Six Common Accessibility Errors on Websites

Six of the Most Common Accessibility Issues Websites Face Online

WebAIM did an accessibility analysis of the top 1,000,000 home pages
on the most popular websites across industries, and what they uncovered is interesting. All of these sites, regardless of industry, tend to have the same six common accessibility issues plaguing their sites:

  1. Low Contrast: For people who have low vision or colorblindness, low contrast is a real issue. If the text and icons are not easily distinguishable from the background, some users will not be able to see the information on your website. This isn’t just a nice to have feature for people with low vision, it simply requires less strain and cognitive effort from all users.
  2. Missing Alternative Text: People who are blind or have very low vision typically use assistive technology called screen readers. Screen readers do exactly what it sounds like—they read what is on the screen. The proper HTML markup is important so that screen readers announce things properly. When a screen reader encounters an image, it will say a phrase like “graphic” followed by whatever text is added as an alternative text. If this alternative text does not exist, some screen readers will try to guess what the image is by reading the file name. Alternative text typically should describe the image and be 250 characters or less. Check out these tips for writing alt text.
  3. Empty Links: Quite often, we will find links on a page that do not have any text inside of them. In the HTML markup they look something like this:

    <a href=""></a>

    As opposed to the correct markup for a link which would look like this:<a href="">Geonetric</a>

    Empty links are usually the result of a deleted link when using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. The editor will delete the text from the page but doesn’t always remove
    the link from the markup.

  4. Missing Labels: Every form field on a website needs to have a label. It’s highly recommended that these labels are visible for all users, but at the very least these labels need to be in the HTML markup and programmatically tied to the correct field. Placeholder text is not a valid label.
  5. Missing Language: Every page on a website should have a language attribute that tells screen readers how to pronounce words and which dialect to use. It also helps translation tools know what language the page is originally written in. The language should be set on the opening html tag, typically done inside the template files.However, if you change languages anywhere on your site, you need to declare what language you are using. For instance, if the default language on your site is English, but you have a paragraph of text written in Spanish, you need to add lang=”es” to that paragraph tag to tell screen readers which language to use.

    <p lang="es">Esta frase es en espanol.</p>

  6. Empty Buttons: Like empty links, empty buttons typically happen by accident. WYSIWYG editors will delete the text inside the button, but leave the markup on the page causing empty buttons. These are easy to remove if you know what you are looking for. They will typically look something like this:

    <button class="SomeName"></button>

    As opposed to the correct markup for a button which would look like this:
    <button class="SomeName">My Button</button>

Create a Plan of Attack

Healthcare websites are not immune to these same issues. And, it’s important to note that web crawlers can only identify certain types of barriers. There are likely additional issues on your site.

Learn more about how to check your healthcare website for accessibility issues and be sure to watch our webinar on Accessibility and Healthcare. Then contact us to get started.

Web Writing & User-Focused Content Bring Redesign Goals to Life

Having undergone a recent rebrand from Lawrence Memorial Hospital to LMH Health, the Lawrence, KS-based healthcare organization wanted to make sure their new website showed the breadth and depth of their expanded system and showcased their purpose of being a partner for lifelong health. With site redesign goals around improving consumer engagement, putting the patient first and shifting from treatment to a wellness focus, the organization knew investing in enhanced website copy would be key to their success.

That’s why during the redesign, they turned to Geonetric’s expert content team and asked them to come on-site and train the LMH Health marketing team on web writing for healthcare best practices. Since LMH Health wanted to create a consumer-focused website, during the workshop Geonetric taught the team how they can use keyword research to gain insight into what topics their audience is interested in, and how to write about those topics using the words that their audience prefers and understands.

Building a Team of Knowledgeable Strategists and Writers

Having worked with Geonetric’s content strategy and development team on past projects, and having attended past web writing training by Geonetric, the LMH Health team started with a content strategy training focused helping the team understand how to determine where content will live in their new site structure as they moved to a system-centric website. They were given a usable framework for how to determine on their own where content should live, with special attention paid to location content.

For the web writing training, they began with a refresher on best practices. The in-depth workshop explained how search engine optimization (SEO) and great, user-focused content go hand-in-hand. The training reviewed how to keep content simple and scannable, how to focus on the user, and how to write calls to action that are clear and concise.

