It’s time to take a deep dive into what makes healthcare content marketing strategies tick.
Content marketing is an iterative process and made of many moving parts, and that rings especially true in the healthcare space. With so much to consider when trying to meet consumer demand for health information, it can be easy to fall into the cycle of creating “random acts of content” and lose track of what makes healthcare content marketing strategies effective in the first place.
By asking yourself these six questions, you can focus limited resources and take advantage of this powerful tool for engaging your communities and achieving your organization's strategic objectives.
1. WHY is content marketing effective for healthcare organizations?
A: Consumers are constantly searching for healthcare information.
Online healthcare searches have increased so much over the years that Google has implemented a new feature that displays doctor-curated medical information alongside search results for common health conditions. This information includes symptoms and treatment options and is highlighted with illustrations (try searching “tonsillitis” to see the feature in action).
According to Google, 1 in every 20 queries is related to health care and as illustrated by the chart below from the 2019 PRC National Healthcare Consumer Study, the Internet is now the No. 1 source of information—surpassing friends/relatives and even the family doctor—about doctors and hospitals.
“Content really is a fundamental component to any healthcare marketing strategy because almost no one makes appointments or decisions about their care without doing some research first,” says Jane Crosby, vice president of strategy and business development at True North Custom. “Without great content, healthcare marketers can’t solve consumers’ problems or answer their questions in an engaging, scalable way.”
2. WHAT can you accomplish with an effective healthcare content marketing strategy?
A: An effective healthcare content marketing strategy will drive qualified leads, strengthen relationships with consumers and grow your organization.
A content marketing strategy should be two-pronged, with each prong accomplishing a different purpose. The two prongs to effective content marketing are:
Active engagement through website content that is focused on solving problems and answering questions for consumers who are searching for treatment options and condition information, resulting in qualified leads and conversions
Passive engagement through health and wellness content that is focused on building and nurturing relationships with consumers through blogs, social media and other channels, resulting in brand and revenue growth generated by stronger consumer relationships, a robust online presence and lead development
“There’s a distinct difference between active and passive healthcare content engagement,” Crosby explains. “What’s important for marketers when selling the value of these strategies to stakeholders is to inform them that passive engagement is a long-term play that builds trust, while active engagement will drive short-term ROI.”
3. HOW can you develop an effective healthcare content marketing strategy?
A: Be intentional with the subject matter and goals of your content—ensuring they are relevant to the audiences served.
The healthcare marketing space is quickly becoming saturated with content, which makes it all the more important for you to be intentional about the type of content you’re producing, both in terms of subject matter and the content goals.
For example, when consumers are ready to learn more about their symptoms or schedule an appointment, it’s important to offer content on your website that directly addresses their needs.
“You want to ensure you’re making good choices in terms of what consumers might actually be searching for,” Crosby says. “We sometimes see clients whose websites are boasting about technology or outcomes, but when someone is searching for information about a symptom they’re experiencing, your goal should be to educate them about what they should do next and help them get there.”
In addition, you want to create fresh, varied content that stands out from your competitors and includes keywords based on thorough research and analysis. This approach creates a conversion path that moves consumers through the healthcare decision cycle.
“You don’t want to be creating the same pieces month in and month out,” Crosby says. “For example, vaping is a timely topic and we have many clients asking us to write articles about vaping. But the question is: What unique or localized viewpoint can you offer on the topic—and what do you want consumers to do after engaging with the piece? Because there are thousands of other people writing articles about vaping right now. Find a new angle that others aren’t discussing.”
Keeping your content fresh means that your website is never really finished—you should always be adding new content and optimizing previous content based on your consumer’s interests and online activity.
“You can’t set up a website and expect it to be great for the next two years,” Crosby says. “Google rewards fresh content, so having a strategy in place to add blog content and optimize web pages on a regular basis is key to being effective from an SEO perspective.”
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4. WHAT channels are the most effective?
A: Meet your audience wherever they are.
Your efforts should be spread across multiple channels and platforms to meet consumers wherever they get their content.
“Every consumer, physician and donor has different preferences regarding his or her consumption of content,” Crosby says. “Most content is consumed online these days, but we’re still seeing that print publications are incredibly effective.”
When using multiple channels such as blogs, social media, print and web content, make sure that you work smarter, not harder. Instead of creating a new piece of content for every one of your channels, consider reusing or repurposing content in different formats. For example, information from a print article might be repurposed as a blog post, infographic or both.
You can also spread larger pieces of content across multiple avenues to foster interconnectivity between print and digital platforms. This integrated distribution strategy is especially important as search becomes a less-dependable source of site traffic.
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“We see a lot of our clients leverage their print publications to extend the conversation online,” Crosby says. “You might feature half a story in a magazine and the other half on your website, or pair a great patient story with a complementary video that can be consumed on a content hub.”
5. WHO can you reach with content marketing?
A: The better question is: Is there anyone you can’t reach?
Content marketing efforts can reach anyone involved with your healthcare organization, including consumers, physicians, donors and other stakeholders. Both external and internal audiences can benefit from the right piece of content when tailored to their specific interests.
“From an employee and physician engagement standpoint, content marketing can create a sense of community and teamwork that is challenging to come across in a large organization,” Crosby says. “We’ve also seen situations where clients have helped empower physicians to deliver better outcomes and drive down healthcare costs through content that discusses best practices and population health.”
Make sure you’re addressing the needs and preferences of your different audience segments when crafting content:
Consumers typically enjoy creative content spread across multiple formats such as animated videos or infographics.
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Physicians typically prefer content that is more clinical in nature and highlights outcomes and innovation within their organization.
Donors usually enjoy seeing how their donations are being used in the community, through stories demonstrating the impact of new equipment or facilities on the health of their friends and neighbors.
6. WHEN do you need to perform a content audit?
A: You should regularly check your website’s content and research SEO keywords, but a more deep-dive content audit should be performed every one or two years—or in cases when your rankings have become stale.
Ongoing SEO reporting can help your organization know what optimizations and improvements to make on a daily and monthly basis, especially when it comes to balancing organic and paid search efforts.
“You need to balance both,” Crosby says. “Even if you’re the top ranking result organically, someone will almost always beat you out in the paid realm, especially for high priority service lines such as orthopedics, bariatrics and cancer.”
Regular keyword research can help you infuse content with words that will improve your organic search rankings. However, it’s important to perform regular content audits to make sure you’re keeping up with or outpacing your competitors.
“Ongoing SEO reporting focuses on the performance of keywords and not necessarily on the gaps that might be present in your content,” Crosby says. “People constantly find new ways to discuss conditions and treatments, and new technologies and services are always coming out. Content audits can help you make sure you don’t have content gaps regarding healthcare delivery, terminology or services.”
Once you have an effective content marketing strategy in place, you can begin using technology such as automation tools to help enhance your efforts.
“Automation comes into play mainly once the consumer has already engaged with a health system,” Crosby says. “Your core functionality will come from the website itself and making sure your content is aligned with best practices and optimized with search results.”
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