourself? Do you see your business, or one with a similar name? Are the results owned properties (such as your website, social media, etc.)? Are they neutral, positive, negative, or a combination?
If your owned assets don’t show up in results for these targeted or branded search terms, you may need to check if your website is indexed in search. To check this, search “site:[your site]” in Google.
If your site is indexed, but isn’t showing up in branded search results, or your other owned assets aren’t appearing, that’s where you’ll need to start. Before you begin improving and curating your online presence, you will need to make sure you’re findable. Read here to learn how to optimize your owned assets to make sure you appear in Google search results.
If your owned assets do appear for your branded terms, you’ve got a good foundation. But your name or your practice’s name are not the only terms that prospective and current patients will be searching for. Look up other search terms that could bring patients to you – or that you would like to rank for. Even if your practice doesn’t rank for a certain search term or query, seeing what does rank can give you some insight into what you can do to improve your own ranking for that particular keyword, and can help you understand how you’re performing online.
Searching for your branded and related keywords is the first step in developing an effective online reputation management strategy because it can help you define your goals. Do you need to refine your SEO strategy to improve your visibility in search results? Is there negative press you need to address? Do you need more positive reviews? Is any of the information outdated? Once you know where you’re starting, it becomes much easier to determine where you want to go.
- Register Your Domain Name and Secure Relevant Web Properties
If you haven’t already done so, you need to secure the domain name for your practice. With 97% of people going online first to learn more about a business, patients expect to find information about your practice online. If you don’t have a website for your practice, this could cause prospective patients to overlook your practice for another, or to find inaccurate information about your practice from another source.
Registering your practice’s name – as well as your own – as a domain will dramatically improve your visibility online, and can help you control your first impression. The domain that matches your practice’s name is most likely to rank first in results for searches related to your practice, and with the number 1 spot in search results earning 31% of clicks, that can be very significant.
In addition to a website for your practice, you will want to secure the domain name for your own name for similar reasons, and any other relevant domains that could help with your SEO efforts (such as [practice name]reviews.com). You will also want to create profiles on relevant social media and review platforms, even if you don’t intend to use them – having those usernames secure will mean you will be able to use them whenever you’re ready to.
- Maintain Your Website and Social Media Profiles
Once you have created your website and secured any other relevant online assets, you will need to keep these updated. Websites that show inaccurate information, load slowly, or otherwise appear to be outdated can deter users. Similarly, social media profiles that have outdated information or do not appear active may work against you as well. While you want to do everything you can to create a great presence online, quality is (almost) always better than quantity.
What’s more, the performance of your website can affect patient satisfaction and retention. Intuit Health’s annual Healthcare Check-up Survey reported that 59% of patients were happy to switch from their current medical provider to one that provided a better online experience, or more access online.
- Incorporate Telehealth Visits into Your Regular Practice
Due to COVID-19, telehealth and telemedicine appointments have increased dramatically, and the same is true when it comes to teledentistry. Over the course of the pandemic, telehealth appointments for dentistry have increased significantly.
While the substantial 79% decrease in the use of dental services at the onset of the pandemic is recovering, with patient volume currently at 81% of pre-COVID levels and expected to continue to increase, patients still want telehealth appointments to be an option. In a survey of over 1,700 respondents, nearly 99% reported that they were very satisfied with telehealth, due to the convenience and accessibility these appointments provided.
While telehealth appointments may not be practical – or even an option – for every dental concern or consultation, implementing teledentistry into your practice may lead to increased patient satisfaction, retention, and can improve accessibility for your patients.
- Prioritize Mobile Users
Mobile users are only becoming more important when it comes to your SEO strategy and your online reputation. Since Google’s Mobilegeddon algorithm update in 2015, and the more recent Mobile-First update in 2016, Google’s prioritization of mobile users has made the mobile-friendliness of your site a key factor in determining where your website ranks in results.
What’s more, how your site runs on mobile devices has a huge impact on user experience – and more users are using their mobile devices to search online than ever. In 2021, mobile accounts for over 55% of all website traffic.
It’s not just about your website, either. People use their mobile devices for everything, including communication (after all, that’s what phones were originally for….). Nearly 60% of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X patients report that responsiveness to follow-up questions via email or phone is very important to their overall satisfaction with their dentist.
