Should Dentists Advertise on Angie’s List?

reviewsThis blog contains a fairly comprehensive look at Angie’s List and explains how dentists advertising on the review site may increase new patient numbers, in some cases.

What is Angie’s List?

Angie’s List is an American-based aggregator that provides members with reviews of service companies. Approximately 2 million US and Canadian households subscribe to Angie’s List, and these users post approximately 40K reviews on the site each month.

Google places great importance on public reviews when indexing websites, as is evident in the Hummingbird algorithm change of late 2013. Angie’s List is a review site, however it is not public; members pay an annual fee to rate service providers and see how other members rate companies.

You may have seen the commercials featuring the sweet looking Angie Hicks, the co-founder of Angie’s List. Bill Oesterle is Angie’s partner in the Columbus-based business venture that began April 26, 199. 5Hicks credits Oesterle with the idea of creating a review site for consumers who need info about service providers.

How Angie’s List Works

In short, consumers pay a fee to access service providers’ rankings on Angie’s List. Those service providers with high scores are offered an opportunity to purchase advertising on Angie’s List, in the company’s print magazine, and via the Angie’s List all center.

As a consumer, you can join Angie’s List and review service providers with an A-F score. Only those companies with a rating of A-B are offered  paid advertising on Angie’s List. Advertisers must include a discount offer for Angie’s List members, and should the advertiser’s score fall below a B, the ad will be removed. A third-party service audits Angie’s List advertisers to make sure that reviews do not come from service providers. However, according to information on other review sites, some members claim that bad reviews mysteriously disappear. I have no hard evidence of this. There is much debate online, including articles on Forbes.com and CBSNews.com, debating the forthrightness of Angie’s List.

According to the How It Works page on the company’s website, Angie’s List reviews are not anonymous, service providers cannot review their own company, a complaint resolution team is available to members, and service providers are notified to respond to Angie’s List reviews.

What a Consumer Reports Editor Says about Angie’s List

Consumer Reports senior editor, Jeff Blyskal, cautions the public about Angie’s List. An article on Forbes.com notes that Blyskal does not see the Angie’s List review model as fair. He states that 70% of Angie’s List revenue comes from advertisers, and those advertisers who pay the most are at the top of the site’s search results. This is in vast contrast to review platforms like that of the Better Business Bureau and Google+, which do not factor paid advertisements in their review results.

In 2013, according to CBSNews.com, in the first 9 months of 2013, 73% of Angie’s List’s revenue has come from service providers; the remaining 27% is attributed to consumer membership fees. Consumers pay about $40 a year for membership to Angie’s list, and various packages are available, based on what type of businesses the consumer wants to access.

The aforementioned Forbes article mentions that Consumer Reports found a huge differential between reviews, meaning a business that has poor reviews on the Better Business Bureau site may have great reviews Yelp and other review sites. So, for the consumer, online reviews are a confusing contributon to purchasing decisions, whether the reviews are from Angie’s List or elsewhere.

My research shows Angie’s List to be forthcoming about its business model and profit centers. Though company grew rapidly in the beginning, it has been in the red for the past 5 years, stock has fallen by 50%, and lawsuits are underway. There was a time, not long ago, when Angie’s List claimed that, to be listed on their website, “businesses don’t pay.” This seems less than honest, according to what we know about the company’s profit model. This statement no longer appears on the company’s website or advertisements. Instead, we see taglines like “reviews you can trust” and “anonymous reviews are internet graffiti,” to which any upstanding business with a bad Google review would agree.

What Current Subscribers Say

Feelings about Angie’s list are mixed, to say the least. In conducting research for this article, I honestly saw a good balance between negative and positive reviews. Mostly, consumers were concerned about not receiving completely unbiased, accurate reviews on companies that pay to rank high on Angie’s List. I didn’t see much negative feedback about the actual service providers that advertise.

Yelp reviewer Anil P. says: Was looking for great value window well covers. I searched for ‘Window well covers’ and got too many search results – 101 results. Their highest rates provider has just two member reviews. Called the two highest rated providers.  Called ‘Just Windows Ltd’ – John said he does not do window well covers – go to the store he impatiently said. So I went back to Angie’s list and IM-ed support. Jayce L: Thanks for your patience. I’ve found several highly rated companies close to home. I’m sending those listings to your email now. He sent me a landscaping company, a animal removal company, a plumbing company. This was junk.

Yelp reviewer Ron says: I’m surprised by your experience.  I joined Angie’s List several years ago and when we moved, I used the listing service to hire a fence contractor, plumber, heating and A/C servicing firm, and roof vent installer.  I chose based upon the overall ratings and the number of reviews in my geographic area.  Just two weeks ago, I had to replace our garage door and went with a firm I found on AL.  Most of our improvements are behind us now but I still subscribe.  I’ve been pretty happy with all of the contractors I hired so far.

RipOffReport.com posts this information from Anita in Columbus, Ohio (where Angie’s List originated): As a member [of Angie’s List], I posted complaints about contractors I used and after a few months, those complaints would be gone. One of my contractors told me that he received a negative rating and complaint by an Angie’s List Customer… all he had to do was call Angie’s List and request it be removed (his company is also a member of Angie’s List).

How to Get Started with Advertising on Angie’s List

I decided to list my husband’s business, Striking Image Porcelain Refinishing, on Angie’s List. First, I visited the main website at angieslist.com, then I clicked on a button marked “Businesses Owners.” From there, I was redirected to angieslistbusinesscenter.com, where registered my company name and zip code, made certain it was not already listed under a similar name, then completed the “add your company” form. I created a password and had to agree that I’ve conducted a criminal background check on all of the company’s employees. I then had the opportunity to add my local service area, service descriptions, and payment details, which I did. This took about 15 minutes.

