Over the years, we’ve interacted with many medical clients and prospects running search engine optimization (SEO) programs with other agencies, and what is often surprising in these situations, is how little understanding there is of the true value of (or financial return from) these programs. Using some fairly simple tools (that are usually already in place), one can quickly calculate the real benefit of all those blog posts, external links, metatags, content updates and other common SEO tactics (as well as the costs and time expenditures associated with them). Don’t be fooled by that impressive ranking for a seemingly important term (it may have less than 100 searches a month in your market) or even a count of the organic visitors to your site, as both can potentially be misleading.
We would argue that a good measure of SEO value is non-branded organic visitors per month (a figure you could identify in 3 minutes if you have Google Analytics in place). If you don’t understand the difference between organic rankings (from SEO) and paid rankings, I would refer you to our recent blog post/research study: SEO vs. PPC: Which is More Powerful in Medical Marketing. Obviously some further explanation is required:
To start with, let’s distinguish branded from non-branded. In our case, the branded terms for our company would be terms like ‘MD Connect’, ‘MDConnect’, ‘MD Connect Online Marketing’, ‘Dan Stempel’, ‘Ben Joslin’, etc. Anyone searching for these terms likely already knows who we are (e.g., from other media, because they are an existing client/prospect), so they really aren’t a ‘new’ prospect. On the other hand, examples of non-branded terms would be ‘online medical marketing, ‘medical PPC marketing’, and ‘physician internet advertising’ (which fortunately we have some page 1 rankings for as well). These terms are more indicative of those for targeted prospects who likely do not know us (but will!). That’s where the value is.
In searching for ‘MD Connect’ on Google, we have the top 4 organic listings, 5 out of 10 on the first page, and another 4 out of 10 on the second page. The point here is not to brag, but rather to point out that ranking for branded terms (assuming your name is not too generic) is EASY. If your agency can’t get you page 1 (and really top 3) rankings for your name, I would fire them immediately. Non-branded rankings, however, are much harder to get (but again, more valuable). While checking rankings for such non-branded terms might be interesting, what is more useful is to determine the amount of visitors those rankings (across a swath of non-branded keywords) actually produce;
If you have Google Analytics implemented on your website (and most people do, especially those with agencies), get access and do the following (or have someone knowledgeable help you….we’ld be happy to do so); identify a recent month time frame, drill down to the organic visitors for that month, AND look at the specific keyword terms making up those searches. What we commonly find is 80-90% of those organic visitors (and many times more) are from ‘branded’ terms. Throw out those branded visitors to get down to the “non-branded organic visitors”. Look at the previous 2-3 months as there may be some fluctuation or possibly growth. If you want to take it a step further and determine a $ figure for that value, estimate (or test and actually determine) what it would take for you to ‘buy’ those types of terms. We perform a ton of medical paid search (PPC) marketing and a reasonable first pass estimate is $2-$5 per visitor (although those figures certainly do vary by geography, specialty and keyword intent….a topic for another day). Multiply that out for a dollar benefit for month, and for you financial divas out there, you can then perform the appropriate net present value calculation at the appropriate risk-adjusted rate of return (I would have stopped at the previous step…).
We are more than happy to help you with this exercise if you ever feel the need (OK, maybe not that NPV calculation). Just contact us.