Content Marketing to Grow Your Practice
How do you market a medical practice? Healthcare providers are subject to the same competitive environment as any other business. Content marketing is a physician’s opportunity to get noticed. How you get found online – and why – depends on how potential patients perceive you.
Once Google proclaimed that “content is king”, content went from an art to a science. SEO, SEM, keywords, social media – a new industry was born. Companies were creating content as a means of promoting their business.
The exception was most medical professionals who were cautious about digital promotion. They stayed away, creating a huge information gap for people searching on symptoms or conditions. Third-party websites stepped up to meet demand, with varying degrees of accuracy.
It was a missed opportunity for medical practitioners to own the space. Now more and more doctors are finding a balance between promotion and professionalism. Content marketing is an on-ramp for new patients.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is consistently producing good quality information for a target audience. The content isn’t just the message, it’s the actual marketing. When you produce or curate relevant, informative content, it gets shared.
Shared content is free marketing driven by an existing or new patient. When your content is re-posted on social media accounts – readers consider it credible. It’s not advertising, it’s access to expertise. Shared content is word of mouth on steroids.
Healthcare providers are beginning to realize the benefit of sharing the knowledge online:
- Better SEO (showing up higher in search results)
- Opportunities to engage on social media
- Patients market content for you
- Analytics to measure results
How to do Content marketing?
There are four key components in content marketing:
- Know your audience
- Create quality content
- Strategic content distribution
- Create familiarity
1. Know your audience
This seems simple until you start asking yourself about your patients. To develop a strong content stream, it’s essential to understand what patients what to know. Don’t get focused on what you want to tell them. Do some research on what they want to hear.
There’s a free tool called Answer the Public. Enter a topic and the platform displays the top searches. The data is visualized in multiple ways. The data below is a response for searching “diabetes.”
Pull up the questions people ask when searching or get an alphabetized list of topics. There are multiple tree visualizations, including comparisons. You can do three searches a day for free. If you want open access, upgrade to a premium plan.
2. Create quality content
Using the data above, a Primary Care or Family Medicine practice will find hundreds of topics. The first thing you need to know about content – it’s more than the written word. Quality content can mean video or audio (think podcast) too.
Most medical websites start by writing a blog. Google has high expectations for written content by medical professionals. They expect the content to be longer, more complex but still written in a way a layperson can follow. The WebMD site is quite good at this – it’s how they steal the traffic you need to improve your SEO.
Where your practice shows up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) is life and death. Top 5 slots on the first page – the phone’s going to start ringing. And the second page of Google? It was once referred to as a great place to hide a body… Just FYI, the average length of content that shows up in those coveted top spots is around 1800 words.
Video is highly valued content by users. Any videos you produce should be shareable – an important factor in distribution. Procedural videos are definitely of interest but usually long. Be aware longer videos can chew up data and buffer on mobile devices.
Using diabetes as an example, show people how to use their test strips or where to shoot their insulin. Be creative – if you like to cook, do videos preparing healthy meals. Create a video for teens with Type 1 diabetes. They face unique challenges in managing their condition. The ideal length for online video is around 3 minutes.
Audio content is interesting but needs professional sound quality. It might be easier to reach out to medical podcasts or radio shows for an interview. They have the equipment and editors, plus everyone needs to fill airtime. It can be a win-win and you can post the audio clip on your blog.
If you want to try a podcast, you’ll need a good quality microphone and sound editing software. Download Audacity for free – it is an open-source application for Mac or PC with tons of features. Consider the format for your podcast, the length, guests, and topics. For inspiration, here are some of the top medical podcasts of 2020.
No matter what medium you use – your content needs to be professional and well-produced. There are agencies and qualified freelancers available to help. Be careful with humor, stay away from politics or other controversial topics. The goal is to make prospective patients feel safe, comfortable and welcome.
3. Strategic Content Distribution
The point of content marketing is to introduce the practice to new clients. A blog on your website is a good start. The posts you create will help build your ranking in the SERPs. Understand it’s going to take some time and work to gain ground (3 to 6 months.)
Social media is an obvious choice to distribute content. If you have a WordPress website, you can buy the Buffer plugin to blast your blog posts to social media pages. That means your practice has social media pages. Depending on the office staff’s load, you may want to hire some to manage your accounts.