They then moved into custom training that focused on helping the LMH team learn the skills they would need to meet their unique goals of increasing user engagement and integrating more storytelling into the new site. The training also included diving into how they could use keyword research and other tools to better understand their audience and develop content based on the audiences’ needs, interests, and preferences

The training explored tools that help writers create readable, user-focused content that adheres to a consistent voice, tone, and style. The LMH Health team put the new tools and skills to work right away, participating in exercises where they revised a chunk of content from their current site to improve readability.

Writing workshops can be performed at any stage of your website presence. Since LMH Health decided to pair this writing workshop along with their redesign, their onsite training session with Geonetric also expanded into more strategic topics, including:

  • A timely discussion with their leadership team about the shift in their website strategy to support their overall organization’s mission, as well as an ask for subject matter expert (SME) involvement
  • A whiteboard exercise outlining writing workflows and content request processes
  • An interactive workshop session around location-specific content strategy aspects of their new site structure
  • Decision-tree exercises balancing organizational structure vs. online customer experience, as it relates to website architecture

Training on Keyword Research and Keyword Portfolios

With the goals of redefining the site to be consumer-first and creating easier consumer engagement opportunities for patients, it was clear the LMH Health team would need to learn how to use keyword research strategically.

A large portion of the training focused on the value of keyword research to learn what topics LMH Health’s audience is interested in and to learn specific words their audience uses when they search. Since the training is customized to LMH Health, the team shared insights into what they were seeing in LMH Health’s specific geographic service area.

The team did a deep dive into gastroenterology, learning how their real users search for symptoms of the digestive disorder gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They learned how to use keyword research tools, such as Google Trends, to compile a list of potential keywords and alternative terms and variations. They also learned how to take into account user intent and consider the impact local results have on their content.

Then they worked on incorporating keywords into their content naturally and strategically across different page elements, such as page titles and headings, getting additional training and workshop time around how to write user-focused meta descriptions.

Accessing Additional Content Support

LMH Health also invested in a content support package that guaranteed time with Geonetric’s content and digital marketing teams.

With this support package, LMH Health made Geonetric an extension their own team. Through this partnership, Geonetric:

  • Developed a keyword portfolio for eight key service lines
  • Reviewed content is written by LMH Health writers and provided actionable tips for improvement
  • Wrote select service line pages

Reaping Results of User-Focused Redesign

Since launch in April 2019, LMH Health is enjoying great results, particularly around keyword ranking, organic clicks from Google search, and time on page. Here are a few highlights:

  • LMH is ranking for more keywords – in fact, keywords that they’re ranking for organically increased by 38% year over year
  • Organic clicks for Google search results have increased to service line sections 16% compared to last year
  • Specific pages, including Physical Therapy, Vein Center, and Well Care have seen significant increases in time-on-page. For Well Care, time on page has doubled from 1:29 in 2018 to 3:00 since launch

Refreshed Service Line Content Engages Site Visitors

When Olmsted Medical Center (OMC), Rochester, MN, set out to redesign their website, they had traditional redesign goals like improving navigation and making the site more user-friendly and more mobile-friendly. The organization also had another, less-traditional goal: make life easier for the individual who manages all aspects of OMC’s website.

With that in mind, when it was time to think about how to improve OMC’s web content, their long-time agency Geonetric suggested they collaborate in a new way. It was important Geonetric’s expert writers reviewed the existing content and updated it to improve readability and usability. But instead of passing Microsoft Word documents back and forth for a round of editing, the Geonetric writers made changes directly in OMC’s content management system (CMS) VitalSite. Then, OMC’s team could log in to review and approve, saving time for everyone involved and ensuring those enhanced pages were ready to go at launch.

Improving content across the site

OMC’s web content was accurate and up-to-date – but they knew it could be improved. So instead of writing a new copy from scratch, OMC asked Geonetric’s expert content developers to give the content on their 15 priority services lines a thoughtful refresh.

