SEO Epic Fail: Why Sutter Health Needs Proper SEO

SMS Text

I got a call today from a close friend that one of our other friends had a stroke earlier today and was in the hospital. As soon as I heard, I jumped online to get the phone number for the ICU unit of the hospital where he’s at so I could coordinate visiting him.

I did this because I’ve had a lot of experience visiting friends and family members in ICU units. They have strict visiting hours and visitation rules. It’s at this point I discovered a MASSIVE FAIL on the part of Sutter Health when it comes to both SEO and Telephone Support…


The first person in our close-knit group of friends to find out about the stroke happens to have lived in San Francisco for many years. When she started the phone notifcation process, she said to let everyone know he’s in the ICU unit at Davies Medical Center in the city. Not being a native of or truly knowledgeable about that particular hospital, I naturally went to the web for contact information.


My initial search for Davies Medical Center San Francisco got me the following results:


Because I hadn’t been aware that “Davies” is not a medical center, but instead, a CAMPUS that’s part of the Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center complex of campuses, the only match that made sense was the last entry above, part of the Standford University site. But that LINK is just for an Environmental Impact report on a parking structure! Worthless.

So I clicked on the YELP entry. And got This:


So I called. And got the main Sutter Health call center. When I asked for the ICU unit, the operator said “Which one”? Uh, there’s more than one? okay – the Davies Medical Center ICU, please.

That operator put me through, and when I explained why I was calling, the nurse said – there’s nobody here by that name…


OMG – is he like DEAD? I thought? The nurse said – let me look him up… Okay – So she looked him up and of course said, Oh – he’s in the Davies Campus ICU…

WAIT – THIS isn’t the Davies Campus?

No – this is the California Campus…

Okay – could you transfer me please?

Hold on..

Yeah Sure. Let’s play THIS game…


At this point I jumped back to Google, because I knew I couldn’t rely on another phone transfer. Why should I? I mean, this is only 2009 right? And after DECADES of being shuffled by underpaid, unhappy, under-trained, unsympathetic phone reps, I knew better than to expect that the SECOND transfer would go any better than the FIRST one….

So I clicked this time on the main CPMC link shown for the local listings. Which brought me to the main Sutter Health CPMC web site.

Note how the top navigation on that site has NOTHING even close to a “CONTACT US” link. Or a “LOCATIONS” link. Or a “CAMPUSES” link.


But just below that, on the right side, they DO have this:

California Pacific Medical Center_CampusLinksNow, even though it says “View Map”, and not “Visit Campus Page” or something, I took a wild guess and when I went to that page, it was, in fact, a more complete page than just a map. It included the actual address of the campus, a campus schematic showing where buildings are, and written directions from various points. As well as a Google Map.

The problem with that page though, is there’s NO phone number anywhere on the page. NONE. Except in the Google Map Bubble, it shows the MAIN NUMBER for CPMC again.

You know – the one I called first, which only got me transferred to the WRONG campus…

By now, I had been transferred a second time. But guess where to?



Fortunately, the woman who answered THAT phone, was kind enough to dig. At first she said “I’m sorry – there’s no number for…”

“Excuse me? My friend just had a STROKE and he’s in the ICU, and you’re telling…”

“Wait – let me check… Okay – here’s the number to the Davies Campus – but it’s the main number, we can’t give out the ICU number. 415-600-5274″… (side note – the reason hospitals don’t give out the number to an Intensive Care Unit, is they don’t want just anyone calling, intentionally or not, directly into the unit. The need for quiet, and to allow ICU staff to provide the most important care to critically ill patients is far greater than allowing a direct number out. But of course, that’s no excuse for not publishing the main number to the correct campus!)

Well it turns out that was in fact, the right number. And when I called, I learned that my friend is doing okay for now, and resting. The nurse explained their strict visiting hours policies, and said at this point today, it would be best to allow him to just rest, but to check in tomorrow and come after calling…


So – Back to SEO, Epic Fails and the Human Factor

First, I don’t know who at Sutter Health, or the California Pacific Medical Center is in charge of their web presence. Whoever that person or committee or group is, THEY SHOULD BE FIRED. Right after the person or people or department or group in charge of Telephone Customer Support.

