Three reasons why you’re one Google review away from a disaster

Recently, a client of mine called me in a panic. He had just got his first one-star review in Google. This must have been a painful moment, particularly because from what I can tell, he’s a really good dentist and runs a great dental practice. We’ll discover below what happened to this dentist. In the meantime, however, this situation provides a stark warning for dental practices about managing your online reviews. Here are three reasons why you can’t afford not to.

1. Clients search for reviews online way more often than you think

Some of you, at this point, will be wondering what all the fuss is about. Does it really matter what a person says about you in Google? The short answer is yes, it really matters and here’s why. Increasingly, would-be clients, having found your business, will search for online reviews about your business before deciding whether to get in touch. Put another way, even though you’ve done the hard job of getting them to know about you, to get to your website, etc, that’s not enough.

There have been numerous studies on the portion of people that check such reviews before contacting a business, but over time, the numbers just keep growing. The most recent study I’ve seen suggests a whopping 60% of clients will check your online reviews before deciding whether to get in touch. 60%! Bottom line; your online review profile needs to be closely managed because a large chunk of your clients are going to look at it. The only question for your practice is what will they find?

2. Most dentists in Australia have very few Google reviews

I recently completed an audit of dentists in Australia in the context of my Facebook marketing show for dentists. I wanted to know the number of Google reviews that most dentists in Australia have. This audit was also done because of recent changes to Google which now only shows the top 3 businesses of a given category in a given area, e.g. when someone types in “[suburb name] dentist”. An example from Hobart is shown in Figure 1.

I conducted a national search and looked at a sample of dentists in each of the major capital cities to see what the state of play was. There were some outstanding examples. I found one dentist in Sydney who has 192 reviews – this did not happen by accident (more on this below).

But for the most part, particularly when searching in suburbs or major hubs outside the city centre, the level of Google reviews for dentists were very low. 38% of the over 50 dentists surveyed had 0 reviews; 22% had 1 review, and the numbers trickled up from there.

In my view, anything less than 20 reviews is probably not enough. This is because there is a fair bit of cynicism among consumers about anything online, including reviews.

It wouldn’t be too hard to generate 3-4 positive reviews with help from your friends and family and therefore, some clients would discount this number of reviews.

However, 20+ reviews are much harder to fudge and is, therefore, more likely to be seen as a genuine indication of what your practice is like.

You can rest assured the dentist in Sydney with 192 reviews would never have to worry about potential patients viewing his online profile as non-genuine. That’s good for that dentist, but in my survey of 55 dentists, only 2 (4%) had 20+ reviews.

The implications of this are pretty significant. If you are one of the 60% of dentists in Australia (based on my study) that have 0-1 reviews, imagine what would happen if you got a one-star review like my client above.

This would mean one of two things:

  • If you have one review (22% in the study), half of your review profile would be one star – giving you an average rating of 2.5 out of 5; or
  • For around a third of dentists in the study with no reviews, there is a much worse outcome – your entire Google profile is a one-star rating! Do you think a potential client would give you a second look after seeing data like that?

3. You’re missing out

Fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining. While the state of play among online reviews for dentists is pretty woeful, it does provide an excellent opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors.

The more reviews you have, the greater chance you’ll have of clients calling you. Let’s face it, if you were searching for any business in a given area and one had 0 reviews and the other had 50 reviews (averaging 4.7 stars), who would you choose?

The other benefit of building your reviews is increasing your chances of getting into the top 3 dentists in your area featured on the map, as discussed above.

Be aware, however, Google doesn’t announce exactly how they determine their rankings either in the general (‘organic’) listings in Google, or for getting into the top 3 on the map. Reviews are one factor but there are others.

In your quest for more Google reviews, you simply need to ask your happy clients to do it for you. You can short-circuit the process by doing an audit of your database for which clients have a Gmail address. It’s much easier for clients with a Gmail address to leave a Google review.

As you’re asking for reviews, don’t let APHRA guidelines put you off. You definitely can’t put patient testimonials on your own website/social media page, but APHRA’s policy clearly states this restriction doesn’t apply to sites you have no control over (eg. Google).

Our experience has been you should expect to have to ask around 10 clients to get one review, so it’s going to take some sustained effort.


If your Google reviews profile is looking sick (less than 20), then you need to get onto boosting your reviews right away. In light of the above data, you’d be absolutely mad if you didn’t. Ask your (happy) clients for reviews as often as you can.

While you’re at it, locate the login details to your Google My Business account. Write these down and put them in a safe place (in the safe at your practice?). Many dentists I deal with have no idea how to log in to this account, which you’ll need access to so you can respond to a bad review, should one come – Google offers helpful guidelines on how to respond.

And finally, what did happen to my client who got the 1-star review? Fortunately, he had taken my advice and had worked diligently to get his reviews up over 20. This meant that a single one-star review was not going to trash his overall rating.

Prospective clients can overlook the occasional negative review, as most people realise there’s no pleasing all the people all the time. Bottom line, with a good Google review profile, you can avoid being one Google review away from disaster.

* This article was first published on The Australasian Dental Practic – November/December 2016 Issue