A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through my Twitter feed when I noticed one tweet kept popping up: “Is SEO dead?”

Woah, woah, woah. Dead? Yikes. Of course, I clicked.

The tweets all linked to a recent article written by marketing influencer Neil Patel. The article outlined the many ways SEO is evolving, using data to showcase some of the major changes over the last few years.

The truth is that no, SEO isn’t dead, but as Neil outlines in his article — SEO is a different beast than it was a year or two ago. Marketers everywhere — including healthcare marketers — need to shift their SEO thinking and strategy.

How healthcare marketers can strategize SEO in 2020

When we polled healthcare marketing professionals at the end of 2019, it was clear that website enhancements and SEO strategy are a top priority for 2020.

  • More than half of the respondents (55%) said their website is one of their top two most important digital marketing channels.
  • Roughly a third of the survey respondents said their websites will be the biggest focus for this year.
  • More than a third said they have an in-house digital marketer who handles all SEO strategy.
Survey responses for how marketers tackle SEO

Most survey respondents have a dedicated SEO expert in-house or hire an SEO firm.

With website performance at the top of marketers’ minds, it’s important to consider that the content marketing and SEO landscape is changing quickly. Google made a huge algorithm update in fall 2019 (a.k.a. BERT) that sent everyone in a frenzy. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Google followed-up with another core update. Cue more frenzy.

It’s still too early to know how Google’s recent core update will affect your website’s rankings in search engine result pages (SERPs). And, frankly, Google probably has a lot more changes in store for 2020. For now, healthcare marketers and SEO specialists can focus on what we do know: The 2019 BERT update focused on natural language processing (NLP).

Natural language processing and search

Google’s emphasis on NLP means the search engine is trying to better understand what people are asking when they enter a search query. NLP is a field of study that looks at ways to program computers so they can more accurately analyze languages.

This focus on NLP also means Google is hoping to produce search results with content that answers the user’s question with quality information. Keywords are still going to be essential pieces to the SEO puzzle, but the content will need to be more robust and reader-friendly.

In other words: better content = better SEO.

Writing SEO-friendly healthcare content

With Google focusing more on NLP, SEO is going to be more than making sure your keyword is featured in your <title> tag and meta description. Yes, these steps are still important, but Google is looking for more.

Before hitting “publish” on that new blog post or webpage, ask yourself:

  • Does my audience easily understand the information I’ve provided?
  • Am I answering my reader’s questions clearly and completely?

The good news is that, if you’re writing clear, patient-friendly content, you’re already on the right track. Blog posts and websites that are written in plain language are going to lend themselves well to NLP.

Here are five more tips for writing SEO-friendly healthcare content with NLP in mind:

1. Skip the jargon

Use language and terms that an average patient would understand. For example, “hypertension” can be changed to “high blood pressure.” You can simplify “implement a plan” to “use a plan.”

The reading level you aim for will depend on your specific audience, but striving for a 7th– or 8th-grade level is a good goal. You can also use these free tools to help you write more clear, concise content.

2. Take advantage of headings

Breaking your content up with heading tags (H2 and H3) can help make a webpage easier to digest and understand. It can also boost your SEO, as these headers can help search engines crawl the page.

3. Keep paragraphs and sentences short

Avoid compound sentences and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. More concise content is easier to digest and less overwhelming for patients.

4. Consider the order of your content

Will a patient be able to find what they’re looking for within a few seconds of landing on the page? Aim to answer the most critical questions at the top of your page and include supporting details lower down on the page.

Satisfying user’s questions clearly can also boost your click-through rates from SERPs, which may influence your rankings.

Also, consider the order of your content. Is it arranged in a logical way that makes sense to the patient (and Google)?

5. Check for accuracy

Trustworthy, accurate writing is more likely to keep readers interested in your website and show search engines that you provide quality content. It can also improve your reputation with potential patients. Make sure you are linking out to credible websites and sourcing reputable subject matter experts.

New SEO strategies and voice search go hand-in-hand

Another key takeaway from our 2020 industry survey was that many healthcare marketers have their minds on voice search. Well, guess what? Content that keeps NLP in mind will also lend itself well to voice search.

Voice search-friendly content not only considers what your potential patients are asking but also how they are asking it. What questions are they saying (or typing) into their phones? The content should also:

  • Use long-tail, conversational keywords. For example, instead of “stomach pain aspirin,” consider focusing on the question, “Does aspirin cause stomach pain?”
  • Spell out questions in your content and answer them with clear, concise answers.
  • Use headings (H2s and H3s) and lists to outline questions and answers.

Take a deep breath and focus on your content

The year 2020 has already shown us the volatile nature of SEO, so try not to sweat it. As Neil says in his article, “Don’t worry about the things that aren’t in your control.”

This can be said for so many things in life, but it’s especially true for search algorithms.

As you set off into a new year of SEO strategy, aim for writing quality, informative content that uses plain language. Following these guidelines can help you creep up those SERPs and reach more readers.

Need a partner for quality content? WriterGirl is here for you. Tap our team of healthcare writers and editors to craft content that speaks to your audience and business goals. Message us anytime to learn more.