Why, when I did my first search, didn’t the right listing come up? Well, for this article, I went back to get some screen caps of all this mess. And here’s where GOOGLE’s team should be FIRED.


Because THIS TIME, here’s what I got:


Holy Cannoli! Google pulled a “We know what you really want now that you’ve done this search before” move on me!

Well, STUPID ME – I actually clicked on the DAVIES MEDICAL CENTER entry,




I’m NOT putting a link to that horror of a site. Feel free to go there if you dare. It’s the ORIGINAL DAVIES Medical Center site from NINETEEN NINETY SIX. Yes, it’s right there in the center of the home page: Wednesday, December 18, 1996. But still there, and WITH Google AdSense Ads!

There’s even a “GUESTBOOK” link 🙂

Except the phone number under the “General Information” link? An OLD phone number, no longer used!


The SEO Nightmare

All of this, of course, is attributable to several factors, all related to Internet Marketing, and Public Interaction. And there’s several obvious points of failure throughout. But from an SEO perspective, the whole thing began because the way I went about searching for the proper phone number was based on how someone NATIVE to San Francisco knows the hospital – as it’s OLD, now PHASED OUT name. Davies Medical Center.

Except THAT site was last updated in 1997


And somebody forgot to tell the CPMC Web team about that site, let alone the importance of 301 Redirects…

And THAT is further complicated by the concept that the people who maintain their current site have no clue how to optimize a web site based on multiple critical keyword phrases.


If you go to their “DAVIES CAMPUS” map page, you’ll see NOTHING is optimized. Not the Page Title, not the OVERSTUFFED Meta Keywords tag, not the GENERIC Meta Description, not the URL… And the header text isn’t wrapped in an H1, or ANYTHING but a DIV that’s styled to look big. And none of the text refers to the campus by it’s old name.

So anyone who’s lived in San Francisco or anyone who is informed about it by someone who’s lived in San Francisco, unless they’re EXTREMELY lucky, will, as I did, run into a chaotic mess of confusion.

At a time when all we can think about is someone we love, care for with all our heart and soul, and just want to find out more information about how they’re doing, and when we can come up and see them.


Let’s Speak up

Now that we’re in the Social Media era, I figured at this point, go to Twitter and tweet a “HEY FIX THIS” tweet to the Sutter Health people. But of course, it seems there is NO Sutter Health Twitter account to be found. What a perfect way to wrap up this mess.


If you or someone you know doesn’t truly take the time to comprehend the seriously painful implications of failing to think through a proper SEO strategy, just pause a moment and think about what it would be like for YOU if it was YOUR friend or loved one lying in that hospital room.


Alan Bleiweiss has been an Internet professional since 1995. Just a few of his earliest clients included, and Follow him on Twitter @AlanBleiweiss , read his blog at Search Marketing Wisdom.

Alan Bleiweiss
Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites consisting of upwards of 50 million pages and tens of millions of visitors... Read Full Bio
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  • Devin

    Hi Alan,
    I am the manager of the PBX dept at California Pacific Medical Center (The phone operators).
    I am sorry you had a ruff time with the operators and them transfering you to the wrong campus. Hell, the Cal campus does not even have an ICU for adults! Yes we do have 3 other ICU units on other campuses (we have 4 hospital campuses) so it was proper for the operator to ask which campus. What they also should of done is asked the patient name. We have a complete system that should of listed the campus, room number etc. Question, was a patient name ever given to the operators? That would of helped.

    As for your Web complaints, I too have complained about the same thing. For the longest time Google did not even have our correct addresses. I work in the IT department as well but most of the external Web Presence is managed by our Marketing group. We have shared this post with them as well.