The team got to work, reviewing each section and making improvements to ensure each page was optimized based on best practices for healthcare web writing. For each page, the team:

  • Ensured the content was patient-focused
  • Improved scannability by rewriting headlines and adding bulleted lists
  • Added cross-links throughout the site to related services, providers, and locations
  • Identified instances of medical jargon and replaced them with plain language to be more readable and improve health literacy for better accessibility
  • Wove in some of OMC’s differentiators such as personalized care and community-focus into the copy

Working collaboratively

It wasn’t just the quality of the work that was exceptional, it was also the timely and efficient completion of the work. With such a small team managing both the website redesign and communications for an Epic implementation, OMC and Geonetric worked together to find ways to make processes more seamless and see where Geonetric could deliver value more quickly.

For the content project, the Geonetric content team logged in and made content edits, alleviating the need for documents to go back and forth through email. This allowed the content team to see in real-time how changes looked with the new design and made it easy for OMC to review and approve content. It also saved OMC a lot of time, as approved copy didn’t have to be transferred from a Word document into the CMS.

New location profiles

Location content is more important than ever as health consumers are increasingly searching for and relying on accurate online location information. The same is true for OMC, and that’s why they wanted to focus on new online location profiles as part of the redesign.

To deliver the most value, Geonetric and OMC chose a high-volume walk-in clinic and created an optimized profile template with content that meets the needs of users and drove the strategic design of the organization’s new location profile pages. Geonetric’s writers included all the necessary elements, such as an address, hours of operation, directions, and information about the location.

With the thought-out profile as an example, it will be easy for the OMC team to create additional profiles for the rest of their locations.

Enjoying impressive results

Since the launch of their new site in April 2019, OMC is seeing great results. Many of the service lines the Geonetric team refreshed are reporting an impressive YOY increase in page views, including:

  • Breast Health: 32% increase
  • Cardiology & Vascular: 26% increase
  • Convenient Care: 25% increase
  • Pain Management: 12% increase
  • Pharmacy: 73% increase
  • BirthCenter: 2,336% increase

Occupational Health, Orthopedics, and Pediatrics sections are also reporting decreases in bounce rates, showing engagement is up. Organic entrances are also up, with Pharmacy reporting a 167% increase.

In addition, many sections the Geonetric team didn’t touch are also reporting slight improvements, likely due to the in-depth cross-linking strategies implemented.

4 Examples of Engaging Heart & Vascular Service Line Web Content

Start with Strategy

Before you start writing—or even outlining—your service line section, take these steps:

  • Consider your voice, tone, and style – Will your content be academic and authoritative or caring and conversational?
  • Determine your project goals – What do you want to accomplish with this new content? For example, are you hoping to increase seminar registrations, drive appointments, or improve your search engine rankings?
  • Reflect on your capacity – What resources can you dedicate to content creation and upkeep?
  • Understand your audience – Who will the content be for, and what do those people want to learn or do on your website? How are they searching for healthcare services?
  • Review related marketing material and news releases – What has your organization already developed about this service line?
  • Interview internal stakeholders and subject matter experts – What information do they think is important to include on the website? What common questions do they hear from patients that you can answer online?
  • Identify gaps or inaccuracies in current web content about this service – What information needs to be added, expanded, or updated to best reflect your services?
  • Check out your competition – What do competing health systems offer for this service line, and how do they market it? How can you make your organization stand out online?

Your answers to these questions will help you figure out what stand-out service line content looks like for your organization.

4 Examples of High-Quality Heart & Vascular Content

Get inspired by checking out how other healthcare systems have approached heart and vascular service line sections. Whatever approach you choose, get the best results by following our guidelines for writing healthcare web content.

Focus on the Patient Journey: Adventist HealthCare

To make their website as patient-centric as possible, Adventist HealthCare, based in Gaithersburg, MD, takes a patient journey approach to their service line content.

Its Heart & Vascular Care service line section follows a typical patient pathway to receiving heart care—from preventive care (“Keep Your Heart Healthy”) to screening and diagnostic testing, through treatments, and, finally, to rehabilitation and follow-up care.

This approach helps consumers orient themselves and easily find the information they want at the time they visit the website.

Plain language, short sentences, and bulleted lists make it easy for users of all literacy levels to read and understand health care concepts. A focus on explaining the benefits of certain technologies, services, or treatments helps users make educated decisions about their care. Understandable, empathetic content supports conversions because users are more likely to take action when they feel reassured by the brand.

Spotlight Subspecialty Care: Overlake Medical Center & Clinics

Every health system, hospital, or physician practice has something that sets it apart from its competitors. Something that’s worth shining a spotlight on. For Overlake Medical Center & Clinics’ cardiology department, it’s their electrophysiology care.

