Thinking About Offering Rewards For Reviews? Think Again

They seem innocent enough. Signs in local business windows offering a free drink or a few bucks off your purchase in exchange for a review. Customers get a little something extra and you help boost your visibility online. Reciprocity is a great thing, right? Not if we are talking about online reviews.

Incentives For Reviews? Nope.

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission published a set of guidelines regarding Truth in Advertising, which states that any company must disclose if they have compensated people giving online testimonials or endorsements in any way.

While Yelp and Google clearly state in their Terms of Service that giving coupons or incentives for reviews is a violation of those terms, many practices still think that this isn’t really an issue as long as the coupon is for a nominal amount or the reviews aren’t required to be positive in order to receive the incentive.

In recent years, multiple settlements involving the FTC have helped to clarify how this application works regarding online reviews and underlines the fact that incentivizing reviews is illegal.

For example, in 2013, the Attorney General fined 19 companies in New York for buying, faking or incentivizing reviews, ordering them to pay a collective $350,000 in fines. Blumenthal of localu.org mentions: “An under-reported aspect of the settlement was a $10,000 fine levied on a tooth-whitening company in New York City that had been offering a no-strings-attached $10 coupon off a future whitening in return for any review, good or bad. I spoke with the owner of the company and, while he thought what he was doing was OK, the cost of a defense was substantial AND the NY State Attorney General had targeted him so his chances of prevailing, even at great cost were small.”[1]

As recently as February 27, 2015, the FTC entered a settlement with a car shipment broker based in Georgia who was offering discounts and incentives for their online reviews. This company had over 500 reviews on Google+. There was no monetary settlement but company was forced to stop incentivizing reviews and must agree to follow that cease and desist order for the next 20 years.

If you or employees in your practice are offering anything at all in exchange for reviews, you are violating the law and run the risk of fines or litigation from the FTC. It’s not worth it.

Let your incentive be great customer service and excellent care. This will speak volumes and your patients will be happy to let you know about their experience with your practice.

[1] http://localu.org/blog/do-not-incentivize-reviews-not-even-a-little-bit/

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.

How To React To Negative Reviews Online

The importance of having a strong online presence is increasing as reviews on local listing sites such as Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Bing Local and Yelp are becoming more of a factor for ranking your business. We all want our business to have five star reviews across the board, but what should you do if you receive a negative review? Step one: take a deep breath.

Negative reviews are an unfortunate reality of any customer service industry. But they don’t always mean the downfall of your company. Here are some ways to react if you receive a negative review:

  • Try to resolve the issue with the reviewer directly. If you recognize the patient from their comments and why they may have reacted this way, try to contact them to see if you can address their concerns and come to a resolution. If they are satisfied, ask them if they could remove the negative feedback.
  • If a resolution cannot be met, it’s a good idea to respond publicly to the review as the business owner on the site. The customer may not be happy, but you will be able to present yourself as professional and responsive to feedback by explaining what happened and how you will rectify the situation in the future. Is the reviewer’s complaint legitimate? Take a moment to see if you can enact a change in your office that will be an overall improvement in the service you provide for future patients.
  • Use the public reply as an opportunity spin the negative into a positive and explain something about the practice that wouldn’t be known otherwise. For instance, do you offer a 100% patient satisfaction guarantee or their money back? Mention this.
  • Finally, and most importantly, bury the negative with positive reviews. There are a number of ways to encourage your patients to leave reviews. Whether it is through an e-mail request with a link to your review page, a QR code poster that lets them leave a review from their cell phone or having a device in the practice office that lets them leave immediate feedback, reviews are a vital part of improving your local listing search rankings.

So next time you get a negative review- stay calm. This is a chance to improve your service and turn a person who had a negative experience into another satisfied customer.

Choosing the Right Media for Your Message

When evaluating media alternatives, there are a number of considerations.  One question that arises from time to time is the effectiveness of TV advertising for a dental practice.  Doctors we have worked with have had success and disappointment with TV.  Having worked in a media department of an ad agency and as a marketing manager earlier in my career, there are three things worth considering when evaluating TV or any other media for advertising.

1. What is your objective and message:  Depending on what you want to accomplish, TV may or may not be the best way to deliver the message.  TV can be good practice name and positioning reinforcement.  It can also be a great way to showcase the benefits of your work with the live video.  However, will the ad format give you enough time to deliver the message you need to send?

2, Evaluate what you are really buying with the TV schedule:    When are they running the spots and what is the expected audience for the ad schedule.  The three common measures for a media buy are     * Reach (percentage of audience reached during the schedule), Frequency (avg. number of times someone is likely to see the ad) and CPM (cost per thousand viewers reached). This should all be measured against the type of patient demographic you are trying to reach (ex. women and men ages 25-64).  It is a good idea to also  look at the geography of the TV coverage and determine how much of it is your market area (where patients will realistically drive from to reach your office).  There is a level of waste in TV and any marketing.  Consider then how much of that coverage will be helpful to you.  If you are wasting 80% of the coverage on people too far away to drive to your practice or on viewers who are not your target demographic, there may be better options that are more targeted to your practice.  Much of the effectiveness will also depend on how good the ad is.  Then look at the cost per thousand, and you can more easily consider the cost against the costs of other marketing options such as internet marketing or direct mail.

3. Consider the value of the TV spot production:   Just the production of a quality TV spot can often carry a large price tag.  If you have access to the ad video (which you should be able to do) you could use it on your website (becoming increasingly important on websites now) and also post it on YouTube for additional visibility online. So, there may be some value in the production itself to consider.

If you are still unsure, conduct a test and track the results.  Make sure you run it long enough to fairly evaluate the results but contain your commitment until you have a better idea how it will perform for your practice.

Today, Anyone Can Sign Up for Google +

Google + has been in field trail for the past 12 weeks.  Up until today, September 20 2011, an invitation has been required to join.  They are moving now from field trial to beta, and as of today, Google announced that signups are now open to anyone.  Google + allows you to connect with people and organize them into circles so they aren’t all mixed together as they have been until recently with Facebook.

One of the key features will be ability for your patients to recommend your practice to their friends (Plus 1 your practice) and have that show up in the search results when their friends find your listing.  It will show their name and that they have +1’d  your practice.  Google has not yet opened the capability to create business pages.  However, it is coming soon.

So, I’d recommend going online and opening a Google + account and see how it works.

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.

Site Speed a Factor in SEO at Google

Google has announced that the speed with which the website loads has now officially become a factor in their rankings.  This is not a great surprise, nor is it likely to be a major factor right now for most websites.  They have been talking about it for some time.  However, it is now official.  Good to ensure that your website is loading quickly and allowing visitors to move around easily.  It has always been a good idea to make your website a good experience by ensuring that the site loads quickly.  Now it is even more important.

For more information, here is some insight from Matt Cutts at Google.  If you feel you might need a site tune-up, please contact us.

1 2