Delivering reliable content is one of the most important duties of health systems. Community health depends on it. The main way to ensure the information you share has a positive impact on patient and provider health is to prioritize accurate information and research.
Unlike marketers in other industries, healthcare marketers have an obligation to combat misinformation with reliable, research-driven content. This responsibility is even more important during these critical times. In fact, health systems have become one of the most trusted sources for information on COVID-19.
Healthcare marketers must view their role through a dual lens, while retaining their overarching goal of using content marketing to generate ROI. First, and always, they should strive to provide meaningful content that drives engagement and differentiates their brands. Second, they must ensure that content is not only accurate, but also fact-checked for credibility and consistency.
At its core, content marketing offers an opportunity for brands to tell meaningful stories. However, hospitals have a conjoined responsibility to promote useful and applicable medical advice.
To achieve this goal, it’s key to incorporate research into your planning strategy, development, publishing and beyond. Here's how to get started or refine your approach.
Planning your content strategy
Building research-focused content begins far before the writing begins.
In order to develop a robust, scalable content marketing strategy, you first need to understand what your competition is doing. Long before launching a single piece of content, delve deep into where your potential content can stand among the ever-growing sea of health content that ranks on page one of Google. Tools like SEMrush (our favorite) allow marketers to uncover the coveted keywords your competition—and your potential patients—are interested in.
Beginning your research well in advance of publishing any piece of content gives your author a guide so the final, published piece aligns with organic search trends and internal goals.
Next, conduct comprehensive keyword research to inform your content strategy. Focus on ideal topics that relate to your top service lines, targeted service areas and high-intent search topics. Generate content themes, focus keywords, secondary keywords, questions to answer and suggested subheadings to drive your content. Remember: SEO and content marketing are two sides of the same coin, and as such, demand equal attention while planning your content.
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Once you’ve analyzed the competition, conducted keyword research, established your content strategy and assigned a writer, it is time to begin crafting your content.
Writing your content with research in mind
Marketers are tasked with attracting new people into their organizations. Once that goal is met, they also must hold that interest by asserting an authoritative presence and becoming a go-to resource for health information. That task is far easier said than done, but the latter half of that process can be eased with background research into your content topics.
Research matters for any brand because it allows consumers to gauge how informed or reliable a particular source is. In health care, this is particularly true. When marketing priority service lines to patients, your content must be able to answer their questions and satisfy their needs.
To accomplish this goal, align your brand with reliable, third-party sources, such as the CDC, the WHO and other global health leaders. Linking to reputable studies, surveys and fact-driven analyses gives your audience a sense of security. They immediately know the information they are reading (and potentially sharing) is peer reviewed and supported by credible health organizations.
Consider these research-driven strategies that lead your readers to trust and engage with your content:
- Use links effectively. When key service lines are mentioned by name in blog content, utilize anchor text to drive readers to those corresponding information pages on your site.
- Promote your facilities. Coincide the launch of a new outpatient facility with a fact-filled resource touting the benefits of postoperative rehabilitation.
- Employ visual assets. For example, point readers to your heart health unit with a social media-friendly infographic packed with key facts about heart health, exercise and a healthy diet.
- Allow research to drive your blog strategy. In a blog post that highlights home exercise tips, back up your claims with new guidelines from the CDC on fitness and COVID-19. You earn added value if you can include quotations from your health system’s physicians who specialize in related fields, such as bariatrics and general wellness.
Whether your goal is to generate revenue, raise awareness and preference for your health system, or simply celebrate a new addition to your clinical team, a research-driven approach is key to optimizing performance and achieving content marketing ROI.
Keep up research after your content is live
The need for research doesn’t stop when you hit “publish.”
Continuous and regular audits of your content ensure that it maintains a focus on trending search topics. Over time, consumer interests change, statistics fluctuate, annual iterations of industry reports are released and new content is launched. All of these adjustments can and should inspire you to update your historical content over time.
By taking a look at your content on a quarterly or biannual basis, you give your health system the opportunity to identify gaps in your overall strategy and launch new research to keep your posts up to date.
While marketers should already know the ins and outs of their target audience, it’s worth revisiting your outreach strategy regularly as well. Compare those findings to your current bank of content to make sure your historial content appeals to your desired audience.
Focusing on research allows your brand to be a trusted voice in guiding community health. At the end of the day, health systems ought to be one of—if not the—most reliable and informed resources for their communities. Healthcare marketers who adopt these research practices will help generate favorable outcomes for both patients and content marketing ROI.
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