Bad Strategy: Review Manipulation

Whether you’re a dry cleaner or a dentist, you need positive online reviews from people who have used and liked your goods and services. The more of them you get, the better off you are: they help drive new business, and help you rank in Google search results.

google_01The quest for more and better online reviews has led some businesses to try to manipulate the process: engaging in shady practices that, in the long run, do more harm than good. These practices include paying for positive reviews, offering incentives to customers, and recruiting friends or family members to leave you glowing reviews.

Bad ideas, one and all. Trying to influence online reviews with contests or other incentives is against Google’s Terms of Service. When any business does it, it is almost guaranteed to result in Google deleting the reviews. They could also be fined by the Federal Trade Commission.

woman_01aIt’s tempting to think Google won’t find out, but the chances are they will. Someone will turn you in. It might be an unhappy customer, a former employee, or one of your competitors. But someone is probably going to notice, understand it’s against the rules, and notify Google. It happens all the time.

Strategies that run afoul of Google policy include:

  • Review contests. This strategy enters reviewers into a contest. Google explicitly prohibits offering incentives – products, money, or other prizes – in exchange for reviews.
  • Offering free or discounted services. Google forbids businesses from offering reviewers discounts or free services for their reviews, even if it’s something inexpensive.
  • Review-gating. With this practice, a business takes customer reviews, but only the positive ones are posted online.
  • Review swaps. You review my business, I’ll review yours: that’s the basic idea. It may not be a deal with the devil, but it too is against Google’s TOS, which says clearly that reviews should reflect a genuine customer experience.

Each of these practices will result in some kind of penalty from Google, usually the deletion of the reviews in question.

Google, as a search engine, loves fresh content. This is one of important things about reviews, and why you should be seeking new and positive ones. It just needs to be done within the guidelines. As we described in a previous blog post, there are simple, effective techniques you can use to boost the quality and quantity of your Google reviews.

Getting your practice noticed by potential customers is an ongoing challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. ProspectaMarketing is an Internet marketing firm specializing in helping dental practices reach their audience. We use the tools of Internet search marketing to reach key prospects looking for what your practice has to offer. Our unique and thorough approach provides visibility, financial accountability, and ongoing refinement and improvement. You can find out more by contacting Lane Anderson toll-free at 1-877-322-4440 Ext 101, by email using the form on our Contact Us page, or online at ProspectaMarketing.com.

The Growing Importance of Google Reviews

When all is said and done, a dental practice is a business. Patients are really customers, and they want to find the best dentist they can.

How does anyone find a local business these days? You Google it and check out reviews. As it turns out, dental practices are among the businesses most likely to have a review on Google.

google_03Google reviews is a feature that allows users to write their own reviews of local businesses. They appear, along with a star rating, in Google search results. Maybe it’s because everyone needs to see the dentist, but dental practices get more reviews than plumbers, more reviews than real estate agents, and more than lawyers. That’s according to a recent study by BrightLocal, the SEO and local citation platform.

Google is by far the most-used search engine on the Internet. That means the Google reviews your patients write, and the stars they award, are extremely powerful; they make a big difference in driving new traffic to your practice.

BrightLocal says that review signals are more important to local search rankings than ever before. “Review signals” is an umbrella term describing different aspects of a company’s review profile. The more positive reviews a business has, the better.

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Most of us do at least some online shopping. Think about it: before  anything goes into your shopping cart, you read the reviews of other customers, or at very least check how many stars a product has. They can be the deciding factor whether you buy something or don’t.

It’s the same with Google reviews. They’re a modern word-of-mouth. The experience others have with local businesses has a big influence on spending habits. A restaurant with poor reviews, and only one or two stars, means you’ll probably dine somewhere else.

It all begs the question, what can a dental practice do to encourage more, and better, Google reviews?

Ask for them. The direct approach can work wonders. It’s okay to ask your patients to review your practice.

But you don’t want to ask a patient (whose mouth may be numb) for a review right after an appointment. Instead, send an email a few days later, thanking the patient for choosing your practice. Include a polite, no-pressure request for a Google review.

Show them how. Some of your patients may need a pointer or two on how to leave a Google review. It’s really quite simple. All they need to do is:

  • Log into their Google account.
  • Google your practice.
  • Click on “Write a review.” Write the review, select a star rating, and click the Submit link.

