March 13th, 2013 Mike Wilton
It is with mixed emotions that I make this announcement: My final day as Internet Marketing Manager for Plastic Surgery Studios is this Friday. My time with the company has been full of lessons, surprises, and proud achievements. During my time here I have authored 81 blog posts, 22 newsletters, and two magazine articles (Plastic Surgery Practice, OFPSA Magazine). In addition, I spoke at the 2012 AAFPRS Fall Meeting, provided an unprecedented number of social media updates across our various social media channels, and even had a little fun looking into what happens to breast implants when you die. As I look back on the last four years, I realize that i have downloaded a lot of information to our clients, staff, and to anyone else who would listen. But still, I realize that while this industry has seen a lot of change, there is so much potential for growth and opportunity amongst doctors and Internet marketing companies.
As I reflect on the last four years, here are four final thoughts on how doctors and others in the medical industry can grow further if they expand their horizons even a little.
The Medical Internet Marketing Realm Moves Slow
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in my time with Plastic Surgery Studios its that the medical world is slow to adopt technology and moreso its uses for marketing. In a world where most businesses have been using social media for a number of years, most doctors are just now hopping on to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+. As a doctor, if you are digitally savvy you have a great opportunity to get ahead of the competition because so many practices are slow to adopt the latest digital trends. Look at what larger brands are doing or other verticals are doing and see if there is anything they are applying to their internet marketing efforts that can translate well enough to help your patients.
The Industry Works Inside a Bubble
One thing that became quickly apparent to me while working in this industry is that it is an industry of copy cats. Everyone looks to their competitors for the answer on how to do it right. They wait to see what other companies are doing and then they look to replicate rather than innovate. In order to continue to move forward this niche needs more thought leaders. It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with Real Self’s Medi Beauty Today blog. Tom Seery and his writers were producing content that approached cosmetic surgery internet marketing from a perspective that wasn’t commonly discussed amongst most of the blogs in the industry. Internet marketing has evolved greatly in the wake of Google’s recent algorithm updates. Its not about gimmicks and quick wins, its about growing your business online as though Google didn’t exist. Do something your patients will love, don’t worry so much about what the guy down the street is doing to appease Google.
Need some inspiration on how the medical community is evolving? Here are some of the blogs I would frequent that were innovative and informative, but still relevant to the medical community:
Doctors Need To Think More Like Businesses
After dealing with doctors for the last four years the one thing that stood out is how few of them recognized themselves as an actual business. Doctors are just like any other local business. They need to be concerned with marketing, customer service, and every other facet that comes with owning and operating a business. While they often ignore or turn away from these things they are critical to the survival of a medical practice in today’s day and age. When a new doctor is just a Google search away your business practices, bedside manner, staff, and overall perceived authority are crucial to earning patients and keeping them.
What Lies Ahead
As I leave Plastic Surgery Studios I will also be leaving the medical realm behind shifting my focus from working with doctors, dentists and surgeons, to helping national brands and major corporations build their online presence. During my time with Plastic Surgery Studios I have shared as much as I could to try and help educate our clients, our staff, and the industry as a whole on where things were going outside of this little medical marketing bubble we all hide in. Through it all I hope that you, our doctors, have been able to take away at least a tidbit or two of information and apply it to your practice to help strengthen your online presence. My deepest appreciation goes out to all of you for your support over these last four years. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I have.
December 26th, 2012 Mike Wilton
The press release — a PR rep’s best friend. And in the early days it was the best method for businesses to get their message to the media. But in the digital age, the focus has shifted. It has become less about the message and more about the links. Although the press release has become a staple of most medical Internet marketing strategies as a means of easily earning backlinks, a recent comment from Google’s Matt Cutts suggests its time to rethink your efforts.
If you analyze the backlinks of almost any surgeon or dentist you are bound to find a handful of links to press releases in their backlink profile. While some of the releases may be meaningful, most are announcements about redesigned websites, new practice partners, or that shiny, new device they bought for their practice. While these aren’t bad press releases per se, they definitely aren’t going to earn you or your practice much attention from the press.
In most cases these low-level releases are created for one purpose: links. Admittedly, even Plastic Surgery Studios has been responsible for some of these less-than-stellar PR efforts. However a comment from Google’s Matt Cutts in a recent Google Webmaster Help thread suggests these efforts may be in vain. Amidst the discussion about the value of links in a press release, Matt wrote:
“Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.”
PR With a Purpose
With that said, many would turn their backs on press releases and treat them as a dead medium for online marketing. But what they fail to recognize is that a good, newsworthy press release can earn a practice greater visibility both online and offline, as well as backlinks from outside sources who pick up the press release. But in order for this to happen you have to do something newsworthy that will not only benefit you, but the press and, ultimately, the reader.
Take a step back and think about the newspaper, your local nightly news, or any other media outlet you regularly consume. Then, think about your announcement. Would it interest you if it showed up in your newspaper or nightly newscast? If not, then it’s probably not press release-worthy.
Your website redesign? Probably not newsworthy. Your website redesigned with an exclusive breast implant database that would allow patients to get up-to-date information on breast implant warranties, recalls, and the like directly from implant makers? Now that might be a resource worth talking about.
