Want More Reviews? Make It Easy!

There is a simple principle to apply when you want someone to help you out–make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and the number of people who do it will increase exponentially.

For example, when the Red Cross was raising money for Haiti after the hurricane, they made it possible for people to simply send a text that would charge their phone bill.  They raised $5 million in the first day!  Just because it was easy.

One of the best ways to raise money for a charity is to ask people in the checkout line at the grocery store if they want to add a dollar for breast cancer research, feeding the homeless, or whatever cause is supported at the time.  It’s a tap of the finger, and it yields millions, one buck at a time.

The same is true for patient reviews.  Most of your patients are more than willing to do one if you ask them, but the easier you make it, the more likely they are to get it done.  The less steps involved, the higher the percentage will complete (this is true of just about everything, now that I think of it!)

Okay, how?  First, remember the four key places you want reviews to appear: your website, Google, Yelp and Facebook.  And with Google, and I believe with Yelp, patients cannot do those reviews from any device in your office, including their own if they’re using your office WiFi, because Google and Yelp will discard them. (Yelp has other filters, too, and this post talks about that.)

The easiest way is for a patient to be able to click on a hyperlink (you know, when the text is blue rather than black in an email, or this blog) that takes them straight to your Google Place or your Yelp page.  Obviously you need to have claimed those already. (If you haven’t, despite my nagging, read this for Google or this for Yelp.)

To do this, you need to have patient emails. This is one of the two main reasons you want all your patients’ email addresses. The other is for appointment reminders, of course. Then you use your automated digital communication software to send a specific email requesting a review.  For Google, you would only send this email to patients who have a gmail address, because they are the only ones that Google allows to do reviews.

PatientActivator and some the other apps have a pre-written email form that you can use, and all you have to do is put in your Google or Yelp URL (and we’d help you with that, too.) It looks like this:


Send a few dozen of these out a week, and you’ll have a steady stream of reviews on both those sites.

You can use the same application to email requests for posts, likes and check-ins on Facebook, but I prefer that you do that in the office.  You can either have a tablet that you have for patients to use while in the chair, with a label on the front with your Facebook location, (you can get really nice ones done at www.skinit.com), or you can simply ask them to do it on their own phone. Half of them will already be on Facebook anyway 😉

PatientActivator, RevenueWell and all the other apps also survey your patients and elicit reviews from them, usually three days after their visit.  You can post these reviews on Facebook, usually with one click, and if you have a good dynamic website like we build with WebDirector, those reviews can appear automatically in your website, which is good for both SEO and for patients visiting your site.

You can also build in a page where your Yelp reviews appear within your website. That may seem crazy, but you don’t want people leaving your website to go to Yelp, which many of them will do to see what your reviews are. It shows confidence that you are willing to post your unvarnished Yelp reviews right there in your own website, and then they won’t go to Yelp and see adds for 13 other dentists at the same time.

I should also mention that a product like ReputationMonitor allows you to keep close track of everything that is being said about your practice online, and can send you alerts whenever a review is written about you, so you can either thank the patient or fix it, depending on what it says.

You need a pro-active, systematic process for gathering positive reviews on a regular basis. One, because people are definitely reading them more and more for every business and product that they use, and two, because the best strategy to counter negative reviews is an overwhelming number of positive ones.

Make it as easy as possible, and the results will be steady and stellar!

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Is Facebook More Important Than Your Website?

This seems to be the big debate in the marketing world, particularly for small businesses.  From a marketing standpoint, it’s kind of COM-3like asking what’s more important in a car, the engine or the steering?  I guess it could be the engine, but a car without steering has some serious limitations. Like a car, the key to effective marketing is to get everything to work together.  That’s what achieves maximum results.

First, understand that your website is still the cornerstone of all your practice marketing.  It should appear on any advertising or promotion that you do, from business cards to emails. It is where people are most likely to end up on a Google search, and it is also where they will be sent if you advertise on Facebook and they click on the ad.

It also is well to note that many consumers now check multiple online sources when choosing a business.  They will look at a website, Facebook, (which is searchable; read this blog post to find out how that works), and review sites.

