In a World of Online Referrals, Reputation Management Is Key


As more and more patients look at online reviews when making healthcare decisions, dentists must take an active role in ensuring their online presences are strong and accurate.


Mass-market sites like Google and Facebook tend to be the easiest to use when it comes to leaving online reviews.

This past spring, Leonard F. Tau, DMD, was traveling in Canada when he ate at a restaurant that blew him away.

“I had the best dining experience of my life at a restaurant in Toronto, from the food to the service,” he said, in a recent phone interview. “And I told the owner I would go online and write a review.”

More than six months later, he still hasn’t done so. It’s not that he’s changed his mind about the restaurant. Rather, Tau is like the majority of Americans who, for reasons not fully known, is much more motivated by negative experiences than positive experiences when it comes to posting online reviews.

“We’re a complainer society,” Tau said. “It’s hard for us to say a compliment, but when we have a complaint it’s easier for us to say we have a complaint.”

For dentists in an industry increasingly dependent on online referrals, that tendency can be a big problem. In short, it means that dentists need to take an active role in optimizing their online reputations.

In addition to his successful Philadelphia dental practice, Tau helps dentists get a leg up in online marketing in his role as general manager of the dentistry practice at BirdEye, a business reputation management company.

He’ll be speaking Nov. 30 at the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons’ 2017 Dental Implant Conference, in Chicago. His topic: “5 Star Strategies for Dental Practice Growth.” In advance of that talk, he spoke with Dentist’s Money Digest to offer some tips on how dentists can get their online houses in order.

Tau said good online reviews aren’t optional. They’re critical. That’s because most people start their buyer’s journey online, regardless of the industry.

“You want to put your best foot forward, and now, when people search they look at your reviews before they even go to your website,” he said.

Specifically, the first thing most potential customers will see are your Google reviews. That’s because the vast majority of web searches — at least 70% — are done on Google. And for most businesses, Google’s search results include a business listing with basic information and a summary of user reviews.

If Google is king, the other important sites are Facebook, Yelp, and the healthcare-focused site Healthgrades. Healthgrades is about as niche as it gets when it comes to mass-market, customer-trusted review sites, Tau said. There aren’t really any major dental-focused sites.

“[Customers] don’t trust the very specific niche sites as much, so you want to go where there’s a lot more trust out there, and that’s the sites all the people are on,” he said.

Tau said mass-market sites like Google and Facebook also tend to be the easiest to use when it comes to leaving online reviews, which increases the likelihood a patient will write a review.

Still, reviews can’t be left up to the patient. The dentist and thier staff need to take initiative and actively solicit reviews from online patients.

“I always think the best way to do it is ask, but asking doesn’t always get it,” he said.

You can send an email asking them to leave a review, but research shows most people don’t even open most of the emails they receive. Tau says the best strategy is to reach them on their phones.

“I think you have to send an automated text message and there are a number of systems that do that as well,” he said. “So few patients have unread text messages. I read every text I ever get.”

Tau said most dentists already have the habit of texting patients, in order to confirm appointments. He said it’s not necessary to get patients’ permission before-hand, since the texting systems come with an opt-out link.

Texts make it simple for the patient — they can just click a link and go directly to a review interface. The more that happens, the better the dentist’s online reviews will be.

However, Tau said dentists can’t stop with good reviews. They also need to make sure those positive results show up high in the search results. For that to happen, it’s essential that a practice’s online citations are “clean.” That means ensuring your practice’s information — phone number, practice name, spelling of your name, and address — are consistent across the web. Doing so will earn the “trust” of Google’s algorithm, and help your practice stay near the top of Google’s search results.

“Google doesn’t like you if they don’t trust the business,” he said. “If they trust the biz they’ll rank you high. If they rank you high.”


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