10 Online Medical Marketing Scams to Avoid

Practis Blog

When you’re running a practice and caring for patients, building a purpose-driven marketing plan, creating high-quality content, and optimizing current campaigns is the last thing you have time for.

If you’re evaluating medical marketing agencies to help grow your practice, be weary of those that use high-pressure sales tactics and these 10 online medical marketing scams that won’t generate results.

1. The fake client portfolio and review scam

It’s worth it to spend time reviewing the firm’s work portfolio. Unfortunately, some medical marketing agencies are not completely honest when it comes to this aspect of their business. Scam agencies could  fabricate  marketing campaign results just to draw you in when they may have no professional experience at all. If you want to hire a company with a long track record and proven success, ask for examples of their work, case studies, referrals, reviews, and so forth.

Keep in mind that some medical marketing companies are newer and may not have a plethora of these examples to share. This doesn’t make them a scam.  If they don’t have any, or have very few references, don’t be shy about reaching out to some of their LinkedIn connections to verify their credentials.

TIP: Be sure to check out their website too while you’re doing your due diligence.

2. The cheap custom website scam

If your practice doesn’t have a website, you should consider getting one as soon as possible. Your website will be your greatest marketing tool for your practice. . It’s also an intangible business asset that will allow you to better support patients

A well designed medical website is necessary to differentiate your practice from the competition and generate new patient leads. Because websites hold so much marketing power, they are an investment – especially if you want a custom site Medical marketing agencies that offer to create a completely custom website for you at a price that is dirt cheap is unrealistic. A dirt cheap website is a scam. It signals that it’s likely poorly developed, and may not be truly custom.

Expect to pay around $3,000 for a good semi-custom website, one that utilizes a predetermined layout but allows for some customization of design elements and layout blocks. Most agencies have design templates to select from that can be moderately ‘customized’ or altered to create a completely unique look and feel for your practice.

Know what goes into good medical website design. Check out our blog on Top Medical Design Features & Why >>

3. The exclusive territory marketing scam

If an agency claims to provide you any form of exclusivity, it’s a scam. Never trust an agency that promises any result for that matter. There’s always going to be competition, and Google will never give you priority without earning it.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Here’s an example of this type of marketing pitch: 

They will likely ask you to overpay far and above the going rate to get the majority of potential patients in your market. For a set price, these marketing firms claim to only take one medical practice per market.

4. The promise of major directory listings scam

One of the more common digital marketing scams is marketers promising to create you “top-quality listings”.  There are hundreds of thousands of online directories these days, and for most industries, online directories are a source of visibility and value. However for medical providers, being on directories that are not healthcare focused  is a waste. There are many well-established directories that cover multiple industries such as Healthgrades, Vitals, Wellness, Doctor.com, etc. It makes sense to be on these, if they are relevant to your industry and audience.

Being present on online directories that are not only irrelevant for your practice, but are also low-quality, offer no value to your practice or help when seeking new patients. They waste your marketing dollars and time. Plus, you also run the risk of damaging your reputation by having online profiles on low-quality listings.

Avoid this scam by knowing what directories are best for your speciality and why.

Not sure what online directories are best for your practice? Ask our team!

5. The buying followers scam

Buying social media followers and likes can do your practice more harm than good. Social media was originally created as a means to connect digitally but naturally with friends, colleagues, and the community. Gaming the system and buying your friends digitally is like buying your friends in real-life – they won’t truly care about you and won’t engage with you on their own.

Inexperienced marketers will tell you that the best way to extend your social media reach is through purchasing influence. Today, fake profiles are not only worthless in terms of offering value but are also spam signals that can devalue your rankings.

Today, the best ways to gain social followers is by: 

  • Being present on the right networks
  • Sharing top-quality content
  • Engaging with your audience through relevant and thoughtful campaigns
  • Posting during peak times
  • Providing value to your audience
  • Inviting new visitors to follow you

Interested in learning more about how to grow your medical practice through social media marketing? Contact our team of medical social media experts for advice on how to proceed.

6. The domain name renewal scam

This scam won’t be initiated from a trusted marketing agency but an online con artist. Sophisticated scammers are using the guise of fake trademark protection to intimidate you into purchasing another domain from them.

In this situation, the scammer attempts to trick you into giving up sensitive payment information or involuntarily switch domain registration companies. They’ll send you a notice via mail, email, or phone call.

The scam specifically cites your practice name and domain name, urging you to renew the domain name that is about to expire soon. With your correct personal name, domain name, and practice name, the notice seems official, which makes the scam highly effective.

