Creating an Effective SEO Content Strategy: Part 1

by Ashley DuFrene, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist - 02/27/19


Discover the steps for conducting a content audit, including where to concentrate for keyword research and other critical elements required in the planning phase of an SEO content strategy. (Adapted from our recent webinar recorded above.)

Healthcare organizations are overhauling their websites more frequently than ever, whether they’re refreshing an outdated digital presence, merging with another system and consolidating sites, or migrating to a new content management system.

As a result, creating effective web content is both a common priority and pain point for most healthcare organizations—yet despite the significant time and resources invested in creating service line pages, blog posts and other digital content, more than nine in 10 pages do not receive organic traffic from Google.

The Sobering Truth About Search

Search is the most influential source for site traffic by a large margin, so this alarming fact above highlights both the challenge and opportunity of search engine optimization (SEO). While digital advertising often claims the majority of a marketer’s time and budget and can certainly move the needle when done effectively, the traffic from paid ads represents a tiny fraction of total visits. SEO software provider Moz found that of all search queries in Google, only 2.6 percent resulted in a click on an AdWords ad.

These statistics are true across all categories and especially in health care, as consumers take greater control over their well being and increasingly demand online health information (as illustrated in the chart below). In fact, one in every 20 Google searches is health related, driving three times more visitors to hospital sites compared to nonsearch traffic sources.

 Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 3.21.28 PM

Website visitors are active prospects, as seven in 10 consumers run a search before scheduling an appointment with a hospital or physician/surgical practice. The modern patient journey often involves extensive research as consumers evaluate their options before selecting a provider. The good news is that, with the right tools, the right talent and/or the right SEO content strategy partner, you can win with search and connect your brand with consumers who are seeking solutions to their healthcare problems.

A Comprehensive Approach to an 
SEO Content Strategy

While keyword research is a critical component to produce visible web content, an effective SEO content strategy doesn’t focus solely on how people find your site. A successful approach combines a review of the user experience and content structure along with the search visibility of that content. A recent TouchPoint podcast illustrated this principle by highlighting the importance of both a front-end and back-end strategy to develop effective content.

Your credibility is directly tied to what your readers (and Google) see and experience on your site. Accuracy and correct spelling, grammar and tone are all essential. Often, organizations almost become blind to these errors because they spend so much time preparing their copy and are too close to their own content. Having professional editors and writers work on your content is a worthwhile investment because you’re getting a fresh, outside perspective.

This can also involve restructuring the content so it’s more consumer-friendly. Technically, this includes how pages are linked so people can learn more easily and effectively. For the content itself, working with physicians and other subject matter experts can ensure accuracy and help you translate that information into patient-centric language.

The Components of an Effective Content Audit

When conducting an audit of your site, it’s important to look at the content through the following lenses:

Start with a strategy. Content should connect directly to your organization’s strategic objectives. Take time to evaluate the content you have and determine how each piece fits into your larger business strategy—whether your goals involve improving perception or increasing patient volume. Content does not exist in a vacuum and each blog article, social post and online publication should advance the mission and have a measurable impact.

Produce good, quality content. As professional writers/editors, the first question we always ask is, who is our audience and how are they experiencing the content we create? Writing for the web should focus on content that is relevant and helpful for readers, with clear headlines and other points of entry that get to the heart of why a reader would be searching for this information. While there are best practices for writing for the web—which we’ll cover in the next installment of this series—you aren’t writing for a search engine. You’re writing for people.

Create purposeful content. By performing a content audit, your company can remove irrelevant content, know what content exists so it can be repurposed in other mediums and restructure the website. This allows you to identify the information and resources your audience is looking for and position yourself as a trusted authority. At the end of the day, your health system’s goals should be converting your website’s visitors into patients, whether that be through making an appointment, attending a class or seminar, or making the important decision about where to give birth or have an elective surgery.

Capture readers’ attention. We know people are busy and mostly skimming content on their phones. Making content clear, digestible and visual is important for capturing your readers’ attention.

Create a pleasant user experience. It takes milliseconds for a reader to know if they want to continue reading the content on your site. Take the frustration out of the user experience by structuring content in a clean, logical way.

Use plain and concise language. In its recent report on health literacy, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) finds that there is a major disconnect between the health information people receive and what they understand. This lack of understanding is not primarily the fault of individuals receiving the information; nor is it solely or primarily the result of poor or limited literacy skills. According to the IOM, “Even highly skilled individuals may find the [healthcare] systems too complicated to understand, especially when these individuals are made more vulnerable by poor health.” Help your readers understand complicated medical information by using clear, plain, “living room” language.

Remove irrelevant content. Getting rid of poor content elevates the user experience. When you analyze the content people are interacting with, you can weed out what’s not salvageable, determine what is and make it better through historical optimization.