    I hope your friend is doing well. Feel free to respond directly yo me at

    Devin Cornwell
    Manager Technical Services

  • David

    My guess is that someone added the AdSense code and the client may not even know that it is there..

    Fully agree that all of this can’t help when you are stressed out and worried, even basic items such as phone or address details are the last thoughts on your mind.

    Hope your friend is recovering well.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    Thanks David

    Who knows about that site. Probably some sleeze that calls themselves an Internet marketer, saw an opportunity and figured they could make a few bucks preying on innocent people.

    Or even more scary – it could just as likely be that the employee who created that site is still making money off the adsense and never told his/her boss about it.

  • Dana Lookadoo

    Kudos to Devin for participating in the conversation here! They are listening, and may this post prove beneficial for them.

    I wanted to share my experience using Google local listings during a medical emergency. I had just moved, was unfamiliar with the area, and on day 4, my husband entered the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Google local failed me by giving the wrong directions.

    I shared this on SEO Igloo blog. Miriam Solis, the owner, found that “Google is no longer allowing emergency service providers to contact them directly regarding misrepresented business contact information.”

    The hope from here is that Google will have tighter control over their listings and that emergency services and hospitals will place search at the top of their priority list for information delivery.

  • Alan Bleiweiss


    I didn’t initially see your comment here – so forgive the delayed reply. First, thank you for taking the time to comment and provide some insight. The first operator I got at the main CPMC line did not ask for a patient’s name, nor had I thought to give it. When I got the 2nd operator, the first thing I did was say who I was calling about.

    She’s the one who said “there’s nobody here by that name”. She then transferred me to the wrong campus, which made it the 2nd wrong campus.

    The fact that you have shared this post with your marketing group is greatly appreciated. My intent with this article was to bring light to a very serious problem and now maybe someone with some authority will work to improve the web content.

    I can’t even begin to think of what someone WITHOUT my extensive experience in online search and using the web as a research tool, might go through. The frustration level is incomprehensible.

    The problems you found with incorrect directions must have been beyond stressful. I read the SolasWebDesign response from Miriam and the following comment thread.

    My issue here is mostly with the Sutter Health organization. Corporate marketing people are consistently known for wanting to “control the message”. That’s the only reason I can think that the main CPMC number is posted for the Davies Campus.

    Personally I think that is a complete failure to comprehend human emotion. It’s a cold, impersonal approach that treats all people like cattle that need to be herded through the main gate. And my experience is proof that such a policy needs to be thrown out immediately. There’s NO excuse.

    The fact that two operators in a row transferred me to the wrong campus is also inexcusable. Human error on the part of an operator who is probably overworked and underpaid is something I can give slack on once. But twice? Again, that’s a failure of a system that does not truly respect human emotion.

    Add in the renegade 1996 web site for Davies, the less than amateur main CPMC information flow, and the absolute lack of site optimization for search indexing, and all I see so far from the marketing department is cold, corporate disrespect for the public. The fact that Devin, an IT manager, is the one who found this and commented reinforces that. For the moment.

    Let’s see how Marketing responds.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    And I hope Devin doesn’t get hammered by Marketing for doing what they should be doing. He’s the first, and so far, only person from the CPMC organization that has shown any compassion and respect for my experience.

  • Nancy E. Wigal

    I think this clearly illustrates the need to get into the searcher’s shoes. We need that kind of information fast. This also shows why SEO is critical to every single website out there. It’s all about information. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that just to discover your friend was recovering well. Thank you for highlighting how critical websites are for information – particularly this type of information.

  • Gidseo

    Respect to Devin for monitoring, responding, apologising and explaining – and all v. quickly.
    Alan/SEJ – will you be kind enough to give us an update on how Sutter Health recovers…

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    Follow up note – Got a stellar email from Devin at Sutter/CPMC this morning, helping to further clarify and emphasize the way he’s working to strive for 100% quality from his team.

