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