There was a period of time when digital marketers and SEOs swore by the shorter-is-sweeter approach to content. Articles and blogs that hovered between 300-600 words seemed to be long enough for search engines to find them, but short enough for people to appreciate them.
But these little blasts of content aren’t always effective, particularly for folks in the medical field. More and more, we are discovering that long-form content delivers some pretty impressive results when we execute SEO campaigns for medical practices.
Long-form content is typically defined as content that exceeds 1,000 words in length. And, contrary to popular belief, Google loves long-form content. Using SERP data from SEMRush, Backlinko’s Brian Dean discovered that the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
Of course, ranking high on Google is just one piece of the puzzle. Sure, search engines might like long-form content because of all the rich information found in these articles. But if you want to add long-form content into your medical digital marketing strategy, you have to figure out a way to tackle the human element.
It’s common knowledge now that the human attention span is in a steady decline, so much so that many studies suggest that goldfish have a longer attention span. In other words, it’s in our modern human nature to merely skim and scan long pieces of content. Rather than fight against this urge, your goal should be to assist that behavior.
Here are a few tips that might make your long-form content useful to both Google and your readers.
Help Your Readers Get Back to the Top Again
Always give your readers a way to return back to the top of the article. It can be as simple as having a “return to top” link at the bottom of major sections of your piece, or you could do what the Washington Post did with this 5,000-word article on cycling.
At the top of the image above, you’ll see the word “STAGE.” Each number signifies markers that take the reader to each major section of the article. If the reader wants, they can click on “1” to return to the top.
Of course, to further help the user along, the Post also added a more traditional “Back to Top” link at the end of the article:
While this article focuses on cycling, the approach can be used in the medical world. Imagine, for example, if you created a 5,000-word article on the many stages that a cancer patient goes through during a specific type of treatment. Using the Post article above as a foundation could help make your article far easier for your readers to consume.
The fact that there aren’t many (if any) articles online – in the medical industry – that mirror this approach means there’s a tremendous opportunity for your practice to stand out from the rest of the pack.
Help Your Readers Pick and Choose What They Want to Read
If you resign yourself to crafting long-form content to market your practice, then you must accept that most people won’t read every word. In fact, there may be entire sections that your readers have little interest in.
Your goal is to make it easy for them to find the sections that do matter to them. And for that, you need an interactive table of contents.
The way it works is readers skim the table of contents, then click on an entry that interests them. They are then taken directly to the section of the content they want to read (with easy access “back to the top” if you followed the suggestion above).
An interactive table of contents isn’t all that hard to create. You just have to break your content into chapter titles or subheaders and then create links that connect your title or subheader to the corresponding section in your table of contents.
Most folks think of links as a way to connect two different web pages together. But with a little tweaking – even if you’re an HTML neophyte – you can create an interactive table of contents that your readers will love.
Interactive tables of contents are also great to use for long-form digital documents you send to your patients or team. No one wants to have to scroll through endless pages to find what they’re looking for.
Give Your Readers a Break
Depending on your technical know-how (or access to web-savvy folks) you might also consider adding bookmarking capabilities to your long-form content. In this scenario, your reader is digesting your content but wants (or needs) to take a break. They’ll be able to click an icon to bookmark the exact spot they left off, so they can pick up without a problem later on.
This little feature will strengthen their trust with you and could very well lead to a relationship of continual conversions for you and your practice.
Is Long-form Content Worth the Effort for Medical Professionals?
As we discussed earlier, most of Google’s first-page entries are considered long-form content. In addition to that little perk, however, long-form content offers a few other benefits for your online marketing goals if you’re a plastic surgeon or a medical professional:
- Increased time spent on your site: If your content is written well, readers will spend far more time on your site (a good sign for Google) and will be more likely to browse other areas of your site.
- Social media friendly: Inbound links are huge for your rankings. And, simply put, content with more words brings in more links, particularly due to the social shares this type of content gets.
- Flex your authority: Medical reputation management is everything, particularly in the healthcare field where prospects make decisions based on what they find online. Long-form content helps you portray your expertise in a specific field. A dermatologist, for example, with vast experience using Mohs Micrographic Surgery, could demonstrate her knowledge with longer pieces of content that delve into this form of skin cancer treatment.
Factors to Consider When Creating Long-form Content
- Outline your goals. Ask yourself why you want to create this piece (is it to build name recognition? Is it to connect with your patients? Grow your email list? Get leads?).
- Choose whether your content will be gated or ungated. Gated means folks will have to provide contact information to download the content, while ungated means the content can be accessed freely. Our advice? When in doubt, go with ungated. You’ll increase your chances of shares.
- Choose your topic carefully. Consider keyword research, factor in the needs of your target audience, and research what type of content already exists out there.
- Design. Make sure that you design for both appearance and practicality. Make it easy for your readers to bounce around the page, share pieces of your content on social media, and more.
- Create a promotion strategy. Creating long-form content (even if you’re not going to write it yourself) is a major commitment. Make sure the commitment pays off by creating your marketing strategy before the piece is published. Consider implementing a mix of strategies including paid ads, a pop-up on your website, a direct mail campaign and more.
With all that being said, the first step to creating long-form content that’ll bring in traffic, prospects, and prestige is to get started. Find a topic you’re comfortable with, and then figure out how to create a new and unique angle on that topic.
If your content is written and designed to guide your users from start to finish, then chances are you have an extremely valuable marketing asset at your fingertips.