It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior across the board. For one, it’s led to an increase in internet usage, with more people spending time online than ever before. The sudden shift has left marketers, especially those in the healthcare industry, asking themselves, “What now?”
Well, like all of us, you have to adapt—and that’s exactly what we’ll show you here. Below, we explain how the coronavirus has impacted the healthcare industry and what that means for your content marketing efforts.
How the Coronavirus Has Affected Healthcare Search Trends
In-person visits are down, and telemedicine appointments are up.
Due to lockdowns and social distancing, companies are seeing less foot traffic. Healthcare businesses are no exception.
In fact, The Commonwealth Fund found that in-person visits for outpatient care decreased significantly—by as much as 60%—in March 2020, when the pandemic first began in the U.S.
To supplement these visits, more people turned to phone and video calls to consult their medical professionals. The result: as in-person visits decreased, telemedicine appointments increased.
However, this increase in telehealth visits did not fully compensate for the decrease in in-person visits. That means that since COVID-19 emerged, the healthcare industry has overall seen fewer visitors.
Needless to say, this is far from ideal because although people are seeing their healthcare providers less, they still have medical problems. They’ve simply changed where they go for those answers.
More people are looking for healthcare-related content online.
People need information about their health, but they’re not visiting doctors as often. So where are they going to learn about their symptoms and remedies?
If you guessed the internet, you’re right.
According to data from Neil Patel, the healthcare industry is experiencing a 15% increase in online traffic to their websites due to COVID-19.
Whenever someone has a question about a cough or toothache, chances are they’ll turn to Google and read the highest-ranking results for their specific question.
For this reason, the healthcare industry is one of the few sectors seeing an increase in web traffic at this time. Other industries aren’t so lucky.
And it’s not just traffic. The healthcare industry is also seeing more online conversions during the coronavirus pandemic—in fact, nearly 20% more than before.
In other words, not only are people reading up on healthcare online, but they’re also buying healthcare products and services online. As a result, healthcare companies have newfound opportunities to capture more traffic and conversions through content marketing.
To illustrate these changing trends, it’s worth taking a look at data from Google Trends. For starters, check out how often people searched for “masks” over the course of 2020.
This particular term saw its biggest spike in interest in February 2020.
What exactly does this mean? If you had a well-optimized site with content about masks, chances are you’d have seen a sudden increase in visitors in February.
That’s not all. You’ll notice in the graph that although the surge of interest in “masks” has dropped over time, there are still more searches for it than in late 2019. The month of September 2020 indicates a lower search volume for “masks” than the March spike, but it’s still higher than October 2019.
To put it another way, people are still looking for masks online—and they probably will be for a long time.
Now “masks” may be an obvious example, but imagine finding terms related to your specific niche. For example, a personal trainer may be interested in the search term “home exercises.”
Just like "masks," this keyword phrase has also seen a big jump in interest as a result of the coronavirus. Right here is a fantastic opportunity to create content, bring traffic to your website, and set up online appointments with prospects.
Or if you sell supplements, you may want to see the search interest in the term “vitamin D.”
There was a juicy spike in traffic around May, no doubt in part because social distancing guidelines encouraged people to stay in more. Based on this information, it’s fair to speculate that people started looking for information on vitamin D to make up for spending less time under the sun.
These are only a few examples of how health and medical search trends have shifted in the wake of COVID-19, but you get the point. Just as in pre-pandemic times, people are still looking for and buying from healthcare brands—however, they’re increasingly searching online.
What exactly does this mean for marketers in the healthcare industry? Content marketing is a must. Here’s why.
Content Marketing for the Healthcare Industry
If you’re not already investing in content marketing, it’s time to start.
Some companies are decreasing their marketing budgets, and that’s understandable given the economic circumstances. But here’s the thing—your target audience didn’t disappear. They just went online.
So rather than cut their marketing budgets, healthcare companies should redirect their budgets toward content marketing. You’ve got three crucial reasons for doing so.
1. Content marketing builds brand visibility.
You can’t get customers unless customers know your company exists.
A solid content marketing strategy helps with exactly that, as it generally includes publishing valuable content that:
- Shows up in search engines.