That’s all there is to it!

Remind them. After the initial request, it’s okay to remind someone to leave a review. Don’t do it right away. Give them a week or two, and send a follow-up reminder.

There is one very big caveat to asking patients for Google reviews: never offer them any incentives. For one thing, it isn’t ethical. More to the point, it’s against Google policy.

Getting your practice in front of potential customers isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it on your own. ProspectaMarketing is an Internet marketing firm specializing in helping dental practices reach their audience. We use the tools of Internet search marketing to reach key prospects looking for what your practice has to offer. Our unique and thorough approach provides visibility, financial accountability, and ongoing refinement and improvement. You can find out more by contacting Lane Anderson toll-free at 1-877-322-4440 Ext 101, by email using the form on our Contact Us page, or online at ProspectaMarketing.com.

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See the BrightLocal report

Keep It Current! Your Dental Practice Website

Virtually every dental practice has a website these days. It’s all but impossible to succeed without one. Yet a lot of dentists don’t take the time to keep their sites current, and as a result, they lose ground to their competition. It is essential to stay on top of online trends to set your self apart from your competition.

smartphone_06aInvesting in your website may, in fact, be the single most important thing you can do to stay competitive. At the top of the list is making your site mobile-friendly. It’s essential for any website to be compatible with smartphones, but the web is increasingly mobile-centric, so the smart move is to convert to a mobile-first strategy.

Google has always used the desktop version of a website to rank it in searches, but no longer. “Since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page’s content going forward,” the search engine giant announced on its website earlier this year. “We aren’t creating a separate mobile-first index. We continue to use only one index.”

That means websites that are designed mobile-first – designed for mobile devices – are going to rank higher in search engine results than sites designed for desktop computers. We are increasingly mobile device-oriented. Research shows that people are five times more likely to leave a website if it isn’t mobile-friendly.

tablet_01aA site that is mobile-first is, for one thing, designed for smaller displays. It is also intended to be a company’s primary website. Some businesses, such as Uber, target mobile devices almost exclusively. Their desktop sites are more of a landing page.

Chances are, your own experience bears this out. Do you really want to do a lot of zooming, pinching, and scrolling, just to get at the content you’re looking for?

If your dental website is designed with desktops in mind, don’t despair: you will not fall off the map. Google says that while it primarily crawls and indexes web pages made for smart phones, searches will still give users the most relevant search results, whether it’s desktop or mobile.

But the shift is on, and you should not ignore it. ProspectaMarketing specializes in marketing dental practices on the Internet, and can help your practice reach its audience. We use the tools of Internet search marketing to reach key prospects looking for what your practice has to offer. Our unique and thorough approach provides visibility, financial accountability, and ongoing refinement and improvement. You can find out more by contacting Lane Anderson toll-free at 1-877-322-4440 Ext 101, by email using the form on our Contact Us page, or online at ProspectaMarketing.com.

Video Content And Your Website

News flash: no one uses the Yellow Pages anymore.

laptop-phone_01All right, so that isn’t exactly news. Those heavy old phone company listings have long since gone the way of the dinosaur. To find information about virtually anything, including local dental practices, everyone turns to search engines like Google. And that means the online presence of your dental practice is more important than ever before. In fact, it can make or break you.

The centerpiece of your online presence is your dental practice website. This is where you strut your stuff: you describe yourself and your team, the services your offer, and provide your office hours and location.

It is also where you share useful content that site visitors can access for free. This content is important, and it comes in several forms. One is your blog. If a site visitor finds something free and useful via your blog, you just might get a new patient.

smartphone_vid_01aJust as important as your blog, and maybe more so, is video. In fact, it can be integrated into your blog. Video is, across the board, the most popular form of content on the Internet. Studies show that website visitors spent up to 88% more time on a site if it contains video, and increases organic traffic from search engines by more than 150%.

What kind of videos can you incorporate for your own website? Draw on your expertise. You can go on camera to answer questions about dentistry, or about your staff and office. You can ask patients to describe some of the procedures they have undergone in your office, and their successful outcomes. Videos like this, inserted strategically throughout your site, are a compelling way to deliver your message.

They don’t need to be fancy, either. You don’t have to hire a movie crew – you can shoot them with your smartphone. Upload the finished videos to YouTube and embed them on your site. It won’t cost you a dime, and has great potential for bringing in new patients.

