By Rachel Taylor; Demandforce, Inc.
With so many people turning to the Internet to help them make informed decisions, it’s crucial for dental practices to create and maintain an online presence in order to be successful.
Many people turn to the Internet to check a dentists’ credentials, compare practices and read comments and reviews from other patients before they make the decision to try a new dentist. The last thing you want is a weak online presence that impedes your practice growth.
Follow the simple tips in this article, and you and your staff will find establishing your online reputation is easy.
Maintain a User-Friendly Website
If you don’t have one, creating a practice website is a critical first step to building your online presence. A site with a clean design, succinct information, and that’s easy to navigate is a user-friendly one. Keep in mind that your office is one of many on the Internet, and potential patients want to find information quickly. It should be as easy as possible for visitors to learn about your practice and what makes it unique. Your practice’s key statistics, contact information, location, and marketing pieces should be placed at the forefront of the site.
A feature that’s proven very successful for dental practices is an appointment scheduler. Making it easy for users to request appointments 24/7 to is a good way to grow your client base, and can help convert an individual from an Internet surfer into a patient.
“Virtual” word-of-mouth is spreading on Web sites, search engines and review sites. Having a variety of reviews posted can increase your visibility on the Web, and lend credibility to your practice, as potential patients are more likely to be persuaded by comments made by your patients than solely by the information provided by your practice. Collecting online reviews is the best way for your practice to set itself apart from competitors and bring in new patients.
Ask for Reviews
How do you start collecting them? Have a place to display reviews on your website. A quick reminder posted in the office or a personalized email announcing that you’ve launched a review feature and encouraging patients to share their thoughts is generally an effective way to let your patients know about the opportunity. Chances are you already have plenty of loyal patients who have great things to say about your practice, so all you have to do is give them a place to easily share their feedback.
Deal with Negative Reviews Quickly
No matter how fantastic your practice is, there are bound to be a few patients who are unsatisfied with a visit they had. Fortunately, you can often turn a negative into a positive. By responding to a negative review, you can show your proactive customer service and commitment to quality patient care. You can even contact the unsatisfied patient directly to see if there’s a way to improve the situation. A complaint is often based on a miscommunication, and might be resolvable through a phone call. Very frequently, a reviewer will remove a negative post to reflect that an effort to rectify the situation was made. If not, keep in mind that both positive and negative reviews in your social media profiles or on your site could work in your favor: the presence of negative reviews lets people know they’re not fabricated, which brings more legitimacy to your reviews.
However, there are instances when a negative review could be damaging or simply untrue. If that’s the case, it’s absolutely appropriate to delete it. If it’s posted somewhere other than your own site, send an email to the site’s moderator to ask him to remove it. You’ll need to provide a clear-cut reason for requesting removal. Following are a few guidelines to determine whether a review should be removed:
Remove a review if it:
- Threatens you or your staff
- Uses profanity
- Contains private information about members of your staff
- Is non-factual or not from a current patient
If a review for your practice falls in one of the above categories, you can be confident in your request for removal. It’s important your reviews are truthful and accurately reflect a patient experience, however your practice shouldn’t suffer because of an inaccurate review.
Claim Your Business Profiles
Whether you know it or not, it’s likely your practice has existing profiles on sites like Yelp, CitySearch, and Google+. These sites are a great way for potential patients to find your practice, but they can also be riddled with inaccuracies if they have not been claimed and edited by you.
Claiming your business profile is easy to do. Usually sites have an area that asks users to claim their profile. All you have to do is click and authenticate that you’re the owner of your practice, and you’ll be able to edit and monitor the page. This lets you keep a closer eye on what’s being said about your practice, and can help you quickly respond to or request removal of negative reviews. Taking ownership of these pages also lets you ensure that they link to your website, which—if you follow our earlier suggestion—will let web users request an appointment and ultimately help grow your practice.
Keep Your Information Consistent
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to make sure all of your practice information (location, hours of operation, staff directory and contact information) posted on the web is accurate, up-to-date, and spelled correctly. You can’t afford to make it any more difficult for your patients to find your practice among the massive amounts of information available online. Search engines are more likely to pick up information that’s consistent across multiple sites, so your information matching up can also greatly increase your website’s ranking on Google. The higher your ranking on Google, the more visible your practice’s website is to potential patients.
Create a Facebook Page
If your practice is not on Facebook, change that today. Facebook is quickly becoming the platform for word-of-mouth referrals and commerce—more than one billion people use the social networking site. You can’t afford to not have your practice represented, and miss opportunities to be seen by and interact with potential clients. Having a Facebook profile doesn’t cost you anything, but it could help bring in major revenue to your practice.
Creating a profile for your practice is simple to do—it takes as little as 5 minutes to accomplish. Much as it is with your website, it’s essential that your practice Facebook page has accurate information, and that it links directly to your website. Facebook does have restrictions and rules for businesses that differ from personal pages, so it’s important to keep those guidelines in mind when creating and managing your practice’s social media presence.
With Facebook’s new policies, users only see 15% of what a business posts on Facebook after liking it. To have your posts more visible, you can pay to have “sponsored posts” that go out to a larger amount of people in your fan base, as well as those in their network. While it’s not necessary to pay for each post, it may be a good practice to promote posts when you have a big promotion, announcement, or event going on to ensure your post gets the maximum amount of views.
Interact With Fans
Being on Facebook can provide wide exposure and greater visibility online, but it only works if you’re regularly interacting with your fans with posts. A good rule to follow is the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should be informative—related to dentistry and your business, and 20% should be personal or fun. Show you’re a dental leader, but not a boring one. Interesting posts can help you reach potential patients and stand out in a sea of mediocre content. A few ideas that have been very successful in generating interaction with Facebook fans are creating contests and giveaways, and posting pictures.
Ask Trivia Questions
Everyone loves a little friendly competition, so why not try applying that idea to your Facebook with Trivia nights? Pick a night each week to ask your audience a question. It can relate to your practice (“What year did our office open?”) Or it can relate to dentistry (“What does DDS stand for?” or “What life-threatening disease can be prevented by regular flossing?”) The goal is to get your followers to interact with your practice, and keep your office in their minds. You can even heat up the competition with an incentive. Something such as “Like this post by the end of the day to have a chance to win a $5 gift certificate!” often works well. You can increase the amount of money, give discounts on dental services or ask people to comment.
Use “Real” Photos
Giving a face to your office name is an important way to make patients feel familiar with you and your team before stepping in your office, so having a profile picture is imperative. Posting pictures is easy, and you should share what’s going on in your office every day. Take pictures of your team in the office, around your waiting room, or even of long-time patients to breathe life and personality into your Facebook page.
As the importance of having an online reputation and gaining visibility with potential patients increases, so does the number of tools that can help your practice build one. Several vendors can compile reviews from your patients and feed them to your Web site and other online destinations, as well as help you create a strong social media presence. For example, Demandforce, an electronic patient communications system, certifies that all reviews it collects are submitted by its clients’ actual patients. It then syndicates the certified reviews to Google’s local business listings.
With the help of an up-to-date website, strong online reviews, and a healthy social media presence, you’ll increase your visibility and attractiveness to potential patients and begin to reap the benefits right away.
Demandforce integrates seamlessly with existing practice management software to automate online communications and marketing. Learn more at Demandforce.com/tda or call 800-210-0355. Mention TDA Perks to receive special TDA-member pricing.