Does Your Healthcare Content Speak Your Audience’s Language?

Have you ever taken a trip to the chemist?

If you’re like most Americans, you would be confused by someone asking if you need to visit the chemist. Yet, this is actually a normal term in many non-American, English-speaking countries. In these other English dialects, a chemist means the same thing as a pharmacist.

Wordings, phrases, and sayings carry different meanings in different areas of the world. It’s not uncommon for certain items to have multiple names, even within a certain region. Another famous example is the great “soda” vs. “pop” debate, which includes other common names such as “coke” (referring to the class of beverage, not the specific brand), “soda water”, “drink”, and more.

Many of us have strong opinions on the naming conventions of carbonated beverages. However, the point of this post is not to deliberate over the optimal name (which is obviously “pop”).

The point is that, when it comes to marketing, you need to take a close look at your keywords and commonly used phrases and examine if they’re accurate for your target audience.

Who are your keywords written for? You? Or your audience?

Many healthcare organizations use more complex, old-fashioned keyword terms in lieu of more common and simplistic keyword terms. Although these complex keywords are typically grammatically correct, they may not be suited for marketing purposes.

One example we see time and time again is the use of ‘orthopaedic’ over the more common ‘orthopedic’, despite the fact that very few Americans use the term “orthopaedic.”

orthopedic image

While this may seem nit-picky, small details can have a significant impact on the performance of your marketing efforts.

Why Does this Matter?

Search Volume Issues

Given that orthopaedic is a less common spelling, it follows that the term has a very low search volume, especially when compared to the more simplistic “orthopedic” keyword term. Search engines are becoming better and better at recognizing synonyms, but they still have a tendency to favor keyword terms that either directly match, or come closer to matching, the search keyword term.

Bad UX and Complicated Medical Terms

The second problem is related to user experience. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably read a book, article, or web page that makes extensive use of acronyms that you’re not familiar with. Chances are, you either stopped reading the article or spent way more time than needed looking up acronym definitions. This may have left you feeling confused or frustrated, which means you had a bad experience using the website – hence, a bad user experience. In the digital world, this is a recipe for disaster.

Complex writing that uses unfamiliar terms tends to alienate and confuse readers.  And a confused reader will leave — or bounce away from — a web page or they may never click on it in the first place. This affects conversions and it tells search engines that your page content is lower in quality than the competition. Ultimately, this leads to a loss in organic traffic.

Clinical, medical, and academic terms, as well as acronyms, can also alienate readers who are not medically savvy.

The Audience Issue

Let’s go back to the original question: “Who are you writing for?” There is a lot of healthcare content in which the writing style appears to be written for physicians, care providers, and other employees in the healthcare industry. Most healthcare websites are intended, however, for current and potential patients as well as their families, the community, and those seeking general information.

How Can This Problem be Solved?

We’re strong advocates of performing audience research, creating personas, and understanding writing tone. The target audience for a neurosurgery division is going to be very different from the target audience of a pediatric practice. Knowing the audience not only for a website, but also for specific segments on a website enables us to pinpoint writing tone, complexity, messaging, and other aspects that play an important role in engagement, conversions, and site visits.

Once we know our audiences, we can evaluate specific terms and web pages. Asking some basic questions can go a long way:

  • Do the keywords on this web page reflect what the average person would search for when looking for the content on this page?
  • Is search volume high according to Google’s Adwords platform? How does this compare to other similar keyword terms? Are there similar phrases that have a lower level of competition?
  • Is the page written in a tone that is optimal for our target audience?
  • Is there any unnecessary complexity in the writing or nomenclature that can be revised?
  • Are there any elements in the style guide or branding that possibly deserve a hard second look or further research?

As always, figuring out optimal usage for keywords is highly specific and case-dependent. While I personally love the word “pop” instead of “soda,” I wouldn’t advocate Coke changing their copy to use “pop” for regional purposes. Similarly, we understand why many healthcare clients still prefer to use the title and phrase of “physician” in place of the more common and less specific “doctor.” Nuance is the key here.


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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog and infographic Digital Marketing Leaders in the Healthcare Industry: How Do You Compare? to discover this year’s findings when it comes to how health systems are approaching social media, what they spend in social advertising and how they respond to patient reviews online.

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