Does this scenario ring a bell? After a full day of consults, surgeries and practice management, you sit down, open a report from your web vendor and find yourself scrolling through pages of data on your website activity. You know it’s key information for determining whether your web marketing works but you find yourself struggling to make sense of it all and wondering if checking up on whether your vendor is performing as promised is a good use of your valuable time.
It probably isn’t but ignoring the issue isn’t either. “It can be tempting for doctors not to bother with it,” says Alan Treanor, Vice President, Growth & Analytics, at RealSelf. “But they need to educate themselves a little so they can at least understand what their agency is telling them.”
In many cases, the challenge is twofold: Simply put, getting found on the Internet these days, i.e., ranking well in search results, requires highly specialized skills involving search engine optimization (SEO), lead management and data analysis. On the other, those who don’t possess such skills — busy doctors with full surgical calendars, for example — can easily find themselves at the mercy of unqualified vendors who charge exorbitant fees for grand promises, glossy reports and few results.
“It’s the Wild West,” says Jon Hoffenberg, President of SEOversite, “and, unfortunately, there are many web teams out there that don’t deliver very much, if anything, for the money that doctors are paying them.”
How can you make sure you’re getting a good return on your investment? Courtesy of Treanor and Hoffenberg, the following tips can help you determine if your agency — current or under consideration — is committed to generating real value or just large fees for themselves:
Understand the basics: At the simplest level, says Hoffenberg, the two reporting parameters that truly matter are the total number of unique visitors per month your practice website receives and the total number of leads generated as a result. While there’s more to generating traffic than just SEO (contributing content to other sites, for example, can help), a low number of visitors may be a sign that your agency isn’t employing the SEO strategies that get Google’s attention. If you’re getting sufficient traffic but not converting them into a reasonable number of leads, it may mean visitors aren’t finding your content worthwhile.
Focus on what really matters: Ask that your vendors provide you with reports that offer specific insights to actual new business or progress they are delivering from your website. As Hoffenberg notes, visitor numbers and leads generated are what matter; to a certain extent, the rest is often just noise. Don’t let it distract you.
Insist on regular reporting: Your web team is a great resource for not only tracking your website’s analytics, says Treanor, but also for helping you understand what those analytics mean: “They should keep you up to date with how you’re ranking, what steps they’re taking to improve and what sort of results they expect from their actions.”
Ask to talk to other clients: When considering a new agency, remember that prospective candidates are only as good as the results they deliver to their clients. If possible, talk to both existing clients and those that have stopped working with the company; the combination will give you a sense, not just of results produced, but also the vendor’s working style.
Be wary of grand promises and guarantees: Keep in mind that Google and its competitors are constantly updating the algorithms they use to deliver search results. Good SEOs recognize that and upgrade their skills to keep up; bad ones try to game the system with spammy tactics and so-called “black hat” SEO tricks. One red flag: “Anyone who claims they have a silver bullet that will get you to the top of Google’s rankings,” says Treanor, “is either lying or doing spammy things.”
Recognize your role in the effort: Even the best web team in the world won’t accomplish much if your website and social profiles don’t engage consumers. Whether it’s answering questions, adding before and after photos or updating your social profiles, providing a steady stream of timely, relevant content sends the kind of signals that search engines use to determine search rankings. “Like it or not, the new normal is interactive,” says Hoffenberg. “There’s always going to be work to be done on the doctor’s part.”
Ultimately, it’s a team effort and everyone has a role to play. Between the near-constant changes that influence SEO and the specialized skills required to keep up, doing it yourself is simply not an option. Whether you’re trying to rate your current roster’s effectiveness or considering a new team entirely, the above insights can help you determine who has the skills, who’s blowing smoke and who will help you win the game.
Alan Treanor is Vice President of Growth & Analytics at RealSelf. With over 8 million unique visitors a month, RealSelf is the world’s largest community for learning and sharing information about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, dentistry and other elective treatments.
Jon Hoffenberg is president of SEOversite.com. Based in Miami, the company serves as a sort of project manager/guardian angel, helping doctors determine whether their web team is delivering the results required for success in today’s competitive market.