Their distinctive Seattle-area arrhythmia center—and its focus on patient education—merits a deep dive into this subspecialty online.

Overlake’s extensive Arrhythmia Center content is robust and readable, with detailed pages that highlight causes, symptoms, and advanced treatments for atrial fibrillation and other types of heart rhythm disorders.

Content uses plain language to answer common queries, like “Should I See a Doctor for Heart Palpitations,” and thoughtfully explains what the center’s awards, technology, and facilities mean for health care consumers and the care they’ll receive.

Give a High-Level Overview: Olmsted Medical Center

Like many health systems, Olmsted Medical Center in southeastern Minnesota has a small marketing team. They don’t have the capacity to update core website pages frequently, so they’ve chosen to take a high-level approach to service line content.

Their Cardiology & Vascular Care page provides a comprehensive overview of cardiovascular services—from diagnosis through treatment. Subheadings and bulleted lists make the content easy to scan.

The page is concise but optimized for search and for users. It lists common conditions and treatments—and, just as importantly, explains them in patient-friendly terms.

Build SEO for Cardiology: Hartford HealthCare

Search engine optimization should be woven into every content development project you take on. Sometimes it’s the driving force.

Rewriting the entire Heart & Vascular Institute section wasn’t in the cards for Hartford HealthCare in Connecticut. But when research revealed that that “cardiology” was one of the most popular heart care-related search terms in their area, they prioritized a new, SEO-friendly cardiology page.

To boost SEO, the new specialty page:

  • Answers key user questions
  • Integrates “cardiology” and related keywords in subheadings, body copy, and other high-SEO value areas
  • Cross-links to related pages
  • Features a prominent call to action

The new content brought the web traffic Hartford was looking for. So they took that targeted approach to additional high priority service line pages across the site.

What’s Your Approach?

Need help determining the best approach to service line content for your organization? Contact us. Geonetric’s experienced content strategists and writers work exclusively with healthcare clients, which means we understand the complexity of healthcare marketing and writing.

5 Reasons Healthcare Marketers Benefit from Web Writing Training

Writers’ skills and abilities come in all shapes and sizes. While your writers may be experts on your brand, there may still be gaps when it comes to the expertise needed for excellent web writing for healthcare. Maybe your staff is made up of digital gurus with little healthcare experience, or maybe they are healthcare insiders with a huge print portfolio but very few digital projects under their belt.

At Geonetric, we’ve been delivering online and in-person training for healthcare organizations for years, putting marketing teams on the path to success. Here are just a few of the benefits your organization could enjoy when you get expert training for your team on web writing for healthcare.

       1. Understanding Content’s Impact on SEO

It’s been said that content is king and it seems that Google agrees. In your training, make sure everyone understands the impact that content can have on your SEO. You can also learn tools and formulas to make things like page titles, meta-descriptions, and keyword usage a breeze.

Your team will benefit from training that’s customized not only for your team’s interests and skills, but tailored to your organization and target audiences. For example, we can create a keyword portfolio for your hospital or health system before the training and then teach your team how to naturally integrate those keywords into your content. This helps your staff make the most use out of your portfolio so you get the most out of your SEO efforts.

       2. Come Together on Voice, Tone, and Governance

Your voice and tone are your brand’s personality and governance helps you make sure your content is meaningful and beneficial for your users. Writing training helps to unify your team on these topics and provide an agreed-upon single approach, making it easier to wade through the tricky conversations that arise out of voice, tone, and content governance questions.

It also means that, while your content may be written by a team of writers, your users will have a more cohesive web experience. That’s because even if five writers work on a page if they all have the same understanding of your editorial voice, it will seem like it’s all been written by one person.

       3. Greater Empathy for Your Audience

Great web writing training should give you the tools to help you better understand your audience and what they’re doing online. Understanding data — like how users search for information on your site, how they navigate your site, and your audience’s health literacy reading levels — will help your team make sure you’re providing your users the information they need when and how they need it.

Learning about reading patterns will help you understand how your users see your content, and understanding readability and accessibility are crucial to finding and addressing barriers you may be unintentionally creating in your website experience.

