Last week I booked a flight with Southwest Airlines. I noticed this on their website.
Best rate Guarantee! When you make a hotel reservation at southwest.com, you can feel confident that you’ve secured the lowest price for your hotel booking.
The site intermingled 2 terms for the same concept – booking and reservation.
This got me thinking; I wondered if this was a common occurrence across corporate sites? When you try to complete tasks online, inconsistent terminology is at best confusing, at worst prevents you from completing tasks.
Is your marketing content consistent? From a marketing point of view, lack of consistency affects SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Indeed, there may even be compliance risks. For example, are terms and conditions for a ‘booking’ identical to a ‘reservation’? Something an adept legal person might enjoy exploiting!
Now the booking/reservation inconsistency didn’t prevent me from completing my task. However, it did beg a bigger question, how widespread is inconsistent terminology?
So, I decided to dig deeper. I scanned 8 leading health insurance web sites with VisibleThread. Inconsistent terminology in a health setting might be a little more serious. If you’re a brand manager, a CMO, a head of communications or have responsibility for brand integrity or compliance and risk, I think you’ll find the results interesting.
Why choose healthcare?
With social channels like Facebook, users want to have fun and share. When users come to a corporate website, they are trying to solve a problem or find specific information. They need answers.
I wanted to look at copy for brands where inconsistent terms might confuse customers, affect content strategy, or even introduce corporate risk. I chose healthcare. If your 2 year-old daughter is having difficulty catching her breadth at 3AM, you need clear, consistent answers on your health providers site.
The companies I scanned
Here is a list of the top 25 US health insurance companies. I scanned the top 8 with VisibleThread. Here they are:
- Unitedhealth Group
- Wellpoint Inc. Group
- Kaiser Foundation Group
- Aetna Group
- Humana Group
- HCSC Group
- Coventry Corp. Group
- Highmark Group
The results – Your copay is not my co-payment!
I tried a simple experiment. I set up a health ‘dictionary’ in VisibleThread with terms like co-payment, co-pay etc. In case you’re wondering, when you visit a doctor in the US, assuming you carry insurance, you pay a flat charge; this is a co-payment.
Next, I scanned 100 pages on each of the 8 sites. I started from the home pages. Each scan took about 2 minutes. The 100 pages were arbitrary. Here are the results, each column represents a site. The numbers show occurrences of each term:
Here’s what we found:
- 6 of the 8 sites had 2 or more variations for co-payment.
- 2 of the 8 had 4 variations of co-payment
and most surprising of all:
- 2 of the 8 sites had no reference at all to co-payment. In the US co-payment is in fact the official term.
So, it looks like inconsistency is not just confined to my booking/reservation scenario. It’s alive and well in the healthcare sector!
Some specific inconsistencies
The 2nd site in the screenshot above is Humana. For the pages we scanned, there were 10 instances of copay and 11 of copayment.
If you prefer a prescription drug plan with no deductible, retail pharmacy copays as low as $2, and mail order copays as low as $0, you should explore Humana’s Enhanced plan.
You must continue to pay your Medicare Part B premiums. Limitations, copayments and restrictions may apply.
A quick note on Obamacare
Now as part of the affordable health care act passed by US congress in 2010, there is a drive to make terminology consistent. You can see a full list of approved terms here.
So, there is a regulatory implication at play here too.
Here are some of the takeaways:
- Inconsistent terminology is very common. We didn’t have to look far to find it in healthcare.
- Inconsistent terminology can confuse your customers.
- It can reduce the effectiveness of your online content marketing and SEO strategy.
- There may be regulatory implications.