Which is why ideally your website already has reviews displaying, and also a page where your Yelp reviews stream, so that the person searching doesn’t leave your website to go look there and see ads for 13 (yes, 13!) other dentists.

But Facebook is dominating people’s Internet usage.  The average American spends 37 minutes a day on Facebook, more than any other Internet activity, including their email, and vastly more than any other social media site. (See the chart below.)Social Media Site usage

There’s no doubt that people are spending way more time on Facebook than ever before. The question is, are they behaving like consumers?  The answer to that, more and more, is yes, because of Facebook ads and because of Graph Search, which allows users to search Facebook almost the same way as they do Google, and find pictures, pages, posts and comments on anything.

So the answer is Facebook page is steadily growing in importance. In part because people don’t want to rely solely on the information they get on a website, and also because they spend way more time on Facebook than they do anywhere else on the web. They will not get the same feel for your practice experience on your website as they will on Facebook, but, conversely, people are more likely to call when they are on your website.

So, does that make Facebook equal or more important than your website? That depends on the individual consumer. And that’s why you need to cover both bases so well.  The amount of time Americans spend online has doubled in the past three years alone.  You need an active, robust presence online.  Which means:

  • A dynamic website, with ever changing content, and fresh reviews (not testimonials) showing up almost daily
  • A mobile version of your website that re-formats completely to conform to what users want to see on a smartphone
  • A Facebook page with a steady stream of likes, check-ins, and posts by both you and your patients
  • Marketing materials that promote both your website and your Facebook page
  • Video content (reviews, mostly) that can be used both on Facebook and your website (and YouTube)
  • Actively monitoring your reviews, ideally using a product that alerts you to new reviews, like ReputationMonitor

Marketing always works best as a comprehensive approach. There is no longer one single medium to master, like the Yellow Pages once were.  And there is no magic advertising bullet.  You will still have to always deliver a great patient experience.

In two weeks I’m going to write about paid advertising on Facebook, so stay tuned.

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Claim Your Custom Google Plus Name Now!

Finally, you can now have a Google+ URL that is your name rather than just a random string of numbers. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have had this for years, and Google is finally making it happen, but in a restricted way. For example, my Facebook link is www.facebook.com/fredjoyal. My Twitter is www.twitter.com/fredjoyal. LinkedIn–www.LinkedIn.com/in/fredjoyal. See a pattern here?

Now, at last, my Google+ link is www.google.com/+fredjoyal. It used to be plus.google.com/u/0/9087854393209822?.  Hard to fit that on a business card, or remember it.

How do you do it?  First, you must have a Google+ profile (that’s you as a person) or a page (your practice).  If you haven’t done a page yet for your business, it means your losing all sorts of SEO and potential patients, so first click here for my blog on how to get it done.

Now go to your profile or your page and if you are eligible for a new name you should see a notation at the top that looks like this:

Click on it, and then you will get the next instruction, which is where it offers up your options for your name.


You can add something to the end of your name, but you can’t change or customize what they offer to you as choices. (This is how Google is keeping people from claiming other people’s businesses’ names.)  If this is your personal profile, and you’re a dentist, I would add “DDS” or “DMD” to it.

They are very clear that once you choose this you can’t change it!  So be sure this is what you want. Most of the time it’s exactly what you want, but sometimes, if your name (you or your practice) is common, they won’t let you choose it without appending something to it. This will take some thought. Choose wisely.

If you are trying to customize your Google profile, that is, your personal site, you will need to have at least 10 followers and also have your photo posted before they will offer you the URL.

By the way, for it to work with a page for your website, you have to verify your website, which is done in the “About” section, and then you have to put a button/link to your Google+ page on your website somewhere (it doesn’t have to be prominent).  Otherwise Google won’t offer you a URL choice.

This URL makes it simpler to tell people how to get to your Google page.  It also makes it easier when you are sending Google review requests to your patients.  The only patients who can do that are ones with gmail addresses, so that’s who you should be sending the requests to. This is also explained more on my blog about refining your Google strategy.