The search engines are forcing doctors and dentists to, as Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive says, “Do real company sh*t.” Links obtained easily through tactics like press releases, article directories, and the like will be harder and harder to come by. It’s time to focus on doing things that real companies do. Build relationships, add value, and deliver what your patient base asks for.
As with any content, your press release should serve your audience and offer value. Charities, patient events, new offerings exclusive to your region, or any other announcements that will benefit the consumer is what you should aim to use press releases for. You should always ask yourself: “If I were reading this about another business, would I care?” If not, you may want to reconsider.
November 14th, 2012 Mike Wilton
One of the most important metrics in Internet marketing is traffic. Understanding where your traffic is coming from, what content is being consumed by visitors, and ultimately how much time they are spending on your site is crucial to understanding your online audience. Oftentimes marketers and doctors alike can see a dip in website traffic and start to panic, but what they fail to realize is there are two common outside factors that can impact website traffic.
Whether you’re a plastic surgeon or a family physician you are bound to see seasonal trends in your website traffic. When it comes to your website traffic it’s important to look at year-over-year trends and understand exactly why you’re seeing dips in traffic. It may not be that something bad has happened, it may just be an impact of seasonal trends.
One seasonal factor that impacts websites time and again is holidays. Physician websites can see a significant decrease in traffic due to holidays. With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s around the corner you are bound to see dips in your website traffic. Though the winter holidays tend to generate the biggest decline, any holiday, from Easter to Memorial Day, can create a dip in website traffic because people are out celebrating with family and not bound to a computer screen.
Major Events or Disasters
By now we’ve all seen the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy on the east coast. This monstrous storm has left many on the east coast without shelter, power, or Internet for the last couple of weeks. Significant events like this can have a major impact on your website traffic, especially if you are in or near the epicenter of what’s taking place. Below is an example of just how severe such an event can impact website traffic from an actual New York doctor.
The same could be said for other events, such as Election Day. Though we’re still analyzing the data, one would assume that many doctor websites saw fewer visits on November 6th due to much of the public heading to the polls and closely watching the 2012 election results.
When reviewing your analytics data be mindful of what’s going on in your neck of the woods, as well as the entire country. Major events and disasters happening offline can have a significant impact on what’s happening with your website online.
Ultimately, analytics data is best used when it’s fully analyzed. Don’t just assume a drop in traffic is the result of poor website performance. You have to take in a number of factors both offline and online to better understand the overall picture. Is it an overall drop, or just a drop from search traffic? Did it happen over the course of a day, or is this an ongoing trend? Without proper analysis, you risk overreacting to something that may not actually be hurting you.
November 8th, 2012 Mike Wilton
When I was approached recently by a member of our sales team to do a post on how doctors can choose an SEO company, my first thought was, “They shouldn’t choose an SEO company.” Instead, doctors should be looking to companies that offer comprehensive Internet marketing and not just SEO. Doctors need to be looking to companies that are looking at Internet marketing as a whole, because these days SEO is just one piece of a much larger puzzle and it alone won’t produce the results you need. So what should doctors be looking for, and what questions should they be asking?
Oftentimes Internet marketing companies claim to have a magic formula to earn rankings, traffic, and exposure for your website. The fact of the matter is, Internet marketing should include insight from you and your practice. At no point should an Internet marketing company keep you in the dark about what they are doing.
What To Consider:
Speak with an Internet marketing company in detail before you sign on the dotted line and get a solid understanding of what it is they are going to offer you. Some questions to start with:
- What is your process for helping me achieve my goals? Do they run baselines? Do they perform an overall site audit? Do they analyze content?
- How do you build links to my website? If they are unable to share this information, it’s possible they are involved in some sort of link scheme that may hurt your website. Link acquisition can come from outreach, PR, and content development if done naturally and ethically.
- Will I have access to analytics and reporting? If they refuse to give you insight into the performance of your program, this too may be a sign that something fishy is going on.
We recently started working with a doctor who came to us on the tail end of an existing program with an SEO company that had been managing their efforts for a couple of years. As we transitioned the client and integrated them into our services the client was still in contact with the previous company during the transition due to some difficulties we were having with account access. After speaking to the owner of the company the client was informed that the company was dropping out of the business because their SEO techniques were no longer working thanks to Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. The problem with companies that only do “SEO” is that they are only focused on rankings and backlinks, often ignoring the bigger picture when it comes to the needs of search engines and consumers.
What To Consider:
SEO is a foundation to build upon for all of your online marketing efforts. If you are only looking at the search engines for traffic and are ignoring all other online channels you risk living and dying at the hand of the search engines. You want to be as visible as possible and not rely solely on just one online channel for your efforts. When choosing an Internet marketing company find out if they are familiar with, or offer, services that can help you with the following:
- Local Search
- Social Media
- Content Marketing
These elements will not only help your SEO, but will help create safety nets in the event something does happen to your search engine presence, after all even a site doing things right can be unintentionally penalized.
