There’s a communication issue in healthcare, and it’s hurting both you and your clients.
It’s also an opportunity. Your healthcare service can be the one to fix this issue.
The information gap that exists between patients and medical providers means your clients have questions. You can answer these questions while also increasing uptake for your services.
So how can healthcare professionals connect better with their clients?
Building a content marketing campaign requires know-how on both sides – from you, as a practice owner or manager, and from the content marketing experts you engage with.
I’m writing this today to:
- Give you some pointers on content marketing in healthcare
- Show you how you can find and communicate more effectively with patients
- Bridge that all-important information gap
Let’s get to it.
What Is Content Marketing in Healthcare?
Content marketing focuses on giving your clients the information they need and showing them why you’re the one to come to when they need information or services.
It’s especially useful for industries that have a lot of specialized knowledge the average consumer may not be aware of.
Healthcare fits the bill.
When most people have a medical question or complaint today, Google is the first stop to find answers. Your healthcare organization has the opportunity to be one of the first places potential clients come for advice – that’s no small thing!
Healthcare organizations can’t afford to overlook content marketing when seeking clients and building lasting, trusting relationships. So what role does it play in bridging the information gap?
Why Is Content Marketing Important in Healthcare?
Healthcare is a sector that diverges from a traditional market thanks to information asymmetry. What does that mean?
In basic economics, it’s assumed that a consumer has access to all the information they need to make a choice.
In most cases, this is pretty accurate. We make decisions like this all the time, whether we’re buying groceries or choosing one pair of shoes over the other.
In healthcare, though, information has to be limited. Not all of the population can go to medical or nursing school.
This means consumers often need more information to come to a decision, and providers need to be especially accurate and precise about the information they provide.
This is called information asymmetry, and it’s where content marketing comes in. It can help to close the information gap and educate consumers about possible choices. Of course, one of those choices will probably involve your company’s services.
In healthcare, more so than in other sectors, information needs to be:
Bad content marketing in the sector can be worse than none at all. Working with an experienced expert is non-negotiable.
So how do we get started?
Content Marketing in Healthcare – Steps to Success
Developing a coherent content marketing strategy can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Keep the following things in mind.
1. Know Your Audience
Healthcare content can go down one of two paths: it can market to a business or go directly to the customer.
Pharmaceutical companies are an example of a part of the healthcare industry that does both. They produce content to encourage physicians to prescribe their drugs, and they also make content to inform consumers about their products.
B2B marketing (business-to-business) is generally directed at people who understand the product you’re selling and are used to the medical terminology around it. Content still needs to be straightforward and easy to read, but you shouldn’t shy away from complexity or details, either.
B2C marketing (business-to-consumer) deals with consumers who may or may not be familiar with your product and its medical niche. You need to explain the whats, hows, and whys in clear language but without condescension.
Tone is also important here – you’re teaching new information to customers, and you should quickly establish yourself as a friendly expert.
While the specifics of your audience may vary, you need to understand their role in the healthcare economy and what prior information they may have.
This isn’t limited to just B2B vs. B2C, either. Content marketing may differ depending on gender, income levels, or past experiences (think of all the dentists who advertise as “anxiety-free”).
2. Develop a Strategy
Should you hit the ground running with content marketing in healthcare?
Honestly? Most healthcare professionals concur that very few people who hit the ground from any height… continue running for much longer.
We don’t need to hit the ground at all. What we need is a strategy that lets us move consistently forward. This is best developed between you and a content marketing expert.
Communication, as always, is mandatory. A professional will listen to your goals, assess your current digital presence, and help you develop a strategy that makes the most of what you have.
They’ll listen. Because healthcare marketing is complex, you need to trust that your marketing partner can understand and present this information accurately, clearly, and accessibly.
Especially with health information, it’s important to get the details right. You don’t just want to post anything you can think of, but instead craft pieces that meet certain goals, especially when it comes to SEO optimization.
SEO is a bit more complicated for healthcare than for other industries. If something involves your money or your life (YMYL), Google and other search engines want to be sure to show you accurate, authoritative content. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore keywords, formatting, or other SEO standards, either.
Figuring out what your business goals are and how you can track them comes first. Then, research SEO keywords and your competitors to see how you can a marketing strategy to help meet those goals.
3. Create Sharable Content
Social media can do some of the work for you when it comes to content marketing in healthcare. When it comes to their health, people are more likely to listen when it comes from a friend, family member, or another trusted source.
You still have to create content that’s not only easy to share, but that people want to share.
Think of your own experiences on Facebook or another site – you’re probably more likely to watch a 45-second informational video than read a 2,000-word piece a friend posted. This is especially true with younger people.