I’ve mentioned this before, but make it a point to claim your name (or business) everywhere, both personally and your practice identity. You can click on each one of these for the place to do that: Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp, YouTube (this teaches you how to link your Google+ page to a YouTube channel, creating it at the same time) and Facebook, both a profile and a business page. (I’m praying you are already on Facebook, but just in case!)

Do these even if you don’t plan to post to them yet.  You eventually will use them, and will want to link them to your website.

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Random Idiots’ Opinions: the Confusing Popularity of Online Reviews

Suddenly, we live in a world where everything gets reviewed by everyone, and everyone reads online reviews and gives them credibility.Reviews lady

How did this happen?  For a long time, reviews were a territory reserved for established, prestigious entities like the New York Times Review of Books, or the Zagat Travel Guide, or Siskel & Ebert.  Then Amazon changed everything.  Their website started to allow the public to review books. And no matter what people said about a book,  Amazon would leave the review up. The major book publishers were up in arms:  “How can you allow people to write bad reviews about our books?  That’s bad for business!” they cried.  Amazon didn’t care. They brought reviewing to the masses, and gave everyone a voice.

Shortly thereafter, TripAdvisor came along and let people review hotels, vacation spots and restaurants. And Rotten Tomatoes (now Flickr) let the audience review movies.  And people read them.  Then along came Yelp, and Angie’s List, and Dr. Oogle.  And of course, there is the mother of all review sites, Google (who, coincidentally, bought Zagat and added its reviews to their own.)  It turns out, people don’t really care what the experts have to say anywhere near as much as they like what I call RIO (Random Idiots’ Opinions).  They like to read several reviews and see for themselves what the public thinks. It doesn’t seem to matter much at all how educated, well-informed or articulate these reviewers are.

An ever-increasing number of people will not buy something or use a service without reading RIO’s first.  And if they can’t find reviews about that business, they move on to one that does have reviews.  It’s become a huge industry. Yelp is worth over 4 billion dollars.  So don’t spend much time waiting for this trend to blow over.  If anything, it will continue to expand as more and more people use smartphones for everything (According to Google’s Multi-Screen World Study, 61% of online searches now start on mobile device. Wow.)

There is also whole new industry in writing fake positive reviews.  A recent Harvard study estimated that 20% of online reviews are fake. 20%!! Most are written by shadowy businesses, usually in foreign countries, whose only job is to pump up someone’s business, and get paid for doing it.  There’s even a term for it: astroturfing. Some government agencies are starting to crack down on businesses paying for this, but it’s going to take some time to make a dent in that 20%.

So why are reviews so popular?  I believe it’s just human nature. When we didn’t know about something, we asked someone.  Sometimes it would be a friend, but often it’s a complete stranger. Imagine if ten years ago you walked into a store, looked at a TV, and then could ask 30 people who already owned one what they liked or didn’t like about it.  Why wouldn’t you do that?  You’d weigh each opinion differently, maybe, but you wouldn’t really care what the IQ was of each person telling you. Today that’s called turning on your smartphone.  It’s just too easy.  And you see people doing just that in Best Buy every day.

The appeal of Random Idiots’ Opinions is one of the reasons I think Angie’s List is a weak business model.  To see reviews on Angie’s List, you have to pay a monthly subscription, because the reviews there are all “legitimate”, that is, done by other subscribers.  But will people pay Angie’s List to get what they can already find for free on Yelp and Google, and all sorts of other sites? Don’t think so. (Angie’s List isn’t even worth $1 billion. Pfffft.)

There is a negative side to this level of public freedom of expression. We live in a new world, but it’s not a brave new world–it’s more like a cowardly one.  People feel very empowered using the Internet to vent about a business or even carry out personal vendettas. They can attack virtually anonymously, with impunity.  (The court dockets are full of failed attempts at suing Yelp and/or negative reviewers.)  It’s almost impossible to get a negative review removed.

So what can you do? First, you need to get in front of this appetite for reviewing by using a service like PatientActivator, which surveys your patients after they come in, as a pre-emptive strike, to give your patients a voice, a chance to criticize you in a non-public forum, before they go on Yelp or Google. This is a must-do in my mind.