And who knows? Your video just might go viral!

You can keep up with these and other trends in dentistry with ProspectaMarketeing.  We specialize in using the Internet to find new patients for dental practices with a unique and thorough approach that provides visibility, financial accountability and ongoing refinement and improvement. To find out more, contact Lane Anderson toll-free at 1-877-322-4440 Ext 101, by email using the form on our Contact Us page, or online at ProspectaMarketing.com.

Trending: Reviews and Reputations in Dentistry

crystal_ball_01Industry prognosticators are constantly looking into their crystal balls to identify social and business trends – and that includes dentistry. The dentistry trends that many of them see include the ever-growing importance of online reviews, and the online reputation of your dental practice.

Every dental practice loves to see new patients coming in the door, and leaving the office happy enough to tell others about their experience. But dentistry is more competitive than ever, so word-of-mouth is no longer enough.

smile_man_03How do you go about getting more positive online reviews for your practice? The best place to start is on your website. It’s essential that your site provides enough interesting and useful information to give visitors a reason to stay.

It also needs to be easy to navigate. One effective review technique is to include links on images that take visitors to a section for posting reviews. Listings on third party sites like Yelp and Angie’s List is also a good way of increasing your visibility.

A downside to encouraging reviews, of course, are the negative ones. They are inevitable. What should you do when you get one? The best response is to write a professional, non-emotional reply that acknowledges the issues raised. If it needs to go beyond that, take it offline.

It is perilous to ignore negative reviews. To do so suggests you don’t care, and impacts your online reputation. Consider this: vast majority of consumers who were asked – ninety-four percent – said a negative online review turned them against a business. That statistic did not address dental practices specifically, but it is safe to assume that it applies.

The bottom line is that reviews matter, and negative reviews have an impact on your online reputation. You can stay ahead by monitoring your online reviews. There are various tools for doing this, including Google Alerts, a free service that lets you search the Internet for any mention of you or your practice. Once you’ve set yourself up, Google Alerts sends you an email whenever you’re mentioned.

You can keep up with trends in dentistry with ProspectaMarketing. We specialize in using the Internet to find new patients for dental practices with a unique and thorough approach that provides visibility, financial accountability and ongoing refinement and improvement. To find out more, contact Lane Anderson toll-free at 1-877-322-4440 Ext 101, by email using the form on our Contact Us page, or online at ProspectaMarketing.com.

Can Consumers Tell Which Search Results are Paid Ads?

In a recent study by recent study by SEOBook, 1,000 people were shown screenshots of Google search page results and asked whether or not the page featured ads. The surprising results? Although all the pages shown had ads, nearly half (45.5%) of the people surveyed said there were no ads.

Later when showed search results that had no ads, but included a Google Plus menu bar, 56% of participants incorrectly answered that the search results did have ads.

When asked where ads might appear on search results at top search engines like Bing & Google nearly 20% of people replied that search results do not carry ads.

Results were higher when people were shown search results with a sidebar ad, with 62.9% of people correctly answering that the page had an ad.

What does this mean for my business?

Organic listings and pay per click ads are both very important in directing traffic to your website. As illustrated by this study, people are often unaware of ads if there is no right column ad in the search results.  Sometimes doctors will say that they are not inclined to click on ads but they would look at the organic listings.  The fact is, users are not always clear which is which.  Having both on the page helps improve click through to your website.  We may be thinking about more of a distinction between the two than is warranted.

If you have questions about how to improve results with your internet dental marketing, please give us a call at 877-322-4440 ext. 101

Want to Advertise Online? Why Search Ads Make More Sense Than Facebook

Before you decide to shell out big bucks to advertise your business on Facebook, consider taking a cue from GM. The third largest advertiser in the U.S., GM pulled $10 Million in ads from Facebook last week as a result of their ineffectiveness. How is it that the largest social networking website can be such a disappointment for advertisers?

Business Insider looked at what makes Facebook ads less effective than Google search ads. The key to successful advertising online is to understand user intent when you are choosing where to advertise.

With Google search, consumers are looking for a particular service and want to learn about the product they are researching.  With Facebook, users visit the site for entertainment purposes (for example, tagging their friends in photos from a concert or checking on whether or not their ex is dating someone new yet). Advertising here needs to be much more attention-grabbing because consumers are not using this website to research products.

