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The Importance of Patient Reviews: Why Google Reviews are Vital for Orthodontists

the power of patient reviews

During my 15+ years working as an internet marketing consultant for orthodontic practices and as the founder of Review Tool, a review management software used mostly by orthodontic practices, I have first-hand knowledge of the impacts and benefits of online reviews, particularly Google reviews, for orthodontists.

Online reviews are important because different studies from different years have shown that between 75% to 97% (Bright Local 2020 to 2024 Studies) of customers read them before choosing a local business. Google Reviews are important because, first, they are the first place your future patients turn to for reading reviews about your practice, and second, Google Reviews have direct ranking benefits on Google local results.

Benefits of Google Reviews

According to the Bright Local 2024 survey, Google Reviews is the most used review platform, with 81% of respondents reporting using it versus 45% for Facebook and 44% for Yelp.

Other than being the most used review platform, Google reviews directly impact orthodontic practice’s marketing success, as the review-related factors play a crucial role in the practice’s local SEO ranking.

Some of the review-related factors that play a crucial role in the local ranking of orthodontic practices are:

  • Number of Google Reviews
  • Recency of Google Reviews
  • Practice Responsiveness
  • Review Ratings
  • Words and Key Phrases in Review Text

The following chart lists the most important review-related factors and their impact rate. The data is obtained from White Spark’s Local Search Ranking Factors 2023.

Bright Local’s Local SEO Ranking Factors 2023 also shows Reviews Related factors as the third most important local ranking factor (16% impact) and fifth most important organic ranking factor (6% impact.)

My experience doing SEO for orthodontic practices over the past 15+ years is in line with the above findings, and I’ve seen how just getting more reviews can dramatically increase a website’s rankings on local results.

I’ve also seen how mentions of certain treatment options in the reviews, like Invisalign, braces, and aligners, can lead to a ranking increase in the local pack for that term. As shown in the image below, Google even shows and highlights keyword terms in the reviews of top-ranking places.

Google highlighting Invisalign from reviews
Google highlighting keywords from reviews

This means that the words and key phrases mentioned in the Google reviews help Google identify an orthodontic practice as a better match for the user’s query.

Additional Benefits of Google Reviews Beyond Local SEO

Other than the Local SEO benefits, Online reviews, especially Google Reviews, can have many benefits for orthodontic practices, including:

  1. Local SEO benefits
  2. Patients trusts
  3. Higher click-through-rate and higher conversion rate
  4. Excellent promotional materials for the social media and website of your orthodontic practice
  5. Providing insights about your orthodontic practice

Data from a 2024 poll from Bright Local shows that 50% of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member.

Also, Bright Local Research shows that 75% of users always or regularly read online reviews, meaning that many users rely on online reviews to find a local provider, and orthodontists are not excluded. So, having more and better reviews can also positively impact the number of patients who click on your local listing, increasing your click-through rate and the number of patients who will contact your practice.

Showcasing reviews on your social media accounts and website is another effective strategy for building trust and increasing patient conversion rates. Research by Spiegel in 2017 shows that displaying reviews on a website can increase the conversion rate by 270% for online retail stores. The same phenomenon can be true for orthodontic practices to some degree.

Reviews are like genuine feedback from authentic users of your orthodontic practice.

If you regularly ask your patients for feedback, you will be able to identify and try to fix potential problems early on before it gets too late. Positive reviews act as encouragement, and negative reviews are lessons to be learned and problems to be fixed.

If a patient leaves a negative review about the front desk rushing them through a certain process, then that should be seen as information about a problem that you would rather fix now than later. 

Implementing Effective Review Management Strategies

Many orthodontic practices provide exceptional treatment options and services but still struggle to gain more reviews.

This usually comes back to the fact that they do not usually ask their patients to write a review for them. Asking is the key to getting more reviews for your orthodontic practice. This 2014 study 1, although a bit dated, has shown that while customers (patients in the case of orthodontists) with a negative experience tend to leave a negative review, happy patients, more often than not, won’t voluntarily leave a positive review if they are not asked. This other study 2 from 1996, found that unhappy customers tend to complain 4 times more likely than happy customers tend to compliment a business for their positive experience. Also, this 2011 study 3, analyzing 600,000 online reviews, shows that negative sentiment is a higher predictor of an online review than positive sentiment.

This all means you need to ask your patients to leave you a review; otherwise, you will likely receive more negative reviews than positive ones.