I could then access a personalized review link to add to my website so that members can quickly access my Angie’s List profile. There were also tools for review generation, including a web badge, mobile app for iPhone and Android, Fetch (a review request service that’s free), and a printable review form with free postage to send back to Angie’s list, so those customers who don’t use the Internet can still submit a review. Angie’s List will post the mailed reviews to my profile. There were a few additional supplies, like handouts with the Angie’s List review site listed, business and appointment cards, and review stickers for my invoices and estimates.

Under my profile panel, I could request more information about advertising on Angie’s List and watch videos of current advertisers testifying to the success they’ve achieved because of Angie’s List. I was repeatedly reminded that I must have an A-B rating to advertise. Also in this panel, I was informed that purchasing a display ad would increase my potential for profile use 12 times over. I was also informed that if my business has at least 2 current reviews, I will be just what members are looking for. Three options for member targeting were offered to me, as well: top placement on AngiesList.com, magazine coupons, and call-center referrals. I could add a “Big Deal” and “StoreFront Offer” to my profile, but I did not look into these options. For pricing, I could have submitted a request to be contacted by Angie’s List.

Using Angie’s List for advertising seems pretty simple. Tutorial videos and images provide a complete how-to for the novice. I don’t think a dentist would have any trouble.

How Much Does Advertising with Angie’s List Cost?

The company does not publish rates, so I had to turn to the web for this information. Everything I offer in this section is based on what writers have said, not what Angie’s List has published.

According to Josh Braun’s article on icsmag.com, one carpet cleaner reports a 3 to 1 return on his $190 investment in Angie’s List advertising, and he says the customers are good clients. Another contractor pays just $25 a month and says that after a year, the investment is starting to pay off. The writer says that in his area, there are 5K Angie’s List members and 17 searches for carpet cleaners per month. A fee of $91.50 a month would buy him an advertisement on the top of the search results. Wisely, he compares the $5.35 per click average to Google Adwords’ $4.50 per click rate, claiming that Angie’s List seems a bit high priced.

Good Return on Investment

As I previously mentioned, web reviews for Angie’s List seem to be positive, from the advertiser’s standpoint. Advertisers claim that Angie’s List members tend not to complain about price. Perhaps this is due to the insider-information appeal that members feel when finding a service on Angie’s List. Maybe because consumers pay a membership fee, they are prepared to spend money on services they find on the Angie’s List website. Angie’s List consumers may be “good clients” because of their demographic profile. Members are generally college graduates, married, own a home, between ages 35-64, and earn over $100K per year. They are not looking for the cheapest services, they seek the best – and they’re willing to pay a subscription fee to learn which companies are the best.

The Big Question: Should Dentists Advertise on Angie’s List?

Before maing any marketing investment, be smart. We know that the demographics show Angie’s List members to be a good fit for general and family dentists, and they may be looking for cosmetic dentists and some dental specialists. The main factor for you to consider before advertising on Angie’s list, as I see it, is competition. I would ask the following questions:

  1. How many subscribers are within 12 miles of my dental office? (This is the average distance people will travel to visit a dentist.)
  2. How many monthly searches are conducted in my region for “dentist” and other keyword phrases (general dentist, family dentist, cosmetic dentist, implant dentist, etc.)?
  3. What would my monthly rate be for a top-ranking ad for each of these keywords?
  4. How many dentists advertise in my region? (The answer that probably won’t be easy to get, but this question is the determining factor, in my opinion.)
  5. What is the average dollar amount spent by Angie’s List members on dentistry in my region? (The admin panel has a place for advertisers to log this information into their profiles, so Angie’s List has access to it.)

If the number of monthly searches seem appropriate to the number of competitors and cost per click, and advertising dentists are closing cases from Angie’s List leads, I suggest a one-year trial. I believe this is the required contract length, anyway.

Angie’s List and SEO

Advertising on Angie’s List has little or nothing to do with your website and organic or paid SEO rankings on Google. According to MDPM Consulting’s SEO diagnostician, Angie’s List results do show up on Google when pulling keyword ranking reports. However, if a human clicks on the review, he cannot access it unless he purchases an Angie’s List consumer membership. This can be quite frustrating to the consumer.

Also, according to what Google has told us about factoring reviews into a website’s rank, only public reviews are relevant. Angie’s List reviews are private, accessible only to members. This means, Angie’s List reviews will not help your SEO rank. You will still need reviews posted on Google+ Local, Yelp!, Facebook, and other sites to help your website’s rank and reputation.

I would consider Angie’s List advertising along the lines of print ads or direct mail to a very target audience. It should be absolutely separate from your SEO marketing investment. With all the bad press Angie’s List has received about its business model and fairness, from a small business perspective, any marketing opportunity that provides a 3 to 1 return is a good investment. If I ran a privately owned dental office, I would probably give Angie’s List a shot.

About the Author: Jill Duty is the COO and co-founder of Modern Dental Practice Marketing Consulting, an Internet marketing firm for dentists. In addition, Jill considers providing marketing education part of her responsibility to her clients. To reach MDPM Consulting, visit www.MPPMconsulting.com, email [email protected] or call 972-781-8861. Read more of Jill’s blogs at www.ModernDentalMarketing.com.