For example, if your content is written at a 12th-grade reading level but users in your area read at a 6th-grade reading level, you’re not going to be delivering a very good experience. Your readers may not understand your content and because of that, they won’t feel confident making a choice. That may result in your users might not take your desired action or they may even go to your competitor’s website instead. Creating an online experience that’s empathetic and helpful enables your users to take the next step in their patient journey!

       4. Stay Up-To-Date on Best Practices

In the world of the web, best practices are constantly evolving. Team training means you can all learn the current best practices and implement them together. Ensure your team knows how to add local elements into content to help with location searches, write effective calls to action, and create content that addresses your users’ needs. Another important facet of this is creating accessible web content, which should be at the forefront of best practices not just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s also the law!

       5. Get Your Team on the Same Page

The best part of any training is that it’s time to revisit your team’s foundation. By learning together, you can move forward from a shared starting place and keep everything in check with what you’ve learned. This has the double benefit of creating a stronger team — and learning in a group setting means that everyone can help each other grow in their skills.

Once you’ve got all these new skills in your back pocket, you’ll be ready to tackle any and all writing projects. Whether your project calls for a light refresh or a full-blown rewrite, you’ll be ready!

Need Help Training Your Team?

Whether you’re looking for a one-hour virtual training or an intensive multi-day workshop with ongoing editing support, Geonetric’s expert team of writers would love to help. We work exclusively with healthcare organizations and we’ve supported numerous approaches for handling content development and upkeep, from writing full sites to training and providing guidance as your team manages the work — and taught a wide range of writing skills. Regardless of your team structure, equipping your on-staff writers with the tools and knowledge they need to write the best possible web content gives your organization a competitive edge. We’ll provide tools and training your team needs to become more competent and confident web writers. Our web writing trainings are personalized for your health system and designed to meet your needs.

Check out our guidelines for writing healthcare web content to get started. Reach out if you’d like to talk with us about your writing training needs!

Healthcare Marketers’ Biggest Barriers to Digital Marketing Success

Over the last few years of administering the Healthcare Digital Marketing Trends Survey, digging into what challenges healthcare marketers face has proven to be an important piece in understanding the state of digital marketing.

Traditionally, “lack of time” and “lack of budget” have always been at or near the top of the barriers list.

In last year’s survey, we encountered a surprise: “unable to measure effectiveness or ROI” emerged at the top of the list and remained near the top again this year, slipping to the number two spot. This had always been high on the list in the years when we posed this question to agency/vendor respondents, but it usually placed low for the health system’s concerns. The increased priority for calculating return on investment (ROI) was a recognition that while resources, in the form of time (staff) and budget, are barriers the failure to make the case for those resources is an important underlying cause of those previously mentioned challenges.

Online transaction and offline operations

The surprise factor this year was that “unable to support online transactions with offline operations” found its way to #4 on the list of top barriers, just behind resources and the aforementioned ability to measure ROI.

Last year we saw this begin to emerge as a concern, but only from respondents who self-identified as outperforming their competitors across numerous digital strategy areas.

Leading digital healthcare organizations are reaching the points where new online capabilities are a catalyst to create changes not only in marketing but also in the way in which healthcare services are accessed, delivered, and funded. The changes that are made possible through digital transformation require internal process changes or, at the very least, cooperation from other parts of the enterprise.

Now we’re seeing operational challenges emerge across many more organizations in our survey, even those who do not see themselves as digital leaders.

This is likely because average and laggard organizations have invested in the last few years in their martech stacks, which inevitably leads to operational questions.

Types of operational challenges

Digital transformation forces clarity around processes, which often leads to lots of internal conversations about how to handle incoming requests.

Some of the most common ways we see healthcare organizations run into process challenges is from web transactions. For example:

Appointment setting: This is often one of the first digital-to-operational challenges organizations face, and it’s often because internal processes haven’t been standardized. Scheduling is often decentralized with individual clinics or practices following different processes from one another let alone standardizing with hospitals! Many organizations still push online visitors to use the phone to schedule an appointment, which goes against the way many site visitors want to interact with the organization and could impact the user experience. As online appointment options expand, particularly with real-time appointment scheduling, this is an area that will continue to be a headache for many until they standardize their processes.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): For the last few years, we’ve seen organizations indicate on the survey that they are investing in CRM technology and CRM team skillsets. CRM implementations make it possible to get a complete overall view of a consumer and how they engage your organization through in-patient, outpatient, and non-clinical touchpoints. Integrating CRM with your website creates the opportunity to build a better understanding of a customer’s interests in your organization and can open the door to deliver more personalization experiences both online and offline. Creating this consolidated view of your customers and using that data to create meaningful experiences opens up numerous operational challenges from I.T. to call center to the bedside.  Though not easy to accomplish, this type of transformation can pay big dividends in improved patient acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.