    Now if Marketing (The whole SEO aspect of this article) would be as mature, helpful and caring, Sutter might actually turn out to provide a much better human experience…

  • Cynthia Chiarappa

    Dear David,
    I manage the marketing team here at California Pacific Medical Center and apologize for jumping in late to this conversation. I was out of the office yesterday and am one day behind on my messages…

    I also apologize for your not being able to quickly and efficiently obtain information about your friend. I know how frutstrating this can be when one is anxious about the wellbeing of a family member or friend and is not the level of service we strive to deliver. We are a large medical center and have found that a central number (415-600-6000) is the most reliable way of directing all callers. In our experience, it works very well in the great majority of cases. Unfortunately in your case the patient’s name didn’t appear on the roster and this is something that we will investigate to see why the system failed.

    I thank you for bringing attention to the SEO matter so that we can look in to this matter. Often things like this are not on our radar screen and so when people with your expertise raise them we see where problems are and where they need to be fixed.

    I’m sorry that you have a negative impression of California Pacific Medical Center and Sutter Health. We take all feedback very seriously because we are an organization that strives to provide an outstanding patient and family experience, as well as exceptional medical outcomes. Every patient who comes to CPMC is asked to fill out a survey, detailing their experience with us, whether it was good or bad. We take this information very seriously because it helps us improve every aspect of our care. Recently we’ve been honored as being a top hospital in the nation in quality and safety by the Leapfrog Group…

    We recognize the need to continually improve, and know that there are always things we can do better. Hearing from individuals such as yourself gives us the opportunity to do just that. I will investigate further.

    For the record, when Davies Medical Center was acquired in 1997 by CPMC, that site was taken down and the domain name was not renewed. It was archived by It appears that the domain name was purchased by someone in 2004 who is sitting on it (from France who apparently is sitting on over 576 other domain names and is associated with 680 others), and is pulling up the old information from the archive. We are also investigating this as well.

    I will work with my team and the Sutter Health web team to address your concerns. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to chat with you.

    I hope your friend had a positive experience with CPMC and is doing better. If you wish to contact me directly, I can be reached at

    Cynthia Chiarappa
    Sr. Director Communications and Marketing

    • Alan Bleiweiss


      I’m just now responding because for the last couple days, blogging has been the last thing on my mind. The fact that you, yourself have now taken the time to respond does, in fact, count for a great deal, and I greatly appreciate your understanding.

      I, too saw, after the fact, that the domain is currently held by a domain squatter. Online reputation management has become a very serious and complex reality. This type of predatory behavior is more common than ever, and proves why it’s vital for companies and organizations to be proactive in securing domain names, twitter account names, and other social media accounts.

      Again, thank you for your personally responding. Between Devin and your responses, it does show that the CPMC organization cares.


    • Alan Bleiweiss

      For the record, my name is Alan. Not sure how you got “David”. Won’t hold that against you though.

  • Dianne

    Just to let you know that anyone who acknowledged that you friend was there and what their condition was should be fired immediately.

    Even though I feel for your situation, giving out that information is a violation of HIPPA laws.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    For anyone who’d been asking, I got a call right after I got out of work tonight. My friend Don apparently had to go in for emergency heart surgery last night. And from the sketchy info I’ve gotten so far, he hasn’t fully come to since. I’m still waiting to get any information of any clarity on this, and will be going up to the hospital tomorrow myself.

    • Alysson

      Still hoping for the best for Don. People like us don’t tend to respond well to feeling out of control and helpless, so I will continue to send positive thoughts and peace of mind your way. He sure sounds like a fighter and knowing he has friends like you pulling for him I’m sure means a lot to him.

  • Dana Lookadoo

    Oh, Alan… prayers for your friend. Your trials are numerous right now – wishing this sad and difficult situation brings friends closer together and makes a difference for providing health information for us all.

  • Cynthia Chiarappa

    Hi Alan,
    Eek! My apologies for the wrong name! I have no idea where I got that name…Must have had a “David” on my mind…!

    Agree on the proactive securing of domain names…We are much more careful these days and it’s unfortunate that we lost the “Davies Medical Center” domain.

    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!