As an added bonus, you can have those reviews appear automatically on your website, if you have a dynamic website like we build you with WebDirector.  You can also create a page in your website where your Yelp reviews can appear, which keeps people from leaving your website and going to Yelp to see what people are saying about you (and seeing ads for other dentists.)

Of course, the key strategy is to always be generating fresh, positive reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook.  Which means you need a systematic approach. Otherwise, these RIO’s are going to start affecting your ROI.

If you want a more detailed strategy, download our white paper, “Dealing with Online Reviews” by clicking here.
If you would like to receive my blog by email, simply fill in the box up on the right and then confirm the email subscription when it is sent to you, and you’ll never miss a post! And relax, I’ll never spam you or sell your email.

Has Your Website Expired? Or Is It Just on Life-Support?

At the CDA this year in San Francisco, I met more than one dentist who had built a custom website a few years ago and paid dearly–more than $10,000–only to discover that the website is now essentially worthless.  But like many of us, when we pay a lot for something, we hang onto it even though its utility has long been replaced by something better and cheaper.

I’ve bought dozens of video cameras over the years, starting with one that recorded onto video tape. (That thing was heavy!)  One of the last ones I purchased had a terrific lens on it, tons of memory, and I bought all sorts of accessories for it, including additional lenses.  I had more than $12,000 invested in it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t record in HiD!  In other words, it’s junk. My iPhone records better videos. I can’t even dump it on Ebay.

Yep, I had one of these.

Yep, I had one of these.

Sometimes changes occur quickly in the digital world, and products that seem valuable become obsolete much more quickly than we anticipated.  This is true of websites right now.  It’s not because of something you did or didn’t do.  It’s what Google does, which is change how it decides what websites are relevant, and what elements it uses to determine that relevance.  And it’s made some radical changes in the past two years, rendering many websites invisible in search results.

And websites are more important than ever. In just one year, the number of people who’ve searched for a doctor or dentist online in the past has jumped from 25% to 35% (BrightLocal Survey).

So how do you know about your own website?  Here’s a simple test. Grab a smartphone and open Safari or Chrome and put in your domain name. What does it look like?  Do you have to scroll from side to side to see the contents of the front page, and stretch it to read the type?  Does it take three seconds or longer to load? If you answered yes to either or both questions, your website is DOA.

Why? Because people expect mobile websites to be clear and simple, with buttons that allow you to get to key information easily.  And if it takes a long time to load, people abandon the site (we have SHORT attention spans online!)  But to make matters worse, how fast your mobile version loads affects the ranking of your entire website, Google has told us. And, according to Google, more than 65% of internet searches begin on a mobile phone. I go into more detail on what should be in your mobile version in this blog.

There are other critical changes that have occurred.  For example, if your site uses flash animation, this won’t play on any Apple product.  And in terms of relevance, Google wants to see content changing all the time–pictures, video, reviews–and if you have to go to your webmaster and pay to have this happen, it gets expensive fast, and you’re less likely to do it as often as you should.  Your website needs to be something you can change yourself, easily, almost like a Facebook page.

Because of this, you don’t really need a custom website anymore, because your content is changing (or should be) on a regular basis.  And it doesn’t have to be that expensive. Also, if you use PatientActivator, the reviews can load to the right kind of website automatically, giving you ever-changing content.

Take a minute and do the mobile phone test of your website.  And if your website is more than 3 years old, it’s almost certain to be obsolete, sadly.  There are a few good companies that can build you a dynamic website. We’re one of them, and at 1-800-DENTIST we have more experience in websites (ours get more than 10 million hits a year) than almost anyone.  Our WebDirector product is dynamic, affordable, and comes with unlimited customer service. To get an analysis of your current website and a demo of WebDirector, call 855-234-6909.

All your practice marketing now revolves around your website, and people are used to seeing good websites everywhere.  And I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again, people are making a judgment about the quality of your dentistry based on the quality of your website.  It isn’t logical, I know. But since when have people behaved rationally? 😉

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