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Permanent link  Managing your online reputation: the most popular sites for dentist reviews

10/14/2009

Please welcome Rachel Zanders, a writer who will be posting to this blog from time to time. Rachel is also a contributor toGapers Block, where she covers Chicago's dance community.

This is the first installment in a series of articles on how dentists can protect and manage their reputation online.

Do you know how your newest client found you? It's possible she asked her neighbor for a recommendation. Or she may have used her insurance company's directory of providers and somewhat randomly picked you based on a narrowed search. It's possible she went to the phone book, closed her eyes, and pointed. But it's becoming more likely that she went to an online review site to find out what your other patients might have said about you.

There are many avenues to take when searching for a dentist online. When I go to the search engine Google and type in "Chicago dentist," three of the first six results are individual practices. (In my next entry, I'll tell you how they might have achieved those enviable spots.) Some users might just click on the first practice listed and go there. The third result, findadentist.net, is a Chicago-only site that provides bare-bones contact information and links to the websites of local dentists. The user can search by location, specialty, dentist's last name, or keyword. All information is "submitted by participating dentists," and there is absolutely no commentary. Practical for sure, but not terribly powerful.

The fifth and sixth results of my search are the powerhouse user review website Yelp and the similar but dentist-centered site, DR.Oogle. The Internet-savvy patient will probably click on one of these links to find out what real people have really experienced while sitting in a real-life dentist's chair.

There are dozens of these websites that are built on consumer reviews. To name just a few:

•    Yelp: Most of the consumer review websites follow Yelp's model, although there may be some very important differences in the details. Real clients write reviews and assign star ratings for any business they frequent. The star ratings for a business are averaged and the reviews are displayed. Site visitors are expected to keep in mind that a four-star rating is much more impressive averaged from 134 reviews than from 1 satisfied customer.

In April, Yelp began to allow businesses to reply to reviews either privately or publicly, a step that merited a lot of discussion on this blog as well as extensive media coverage, as this gives businesses a voice rather than leaving them relatively helpless--in the name of "protecting the voice of the consumer"--when faced with wrongfully negative reviews. (See the final posting in this series for more on options that are and aren't available to dentists looking to react.) By far the most reviews on Yelp are for restaurants (3,087 businesses on the Chicago site) and shopping (2,123 businesses), but the "Health and Medical" category holds its own with 828 reviewed Chicago businesses, about 420 of which are dentists.

•    Dr.Oogle: Their moniker is "The Good Dentist Guide," and although they accept negative reviews, the goal is to give tips about good dentists, not to provide a sounding board for vitriol. There are 551 Chicago dentists listed with attached ratings in the Family Dentistry category.

•    Angie's List: This membership-based site that is better known for rating plumbers and piano movers added a healthcare section in March of 2008.

•    Insider Pages: This site is quite similar to Yelp, but with more emphasis on services (auto mechanics, health professionals, etc.) than on restaurants. My search for "dentist" in Chicago, IL, yields 3,435 independent businesses, about 150 with reviews attached.

•    RateMDs.com: This national site covers any medical specialty, of which dentistry is one. Of the hundreds of Chicago dentists listed, about 80 have ratings attached to them.

Check back on Open Wide to learn more about how to make these online tools work to your advantage.

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online reputation , online reviews , practice management , rachel zanders , yelp ,