According to the Pew Research Internet project, nearly three-fourths of Internet users looked up health information online in the past year. Most people begin their online search for health information with a search engine, so if you operate a healthcare website, you need to compete effectively for search engine traffic to build your audience.
Audience development is critical to building your brand and monetizing your website, and there are many steps you can take to boost audience development. Here are six ways you can build an engaged, receptive audience for your healthcare website.
1. Start With Excellent Site Design
There is simply no excuse today for clunky, unreadable website design. The home page for your site should be clean and uncluttered. It should provide a foolproof method for navigating the rest of the site, with easy-to-find links for important pages. A frequently updated, well-maintained blog is a powerful way to keep visitors returning to your site. If the idea of designing (or redesigning) your site is overwhelming, invest in the help of a professional web designer with experience in the healthcare sector. This investment can produce a quick return, because excellent site design keeps visitors around and makes your site more likely to be bookmarked.
2. Don’t Neglect Mobile Users
Whether you choose to design your site using responsive web design, create a separate mobile website, or create an app, it’s critical that you don’t neglect mobile users. At least 61% of Americans have smartphones, and half own tablets. Opening up traditional websites on mobile devices can result in a poor user experience, so investing in the mobile experience is critical to building and maintaining your audience.
3. Add and Optimize Pages for Subtopics or Geographic Locations
Your healthcare website may include pages on, for example, different aspects of healthcare, such as cardiac health and respiratory health. You may also want visitors to know the geographic locations of your facilities. Important pages should be designed with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, and should include important keywords that visitors are likely to use in search engines. These pages should be easy to find from your home page, and should be optimized so people using search engines can find your pages easily. SEO consultants can help tremendously with page optimization that builds your site’s audience.
4. Build a Social Media Strategy
It’s easy to make the content on your site sharable with social media buttons. Each blog post, for example, should have share buttons for major social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. If you haven’t created social media accounts for your organization, you should. Develop a plan to post to social media sites regularly. In general, about 80% of your social media posts should be informational in nature (“How Often Should You Have Your Cholesterol Tested?”) with the other 20% being promotional.
There’s no single correct answer for how often to post on social media, but generally, sites like Facebook should get a couple of posts per day, while more frequently-changing sites like Twitter should get six to 12 per day. You can find helpful guidelines on frequency of social media posting in this Fast Company article.
5. Develop a Content Management System
While it may seem like a lot of hassle to create a content management system, this is a smart up-front investment of time and energy. Developing an editorial calendar and sharing it among those who write content, those who post to social media, and those who monitor site analytics helps the process of maintaining your site go more smoothly.
A “create once, publish everywhere” (COPE) philosophy helps ensure you get the most mileage from your content. This means creating content that can easily go not only on your regular website or blog, but also on your mobile site. Software tools are available that help you take content and plug it into the proper formats for all your publishing platforms.
6. Track Analytics and Make Use of Insights
Finally, building your audience requires that you monitor your site’s analytics to determine where traffic comes from, what search terms people use, what pages they visit, and what pages they ignore. Sometimes, addressing problems is simple. For example, you may find that a page is ignored simply due to a broken link. Google Analytics offers free and premium versions, and there are other analytics tool providers. Analytics can tell a powerful story about what works and what doesn’t work, and can guide changes that can make a positive difference in your site traffic.