Healthcare Adopts Direct-to-Consumer Playbook
The direct-to-consumer market for medicine has been on the rise since 2013, when Pew Research first reported 59% of U.S. adults searched for health information online and 35% of those self-diagnosed their condition. Today, these patients are supported through dozens of platforms that connect them to pharmacies, and doctors through web apps and the cloud.
The business models for these platforms are very similar. First, a self-diagnosing consumer selects a product they think they need. Then, the customer completes an online questionnaire, which is reviewed by a physician if a prescription is needed. If the customer has questions for the physician, they can connect through a secure HIPAA-compliant messaging platform before the order is filled and mailed to their door.
In the past, these direct-to-consumer companies were on the periphery of health care, offering services that often aren’t covered by traditional medical insurance (think Hubble for contact lenses, SmileDirect for mail-order orthodontics, and Keeps for hair loss). But as consumers express a growing preference to shop for products and services online, more drugs have gone generic and investors have grown more eager to fund new entrants, we've seen the emergence of companies like Nurx for oral contraception, Cove for migraines, and Zero for smoking cessation.
“Physicians are not seen as experts anymore,” says Barry Pierre, M.D., a general-practitioner based in Florida. “Google has told someone how to cope [with an illness]."
Meanwhile, traditional healthcare providers like hospitals, medical clinics and specialty care centers are trying stay relevant in the hotly contested digital landscape for medical support. A 2020 State of Healthcare Content Marketing report found that nearly 90% of healthcare marketers are using content marketing, a 20% increase since 2017, with a focus on consumer engagement, lead generation and brand awareness. Yet only 26% report their content marketing efforts as very effective.
What it means for healthcare marketers: In the maturing discipline of healthcare marketing, performance is the new currency with a greater emphasis being placed on content measurement and optimization.
Making Healthcare Content Work Harder
Spoiler alert: there's no silver bullet for growing content visibility overnight. Think of improving your content's visibility as a discipline or practice you commit to like an exercise regimen: at first you'll see modest improvements but after four to six months, you'll be able to measure noticeable gains.
I helped Emerson Ecologics attract and connect with integrative health practitioners and their patients through search optimized healthcare content. Emerson had produced 600+ blog posts but were getting lapped by competitors in search rankings for key conditions patients were searching for. I helped them optimize their content and site experience for search engines -- see the case study for details.
Results: In under a year, we grew Emerson's organic traffic by 250%
A Prescription to Build your Healthcare Content Equity
As a cornerstone of the healthcare marketing playbook, content should be evaluated based on its ability to do these 3 things :
Attract high-quality traffic
Scale to support growth
I've helped healthcare companies evaluate their digital marketing efforts - including content - based on this framework below:
Most recently, I helped a Newport Academy, a network of in-patient behavioral rehabilitation centers, improve their content marketing with an eye to search engine visibility. A few key takeaways to getting found on search engines:
Build a content ecosystem: Instead of a series of one-off blog posts, think of your content as an interconnected ecosystem (see image below) which sends stronger signals to search engines that certain keywords are important.
Create both cornerstone content and "supporting" content (blog posts): Cornerstone content are longer, high-value, foundational pieces of content intended to start building traffic and brand awareness by showing what you can offer. Examples of cornerstone content include Moz's Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Paula's Choice skincare ingredient dictionary. Supporting content are 1,000+ word articles that build off the cornerstone content and link to it. Why 1,000+ words? Search engines reward longer format articles or blog posts.
Cross-link content: Cross-linking related content strengthens the overall search-optimized value of a website by creating a tight-knit network of pages and posts for search engines to “spider” or crawl.
Produce content that supports the entire buyer journey: Content should support customers at all stages of the buyer journey from informational searches when they start their journey (like "signs of teen anxiety") through to transactional searches when they are ready to buy (like "teen rehab near me").
Leverage experts: Featuring quotes or content from medical experts with large social followings will help generate reputable inbound links and/or traffic if the experts link to the article once it's published.
Avoid scaremongering: Many of the rehabilitation network's competitors were drafting off celebrity overdoses and/or publishing lurid infographics. There's plenty of white space for concise and accurate information in the rehabilitation category let alone across healthcare.
With epic levels of healthcare content in production and greater accountability for content performance, marketers need to make search engine visibility a higher priority and ensure program results connect to the organization’s business goals.
Contact me if you're ready to make your healthcare content work harder for your organization.