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Replying to Google Reviews

On the long list of tasks for the dentist or office manager, responding to Google reviews can sometimes fall off the radar. However, understanding how Google displays the “Most Relevant” reviews can help you develop a response strategy that will support your marketing efforts.

So, what determines how the reviews are displayed on the “Most Relevant” review section on your Google Business Profile?

Sample Google review

Sample Review

Length - The longer the review, the more likely it will be shown towards the top.

Content - If the review is about how the patient watched their favorite TV show upside down it is less relevant than someone who talks about getting a filling. Google can identify keywords related to dentistry and favors those reviews. Bonus points if the patient uses your brand name in their review!

Reviewee - Local Guides or people with lots of reviews are often given top billing. Google also favors reviewers who review other local businesses.

Interactions - When someone adds a thumbs up, Google sees that review as helpful and may bump that review to the top. 10 to 20 thumbs up can keep that review in the top.

Recency – As time passes, the review will lose relevancy.

Photos – reviews with photos are more likely to be shown as “Most Relevant”.

Keep HIPAA top of mind.

Some offices will avoid responding because of HIPAA regulations but there’s no clear guidance saying you can’t respond to reviews. Just be careful to not reveal any personal health information – even if the patient has done so in their review! Sharing patient information will violate HIPAA, and it can be costly.

Try talking about your policies and procedures in general terms. The examples given below all strive to demonstrate different ways you can respond naturally while maintaining privacy.

Shine a light on the positive.

Always, always, always like a positive review. This shows that the review is helpful. No one can see if the thumbs-up comes from the business owner or someone else, so it is a quick way to improve visibility for good reviews. You can also ask your office manager or marketing team to like a positive review for you to help bump it up. It takes about 10 likes to keep a review at the top.

Respond to positive reviews with a thank you. You’ll make the person who wrote the review feel good about going out of their way to write the review and those who are reading your reviews will see how much you care. Here’s a good example of a thank you:

Thanks so much for your positive review of our dental office! Our dentists and hygienists were so happy to hear from you. We agree - the videos in the reception are great tools for helping people understand brushing and flossing. We love helping patients improve their oral health. Thanks again, the team at ABC Dentistry

Make it a practice to ask for reviews. Asking your patients to write positive reviews can reduce the effects of a negative review and help to rebuild your business’s reputation. You can share your Google Review link directly with patients to make it easy for them to share their opinions.

Run a tight ship! Do everything you can to ensure your patient has a pleasant visit to your dental office. Hire and retain the best staff, keep your patients informed throughout their procedure, provide the very best in pain management, and check in with your patient throughout the appointment to make sure they are comfortable.

Minimize the negative

Negative reviews make up a small percentage of online reviews. Most reviews are 3 or higher. But negative reviews do happen, and they can have negative consequences for your business. So, what do you do when someone negatively reviews your dental practice?

Know when to hold ‘em. We all get spammed on our Google Business Profile – in fact, Optio Publishing somehow received from someone thinking we are a dental office – not a dental marketing company! There’s no need to respond to these reviews.

The only other time we recommend not responding to a review is if you believe doing so will add fuel to the fire. Although you should respond to all genuine patient issues, you don’t have to respond to people who are just trying to create problems for you or your practice. In these cases, keep the conversation offline by reaching out to the patient directly.

Put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Most irate patients just want to be heard and have their experience validated. Let them know the steps you will take to make sure their negative experience doesn’t happen again.

Respond as soon as you can. Addressing the issue quickly goes a long way toward solving the problem. Set up a Google Alert with your practice name and dentist’s name so you know what’s being posted about your practice on the web as soon as possible.

Keep your cool. It can be quite a shock to receive a negative review, but you don’t want to react out of anger and say something you’ll regret. That could cause even more problems for you and your practice.

Use the negative review as a learning experience. Is there anything in the review that rings true? How can you improve your practice based on this patient’s comments?

Keep it short and sweet. Direct the conversation to a more appropriate venue such as a phone call with the dentist or office manager and avoid airing any grievances publicly. Here’s a good example:

We pride ourselves on offering quality services and would love the opportunity to chat further about how we can improve. Please contact our office manager, Lisa, directly at 866-906-7846

Report inappropriate reviews. Google will not remove reviews that appear to be written by a patient, but a negative review with swear words or personal attacks can get removed.

You can also get a negative review removed if you can prove that the review is spam or your competitor wrote it.

Whether positive or negative, getting in the habit of responding to online reviews can help improve your practice marketing. If you have any tricky reviews pop up, we’re always happy to help. Please reach out to your SEO Manager or email us at info@optiopublishing.com

This is the last of our Online Reviews Series. Did you miss it? Work your way through the series starting with Grow Your Business with Online Reviews.

Brent Parr
Brent Parr
Brent is the CEO and co-founder of Optio Publishing. Most days he can be found deep in conversation with customers or partners about the best ways to market their business. Brent loves outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee and camping.
More articles by Brent Parr
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