The Pursuit of Sleepless Media

Will your healthcare organization be one of those contributing to the $65b wasted on SEO in 2016?

Are you familiar with the old fix-all…snake oil? Snake oil is any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. If you read this Wikipedia article on the topic, you’ll see that real oil from snakes was once prescribed as a cure for everything from small cuts and joint pain to diseases of the hands, feet and skin.

A recent study has been published touting that in 2016, companies are expected to spend some $65 Billion on SEO this year.

So, as the title would imply, you should believe that the SEO industry, and the digital marketing industry in general is full of snake oil salespeople. Individuals and companies who knowingly are selling a product that either will not work for the buyer or that they know is of inferior quality.

Let’s take a look. As a management consultancy, we hear literally dozens of horror stories every week about wasted budgets, websites damaged beyond repair, digital campaigns that produce little to no results and everything else business owners and marketers are terrified of. These stories are the grown-up versions of the scary campfire stories we told each other as children. Except now, they end in the loss of millions of marketing dollars for healthcare organizations across the U.S. - kind of frightening, no?

With the daily interaction we have with healthcare organizations, you would think that we’d have a pretty good grasp on marketing. Well, you wouldn’t guess that if you looked at our spam folders!! We receive hundreds, yes hundreds of unsolicited emails every day from marketers promising to take our brand to the number one spot in Google organic listings - completely unattainable!!! Or, promising to bring thousands of visitors in a matter of weeks -  nope!!! Some even proclaim that our website is breaking numerous rules set forth by the search engine crawlers and that, if not corrected, we will die a fiery death - um...okay!!??

Let’s cut to the chase - Here’s What Really Matters for SEO in 2016

If you are searching out digital marketing companies to help with your online presence, you reach out to an agency of your choice and ask to speak with their sales team. Chances are good you will wind up talking with someone that guarantees your wildest dreams will be fulfilled by focusing on SEO. Or perhaps they’re a social media agency. If that’s the case, their silver bullet will undoubtedly be social media. Either way, they’ve got the tonic that will cure your website’s disease. And if you act now, you’ll be guaranteed results!!!

Listen, as an organization who works daily in SEO and every other digital medium, we can tell you that there are no silver bullets and that nothing is guaranteed in the SEO world!! It’s also a fact that SEO doesn’t work for some companies. Just like PPC isn’t for everyone, nor is social media platforming. After all, billboards and commercials don’t work for every industry, so why would digital marketing be any different?

So, let’s examine what makes a lot of SEO services snake oil and give you the information you’ll need to safely navigate the world of digital marketing.

Snake oil originated in the medical industry. It was used as a cure for ailments. It was easy for salespeople to pull the wool over buyers’ eyes because back in the day, no one really knew what was going on with their bodies. Medical information wasn’t as readily available. And since medical conditions are by nature quite scary, the sufferers were ready to believe anything that gave them hope!!

Well, guess what? The Internet is the new medical industry when it comes to snake oil. While not that old - only becoming prolific over the last 20 years or so - most businesses don’t understand the ins-and-outs of SEO. Like that of a medical condition, company leaders can tell when something is wrong. But they’re not really quite sure what the cause of the issue is. Enter the snake oil salespeople.

Whenever there are uninformed customers, there will always be predatory groups looking to take advantage of the situation. And with a sixty-five billion dollar industry up for grabs, the streets are running wet with snake oil right now.

While some snake oils can be rather harmless, when it comes to your digital marketing, snake oil is anything but! For instance, I recently read an article about a large medical billing company that was removed from Google search results due to their digital marketing activities. Some sloppy marketing pro forma ended up making them disappear from the search results. Harmless, right? Wrong!! You see, this company relied heavily on their search results for new leads to their call center. This call center was staffed by dozens of people. These people had families, mortgages, and relied on that income.

Well, when the phones just stop ringing one morning, it’s going to be very difficult for a company to keep employing an entire sales floor. And while the company did their best to avoid the inevitable, they eventually had to face the facts and they ended up laying off the entire department. So this one company that unfortunately trusted a snake oil salesperson, ended up having to lay off 50+ employees at a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well. It's a sure assumption that there was a lot of financial hardship felt by these families.

How does your healthcare business avoid getting burned?

As mentioned earlier, the reason these SEO marketers are able to prey on medical and dental practices is because of the lack of information - you need to gird yourself with knowledge. Due diligence on the topic you’ll be discussing as well as the potential agency partners you’ll be discussing with! Prepare talking points and specific questions that you’d like answered. Being prepared will enable you to avoid the bottom-of-the-barrel snake oil salespeople that can’t even survive the mildest scrutiny.

Once you’ve weeded out the bad apples, you’ll want to really do your research on the agencies that have made the first cut! Look for third party reviews. Ask them for case studies, testimonials, and references. Do not look at a slick sales deck and assume that because they can put together a decent PowerPoint that they can provide you with proper marketing services. I’ve seen hundreds of dreams crushed on the expectations set by a nice sales presentation. Any group you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with should be cut after this.

Now that you’ve made it to your third round of choices, you’ll want to watch very closely what they produce for you!! Don’t accept an agency that does not provide full transparency into what they’re doing. We routinely enter engagements with healthcare clients only to see shoddy work that has been previously completed on their behalf. In most cases, the client wasn’t able to identify that work as being shoddy because they weren’t aware it was being done, they had no way of stopping it!!

You want be make certain that the group you’re working with is willing to show you everything they’re doing and will actually take the time to explain and train you on what they’re doing!! After all, an informed client is the best kind of client!!

If you perform due diligence, you’ll be assured that you’ve probably weeded out all of the snake oil salespeople and you’ll be working with a reputable agency. Unfortunately, however, nothing is guaranteed!!  As previously mentioned, sometimes SEO isn’t a solution for all industries and sometimes marketing campaigns don’t result in massive successes - this is the peril we sometimes face in today's digital economy. If you know you’re working with the right group that does things the right way, then you’re in it together. And the engagement should feel like a partnership, rather than a vendor relationship.

So, as you’re out there trying to wisely spend your marketing dollars, be on the lookout for those shady characters that are touting the magical properties of their services. Odds are, there’s a bit of snake oil in their pitch. #weshouldtalk