Delivering on marketing ROI: Being able to track the financial impact of attracting new patients is the holy grail of digital marketing. Many aspire to do it but have trouble delivering. Despite growing CRM adoption by healthcare systems, most organizations still struggle with tying financial results to marketing efforts. Equally problematic are marketing strategies that make new patient attribution difficult, a shortage of online patient conversion opportunities, an inability to track health consumers across marketing engagement channels to becoming a patient, and identify where the conversion funnel could be improved.

As organizations think strategically about moving the offline processes to the web, healthcare marketers will need to be proactive in building relationships with operations, finance, and I.T. to avoid pitfalls as your digital systems push those boundaries.

Download the survey and learn more insights

The 2019 Healthcare Digital Marketing Trends Survey is full of additional insights around how healthcare marketers are using digital tactics to engage and convert today’s health consumers. Download the free survey report today and learn where your organization and gain understanding into how your peers and competitors are planning, budgeting, and staffing for the coming year.

How to Check Accessibility on Your Healthcare Website

Types of accessibility tools

There are two different kinds of tools that can check your hospital website for accessibility errors.

1.) Browser plugins or extensions: These allow you to evaluate one page of your website at a time, and are effective if you are making edits to one specific page.

2.) Automated site crawlers: These are tools that crawl your entire site, listing every single error it finds in one report.

Both of these types of tools are valuable depending on your needs. They give you quick results, don’t require technical expertise in order to use them, and can provide a roadmap of some top areas in which you may need to invest.

But it’s important to understand that even the best tools only find about 37% of your accessibility problems.

That’s because these tools check your code to make sure certain elements and tags exist, but they cannot determine if those elements are meaningful, relevant, or understandable to an end user.

Why accessibility tools alone fall short

Here’s an example from a healthcare website’s mission page.

Screenshot of a healthcare website's mission page

In the screenshot above are the words, “Actions speak louder than words” followed by an image of a young girl extending her arms and using her hands to make a heart shape. Below the image are more paragraphs of text talking about the organization’s commitment to delivering patient-centered healthcare.

Upon inspecting the HTML code, we can see that this image has an empty alt tag.

<img src="/util/images/mission-and-values.jpg" alt="">

If you were to run this page through an accessibility checker tool, it would flag this image for not having alt text. Now let’s pretend you were editing this page to make it more accessible, and you added alt text to say “Girl” then ran the testing tool again.

This time the tool would NOT flag the image because it does include alt text. However, the alt text “Girl” isn’t very descriptive and doesn’t convey the author’s intent of this image, therefore it does not meet WCAG guidelines.

The image was put on this page for a reason. The author was trying to evoke some kind of feeling or send some kind of visual message. If we do not adequately describe what is in this image, a person with little or no vision will miss out.

Web accessibility requires tools plus human judgment

Web accessibility tools are an effective way to start evaluating your site. They automate a lot of manual testing and help you see where you have opportunities to improve. They also give you an idea of the amount of time and resources you’re going to need to allocate.

As the alt text example highlighted, human intervention is still required to review the output of the reporting tools and determine if what’s there is meaningful to the user. An accessibility expert can also review the report and help put a plan in place to tackle any issues based on what changes will produce the most value while taking into consideration what user paths are most popular on your site.

Remember, at the end of the day accessibility is about real humans creating optimal experiences for real humans.

If you’d like to learn more about web accessibility in healthcare, including how to best use tools and humans (internal or external team members) to recreate an accessibility action plan, check out this webinar: Website Accessibility in Healthcare.

Focused Optimization Efforts Protect and Enhance Rankings Post-launch

Cape Cod Healthcare (CCHC) in Hyannis, MA, understands that SEO is never done. The two-hospital health system worked with their agency Geonetric to launch a new, award-winning site in January of 2019. They took a strategic approach with their redesign, making decisions based on user research and usability testing. And those investments paid off with impressive year-over-year results in just the first 30 days after launch.