Hundreds, Thousands…MILLIONS OF LINKS!!
If you’re familiar with SEO, you know that backlinks are definitely part of the overall equation when it comes to showing up in the search results for certain queries. However with Google’s Penguin update the game changed a bit in that Google was cracking down even further on unnatural link schemes. If an Internet marketing company promises you X number of links per month, run…run like the wind! The only way a company can guarantee link acquisition numbers is if they control the sites they are posting them on or they are doing a mass distribution via directories, blog comments, forum spam, or the like.
Large automated link schemes can give you some short-term gains, and if you wind up on top you’ll be loving life. But here’s the catch: If Google’s algorithm catches you, the time spent trying to get back to the top can be devastating to your business.
What To Consider:
The search engines are looking at more and more signals to establish the value and quality of a website when it comes to rankings. While links are still very important there are means of obtaining them through content marketing and other outreach efforts that can help you grow your online presence. As with anything in Internet marketing, its key to focus on quality not quantity. Three high-quality, relevant links can hold the same weight, if not more, than 1,000 spammy links.
Guarantees and Rankings
First of all, rankings are no longer the core metric you should be looking at for your SEO efforts. Putting all your effort into that one term that you think is the most important to your practice won’t bring you half the benefits of having an extensive catalog of terms driving traffic to your website. Second, no one can guarantee rankings.
What To Consider:
As I pointed out when I wrote about choosing an SEO a few years ago, Google specifically points out that no one can guarantee search engine placement and if an Internet marketing company offers you a guarantee in ranking, this should be a red flag.
Rankings are influenced by so many factors these days thanks to personalization, that what I see, versus what you see, versus what your best friend down the street sees can be drastically different. Because of this they are a) an unreliable metric, and b) hard to effectively track.
While it’s definitely valuable to have some insight to how your site performs from a ranking standpoint, if top rankings is the only thing your SEO team is preaching, you may want to start asking questions about traffic, referrals, and conversions. If rankings are the focal point, oftentimes link schemes and webspam are the only means of adding value to your website and more often than not these will not drive additional quality traffic to your website.
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At Plastic Surgery Studios we focus on the long-term goals of your practice and work to help educate you on the trends that are going to help grow your practice both online and offline. We want your practice to stand the test of time online and in the search engines. Our methods are not tailored for short term gains at the cost of long term benefit.
Oftentimes our doctors will get pitches from outside SEO companies claiming to get them better results for one or two hot ticket keywords, or promise them rankings for every term under the sun. But what these companies fail to realize is that we are looking at the bigger picture for our doctors and recognize that SEO is just the foundation of a strong Internet marketing effort. We take into consideration traditional marketing and PR, recognizing that the industry as a whole is moving in this direction and that the sooner our clients adopt these practices the longer they’ll stay on top.
Our goal is to help you achieve your goals by becoming an extension of your medical practice. If you’d like to know how Plastic Surgery Studios can help your medical practice, please contact us for information on some of our various Internet marketing services.
October 29th, 2012 Mike Wilton
When it comes to websites to list your practice on, the plastic surgery realm is definitely not lacking opportunities for doctors to sign on the dotted line. But aside from directories like our very own PlasticSurgery.com or CosmeticSurgery.com, where should doctors be investing a little more time and money? I recommend RealSelf.com. Here’s why:
RealSelf continues to see growth in both its online traffic and community. According to Compete.com data, RealSelf has seen exponential growth over the last year, even beating out websites like PlasticSurgery.org when it comes to online traffic. This growing visibility creates great opportunity for doctors to gain exposure among potential patients if they are active enough in the community.
Our InIternet marketing team is constantly analyzing analytics data for our plastic surgery SEO clients, and time and again we have found that RealSelf.com appears in the top five referrals for doctors. Having a listing on RealSelf.com can earn you some added website traffic, and if you’re active in answering questions you are sure to see even more traffic funnel your way.
Patient reviews are a hot topic amongst plastic surgeons, as we found out in our latest newsletter. But like them or not they are out there, and RealSelf.com regularly shows up in searches for doctor reviews. If you’re looking to diversify the locations of your online reviews (you are doing that…aren’t you?), then RealSelf is a strong choice as it regularly shows up in doctor review searches.
Bonus Benefit – Content Fodder
One recommendation I have made to clients in the past is that the questions on RealSelf.com are a great resources for doctors to get content ideas for their blog or website. While I suggest you still answer the questions on RealSelf.com, you could always take the topic back to your own blog and elaborate on the subject a bit further. If someone is asking the question on RealSelf, chances are there is someone else out there searching for the same answer on his or her favorite search engine.
Interested in becoming part of the RealSelf community? You can always join for free. Just make sure you become active in the community and answer questions to reap the full benefits of your RealSelf profile. But if you really want to up the ante a bit, you can always sign up for the Pro or Spotlight options, and thanks to a recent affiliate partnership between Plastic Surgery Studios and RealSelf.com, Plastic Surgery Studios clients can receive a preferred rate on RealSelf Pro and Spotlight accounts. To find out how, contact your Plastic Surgery Studios sales or customer support rep today!