Medical Practice Website – Should I carry advertising

So you have decided to create a web site for your medical practice, along the lines of my ‘Medical Business Card‘ idea. You have a basic idea of what information you want to carry, then someone suggests signing up carrying to display internet based advertising to make the site pay for itself.

Seems like a good idea? I mean, what can go wrong with simple adverts ………..

First lets start with some basics. How does advertising on the internet actually work?

First one has to realise that the page you see on a web site is NOT a single document. For those who have never written web pages or used ‘mail merge’ in a word processor this can be a very difficult concept.
At its simplest that nice image you see on screen, is in a different file than the text you are reading. “But they both come from the same web site dont they” ….wrong!
Lets think about this!

Think of the actual web page you are reading, with its unique web address (URL) as a set of instructions to your web browser (such as Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome).

To see these instructions RIGHT click on this web page and choose ‘view source’.

Your web browser opens the file from the URL you type in then more or less starts at the top and works its way through line by line.

The text that is to appear usually DOES come from the file at the address you typed in. But nothing else does!

Somewhere in the file you will find a command similar to <img src=”url” alt=”some_text”>. See where it says URL, in there will be the web address (URL) of the IMAGE file that you see on the screen. That image file MIGHT come from your own web site, or it might come from someone elses site.

Why is that an issue?

When your user (patients) web browser requests that file from a third party site, it transmits all sorts of tracking data to that third party’s web server. Sometimes enough to identify your patient, or at least enough to identify their likes and dislikes for the purposes of targeted advertising.

So you sign up for advertising eg Google Adsense, or similar services from others such as ‘Chikita‘. In effect you are allowing these services to display adverts on your page, you are selling screen real estate in fromt of your viewers eyes for a monetary return. These servcies give you a piece of customised code that you include in your own page. Then your reader (patient’s) web browser goes to the advertisers URL where it displays whatever the third party advertising service wishes – as part of your page.

Lets think about that?

The advertiser displays to your reader or patient whatever the advertiser chooses. The content being displayed goes direct to your patient, from the advertisers server. You and your practice are out of the communication loop, yet to the patient the advert was displayed on YOUR page so it is implicit that it happened with your approval, that YOU are recommending the product or service being promoted by the third party.
These advertisers sell such space to the highest bidder, and I can promise you that the cheapest most effective evidence based therapy will rarely be the highest bidder!
So how much money can you make?

That depends on how busy your web site is. Many in the online industry say you will make a few dollars per thousand visitors, depending on the popularity of the content you put online. Some say below 10,000 visitors a month online advertising is just not worth it.

In a nutshell running adverts on a medical practice web site opens you to a whole host of problems and potential liabilities for next to nothing in return.

It’s not worth it!

On the subject of advertising you will notice the Viglink logo on this blog. I dont carry advertising for similar reasons to those outlined above. I do however allow links from this website to be monetised via Viglink. That means if someone is viewing my site and goes to a third party merchant and buys something I might get a commission. I stress MIGHT!

Great idea. As of writing (April 2013) I have yet to earn a cent so you see just how successful this is for a small medical web site!

 Your real return on running a small medical practice web site is the happy, well briefed patient who walks through your door. Dont try for anything more.