The relationship between search, social and content is described by author, Lee Odden, in his book, “Optimize,” as “a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with SEO as the peanut butter, social media as the jelly and content as the bread that holds it all together.”
I would add that the plastic wrap around the sandwich is web strategy.
A plethora of statistics tell us consumers are using the internet to find and do everything they want…including finding the best doctor, the best hospital and the best care for their medical issue. Over the course of working with hospitals, I have been asked to develop website content several times. The general goal of site content is to educate the consumer – or in this case, the patient – about services and offerings. Often not stated, the expectation is that once content is developed and implemented on a site, consumers will magically come to read every word. It’s not quite that easy! Content is only one part of the sandwich.
Many health systems across the country are comprised of multiple hospitals. These systems may have a separate site for each of their hospitals and may have separate social media sites as well. Some systems even have separate sites for particular service lines, like cancer or cardiology. The idea of having multiple sites in a consistently branded hospital system has always baffled me. Consider successful retail companies for best practices. Starbucks has thousands of locations, but only a single site. Home Depot has several product lines, but not an individual site for Plumbing. Home Depot markets a single site for both their product lines and locations. Does that mean there aren’t reasons for hospital systems to have separate sites? No. For example, if different names and logos are in place for each individual hospital, separate sites may be best. If a health system has a niche hospital, like a children’s hospital, that is branded differently, it may need to be marketed individually with a separate site, although not always.
Before content development begins, conduct a thorough discovery of how many organizational web properties exist and how those properties interact with each. A particular case stands out as an example of why this is important. A client was interested in enhancing their hospital site by developing new content. Using a keyword tool on Moz, it was quickly discovered that six sites were returned in search results, six sites that were owned by the hospital system. Some were sites for various hospital locations which were located very close to each other; some were service line specific. All this was likely creating confusion for potential patients searching online for information. I know I was confused! It even appeared that one site was cannibalizing search traffic that might have been better directed to another site. Oh, and by the way, a single local competitor’s site consistently rose to the top in organic search. Yikes!
At this point, the six hospital sites were evaluated again using Moz to measure site authority, rank and other items that impact how Google views sites in search. The competitor’s site was also evaluated. As expected, the single competitor’s site had significantly higher authority and ranking scores. The client’s sites, however, had varying rank and authority scores that were significantly lower than their competition. The sites were actually competing against each other in search which resulted in reduced authority rankings for all the sites.
Let’s get back to the content proposition. Before content creation should even be considered, web strategy must be understood. In this example, by digging deeper, exploring all these sites’ analytics and taking inventory of the content on all six sites, the conclusion might be that content doesn’t really need to be developed. Combining all these sites and implementing high performing content into one or two sites might be the best option. Social media sites may need to be combined and best practices established, as well as reining in Google citations. Creating a more thoughtful and unified web strategy will increase rank and authority in Google’s eyes. Even better, potential customers will have a better chance of finding the content they want (you want them) to read.
That’s a wrap!