It’s important to notice that the email, mail, or phone call you receive will not be from the company your domain is registered through, and to trust the person or company that has control of your domain name.

TIP: If you manage your own domain name, always verify the communications you receive  with your domain registration provider before sharing any payment details.

7. The fast track SEO scam

Appearing in search results is vital for practice growth, and achieving a strong online presence takes time. In the world of SEO, there’s Black Hat SEO. Black hat SEO is unethical and manipulative, and does not work to gain results today. In fact, trying to gain from black hat SEO tactics today can get your website banned from Google and other search engines.

Black hat SEO is used to boost a webpage’s search engine ranking by violating the search engine’s terms of service. Interested in learning more? Here’s a comprehensive intro to black hat seo from HubSpot, founders and leaders of inbound marketing.

Black hat SEO techniques include: 

  • Keyword stuffing – the practice of filling your content with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate where the page ranks on search results pages
  • Cloaking – showing one piece of content to users and a different piece of content to search engines. Websites practicing black hat SEO will do this in order to make content rank for a variety of terms irrelevant to their content
  • Sneaky redirects – a redirect involves sending someone to a different URL than the one they initially clicked. Black hat SEO uses redirects outside of the purpose they are intended for
  • Poor quality content – content that’s of no value to the searcher is also a common practice in black hat SEO. This includes content scraped or duplicated from another website
  • Paid links – Google strictly bans the buying and selling of links so you should always avoid paying another site to link to your content
  • Abusing rich snippets – entails changing how your content is displayed on search results pages to make your content stand out from competitors
  • Blog comment spam – is when you include a link to your website in blog comments. TIP: Avoid having this happen to your blog by making links in comments nofollow.
  • Link farms – is a website or a collection of websites developed solely for the purpose of link building, which builds domain authority and increases ranking
  • Private blog networks – similar to link farms in that they both aim to exaggerate the number of links pointing to a website but differ in the way that private blog networks do this on a larger scale

Companies won’t directly tell you that they’re leveraging black hat SEO. The only genuine way to ace Google rankings is to create valuable, engaging content about topics that interest your patients. There aren’t any shortcuts outside of this secret to success.

8. The guarantee of high Google ranking scam

This one is a sub-scam of the fast track SEO scam. No medical marketing agency can or should guarantee you a top Google rank. Google algorithms are subject to regular updates, so what works today may not work tomorrow.

Experienced and trustworthy digital marketers will never guarantee any results from their activities. They will however demonstrate how their efforts produce results. They should  explain what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what those efforts will do to improve your rankings. The most they will do is promise to stay on their toes for any Google algorithm updates and about their flexibility to adapt to those changes.

9. The double-sell scam

The double-sell scam is one of the most common and widespread digital marketing scams out there, namely because the digital marketing landscape is full of buzzwords that you need to watch out for as they can easily cause much confusion. The digital marketing services you sign up for should be straightforward.

For instance, let’s say you have a website and you’re working on SEO and PPC when a sales representative pitches search engine marketing (SEM) because it’s crucial to boosting online presence. Given that SEM covers paid and unpaid digital marketing on search engines, it boils down to being nothing other than SEO and PPC. In other words, scammers attempt to sell exactly the same services you are already paying for.

10. Stealing your PPC spend scam

PPC should help generate leads right away. If your PPC campaigns aren’t driving results, it’s a real possibility that your medical marketing agency is stealing your PPC spend. Before you begin a campaign, ask your campaign manager to walk you through the results they anticipate for the budget for you’ve allocated.

Any experienced marketer will be able to provide ROI projections. If the agency shows that it’s spending $1,000 on PPC and that you should be getting at least 4 new patient leads a month, ask what’s going on if you’re getting anything less.

In most of these scams, the victims have no idea how much money they’re paying is going to Google. The agency is supposed to deduct a campaign management fee from the amount you’re paying and invest the rest into PPC. For example, if 85% of what you’re paying them should go to Google and the remaining 15% should be retained by the marketing agency, you should be able to clearly see that it’s happening.

Unfortunately, these scams are real and they happen all the time. As long as you keep these tips in mind, you’re far less likely to become a victim of these scams. While there are a few bad agencies, there are many more legitimate medical marketing agencies out there like Practis that genuinely want to help you grow your practice.

If you’re questioning anything your current marketing agency is doing, or want to know how we would help you reach new patients, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.