- Gets shared on social media.
- Is delivered to your email list.
Thanks to great content, people will remember your business’s name. Even better, they may turn to your brand specifically as a reliable source of information.
A fantastic example of healthcare content marketing is Cleveland Clinic’s blog Health Essentials.
The blog answers common health-related questions and offers practical tips for everyday people with no advanced knowledge of medicine. Over the years, Cleveland Clinic has built a powerful brand that people recognize and trust.
2. Content marketing attracts leads and customers
Well-written content brings visitors to your website, and in doing so, it naturally nurtures them into leads. Of course, not all of them convert, but some of them continue down your marketing funnel.
You don’t need to be an international, multi-billion dollar enterprise to land sales through content marketing. For example, try searching “what to expect when getting a root canal” on Google.
The top result leads to a helpful and informative blog post by a local dentist. At the top of the blog post’s page, the header includes a CTA button to schedule an appointment.
Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes. They’re not sure what to expect during a root canal, but this blog post eases their worries.
Perhaps the searcher has yet to schedule an appointment and is warming up to this particular dentist for publishing such a useful blog post. So they decide to schedule a root canal with them.
It’s not always that direct or clear-cut. But multiply that by the number of searchers over months and it’s evident how content can draw more leads to your business. So long as your content is relevant to your target audience, potential leads may land on your site and eventually convert.
3. Content marketing deepens your customer-brand relationship
Content marketing isn’t just for bringing in new leads and customers. It’s also for retaining your existing customers.
Once you gain customers, the battle isn’t over. You should continue to cultivate your customer-brand relationship because loyal customers:
- Will stick with your company instead of going to a competitor.
- Refer your business to friends.
- May buy something else from you.
But like all relationships, it’s a two-way street. It’s your job to give value to your customers, and one of the best ways to do that is through providing free, helpful content.
3 Tips for Adjusting Existing Content Strategies
COVID-19 has forced healthcare companies to reconsider their existing strategies. Even if you already have a content strategy in place, you’ll likely need to tweak your content plan in response to the coronavirus.
Take a look at your scheduled content and content calendar and consider making these adjustments.
1. Focus on informing and helping.
Informative and helpful content tells your prospects and customers, “We’re on top of it and we care about you.”
In practice, that could include content initiatives like:
- Updating your customers about business hours, practices, and what you’re doing about COVID-19.
- Passing on helpful information and tips from trusted sources like the CDC.
- Giving your customers direction and advice, in a sensitive manner.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute does an excellent job of this by publishing blog posts that inform readers on related news or expert opinions.
2. Use social listening.
Social listening, or the practice of listening to your customers and prospects on social media, is a great way to inform your content strategy.
Before forging a content plan, it’s important to understand the conversations surrounding the crisis, your brand, and your industry. What exactly are your customers and target audience saying at this time? What are they saying specifically about your brand and industry?
Here’s how you can get a pulse on those discussions:
- Review every mention of your company. Typically, in your notifications, you’ll see other accounts talking to you or about you with the “@” symbol.
- Check out social feeds that relate to your industry or competitors. You can find them by searching for the appropriate hashtags (#) or visiting active forums like Reddit.
- Look at your competitors’ mentions and see how they’re responding to questions and resonating with their audiences.
This will give key insights on how to forge your content strategy.
3. Consider outsourcing your content writing needs.
Writing content is difficult and time-consuming, especially healthcare content since it requires in-depth research and accuracy.
If writing content isn’t your strong suit, or you simply don’t have the staff for it, there’s always the option of outsourcing.
Content creation platforms like Compose.ly make it both easy and cost-effective to create SEO-friendly healthcare content, whether that’s articles, social media posts, white papers or something else.
Every healthcare company is different, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if outsourcing is right for your business.
The Bottom Line
By driving people into spending more time online, COVID-19 has made digital marketing more important than ever for healthcare companies, especially as health-related search trends continue to fluctuate.
Content is essential for making your business stand out and generate leads, and it’s not too late to get started. Find out what Compose.ly’s content writing services can do to help elevate your marketing strategy today.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Salvatore Lamborn.