This can be difficult in the healthcare industry; it’s hard to communicate complicated scientific ideas in an easily accessible way.
But a video attached to a link with a longer blog post? That’ll get shared and shared again. That means more eyes on both pieces of content and significantly better engagement.
4. Build Your Authority
Authority is especially important when it comes to content marketing in healthcare.
Most people reading your content won’t have any special medical knowledge, so they need to look for other signs that they can trust your content. And Google itself wants to know it can trust your info, too.
One strategy many healthcare companies use to build authority with their audience and avoid legal liability is to have a qualified medical professional read and edit any content before it goes live.
Your marketing team or the SEO firm you work with is likely more than capable of writing content, but they’re not doctors and can occasionally misunderstand or misrepresent something.
When it comes to building your authority with Google, it’s (mostly) about backlinks. Your content may be fabulous, but without backlinks, it may not register on Google’s radar.
Backlinks can’t come from anywhere, though. Google’s especially alert to spam websites essentially serving as backlinks for each other.
A quality marketing or SEO firm can help you tap into credible backlinks that will help make you a go-to source.
5. Include the Human Touch
The COVID-19 pandemic was a case study in how human beings make medical decisions. If you ask someone why they got the jab, you’re not going to get an explanation of how MRNA vaccines build immunity.
Instead, you’ll hear that they were afraid of getting COVID, wanted the people they love to stay safe, and they were happy to take the first step back towards a normal life. Even when people rightly “trust the science,” their emotions are still involved.
We also saw, more unhappily, how many people refused the vaccine because they were fearful. Some in that group did come around, but again, most weren’t focused on the science. They’re more likely to have responded to statements from people they trust.
This doesn’t mean your content marketing has to get overly emotional or dramatic, but it does mean that you have to build a rapport with your audience and understand how their emotions are involved. That requires good writing, first and foremost.
SEO-optimized content often gets a reputation for being stilted and unnatural. To be honest, I think this is fair criticism based on what’s out there online.
Especially now that naked AI content that has never met an editor’s careful hand is spilling all over the internet.
But, just because there is a lot of bad SEO doesn’t mean you have to settle for it. In the healthcare niche in particular, you need your content to have that human touch in order to build trust with your audience.
Producing quality, well-written content marketing in healthcare means you need to seek out good writers. That’s a simple fact.
6. Stay on Top of the News…
It can be hard to find a constant stream of engaging topics in content marketing. That’s why responding to the news in your particular niche in the healthcare sector can be so fruitful.
This is a great way to insert your organization into a relevant conversation. For instance, you might see a dentist appear on the local news in late October to talk about how sugar causes tooth decay. The Mayo Clinic released videos trying to debunk COVID-19 information.
Your company’s social media are a great way to tell others about your business, but they can also be a way of gathering information. What are your customers talking about and posting? You can directly target what’s on their minds.
7. …But Don’t Let Others Dictate Your Strategy
The news may be a never-ending source of new content, but you should never let your content marketing be just responding to it.
First off, chasing the news without contemplating how it fits into your strategy risks your organization looking reactive. You still need to tie everything into your organization’s offerings and remind your potential customers about your core offerings.
But chasing the news also risks your organization’s reputation.
If you jump on a healthcare story before all the facts are known, you could be unintentionally seeding misinformation and conspiracy theories. You also risk saying something in the moment that comes across as insensitive or offensive out of context.
Don’t use your social media to respond to a news story before you first understand how this story fits into your organization’s marketing strategy. Wait, if you can, until the facts are more fully reported.
8. Be Consistent
Quality content isn’t the only thing that goes into good content marketing. A flash in the pan means nothing without a long-term strategy.
Consistency is the key to making sure potential customers get your message. This is especially true in the healthcare sector, where trust is so important.
Content marketing, especially in this sector, tends to require more time and research. It’s better to have a blog that posts twice a month consistently than one that has a post a day for a few weeks but then peters out.
And once you post a video or article, the marketing job isn’t over. Social signals help spread social media posts that can rank in search for certain keywords. Signals are also a great way to develop backlinks organically.
Social signals are a big part of content consistency, but they should look and feel organic. If you’re not sure what I mean, contrast the last link in social media you clicked on with the last one you reported for spam.
Again – it’s best to work with an expert. Trust is everything.
9. Ensure Accuracy
Accurate information is a vital part of all kinds of marketing, but content marketing in healthcare is a special case. Not only can sharing inaccurate information cause injury, but it also might result in lawsuits or other legal action.
I talked earlier about how healthcare organizations should consider having their content go through final approval with a medical professional before it’s posted. That’s one way to ensure accuracy, but it’s not the only one.
