Healthcare copywriting is a unique discipline that requires a combination of talent, experience, subject matter expertise and technique to effectively guide consumers on their wellness journey. Here are seven practical tips to ensure your healthcare content delivers on both audience needs and organizational goals.
Unlike content designed to merely entertain, the stakes are a lot higher when disseminating healthcare-related information. Every word matters when the subject matter has potentially life-saving outcomes.
Without a clear understanding of the consumer audience and the ability to simplify often-complex material, the exercise in healthcare copywriting is futile and results will be ineffective.
In our experience, there are a few key ingredients to creating healthcare content that shows up in search, leaps off the screen/page and leaves readers better informed:
- an understanding of medical concepts and terminology
- an ability to communicate to consumers with confidence and accessibility
- a firm grasp of SEO practices and how they apply to healthcare writing
Most importantly, an effective approach to healthcare writing requires relaying all of this information in a crisp, comprehensive and engaging way.
Drawing from our 30+ years of developing content for healthcare organizations, as well as consumer research and the latest digital trends, we’ve compiled these guidelines for effective healthcare copywriting.
Do your homework.
Effective healthcare copywriting starts before a single letter is typed. With consumers overwhelmed and misinformation rampant, the planning and research phase is critical to creating accurate content that readers trust.
Start by interviewing clinical experts within your organization to localize the topic and humanize the brand delivering the material. If national guidelines or trends are additive to supplement the content, use only reputable sources like the CDC, WHO and websites with a .org domain.
Use active voice for authority.
There are subtle differences between healthcare copywriting that resonates and content that is ignored. Writing in an active voice is one of these.
Active voice connotes an authoritative viewpoint and builds trust in the material being presented. Use a passive voice detector tool like this one to avoid clouding the message you’re trying to send.
Use subheads and lists to break up copy.
High-performing articles use subheads (h2, h3 tags) to separate long-form content into easily digestible paragraphs. This approach makes an article more scan-able, allowing readers to find exactly what they’re searching for within your healthcare content.
In a similar manner, articles with at least one list per 500 words performed 70% better than articles without lists. Consumers view lists as a step-by-step guide to achieving the goal that brought them to your content in the first place.
Make your writing accurate, confident—and actionable.
As every healthcare copywriter knows, successful healthcare writing will blend easy-to-read, engaging content with accurate, digestible information that guides consumers towards an action or behavior change. Last year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, PwC’s Health Research Institute found that patients named their doctors as the No. 1 source of reassurance in deciding when to return to regular care.
With that fact in mind, healthcare copywriting is an opportunity to leverage the advice of your subject matter experts with clarity, confidence and authority.
Use clear and concise language.
When writing for the general consumer, aim for a six-grade reading level. Avoid medical jargon and keyword stuffing, as both practices can make content less engaging to readers. Use a resource like the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test or online tools like this one to determine if your content is potentially condescending (too low) or intimidating (too high) for your audience.
Follow SEO best practices for high performance.
With 3 in 10 adults “almost constantly” online, healthcare organizations have the opportunity to serve as a trusted guide when consumers are actively consuming health-related content. This means aligning your healthcare blog and website content to SEO best practices is critical to performance and will maximize the reach of your blog and website pages.
For best results: Base your content length on recommendations from SEO tools based on your target keywords, create descriptive and unique meta descriptions for each piece of content, include your target keyword in the title of the article or page, and more.
Read our guide to digital healthcare marketing for more search tips and other trends that can impact your healthcare copywriting success.
Guide readers on taking the best next step.
Wrapping up a strong example of healthcare writing with a generic encouragement to “learn more” leaves readers with little direction as to how they can continue engaging with your content.
Above all, avoid using generic calls to action (CTAs) whenever possible. Offering click-through links to appointment scheduling, sign-ups for seminars or online classes, or other actionable CTAs will drive more traffic to your site. This will generate better search results and overall engagement with your brand.
Frequently asked questions
Along with these general guidelines, here are answers to the questions we’re frequently asked when it comes to healthcare copywriting.
How many words do I need for high-performing healthcare copywriting content?
The word count for healthcare copywriting content will vary depending on the keyword that you’re targeting with the piece. Google continues to favor high-quality and informative content, and trends continue to show that content with more depth (which often translates to longer articles) will rank higher than content that simply scratches the surface on a topic.
If you focus on providing your readers with quality content that includes accurate, comprehensive and easy-to-understand information, while aligning to word count recommendations from your SEO tool of choice, you’ll be well on your way to high performance.
How do I come up with healthcare topics to write about?
We recommend combining organizational priorities with research on consumer search trends to plan healthcare topics. By thinking first about the service lines you need to grow, researching those service lines through tools like BrightEdge or SEMRush, and leveraging subject matter expertise in developing the content, you’re likely to create content that adds value for both your health system and the consumers you’re trying to reach.
At True North, we provide our healthcare partners with strategic topic research and content planning support as we execute our content and digital marketing strategies together. We’re passionate about leveraging the SEO research tools at our disposal and your clinical expertise to craft topics that connect consumers with life-changing healthcare information.
Interested in learning more about healthcare writing that works? Check out our website content checklist for guidance specific to engaging a digital audience.
Let’s Make Your Healthcare Copywriting More Effective
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