Recognizing that optimization requires consistent oversight and investment, CCHC partnered with Geonetric on a post-launch SEO retainer to ensure those initial numbers kept moving in a positive direction.

Support On Launch Day and Beyond

Site launches are busy days for Geonetric’s digital marketing team as they work through a launch list that includes resubmitting site maps to search engines and checking that robots.txt are functioning properly. When a site goes live, impressive investments have been made throughout implementation and launch to ensure the site immediately starts delivering results. But optimization isn’t a one-and-done project.

CCHC made a lot of changes with their new site, from integrating a content marketing hub to restructuring locations, and those changes required monitoring to ensure the users were engaging with the changes as expected. With CCHC’s 90-day post-launch SEO retainer, Geonetric’s digital marketing team was able to continuously monitor rankings and make immediate, continuous improvements, ensuring initial positive results continue to improve.

Focus on Delivering the Most SEO Value

After launch, the digital marketing team ran a site crawl and used the findings to create a roadmap for the next three months of focused SEO work. The team prioritized findings based on what would deliver the most value to CCHC in terms of both overall optimization and what tied to strategic goals, such as connecting site visitors with services and locations.

Some of the work was additional clean-up that needs to happen after a major site redesign, such as setting up appropriate redirects and ensuring there was no duplicate content. One area where the team was able to really make an impact was optimizing the site’s metadata — particularly using keyword research to write thoughtful meta descriptions and page titles.

Some examples of news descriptions included:

Urgent Care:
“Get the right type of treatment for your illness or injury. Learn whether urgent care or the emergency room may be the best choice for you.”

Heart Care:
“If you have a heart condition, turn to the expert interventional cardiologists at Cape Cod Healthcare in Hyannis and Falmouth, MA.”

The Geonetric team met with CCHC each month of the retainer, reporting performance on key site metrics and discussing goals and tactics for the next 30 days.

Build on Results

Since the retainer included monthly check-ins, the CCHC team was able to see how investments compounded month after month. At site launch, organic traffic from search engines was at an all-time high, with a little over 60,000 sessions. Each month of the retainer, organic sessions continued to improve over the previous month. At 30 days it was a 24% year-over-year increase, at 60 days it was at 25%, and they ended with a total 29% year-over-year increase over the three months.

Bounce rates have decreased since go-live as well, indicating users are continuing to find relevant content on the site and stay engaged. Desktop bounce rate decreased by 7% and mobile bounce rate by 14%.

The site continues to see success in keyword rankings as well. Since launch, there has been a 76% increase in the number of pages ranking in organic search, and a 52% increase in organic keywords the site ranks for, including phrases such as “primary care physicians cape cod” and “having a baby after breast cancer.”

Caregivers: A Healthcare Marketer’s Missed Audience

Over 10,000 people turn 65 each day. This trend is expected to continue until 2029 when the youngest baby boomers turn 65 years old. Aging baby boomers, along with the high cost of senior care living, are creating millions of caregivers.

While the numbers vary widely – from 34.2 million up to 65 million – the fact is there is a huge population of siblings, children, and loved ones who are reported to provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend.

This is a growing and important audience to remember in your healthcare marketing, as they are making care decisions every day for their loved ones.

Caregiving is personal

I’ve seen caregiving first-hand because my mom has always been a caregiver, whether paid or unpaid.

She raised my brother and me as a stay-at-home mom until age 39 when she went back to school to become a registered nurse. After graduation, she worked primarily in senior living and geriatric care. In 2014, she retired.

But by that time my grandma, Eleanor, was nearly 90 years old. She was a strong and mentally sharp independent woman, still living at home,  but she did not drive and she had a few health problems heading her way. Grandma’s healthcare became my mom’s post-retirement job.

When I’d call my mom to chat, I’d ask how she was doing.

“Tired,” she’d say. “I’ve been up since 7 o’clock this morning. I had to drive Grandma to her doctor, and the podiatrist, and change her wound dressing. I still have to get her groceries and do both of our laundries at home. I just don’t have the energy.”

I can’t count how many times I heard those sighs. I wanted to push my city and my hometown together so I could be there to help her.

