As a physician or practice owner, you know by now that search engine optimization is essential to grow your practice. You’ve likely been approached daily via email, mailers, and phone by companies asking for your business and promising the best online visibility. Maybe those hard pitches are a turn off and you’ve explored other options that you’ve found online, again promising amazing results at rock bottom prices. It’s hard to know who to trust and who to ignore- as a result, many physicians pick the cheapest or ‘best value’ option to ‘try it out’. However, this sort of approach to SEO can waste money, and worse, backfire with disastrous results.
Wherever there is a knowledge gap between the service provider and the customer, there is an opportunity to deceive. This is why women, in general, feel uncomfortable and taken advantage of when dealing with car mechanics- this is also why tech gurus will talk jargon-filled circles around prospective clients. Of all the steps in marketing your medical practice, the step to improve search visibility is one of the most crucial, and fraught with peril. With Google, ignorance is no excuse: you break the rules, you pay the consequences. End of story.
Educating yourself on some of the more common and pervasive SEO/SEM scams is essential when making a selection on who will handle this portion of your medical practice marketing. Below are 5 SEO scams that make the rounds through email queries and are pushed by unscrupulous/uneducated consultants. Save your money and your sanity by avoiding these at all costs.
1) “Guaranteed Page 1 Rankings!”
If you have a website, you’ve probably gotten at least one email guaranteeing top ranking in Google search results. Hopefully most of these emails hit your spam folder, but if they don’t, mark them as the junk that they are. The companies and individuals shilling this are either misguided or liars.
Why this is a scam
No matter how great their efforts are, nobody can guarantee a ‘top ranking’. Search engine optimization and marketing is a hugely complex undertaking, and is dependent on more than what can be done on your (the client) and the service providers end. Google changes their algorithm constantly, tweaking what they look at the assess your position in rankings on certain keywords and phrases- because of this, a number of those companies trumpeting their guaranteed results may actually be harming your ranking if they’re using improper techniques.
Consider these two other crucial aspects:
- Keywords. Are they securing your ranking on multiple keywords that people use to try to find your practice? A number of these companies will secure your ranking on your business name alone- but if someone is already searching for your practice by name, they already know about you and you’re already likely ranking well for it.
- SEO is ongoing by nature. You can’t pay a one- time fee or expect that your service provider can ‘fix’ your ranking in one fell swoop. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It needs to be worked on continuously in order to see any sort of results.
2) “We’ll submit your website to thousands of search engines & directories!”
This sounds good in theory, especially since it would save you the time identifying those places to list your website AND would save you the hassle of submitting your site through whatever their process might be. Still, this is not worth whatever price tag they’re appending to it.
Why this is a scam
How many search engines do people actually use? And how often do you review a directory to select a site you might want to visit?
The fact is that Google, Bing, and Yahoo are the current industry giants, and will likely stay that way. You have no reason to invest money and energy on submitting your site to be indexed in other search engines- if you’re indexed on Google, you’ll benefit from the fact that roughly 70% of the people in this country turn to them for all of their internet searches. Likewise, a load of directory links is a wasted investment if those directories don’t also hold a high page rank/authority. These cheap directory links are the equivalent of the “Who’s Who” industry directories that many have fallen prey to before- they don’t benefit you, and they’ll likely use your name and contact information to begin spamming you.
The worst part about scams like this: those “search engines” they’re submitting your website to? They’re mainly SPAM centers. So not only is your money being ill-spent on this “service,” but you’ll be inundated with SPAM emails until the cows come home.
3) “We’ll create a 100+ .edu backlinks to your site!”
Getting a .edu backlink to your site is an incredible boon to your overall online visibility. Search engines consider .edu and .gov links to be highly credible sources of information, and will boost the rankings of links that they post as sources or references.
Why this is a scam
Scammers know that people at least somewhat versed in SEO would LOVE to have these sorts of links. However, their way of going about getting a .edu backlink is ineffective and may actually be detrimental to your site. The most common tactic is to look for .edu pages that allow comments- they then leave a comment that either includes a link to your website or they embed your website address in the identification credentials they use to make the comment (example: they may use your site as their email address when posting).
Does this achieve results? No. While you might succeed in getting a comment placed that includes a link to your website, if that .edu website has indicated that comments are ‘nofollow’, then the link is worthless. Many website administrators assign the attribute ‘nofollow’ to comments on their site to discourage spam- this is essentially a flag that search engines like Google look at to let them know that they need to IGNORE anything contained in that section.
Not only does this tactic often waste your money, it can be detrimental to your site. In their effort to penalize scammers and ensure accurate, un-gamed search results, Google has taken to cracking down on SEO efforts that are spammy- and make no mistake, blanketing .edu sites with comments that don’t contribute to the discussion in an effort to boost your site rank is spamming, whether you’re being malicious or not. While Google has gone on record saying that ‘nofollow’ links don’t impact search ranking, they can and will take manual spam action if they see enough mass scale action that they deem deceptive or manipulative.
4) “We’ll get you 9500 backlinks to your site from high PR pages!″
Link building is important – it’s one of the best ways to build rank, when done properly. Link building is also really, really hard. The links that will positively impact your ranking are those gotten organically, because you’re producing something so amazing or are in some way worthwhile enough that sites are linking back to you. Google and search engines view this as a major boost in credibility, or authority, and adjust rank accordingly.
Why this is a scam
This is a good way to get yourself blacklisted by Google. Almost without fail, the links you’ll get are spammy or from otherwise disreputable accounts; likewise, the chances of them being applicable to your niche are slim. Here’s a though experiment:
Which do you think Google will believe is a solid, reputable link to your dental website?
- A link from a blog discussing pop music and celebrities
- A link from the American Dental Association
Google isn’t dumb. The search engine algorithm relies on semantic & contextual clues- and while those 9500 backlinks might give you a temporary boost, you will see your rank drop, probably further than it was before you purchased the backlinks. Not to mention that you could disappear from search results altogether if & when Google blacklists you. Stay safe and do NOT purchase backlinks- grow them organically with proven SEO & SEM techniques.
5) “We’ve cracked Google’s algorithm.” & “We have a man on the inside at Google.”
Every SEO/SEM company should have a firm grasp of what Google’s algorithm takes into account, otherwise why would you hire them. Also, if they have an ongoing relationship with Google employees won’t that give them a leg up on helping you rank?
Why this is a scam
Not even Google employees have “cracked” the algorithm. It’s handled by a team of engineers and is updated sometimes several times per week. In other words, shortly after someone “cracked” the algorithm their information could be outdated, or even detrimental.
Instead, look for a company that reliably talks about SEO and stays abreast of changes. There’s a reason that we advise all of our physician clients to let us handle their search engine marketing and optimization- because we have the manpower to stay up to date on the latest changes to the algorithms that affect your website ranking.
Healthcare Marketing Agency- Physician Referral Marketing (PRM) provides the tools and the know-how to grow physician practices & increase visibility both online and off. PRM specializes in strategic marketing campaigns & referral development through a uniquely direct relationship establishment with demographically relevant doctors and hospitals.To stay on top of the latest healthcare marketing trends, contact PRM today at 888-336-1344 or visit www.physicianreferralmarketing.com. Also be sure to visit our Facebook, Twitter, or G+ page for the latest news in healthcare marketing. Nationwide service, with headquarters in Michigan and a regional office in Arizona.