A 2013 survey by Zendesk supports this, showing that 95% of the respondents reported sharing bad experiences with others, compared to 87% sharing good experiences.

Other than asking, having a system in place is key to gradually and constantly getting more reviews from your orthodontic patients. I’ve seen many practices that put up campaigns to gain more reviews for a month or so, which results in obtaining dozens of reviews from patients, but then forget about it altogether for months and thus remain stuck in the number of reviews they had.

Some practices have seen better results when providing incentives to their patients for writing a review.

On the other hand, I’ve worked with orthodontic practices that have an automated system in place that asks every patient to leave a review after the treatment is completed, with an automated reminder, etc. Review management tools, either independent review management software like Review Tool or the reviews module of your practice management software, can help you set up this automated review-asking process.

Review Tool – Review Management Tool For Orthodontics

Although Google is one of the most important review platforms for orthodontists, other sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Healthgrades can also provide added value for orthodontic practices.

Yelp hosts 287 million reviews as of the end of December 2023, but only 9% of these reviews are for the businesses in the Health category. However, Yelp, particularly in denser areas such as many regions in California, can play a crucial role in generating leads for orthodontic practices; thus, getting more reviews on Yelp can by itself generate new patients.

Also, Apple Maps features Yelp reviews, so getting your listing up and running on Yelp and having positive reviews there can help your listing stand out on Apple Maps search. On the other hand, Bing local results source reviews from Facebook and sometimes Yellow Pages, so getting reviews on Facebook and Yellow Pages can also help your local listing stand out on Bing local results as well.

Nexunom’s data also shows that Yelp can generate much higher-quality leads for orthodontic practices in areas where it is actively used. Our data indicates that Yelp features a 28.54% lower bounce rate and higher engagement (36.66% longer session duration and 44.14% more pages per session) when compared to organic search in the Orange County, California, area, for the period between June 11, 2021, and June 11, 2024.

Responding to Reviews

Responding to reviews has also become crucial, not only because it benefits the practice’s local SEO as one of the review-related factors in local ranking but also because it positively impacts patients who are still in the research phase and are shopping around for an orthodontist.

Responding to the reviews has never been more important than now, with 88% of the customers reporting that they are more likely to do business with local businesses that tend to respond to all reviews, and 81% of the people expect a response to their review within the first week, according to Bright Local 2024 Local Customer Survey.

Also, the same Bright Local Survey shows that customers have listed the “business owner has responded to the reviews” as the second most important factor that makes them feel about using a specific local business, as can be seen from the chart below.

Top Review Factors for Choosing a Business

What that all means is that orthodontists really need to take the time to respond to every review they receive, whether positive or negative.

Final Thoughts

In general, online reviews, especially Google ones, provide many benefits for orthodontic practices. You must see them as potent marketing opportunities that can help you improve your presence, enhance your services, and bring in more patients. 

To succeed in getting the most and the highest quality reviews in your area, you need to ask the patients, have a system in place to constantly ask your patients to write you a review, and see each and every review as excellent feedback that can help you improve your processes and provide even better orthodontic services. And finally, don’t forget to respond to the reviews you receive in a timely manner.

References

  1. “Understanding Consumer Reviews: Motivations, Content, and Impact on Purchase Decisions” by Claudius Kern, Patrick Schnedlitz, and Vanessa Göritz (2014) [Published in the Journal of Marketing Management]. This study surveyed over 1,200 consumers and found that negative experiences strongly influence the decision to write a review, while positive experiences have a weaker effect. ↩︎
  2. Word-of-Mouth and Electronic Communication: How Satisfied Customers Tell Their Friends” by Valarie A. Zeithaml, Mary Jo Bitner, and Leonard L. Berry (1996) [Published in the Journal of Marketing Research]. This research found that dissatisfied customers are four times more likely to complain than satisfied customers are to compliment a business. ↩︎
  3. “Why Do Users Review? An Empirical Investigation of the Drivers of Online Review Behavior” by Michael D. Smith, Alessandro Lamberti-Serafini, and Ming Xu (2011) [Published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing]. This research analyzed over 600,000 online reviews and found that negative sentiment is a stronger predictor of a review being written than positive sentiment. ↩︎

About the Author

  • Saeed Khosravi

    Online Marketing Expert, MIB Graduate From HEC Montréal and Serial Entrepreneur. Founder/Owner of Nexunom.com, ReviewTool.com, Allintitle.co and Tavata.com. Working in Digital Marketing Field Since 2008.

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