Fill in your content gaps. Provide value by being a subject matter expert; otherwise, you might  be sending readers to a competitor’s website because your site is missing this content. For example, if a reader is newly diagnosed with a health condition, that person will likely want to read, in lay terms, about their diagnosis. Making this content available on your website will ensure your readers and potential patients will come to you for expert health advice.

Update your calls to action (CTAs) when appropriate. Don’t let outdated CTAs live on your website. Create fresh action items for readers when appropriate, like when you launch a new service line or program.  

Considerations for Effective Keyword Research

You’ve probably heard the joke, “The best place to hide a dead body is page two of the Google search results.” While it might be good for a chuckle the next time SEO comes up in conversation, this is no laughing matter for marketers—as 75 percent of searchers do not scroll past the first page of Google results.

Showing up in a results page when your ideal patients are searching requires a thorough approach to keyword research. Without knowing what keywords to target, it’s impossible to effectively optimize website content and know what additional content is needed to fill in the gaps. Simply put, SEO without keyword research is like shooting in the dark.

Here are critical questions to ask and areas to explore when conducting keyword research.

Where do you currently rank? Analyze your own data first and how the search algorithm has shown preference to certain lines of service or products provided by your organization’s site. If the findings do not align with your objectives and goals moving forward, align your content with new or additional keywords as your next step.

What patterns can you discover in the keywords? When you pull your own organic keyword data, you will begin to see patterns of where you are currently ranking. Many times, websites will have brand majority and rank high for their branded search terms. This simply means your organization’s name is associated with each keyword.

Where are your gaps? This question uncovers areas where you aren’t currently ranking but want to rank moving forward. From here, you can begin grouping categories of keywords together to provide guidance for additional keyword research that helps you reach your ranking goals. You may also discover you are ranking for all the wrong things and would like to transition your SEO content strategy to rank higher for those keywords that will, in the end, bring more relevant traffic that converts to patients.

Armed with answers to these critical questions, you can begin to build your keyword strategy using the following tactics.

Brainstorm and develop a seed keyword list. Brainstorm with your team to come up with 6–12 broad keywords or “seed keywords” that fills gaps where you currently do not rank. These act like categories for your terms. For healthcare organizations, many seed keywords will probably revolve around service line offerings and it's important to consider the searcher's intent when creating your list. As illustrated below: The longer the term, the better the intent for conversion because those terms provide for a very relevant experience for the searcher.

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 4.46.33 PM

That said, do not be afraid to go after other terms that will bring traffic but may be higher-funnel terms, however, like signs and symptoms. These terms will keep your brand in mind as people search for health terms during the patient journey. Then, when they do need a trusted healthcare source, you’ve positioned your organization as the best choice for their needs.

Research to discover high-volume, low-competition terms that align with your seed keywords. You will need an SEO tool to further analyze what additional keywords align with the seed keywords that currently bring search volume with lower competition so you can rank more easily for them. Do not be afraid to choose all you feel would apply as this will be narrowed down later to the core focus of 30–50 keywords.

Pick the terms most relevant to your business and goals. After developing your categories of keywords and identifying the best terms that both align with your goals and fit into those categories, you’re ready to choose your top 30–50 keywords to focus on for the year. These terms will guide your content development and optimizations for the year.

Be mindful of keyword cannibalization. It’s important to assign one main keyword per page rather than trying to get multiple pages to rank for the same keyword. Otherwise, this can cause keyword cannibalization, which means your content is competing with itself for search engine ranking and you will struggle to rise in search engine results. This also prevents content duplication.

Link up with the terms you already rank for to create a comprehensive list. This is a good time to circle back and ensure you keep your eyes on those terms you already rank for. If you are ranking for similar terms that can be categorized under your seed keywords, keep those highlighted. You want to ensure you don’t neglect the keywords you have already built momentum and authority for while you are optimizing your content and creating new content for the terms you have yet to rank for.

Discover possible gaps that your competitors are ranking for. Another phase of research involves understanding what terms your direct competitors are ranking for and determining if you want to compete for similar terms or stay on course with the plan that aligns with your goals and objectives.You can also come across “traffic competitors” or those organizations currently ranking for terms you want to rank for but aren’t necessarily direct competitors.

Remember: Your SEO Content Strategy is a Journey 

While it’s tempting to “set it and forget it” due to the commitment required for an effective SEO content strategy, it’s important to review your content and conduct a keyword audit every 6–9 months. Like all aspects of human behavior, content and keyword trends change over time.

Keeping a healthy keyword list and understanding what you are ranking for will allow you to continue to expand your content strategy and grow your organic search volume and online exposure.

Let Us Guide Your Content Strategy

True North Custom works with 500+ hospitals, health systems and other organizations to develop healthcare digital marketing strategiesFind out how we can help engage consumers and physicians to create a connection that drives brand and revenue growth.

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Topics: Webinar Recordings, Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing

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