Content and websites have had an evolving relationship. In the early days of the web, the standard thinking from ad agencies building out this new media was that bullet lists and limited copy were the only way to fly. The thinking was people online weren’t interested in ready copy; they were only interested in visuals and bullet points.
This made it hard for the search algorithms from Google (launched in 1998) and the other early search engines such as AltaVista (launched in 1995) and Ask Jeeves (launched in 1996) to really understand what a website was all about. To overcome this lack of knowledge, keywords were loaded in the back of websites to help the algorithms understand what the sites were all about.
Unfortunately, that created a whole industry of agencies whose expertise was in gaming the keyword system to boost a client’s site in organic search. The result of this was that a person searching for “dental implants” in Seattle could have a return come in from a dentist in Miami. The Miami practice had more robust keywords and came up in search, although it’s doubtful a person in Seattle would want to travel to Miami for a procedure that could be done right down the street at home.
This didn’t make Google, which had basically eliminated most of the other search engines by 2010, happy. That’s because Google wants happy searchers. Google wants a searcher’s query to be quickly and accurately answered.
So, in the fall of 2015 Google changed its search algorithm to overcome the reliance on keywords in search ranking, instead rewarding content. That content applies to everything on a website, from headlines to page copy to blog posts.
At Advice Media, we’ve been building engaging health care and legal websites for over 20 years. To populate the sites, we prefer to have our stable of professional writers provide the content. Some clients prefer to provide their own content, which is not a problem, provided the content is high quality. Quality content is exactly what Google rewards in search. Plus, it’s more informative and helpful for potential patients and clients anyway, and that’s a good thing.
Here are some tips for keeping the content of your Advice Media-designed site as engaging as it is good looking.
What is the job of your content?
Today a practice or firm’s website is usually the first point of contact with a potential patient/client. The site has to welcome the visitor, show the person around, answer questions, and hopefully convert them. It’s kind of like a tour guide, when you get right down to it, and who wants a boring or inarticulate tour guide?
The goal of your site should be to first pique the interest of your visitors and then provide them with the information they’re seeking as easily as possible. Your content will tell the visitor if you provide the service they seek. It will provide insight into that procedure or specialty, and maybe other procedures or specialties that could be useful down the road. And it will reassure the potential patient or client that you’re who they should be using.
Keys to engaging content
At Advice Media, we prefer to provide both the layout and content for your site, with your thorough input, of course. But in cases where you opt to provide the content, there are certain standards you need to meet to make it work hard with our design.
- Be friendly, readable
Your site’s voice needs to be the personality of your practice. Each page within the site should have the same voice, if possible being written by the same author. The tone of the content should be authoritative, yet casual in tone. Despite the fact that you provide medical/health care or legal help, your site needs to speak in conversational English.
- It needs to be clean
One problem with the Internet is the ease of posting content. Reading the comments section after a news story is an exercise sure to make any fifth grade English teacher cringe. This same sloppiness can make it onto webpages whose copy may remain unchanged for a few years.
That can’t be. Your content needs to be clean, free from typos and grammatical errors. While no one is perfect when it comes to proofing and making sure every subject and verb are in agreement, more than an occasional error is a no-no. Remember, your site needs to tell potential patients that you’re a detail-oriented, thorough practitioner who is the right choice to perform the procedure in question or the necessary legal services. If your website is riddled with grammatical errors, is difficult to read, or sounds as if plagiarized from a medical journal or law school book, what does that say about your practice?
- Make it easy to skim
Your visitors aren’t going to be interested in every page detailing every procedure, so make your content skimmable. Use lists of benefits or procedure methods. Use subheads to spell out paragraph content. Keep paragraphs as short as possible without being obnoxious. By that we mean don’t have endless one sentence “paragraphs,” as that is no more grammatically correct than a comma splice.
- Help your visitors understand if a procedure is right for them
It’s important that your content speak directly to your patients or clients, potential and current. Directly spell out the conditions that would fit for a person needing this or that procedure. Spell out the benefits achieved by having the procedure. Tell them how the procedure is done to lessen any anxiety they may have about it. And be honest about the recovery that will be involved afterwards. For law firms, spell out how you can address the legal problems or needs of your potential new client.
- Be careful with calls to action
Medical practice and law firm websites aren’t like bike store websites, so don’t think that every page needs to make a sale. After all, buying a new tire for a mountain bike is a far cry from opting for major surgery. Provide the information your visitors seek and offer to answer any questions through a consultation or over the phone, but don’t get caught up in the “Call now” lingo of a more retail-oriented site. That quickly becomes irritating for the reader.
Content is king of the internet these days, and that’s a good thing for users. Being able to parse from more information is better than not having enough information. So, if you’re adding content to your existing practice website or if you’re providing page content for a new site we’re building, weigh the strength of the content that will be filling each page.
If you have any questions about the content on your site, contact your Advice Media representative and ask away. Or, if you’re not yet a client, give us a call at (435) 575-7470 or fill out our contact form and let’s talk.