SEO for Med Spas:  Good? Bad? An Expense? An Investment?

Scott HarveyMed Spa Marketing, SEO1 Comment

Unless you’re reading this early in the day, you or your staff have probably already dealt with about as many pitches for SEO for your Med Spa as you need for today.

  • “We’ll rank you #1 on Google”
  • “We’ll get you to the top of Google”
  • “You need to claim your business listing…”
  • “I’ve reviewed your website and you aren’t ranking for {blank}…”

Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can make a huge difference in the number of visitors your website attracts, and even in the number of those visitors who take the next step and call you for a consult, and it can do so with an excellent Return on Investment (ROI).

Bad SEO just vacuums money out of your bank account, and accomplishes nothing—or worse yet, makes you look amateurish (not to mention having Google penalize you.)

In the really old days, all that was necessary was to put a bunch of terms you wanted to rank for at the bottom of your website:

  • medical spa irvine
  • day spa newport beach
  • botox near yorba linda
  • tustin skin care spa

(I admit, I did this back in 2001 or so because it was just “what you did.”)  But it stopped working decades ago (in Internet time.)

In the slightly-less old days, SEO meant more “backlinks” – at the time, basically directory and article submissions—the idea being to get your name and website and some content all over the web, with links back to your website when possible.  Google and the other search engines would then think your site was important, and you would show up higher in the search results.  That’s a bit over-simplified, but essentially accurate.

The problem was that a lot of the work was outsourced to cheap labor in third-world countries, whose English often wasn’t very good, so the content wasn’t very good, so Google wasn’t impressed, so rankings didn’t improve.  Worse yet, if a prospective patient actually did come across a poorly-written article, she became less likely to visit your site, not more likely.

Today, SEO involves a lot more, and it’s a lot more important, because prospective patients are ever more likely to search the web when thinking about an injectable or laser treatment – much less an invasive surgical procedure.  More and more patients (one study says 77%) use a web search before making an appointment, so digital strategies that successfully persuade searchers to go to your website are now critically important.

It’s not just getting good articles and citations and press releases out there for Google to find.  A competent SEO firm will also be sure your site is properly optimized, that it loads quickly, and that it’s user-friendly.  A pretty site that loads too slowly, that distracts the visitor with pop-up messages and automatically-starting videos and sliders or that doesn’t answer the question “Why should I choose you?”does you no favors.

I’m sort of conflating good Med Spa SEO with good web design here, but it’s a fact that some web designers don’t really understand marketing, so your marketing slash SEO person may need to overrule your web design person, or at least suggest and implement some split-testing.

Google’s algorithms are getting very good at determining the value of a piece of content, so the articles themselves need to be longer, with original content that’s interesting and relevant.

They don’t need to be written by a high-priced copywriter, but three-hundred-word snippets that really don’t have much value just don’t cut it any longer.

The same article, just re-written, or “spun” 50 times, with different words placed in different order, but saying (usually awkwardly) the same thing, doesn’t cut it any longer.

One simple indicator to at least suggest whether you’re going to get good value for your SEO investment is simply to look at the price.

Think of it this way:  It’s pretty hard to do a decent job in less than 20 hours a month—and that’s 20 hours of a competent person who can write good articles and posts, find places to get them posted, do link-building, do keyword research, track everything that’s going on, prepare reports, keep your site optimized, split-test design elements and offers, and more.

So even at $100 an hour, and most agencies charge more than that, a decent SEO campaign is going to cost $2,000 a month—so when someone quotes you $149 or $299 monthly, what do you think you’re going to get?  You’re going to get low-quality, outsourced garbage, that’s what you’re going to get.

If you get anything at all.

There’s lots of instances of those vendors cashing your check, and doing nothing at all, while protesting “well, you know—it takes a little time.  Google’s algorithm changed.  We just need to keep it up and do more.”  Hopefully you haven’t been a victim of that already…

And be wary of someone pitching “1st page of Google” and “clicks”.  Those things are nice, of course, but what really matters is appointments and new patients.  Getting clicks isn’t so hard.  Getting on the first page of Google for a valueless search term isn’t difficult.

Getting clicks that turn into patients is a horse of a different color, and requires a marketing firm that truly understands not just the technical aspects of how to post articles and build links and get clicks, but that has a deep understanding of the aesthetics market and of how to convert lookers to consults and procedures.

As in most areas of life, better costs more, although it may be cheaper in the long run.  So in the same way that a smart, ideal med spa prospect wouldn’t go shopping for the cheapest facility, a smart practice wouldn’t go shopping for the cheapest SEO provider.

Besides—an article a while back in “Plastic Surgery Practice” maintained that a new cosmetic patient is worth more than $100,000.  Even if you don’t also do surgical procedures, you’ve probably found your clients can easily be worth $4,000 or $5,000 over their “lifetime” with your practice.  Many times much more – right?

Maybe in your market that $100K figure is so high it makes you want to shut down and ignore SEO because “it won’t work for me.”  STOP!  The point is that the lifetime value of a single new aesthetic client will pay for many months of SEO.  Even your Botox ® patients come in a few times a year for a couple/few years on average, right?

What if you only get one or two additional new patients a month by engaging a really good marketing/ SEO firm?  What if for you, the lifetime value of a new surgical patient is only $30,000, or a non-invasive client is only worth $3,000?

Any halfway-decent marketing firm that has an expertise in the aesthetics market can handle not only the SEO, but all the other aspects of marketing your practice.  In other words, $2,000, or $5,000, or $10,000 a month that brings in $50,000 or $100,000 or $200,000 would be a really good investment, wouldn’t it?

Sure, you don’t get all that lifetime income at once, to defray this month’s marketing/SEO costs, but after a couple of months’ lag to get things ramped up, you sure ought to be bringing in enough new business to much more than pay for your monthly costs—then the 2nd and 3rd and following procedures for that client are pure gravy.

I said above that one of the things your marketing firm ought to be doing is tracking.

That’s one of the beauties of a well-constructed digital marketing program—it’s possible to know exactly what’s working and what isn’t, because it’s easy to establish special phone numbers and special website landing pages so that you can accurately track, without any additional effort, exactly what drove your caller or visitor to reach out to you.

When you determine what’s working well, you do more of that, and you do less of what isn’t working well enough to make sense.  Pretty simple.

In theory, when you do radio or TV or direct mail, all of which can be effective when done properly, you can set up tracking with special phone numbers, or by having staff ask what prompted the phone call, but in practice it’s really tough to do effectively.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing radio, TV, or direct mail.  You probably should do some or all of those, to reinforce your digital efforts—and a good marketing agency can help with all that.

Remember, though, that the smart money is spending a lot more on digital marketing than on anything else.  For example, a survey of global business leaders in 2015, showed that they were planning to increase spending on SEO and PPC, while only 7.7% were planning to increase spending on TV and Radio. They must know something about what’s working.

No offense, but many a medical director or physician forgets that his or her practice is a business.  It may be a calling, but it’s also a business.  Most businesses need to invest in marketing to attract new clients and replace those who move away, or no longer need their services for one reason or another.  (Some businesses do what they do so well, or are just fortunate enough that they don’t even need to market.  That’s most unusual, and that probably isn’t you, or you wouldn’t be reading this far down.)

Bottom line?  If you’re looking to expand your practice to serve more of humanity or to build an empire, or just to pay off the $%&* student loans faster, it makes sense to invest in good marketing and good SEO.  Done right, you’ll get back multiples of what you put in.

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