Online marketing strategies for dentists—Yelp is on the way
For dentists who have never used Yelp before

What if you didn’t sign up for Yelp or review sites like it, is your dental practice listed?
It doesn’t matter—if you’re not a brand new dentist (fresh out of school), you’re probably listed. On their website, Yelp explains, “We license basic business information from third party data providers who gather this type of information from public records and other sources. We also get business information from our users, who are helpful enough to correct the info we have, or let us know about a new spot that just opened down the street.”
Unfortunately, whether you want people to have the opportunity to review you or your practice, they probably can. Pretending websites like Yelp don’t exist, and that online patient reviews don’t matter, won’t help your practice. For the foreseeable future, websites like this aren’t going away, and consumers are using them in droves to make purchasing decisions (which includes checking up on a dentist).
Keeping tabs on what dental patients and the public are saying about you is easier than you think
Despite what you might have been told, investing a few hours every week on review websites like Yelp isn’t required. You already have enough on your plate. That said, it’s recommended that you at least check in on these websites every couple of weeks to see if anything has been posted about you or your practice. Each “check in” should only take you five minutes.
If you’re familiar with setting up a Google Alert for your name and your practice, that would be a good start. However, if that’s not something you’re comfortable with, you can still take advantage of time-saving techniques. For example, visit Yelp.com and Healthgrades.com and search for your name (or the name of your practice). Once you’ve found the individual page that contains your information and reviews, bookmark that web page so you can easily return to it. AzDA’s Yelp page, for example, is http://www.yelp.com/biz/arizona-dental-association-scottsdale. By merely making that web page a bookmark in your browser, you’ll be able to access it in seconds. In fact, you could even do this on your mobile device, e.g., iPhone or iPad. Checking in to see what patients are saying about you doesn’t need to be a time-consuming ordeal.  
Should you claim, and then build out your dental practice listing, on websites like Yelp and Healthgrades?
In a word, “yes.” Setting up an account, adding in your contact information, hours, services, etc., will take 15-60 minutes for each review website like Yelp or Healthgrades, but think of it as an investment in your career and or practice. In fact, if your front office team has a few moments between patients, this would be an ideal task. To claim your listing, just type in your name into the search field. When you see your name in the search results, click on it and you’ll be taken to the web page that contains your information and reviews. On that page, there is almost certainly a button that allows you to “claim the listing,” or “claim this business,” which will grant you some administrative rights to what your page says.
Bonus tip: Before you or your front office team is ready to claim your listing on Yelp or somewhere else, make sure you have a handful of photos of yourself, other doctors, the office, and the staff. Most sites like Yelp will allow you to upload your own photos. And while it may sound silly, potential patients visiting your Yelp page will look through each photo you upload—guaranteed.
Should you ignore a negative review by a dental patient?
No. Think of this from a potential patient’s point of view. She sees a six-month-old negative review about your practice, and yet there is no response from your practice. What might that make her think about your practice?
“Do you not have anything to say because the review is true? Do you not care if patients have negative views about your practice? Or is your practice not savvy enough to even know there’s a negative review about you?” she may wonder. Whatever runs through her mind, an unanswered negative review will not inspire confidence in your practice.
Conversely, what do you think she would feel if she saw a response like this, “We appreciate all of our patients taking the time to offer feedback.
Our practice is built on ensuring patients have a comfortable, enjoyable experience, and that comes through continuous improvement and patient feedback. Patients are encouraged to offer feedback and suggestions in-person or over the phone so we have the opportunity to listen and then address any questions or concerns. We genuinely want to hear from our patients—why not give us a call today?”  
While you shouldn’t use the exact response suggested above, there are a few takeaways you might want to note. The response avoids directly addressing the patient in the second person (using you, and your). Instead it focuses on patients in general, (using third person). It’s important that your response doesn’t get personal;
avoids using the patient’s name or anything specific about his treatment. Always be conscious of HIPAA regulations when you post a response;  
indicates that feedback is important and that you’re willing to work through patient grievances. More important, the response shifts the focus from an online exchange (on Yelp) to a telephone or in-person exchange, which will keep the negativity out of the public eye.
Bonus tip: While your responses to negative and positive reviews can (and probably should) have a similar feel and tone to them, avoid copying and pasting the exact same ones. However, to save time, consider writing and then saving a few responses to positive and negative comments on your computer. When you need to respond to a comment, use these templates as a baseline to construct your response rather than writing them from scratch. This sounds like a lot of extra work, but remember, people looking at Yelp want to see that you genuinely care about what people say and that you address each review individually. Merely copying and pasting the same response may save time, but it will give Yelp visitors the impression you don’t care about reviews or your patients.
Should you respond to a positive dental patient review?
Of course. Again, look at this through a potential patient’s perspective who is considering you as their dentist. Seeing a practice thank a patient for taking time out of their day to share a great experience would make potential patients looking at Yelp feel the practice genuinely cares about their patients.
Bonus tip: Reviews are usually date stamped, so make sure that your positive reviews are current. For example, several positive reviews from 2011 won’t nearly be as compelling as having several from 2015. Reviews, like food, have a shelf life.  
Bonus tip: Even though you’re responding to a positive review, always be conscious of HIPAA regulations. Consider something like this, “This is great—thank you so much for sharing your experience. We love seeing you smile when you come in. We love it even more when you’re smiling when you leave. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.” However you choose to respond is up to you—what’s important is that your response reflects gratitude, sincerity, and professionalism, and that it does not contain personal information about the patient.    
Tips on getting more (and better) dental patient reviews
When you send patients an email, make sure you have a link to your review websites so they can easily click on them and post their feedback. To find what your links are, visit your practice’s Yelp and Google+ page, and then copy the URL in the address bar. At the bottom of your emails, consider something like, “Had a great experience at our practice? It would make our day if you shared that with your friends and family on Yelp, Google+, or Healthgrades.” Note: remember, in order to be able to post a review on to your Google+ page, your patient needs to have a Gmail account.  
Patients are unlikely to post a review about your practice as they’re leaving the office, and some of them just forget when they get home, so consider placing a sign at your front desk that asks past patients to post a review based on their past experiences at your practice. The sign might say, “Want to share your experience of being a patient of Dr. Tuber’s? We’d love it if you Yelped about us as we’re getting everything ready for your visit today! Visit Yelp and search for Jeremy Tuber in Scottsdale, AZ, or just type in yelp.com/biz/Jeremy-tuber”
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