Before you even write the piece, get clear on what you want your content to do. Is it just an informational article, or is it claiming things about a particular treatment or device?
While writing the piece, all medical claims should be backed up by trusted sources. And your language needs to be very precise when discussing treatments, medications, or devices.
No matter if you’re writing content in-house or using an outside agency, you should have a rigorous quality control process to ensure all claims your content makes are true and supported.
10. Keep Things Readable
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a website, especially on my phone, I’m liable to just leave if it looks like a wall of text without white space. I want whatever question I have answered without having to squint and read through three paragraphs.
Any content your organization has needs to have a clear, legible layout. This piece, for instance, is about 3,000 words long. But no paragraph is longer than three sentences, and no section is much longer than 200 words.
One other way to break things up is with bulleted lists. That’s great to do because:
- You can include the most pertinent information in the first sentence, making it easy for readers to scan.
- You can always go a bit more in-depth with a second or third sentence, knowing the reader might not see it. I wouldn’t use more than three sentences, though.
- The white space on the edge helps give readers’ eyes a break.
- It can help to pack more information into a smaller amount of space since you’re not writing out full paragraphs.
Working with a Content Agency
If, by this point in the piece, you’re thinking your organization needs help with content marketing in healthcare, don’t fret. Working with an online marketing agency can help take the stress off your marketing team and support your organization in achieving its goals.
But not all marketing agencies are created equal. And with so many out there, I know it can be hard to determine which one is best for you.
The first thing you need to do is decide on your organization’s business goals. Are you looking to boost traffic to your clinic website? Increase elective surgeries at your hospital? Recover your reputation after an embarrassing incident?
Different marketing agencies specialize in different areas, and you want to find one that understands your goals and has a proven track record of helping others achieve similar ones.
I’ll lead with the most obvious one – you want an agency with a proven track record of success.
Any agency you investigate should be happy to show off their past work and the successes they’ve achieved for clients. And every agency should have the numbers to back it up, especially when it comes to SEO.
Beyond numbers, how do you feel about the content the agency produces? Would you trust their articles or share them with a loved one?
A firm doesn’t need to specialize in healthcare marketing in order to do a great job. However, they do need to be able to communicate often complicated scientific ideas into good marketing copy.
Not all agencies can do that, so ask how the agency you’re interviewing handles other research-heavy technical pieces.
One of the hardest parts of SEO is building backlinks. It’s a slow and frustrating process because you have to rely on other websites. This is one of the areas where a marketing agency can really help.
An agency generally has relationships with blogs and websites and can find great and trusted places for your organization to have guest posts.
Recently, Google has tried to crack down on backlinks it thinks are low quality or spam. The quality and authority of the site you have your guest posts on matters more than ever.
The SEO and marketing landscape is incredibly fast-changing. After putting heavier penalties in place for spam links in December 2022, Google rolled out a core algorithm update in the second half of March 2023. As I write this now, in mid-April 2023, we still don’t know the exact details of the roll-out.
Staying on top of SEO changes can cause a lot of mental whiplash, even for professionals like me! Outsourcing your SEO and content marketing means you don’t have to stay on top of the constant changes.
As I mentioned earlier, consistency is king in content marketing. Most informational healthcare content is fairly evergreen, so you can get a lot of value out of reusing and pushing a particular piece.
Social signals can help keep your organization top of mind for people following your feeds, and they can help drive more organic traffic to your site.
But the details matter.
Organizations should have a good mix of signals and not rely on one platform. After all, you never know when a social media platform might have an outage. You also want to bring in a wider range of potential customers.
You should also ask how your agency schedules signals – the best way to do it is to spread out the links over several days or weeks. Too fast risks social media platforms removing the signals posts for spam.
The healthcare sector is full of local businesses, from family doctors and dentists to regional hospitals. Businesses like these need to invest in local SEO and marketing strategies.
When you look at an agency, ask to see copies of other local content they’ve written. Does it feel authentic to you, or is it generic stuff that could describe any place?
Where local SEO really gets going, though, is in citations. These are listings of your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on websites not your own. Think Yelp, Google, Yahoo, etc.
These citations are vital in local SEO – Google and other search engines assume that the more places a business is listed, the more legitimate it is.
SEOButler – Your Partner in Healthcare Content Marketing
Content marketing in healthcare doesn’t have to be the headache you thought it was. The expert team at SEOButler is here to take care of that.
It’s time to bridge the information gap between providers and patients.
It’s time to establish yourself as the authority your patients are looking for right now.
It’s time for your healthcare service to spread its wings.