SEO strategy is more than blindly following best practices. Creating relevant, quality content for your audience—not just an algorithm—is key.
Content is moving from a print-heavy focus to living primarily online, and with this shift comes questions about how to make it rank for search engines. Answering these questions can make or break your healthcare digital marketing strategy in an environment where 94% of all searches happen on a Google property, yet less than 10% of all web pages are actually receiving traffic from the dominant search engine.
But what does that really mean for your organization on a daily basis? How do we write content to meet SEO criteria that also delivers what real people are searching for?
Let’s take a look at one way Google ranks your online content: The Google Quality Score. This refers to the way that Google reads your text. It has to do with quality and relevance of the text—both on landing pages and ads you are running.
According to Google, it measures the estimated “quality of your ads, keywords and landing pages.” It’s meant to evaluate how well your ad is going to perform based on its relevance and quality.
Words, Words, Words
Here’s where my editorial brain kicks in. For journalists and word people like me—advancing in my career, like many of you, during the Marketing Communications (MarComm) era—I hear words I can sink my teeth into.
While some healthcare marketers are new to creating SEO strategy, the foundation of the concepts behind digital content are nothing new to any of us. Writing for the web in 2019 will not be a surprise to seasoned content creators.
There are many aspects to SEO that we could dive into, but as an editor, I want to dissect a few words and talk about how you can apply them to creating great content for the web.
Let’s look at these two words that come up often in the digital content context:
These are words that harken back to ninth grade English class. They are not new to writing, and they are not new to any of us. Just because the Google Quality Score is now a proper noun, doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the concept. It’s not just about the Google Quality Score, there are other rankings for SEO that may leave us foggy, but the guiding principles behind them create a clear path ahead for anyone creating content on a digital platform.
Let’s look more closely.
Creating Relevant Content
Google is ranking your content for relevance. What does that really mean?
It starts with audience. Before setting out to write anything, we need to first determine who is going to read it and why. And then write to that one person.
Elizabeth Gilbert, who is well known for her nonfiction memoir Eat, Pray, Love, recently posted her writing rules on Instagram. Her first rule speaks to this idea of audience:
“Tell your story to someone. Pick one person you love or admire or want to connect with, and write the whole thing directly to them—like you’re writing a letter. This will bring forth your natural voice. Whatever you do, do NOT write to a demographic.”
Although Gilbert has spent much of her life writing memoir and fiction, this piece of advice is key to marketers everywhere. If we are writing with one person in mind (sometimes we create personas to help with this), then we will be able to write something relevant for that audience.
More than just determining audience, relevance is important to Google. It is Google’s No. 1 measurement for ranking, according to Paul Haahr, software engineer at Google, in his 2016 talk “How Google Works.”
Before we try to pin down Google and demand a list of best practices for ranking, let’s remember that Google has developed the technology for self-driving cars. If they can create sophisticated tech that can literally make life-and-death decisions, then certainly they can decipher relevant content. The Google of 2019 is a lot smarter than many marketers give it credit for.
In her opening keynote at the Cleveland Clinic Health Summit at Content Marketing World, Amanda Todorovich, senior director of health content at Cleveland Clinic, addressed this topic through another lens: empathy.
“Empathy and emotional connection is critical to what we do,” Todorovich says. “We have to be there for people in a way that other industries do not.”
She calls it “conversational care,” which refers to the way we speak to our audience. But before addressing them, we must first understand them in order to create empathy and know what they want to read or hear from us. That’s step one.
Once we determine our audience, we can then focus on quality.
Defining Quality Content
Merriam-Webster defines quality as “a degree of excellence.” Sort of a vague measurement.
How can we measure quality?
In 2015, Google released its measure of how its evaluators determine quality. One of these ways is referred to as EAT: expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness. Now, there is no algorithm that measures EAT, but it can be a guide to create quality content for the web.
A few points to consider from the EAT guidelines:
- Does your site give enough content to satisfy the reader? This is less about word count and more about the quality of that word count. If someone came to your site from a Google search, would they get what they were searching for? Note: This includes any pages on your site like the “About Us” or “Contact Us” sections, too. People expect certain things to be on those pages, and if they are not, this hurts your credibility.
- Does your site have ample expertise? For healthcare marketers, this is key because Google requires medical sites to have accredited, qualified experts (like physicians) verifying the content.
- Can readers navigate it easily?
- Is the site updated often? Is there any outdated information on it?
The bottom line, from an editorial perspective, is common sense, really. Building trust is a many-layered issue, just like it is in an in-person relationship. In order to build trust with anyone—whether across the table or across the internet—you need to work at it.
Building trust should be a primary concern. Paul Matsen, chief marketing and communications officer at the Cleveland Clinic says, “Trusted content is what drives people to the site.” With the hospital’s blog receiving more than 7 million visits per month, it’s clear that trust is translating into success in both SEO and solving for audience needs.
We want to get them there, and we want them to stay. We want to be the trusted resource for people when they are searching for medical answers and healthy living tips.
We want to be trusted in times of health and in times of need. That is what drives us to create quality content that is relevant—not solely reaching a high rank, but most importantly reaching the right people when they need our help the most.
Let our content strategy experts help you reach your audience at the right time in the right way with relevant quality content.