3rd Party Website Assessments: Are They Accurate?
Have you recently received an email from a marketing company with an assessment of your medical or dental website? If so, the email likely assigned letter grades or pass/fail to a number of critical areas concerning your search marketing strategies. Were you happy with this assessment? Or did it leave you feeling frustrated and confused about the current state of your site?
If you are familiar with the situation above, you’re not alone.
A number of my clients receive emails of this nature, which creates similar feelings as they try to make sense of the report and begin to doubt the effectiveness of their current SEO and marketing strategies. If you’re in the same boat, you first need to consider the motivation of the company emailing you:
Selling you on the value of their products and services relies solely on the results of this report.
If they don’t find something is wrong or missing, their sales pitch is dead in the water.
3rd Party Website Assessments: A Case Study
A client of mine recently received an email containing a website review, which provided Pass/Fail scores for 14 areas important to our overall search engine optimization strategy. While areas such as page titles and descriptions, keywords, and content passed, the report showed failures in the following four areas: Organic Website Visibility, Google Place Visibility, Domain Name, and Social Media.
Not exactly minor areas of concern in a comprehensive search engine marketing campaign. But let’s take a closer look.
For the moment, let’s pretend this is a dental practice in Springfield, OH.
- Organic Website Visibility “failed” because this practice did not show up when a search was conducted for “Springfield dentist.” What the report fails to mention is that the search returned results for Springfield, MA, not Ohio, not apples to apples, not even in the same state. If the search is conducted for the correct location, the site is on page 1.
- Google Place Visibility “failed” for the same reason. This tells me that this report was more than likely automatically generated, and not created by an experienced consultant.
- Domain Name “failed” because this company recommends using a domain based on a search term. What this report fails to acknowledge is that branding for the name of the practice (which is the domain of our Springfield client’s site from our example), is often as important, if not more so when you consider the range of procedures offered by the practice, and the volume of practices in a particular area.
- Social Media “failed” because the website does not have a blog, does not contain links to Facebook, and is not capitalizing on the potential of dental social media optimization. This is my favorite one. In the explanation, the report provides a sample URL for where the blog should be hosted. If you click on the link, it takes you directly to this client’s blog. Not misleading, just plain wrong. And those missing social media links? Facebook buttons are at the top of the page.
Here’s my point: these reports are often intentionally misleading or simply incorrect in their assessment of your site. They are often computer-generated and do not compare apples to apples. Without site information such as calls and emails coming from your site, an accurate assessment is virtually impossible.
In this particular case, the client has seen nearly 30% growth in total website visits from Q1 2011 to Q1 2012, 13% increase in phone calls, and nearly 20% in emails.
What to do Next Time You Receive a 3rd Party Website Assessment
The next time you receive a report like this, ask yourself the following questions before you consider the validity of the company’s claims.
- What is the motive of the company? What are they selling?
- What is the report based on? One keyword?
- Was the report generated by a hands-on consultant?
- Was the report based on current levels of traffic and conversions?
Bottom line? Don’t get caught up in the jargon. Measure real results. Can you identify an increase in website traffic for important keywords? Are website visitors converting into patients? If so, don’t let 3rd party website assessments affect your confidence in the overall effectiveness of your practice’s site.