Online Marketing for Healthcare – Why Cookie Cutter Doesn’t Work

Healthcare marketing is unique. User behavior is different for healthcare than many other industries, and there are many nuances to be familiar with. In short, you want to make sure that you’re engaging with an agency that understands healthcare. However, many agencies (though certainly not all) that specialize in one niche like healthcare also create cookie cutter solutions that they use for clients. While the cost reduction may sound appealing, there are a handful of things that you’ll need to watch out for.

The Danger of Cookie Cutter Solutions

You want to make sure that you’re hiring someone that will market your practice, not put you in a formula to make their job easier. While finding an efficient agency that can maximize your spend is a good thing, there are some issues that you’ll want to be aware of:

Project Manager Overload – Many agencies that try to use cookie cutter solutions greatly overwork project managers. One large, well-known company is known to give project managers between 150-200 clients each. When agencies try to cram in as many clients as possible, lack expertise, and have limited availability, your account suffers. You lose access to your account managers and your account receives limited attention (we’re talking about 30 minutes per month in many instances!).

You Become the Same as Everyone Else – You will often see the same templates, designs, and even same content on multiple sites run by the same agency. While cost efficient, it says nothing truly unique about your practice. If there’s nothing unique about you, there’s no reason to come to you. That’s not marketing, that’s camouflage. Remember, your website is a reflection of your practice.

Duplicate Content Could Be a Major Issue – Not only is duplicate content an issue when it makes you look like everyone else, it can also can be an issue in search engines. The issue with cookie cutter agencies is that they use the same copy for multiple websites. Not similar content, the exact same content. Typically, the way Google handles duplicate content is that if they see two pages with virtually the same content, they’ll hide one from search results. This means that you could potentially be hiding from search results for some queries, but not always. Your site may even contain plagiarized content. To see if you’re content is duplicated elsewhere on the web, go to and enter the URL of one of your pages, typically a service/condition page that may be easily duplicated. Copyscape will show you if the content is on other web pages, where, and how much is a word for word match.

Systems Can Be Dangerous – While systems can be helpful for organization, reporting, or other technical tasks, they can be dangerous for marketing. Many years ago, simply buying links (which were ultimately spam) was cheap and effective for SEO. Now, it’s a dangerous tactic that can get you removed from search results. Some agencies still do this as a part of their system (though they would never call it spam). Most systems like this have danger in one form or another, though they’ve evolved a little over time. Want to understand a little more and see if you’re in danger? The following video from the head of Google’s team that controls the search engine sheds a little more light on the subject:

Your Practice Has Unique Needs – The bottom line is that the needs of your practice aren’t identical to the needs of every other practice. You have different nuances to your services, staff with specific expertise, and continually changing market needs. You may need to promote different services at different times due to demand or availability. Ensuring that you have a team that can meet those specific needs and adapt at any given time is important.

Cookie Cutter May Be Your Best Option

Contrary to what we’ve said up to this point, cookie cutter solutions may be your best option. Cookie cutter is cheap. If you are extremely limited on budget, or are very small in size/service offering, this may be the better path. If you do go this direction, you need to make sure that you temper your expectations. Just like you can’t go to a jewelry store and get a real diamond for $100, you’re not going to get top tier results for cheap prices. Also, if you do go this direction, you still want to make sure that the company you’re working with is above board. They may have limited resources and availability, and that may be a sacrifice you’re willing to make. Don’t go with an agency that is going to ultimately harm your site or your brand, and ultimately cost you more money.

Avoiding the Cookie Cutter Trap

If you want to make sure that you avoid the cookie cutter trap, there are a handful of things that are important to do before you sign the contract. First, spend some time getting to know the agency that will be working with you. You want them to be partners and in it for the long haul. Changing your agency every few months helps no one. Make sure that you’re comfortable with them and the fact that they will be representing your brand. Instinct goes a long way here.

Second, make sure you know what they do and how they do it. While most doctors and practice managers won’t understand the technical details of marketing, especially online marketing, there are things that you can look for. The most important thing is transparency. Lack of transparency either shows a lack of knowledge or that there are tactics they don’t want you to know about. Neither of these is good. Anything “proprietary” is a caution flag, unless it has to do with reporting or data analysis. Proprietary rank building software, for example, is not a good thing.

Finally, make sure they work for you. Your job is not to make the agency money. The agency’s job is to make you money. Of course, both parties should win in the end, and we suggest that contracts are written with that in mind. But if there is something you’re uncomfortable with or that just seems “off”, be careful. If you feel like you’re a number, not a valuable client, they’re not the fit for you.

Are You In a Cookie Cutter?

Many companies are in the midst of a cookie cutter solution and don’t even know it. Want to know how your site is really doing? Contact us for a free website evaluation. We’ll take a look at your website and let you know of any problems, successes, and areas of improvement.

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