Do you need to be on every social media platform? No.
You do need to be on Facebook. It’s the best social platform for healthcare professionals. Patients can leave reviews where prospective patients can see them. You can conduct surveys, host virtual events, post content. Facebook encourages video but be careful with DIY filming. Sure, your iPhone camera is great, but does it look professional?
Instagram is a visual platform where 80% of users are female and leans urban. It’s a must-have platform for plastic surgeons, OB-GYN, or pediatric practices. Weight loss or wellness clinics are also a good fit.
If you create video content, YouTube is essential for sharing it. The videos can be embedded on your website and shared by viewers. You can add the link to social media accounts. Make sure you put a link to your site in the video. If it gets shared outside of YouTube, you want viewers to find you.
YouTube has biggest the age demographic spread on social media. In the U.S alone, 73% of adults are regular users of the platform. Even seniors are on YouTube. Chose your keywords carefully to help people find your content. Keep the look and feel of your videos professional.
4. Build familiarity
Most people feel comfortable when they’re in a familiar environment. Content marketing is a way for prospective clients can get to know you. Not all of the content you share needs to long or hard to produce.
Take good quality pictures of your reception area and treatment rooms. If your staff is comfortable (and turnover isn’t high) put up pictures of your team. Patients want to know who’s taking care of them, this is the chance to let them know.
If you are in pediatrics, give your patients the option to draw in the reception area. The post the drawings on social media. It’s never a good idea to post pictures of other people’s children online, even if parents sign a release.
Your website should also have a page for each procedure you perform. The content is already available – feel free to share it when appropriate. A short introductory video for the procedure that explains the process is good for SEO.
Familiarity means engagement. It’s important to interact with people. Consider social media as a conversation. Be authentic. Answer questions and like people’s comments. Talk about your involvement with community events. Be careful of jokes – they can backfire.
Bring medical expertise to the table in written articles. Don’t let yourself get drawn into offering advice online. It’s smart to have a prepared statement in response to diagnostic requests.
You have to know what your audience wants to learn. If your gut instincts are right, the data will prove it. Take a minute to research how patients are looking for healthcare information.
Content needs to be of good quality. Showcase your expertise and stick to topics in your specialty. Video is highly valued content for users. Audio can also be helpful but make sure the sound quality is professional.
Social media is a natural distribution network for your content. Facebook is a must-have and YouTube makes it easier to share videos. You can’t put up a page and walk away. Be responsive – if you don’t have the time, hire someone to handle it.
Make prospective patients feel comfortable. Show them what they can expect when they visit. Build familiarity with pictures and video of the office and staff. Keep your procedure pages up to date. Interact on social media but avoid giving medical advice.
Content Marketing Campaign & Call to Action
A content marketing campaign drives traffic to your website. Traffic is an opportunity. Are you taking advantage of it? A Call to Action (CTA) is the way to find out.
What do you want people to do once when they visit your site? A CTA shows them. It also measures the success of the content marketing campaign.
If you don’t have analytics installed on your website, that’s your first step. Google Analytics is free with a Gmail account but also has a premium plan. HotJar is a premium analytics provider with a free trial. Online analytics track everything that happens – or doesn’t happen – on your website. Insights from that data are priceless.
Next, decide what you want to measure. Should they call the office? Schedule an appointment online? Download forms to complete before coming? Maybe you want them to opt-in to your email list. Whatever it is, measure it. Document the current numbers, i.e. calls per week, email list subscribers, appointments scheduled, etc. to see the improvement.
When you develop your content, make sure there is a reference to the CTA. Don’t be shy about directing them, but make sure they understand the value of engaging with you. It takes people more than one visit to a website to purchase services. Keep that in mind if you are tracking appointments.
Purpose of Content Marketing
Content marketing is the most cost-efficient way to expand awareness of your practice. It’s not advertising – its providing access to expertise. Does it improve SEO? Yes, but more importantly, quality content meets a need.
That’s the purpose – to provide people with accurate, expert information. Content marketing is never about selling snake oil. It’s always about patient well-being. Good quality content is a source of attraction, not promotion.
Obviously, there is a benefit to the practice too. Content marketing is a healthy investment for all parties. The ROI in reputation and patient gain is far higher than the cost.
Start building a content marketing strategy for your practice today.
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