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June 18, 2008

The Internet: A Purveyor of Self-diagnosis

Jaimy Szymanski | Web & DigitalWhen Al Gore invented the internet before the dawn of time, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have in mind its future capacity to send users into a state of self-induced paranoia.

When websites such as WebMD and HealthCentral allow John Doe to search medical symptoms and diagnoses in a matter of seconds, sooner or later he looks a little more like John, MD, in the mirror.

Case in point: I had a rare strain of strep throat a few weeks back and, even after taking three horse pills a day for two weeks, was lucky enough to have sustained its sore throat symptoms much longer than the normal human being.

So, what did I do, being a bit of a hypochondriac myself? Went online of course, only to find out that I obviously had rheumatic fever, paired with a beautifully rare tracheal abscess. Raising the proverbial white flag, I surrendered to my ill-fated future as an invalid, set for an untimely, early death.

I then went to bed, planning to begin my last will and testament in the morning.

Spoiler alert: I don’t have rheumatic fever. Or an abscess. In fact, my symptoms are nil to none today … only a mere 12+ hours after my self-diagnosis.

That got me to thinking: the internet is pretty powerful when putting the right information, into the right hands, at the right time. And, not to mention, if your information is important enough, you can bet users will be back again … and again … and again.

Sounds simple enough, but I wonder how many organizations actually assess their ability to draw repeat visitors to their website, only by adding fresh, interesting content. With the overuse of Flash and similar visual elements on websites, I fear that content often takes a backseat to mind-numbing design.

What about your website? How have you drawn in repeat visits through engaging, relevant copy alone?