- Leverage Local SEO Strategies
Leveraging local search is vital for every business that has a brick-and-mortar location or serves a particular area or community. 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information, and 97% of people learn more about local companies online than from any other resource. Local search queries – such as “where to buy” and “close by” – are growing exponentially, with “near me” mobile queries growing by over 200% in the past two years (there are those mobile users again!).
The first step in making the most of local search results is to claim your practice’s Google My Business listing. This listing, which populates on the right side of results for search terms related to your practice, provides prospective and current clients with important information about your practice, including hours of operation, address, and Google reviews. The average Google My Business listing is viewed over 1,200 times every month – for many new patients searching for more information about your dental practice, your Google My Business listing will be one of the first places they look for office information, reviews, and more.
Your Google My Business listing is also required for your practice to show up in local pack results (the map that shows up in results for local queries listing businesses, ratings, location, etc.).
To set up a Google My Business listing, the first step is to see if Google has already generated one for your practice. To do this, search for your practice:
- If you do see a listing, you can click “Own this business?” to go through the steps to claim the listing.
- If not, you can create a listing for your practice. To learn how to create a Google My Business listing, check out our step-by-step instructions.
In addition to claiming your Google My Business listing, include your office address or addresses in online directories, social media profiles, and on your website, and create content relevant to your community or area(s) of operation.
- Check Your Reviews (and Keep up with Them)
Reviews are one of the most important factors that influence a dentist’s or dental practice’s reputation. 87% of people report reading online reviews for local businesses to learn more about them – this is a 6% increase from 2019, and a 20% increase from 2010. What’s more, people are believing what they read: nearly 80% of consumers report trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. There are more reviews to read now, too. In 2020, 72% of consumers reported having written a review for a local business, a 6% jump from the year before.
When researching a healthcare provider, prospective patients will often turn to reviews to get a sense of other patients’ experiences with that provider. As the impact of reviews rises, staying up-to-date on the status of your reviews is not only recommended, but is completely necessary.
This is particularly true for dentists. 40% of people choose a dentist solely based on their online reviews, and a whopping 71% of patients will use online reviews to inform which practice they choose. Average ratings matter, too: 50% of patients will only choose a dental practice with over four stars.
Once you have read through your reviews, consider what you’ve seen. How many reviews do you have? What is your overall rating? Are the reviews generally positive? Negative? Are there aspects of your practice – positive or negative – that come up often?
Reading and continuing to monitor your reviews will not only help you understand what your current and prospective dental patients are seeing when they look you up online, but can help give you insight into aspects of your practice that are particularly outstanding or harmful to your reputation. Consider making changes to your practice if some of your review feedback is helpful.
- Encourage Patients to Leave Reviews
Whether you’re working against some negative reviews (and don’t worry, everyone has them!) or trying to build out your overall number reviews, review solicitation will likely be a part of your strategy. The good news is that review solicitation can be a relatively simple element of your reputation management campaign – just ask! 70% of consumers report leaving a review if asked.
If you’re nervous about asking for public feedback, keep in mind that requesting reviews can only help, and rarely hurts a practice. In fact, over 50% of patients report leaving positive reviews when they do rate a practice, with only 7% of patients reporting to have left negative reviews.
To increase your chances of receiving a positive review (beyond providing a positive experience), follow up with the patient soon after their appointment, and make sure your message is specific to that particular patient.
- Make the Best out of Negative Reviews
Like we said, negative reviews happen to everyone. While a negative review can be deflating, and can harm your online reputation, they also provide an opportunity for you to show responsibility, accountability, and care for your patients and their experiences at your practice. This doesn’t only apply to the patient you’re responding to – 96% of consumers report reading a business’s response to other reviews when researching a business. What’s more, responding to reviews can have a positive impact on your practice’s SEO efforts.
When responding to a negative review, be sure to address the concern directly, offer a tangible solution, and never be defensive or disclose any personal or sensitive information.
That said, while responding to negative reviews can turn a negative into a positive, not all reviews warrant a response. When debating with yourself if you should respond to a review, consider:
- Is this criticism valid? If the criticism is not legitimate or relevant to your practice, or if you do not recognize the patient, you may be better off leaving it be. If you can’t validate or address the complaint, you run the risk of coming off as defensive or dismissive, which can just add fuel to the fire.
- Can the problem be addressed? The most effective response to a negative review is one that acknowledges the concern and provides a solution. If you are not able to provide some sort of solution, the problem will not be solved, and it’s likely the patient that posted the review will still be dissatisfied.