Business Insider offers this insight:  “Search advertising—the kind Google provides—tends to be more effective on customers who are actively doing pre-purchase research. Facebook, on the other hand, is more of an entertainment medium; no one is shopping for cars on Facebook—a fact GM seems to have now learned.”

Another fact to consider- while it seems that nearly everyone is on Facebook, it actually reaches only 51% of all internet users, paling in comparison to Google’s colossal reach: 90% of all internet users.

If you are considering internet dental marketing, your success will depend on knowing what your user intent is and which medium would work best in order to reach those users.

Dental Practice Success in a Troubled Economy

With the uncertainty in the markets, it is easy to get caught up in believing the news.  Yet, some of the most successful practices take a different path from the rest of the crowd during times like this.  Today, there was an excellent article posted by Roz Fulmerof ToPS on the CrownCouncil.org website outlining five things you can do to thrive in a troubled economy.  It is well worth the read if you are a Crown Council member:

http://crowncouncil.org/profiles/blogs/troubled-economy-refuse-to-participate

Here is a brief overview.  She suggests five keys to success during a down economy:

1. Refuse to participate in the recession – don’t become paralyzed, continue to move forward with your business

2. Increase marketing and advertising – build your brand while others are pulling back

3. Innovate – consider new approaches and possibilities; some of the great businesses today were born during recessions

4. Become a talent magnet – it is a great time to find and attract the best talent

5. Think big, take action. – create your vision and take action

Don’t participate in a troubled economy – choose to thrive in it!

Have a great day!

Lane

Google Places 3rd Party Reviews Disappear

The news from Google that they will not post 3rd party reviews (only links to them) has created concern for many dental practices that rely on local internet marketing. For some time now, we have always recommended having patient reviews directly in the search engines as well as using third party review sites.  Now that these third party reviews have disappeared from Google Places (other than to have a link to them), it is important to have a strategy to get reviews posted directly in Google.  During the past few weeks, we have discussed a variety of approaches with dental practices.  Here are some strategies to consider.

• Some patient reminder systems for dental practices such as SmileReminder and DemandForce can automatically invite your patients to go into the search engines and write reviews after an office visit.  This is a great way to keep a steady flow of reviews coming into the search engines, but there is a monthly cost.

• Send your own e-mails out to your patients with a link to your local listing. We can help you format an e-mail with links directly to your local listings where they can write a review.  Give them some help with instructions.  Contact us if you would like to some help formatting these e-mails.

• Use QR codes to help direct patients to your local listings using their smart phones.   It will make it easy for them to find you, and they can use their smart phone to write a review and share their experience with others.

• Consider a simple reminder such as a business card with the address of your local listing on it that your patients can take home with them.  Make is convenient.

Reviews are gaining more and more attention from consumers, and it is important to pay attention to this area of your marketing.

Benefits of Blogs

There has been a lot of growth in blogs during the past couple of years.  There is good reason for that with all the benefits this can offer your internet dental marketing.  Here are a few to consider:

  • More Website Traffic – A recent study found that more people visit websites with blogs than those that don’t.  When you are providing compelling content on your blog, it can attract interest and readership
  • Better Search Engine Optimization – Providing more content on topics relevant to the services you provide to your patients will aid in the optimizing of your website in the search engines.  It encourages the search engines to revisit your website more frequently and also gives the search engines more content that may get listed in the search engines.  However, best to include the blog as a subdirectory (www.yourdomain.com/blog) rather than as a subdomain (blog.yourdomain.com) to better accomplish this goal.
  • Additional Patient Education – Build up a library of educational material that will be helpful to your patients.  Each blog article can help them understand the opportunities they have to improve their smile and achieve greater oral health.
  • Create a Community – Blogging can help you interact with your patients and prospects as you provide compelling content and invite them to interact with you.  Include the blog material in social media.

Blogging is not difficult.  Blog tools make it easy to post information.  What to write?  Write about new insights on services you provide. Share an experience with a patient when you created a new smile. Discuss research such as the oral health systemic health connection. But focus on information that will be of interest to your patients and prospects. Writing not your thing? Get someone in your office who likes to write and is good at it, or let us help you with a simple tool that will post optimized articles to your blog.  At any rate, it is good to get into blogging.

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