- Is my response maintaining confidentiality? As a dentist or a part of a dental firm, you must keep your patients’ information confidential. If a thorough response to a complaint would require you to disclose information about your work with a patient, do not do this in a review response. Instead, respond and acknowledge the problem, and tell the patient how to reach out to you, or reach out to them and let them know that you have.
- Use Different Review Platforms
In addition to the reviews on your Google My Business listing, there are several review platforms where prospective patients will look to find reviews of your practice. Creating and maintaining profiles on these sites can provide you with more opportunities to make a good impression on prospective patients, as many of them will look to these sites as reputable resources to learn more about you and your dental practice.
Additionally, some of these sites will automatically generate profiles for dentists or practices, giving you the option to claim them. Claiming these profiles will help you ensure that all information is accurate and well-represented, giving the best impression to prospective clients.
Some of these review websites include:
- Check Out Your Competitors
In any industry, how you perform is informed by how your competitors are doing. The same is true when it comes to how your practice looks online.
There are two primary ways to gauge how your competitors are performing to gain some insight for your own SEO strategy:
- How they show up for general search terms: often, there are several businesses competing for prominent positions in search results for industry-related keywords. Depending on the search volume (how many people search) for these keywords, some are more competitive than others.
To see how you measure up against the competition, Google search terms that you would like to rank for and see how you compare. If your competitors are outranking your website in results, try to understand why. How do they incorporate the keyword on their site? Do they have content targeting that keyword? How is their website configured? Are there any elements present that are missing from your site?
Understanding how your competitors rank, and identifying why, can help you make those improvements to your own online properties.
- How they show up for branded search terms: another way to understand the SEO strategies of your competitors and improve your own is to see how their branded results look. Just as we recommend that you get familiar with your own, getting a sense of a competitor’s branded results can help you identify which properties they leverage for their own strategy, which can fill in gaps in your own.
- Utilize Different Forms of Content
A content strategy is the foundation of any online reputation management campaign. Content can help you establish a strong brand voice for your practice, expand the search queries you rank for, and give patients more perspective on who you are and what you can offer them. High-quality content can even suppress negative results on Google by outranking them.
When creating a content strategy for your dental practice, brainstorm three to four themes for topics to fall under and create a content calendar. Content topics can be FAQs, clear misconceptions about certain elements of dentistry, advice for calming nerves before your dental appointments, community involvement, recognition and awards, promotions within your company, etc.
Keep in mind when creating content that we don’t just mean written content, While written content is an incredibly important aspect of your SEO strategy, other forms are not to be ignored. In fact, video is the #1 performing form of content with a 41% higher click-through rate (CTR) than plain text results. Utilizing other forms of media, such as video, images and infographics, or podcasts, can not only help you increase your presence online, but can help you to rework one piece of content and use it across multiple channels.
- Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry
In addition to creating content around your practice, consider establishing yourself as a trusted leader in dentistry. Thought leadership can help shift narratives, inform audiences, and drive innovation, and becoming a thought leader can help increase your visibility, improve your credibility, and define your reputation.
If you’re interested in thought leadership, create content around your areas of expertise. To determine what content to create, identify three to five topic areas that you can confidently create content for, and brainstorm specific article topics within those areas. Consider questions you’ve received from patients, common areas of confusion or misconceptions, or situations that you can offer a unique and illuminating perspective on.
When writing your content, make sure to avoid fluff and maintain SEO best practices (no keyword stuffing!). The best content is the content that is created with people in mind and gives some sort of value, so make sure to put thought and time into the content you create.
- Keep Your Private Life Private
Although an established online presence is the best way to maintain your online reputation, you also want to keep it professional. Personal social media accounts, even if they don’t have scandalous or controversial content, may pull away from the brand you’re trying to build online.
Keep any personal online accounts restricted and private so that only approved people may view them, and never post personal photos, videos, or opinions unrelated to your industry on your professional accounts. Ideally, your patients should not even be able to find your personal social media accounts.
- Hire an Online Reputation Management Firm
If you’re running your own dental practice, developing your own online reputation management strategy could be difficult to add to your schedule. If the thought of addressing your online reputation is daunting or time-consuming – or if you’re dealing with negative news or a reputation crisis – you may want to hire a professional.
An online reputation management company can help identify areas in need of improvement, develop an effective reputation management strategy, and do the work to improve your reputation online so you can focus on your work, your practice, and your patients.
If you’re interested in hiring an online reputation management firm, schedule a free consultation with Status Labs to determine what course of action is right for you.