Grandma passed away in March 2018. I miss her every day, and so does Mom. But as we said goodbye, and I watched my mom find life after being a caregiver, I wondered what could’ve helped my mother feel less alone, less stressed, and more in control of her life and the new expectations placed on her.

Caregivers are a vital, often  missed audience

It’s easy to throw caregivers into one big group, highlighting their stress and fatigue. But while that’s true for many, how caregivers respond to stress and fatigue varies. What answers they need to cope with this tremendous responsibility varies, too.

A recent survey by Syneos Health Communications estimated there are 43.5 million people who provide unpaid care to adults. On average, caregivers devote around 41 hours a week to providing care to their loved ones.

That’s more than a full-time job.

In the survey, 1,380 caregiver participants said hospital brands don’t understand their journey as well as individual doctors and nurses. They describe their feelings as being “drained,” and “lost,” as well as “hopeless and lonely.” It’s a tough position to be in – and one that is often overlooked in healthcare marketing.

So what, as healthcare communicators, can we do with this information?

Create marketing and events aimed at caregivers

It feels uncomfortable to put “caregivers” and “marketing” in the same sentence. But caregivers use search engines to find answers and support. Wouldn’t it be great if caregivers could find articles and information that could help make their lives easier?

Creating blogs and content that help caregivers make decisions and find relief or support services to assist them is a huge benefit to offer. They’re as important to the patient journey as the patient, so don’t shy from creating content for them.

TV commercials, radio, billboards or magazine advertisements are also important. This audience is as likely to engage so long as the ad speaks to them and their experience.

Your organization could also take it a step further by offering caregiver support through events and special spaces at your hospital. Find a way to bring caregivers together to share experiences and build relationships.

Mercy Cedar Rapids actually built family caregiving services into its medical service lines. A webpage for the center features services available to caregivers and families, including counseling, support groups, art therapy, and more. They also feature a tour of their comfortable, inviting caregiver center, and encourage those inspired by caregiving to donate to the Mercy foundation.

Choose images with thoughtfulness and context

According to the Syneos survey, caregivers view images with an emotional pull.

“Non-caregivers gave a superficial, very literal report of what they were seeing,” the survey states. “Caregivers, on the other hand, read more emotion into what they saw and projected their experience onto the imagery.”

Take a look at this image:

A non-caregiver might describe it as, “holding hands with senior.” But a caregiver might describe it as, “a young person nurturing an older person.” As Syneos pointed out, caregivers project their experiences onto content they read. Considering how they’ll interpret images is important as you choose them for the content you create.

Besides images in your content marketing, consider other graphic approaches to speaking to this audience. Cone Health, in Greensboro, NC, featured an article, “5 Stress Relief Tips for Caregivers,” with a cheerful, easy-to-read infographic to accompany their advice.

And by building caregivers into the target audience of their content marketing hub, Wellness Matters, they’re capturing opportunities to help this ever-important audience feel involved. Even an article about exercising with arthritis speaks to how caregivers can help.

Don’t hide the potential solutions

Like patients, caregivers are looking for answers and options. Since this often starts online, don’t hide the next steps. Lead them to the call-to-action that will make their life easier.

The Syneos survey also states that caregivers are “micro-influencers” for patients. In fact, more than 75 percent will influence when and how their loved one sees a medical professional, and nearly 70 percent of them will seek second opinions.

This trend has only grown. In 2013, the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of online health searches were performed on behalf of someone else.

Leading a patient to conversion is one thing, but with this growing audience of caregivers, it’s essential that every piece of your marketing – even your physician profiles – helps them make decisions for family members who need care, especially they are seeking that care from out-of-state.

As you develop content, make calls-to-action that are clear and speak to this audience. Whether they’re seeking the best medical supplies or finding a new doctor for a loved one, caregivers are part of the consumer funnel.

You’ll help more people than you realize

In retrospect, I wish I could turn back the clock and change two things: To inspire confidence in my Mom to help her find answers to questions about her own caregiver needs, and more importantly, that I could’ve been closer to home to help her find the resources to ease her stress.

Even if a caregiver isn’t the one sitting on the exam table, they play a major part in the healthcare outcomes for your patients. By including content that speaks to the caregiver experience and challenges, you’re doing more good than you realize.

And isn’t that why we’re here in the first place?

5 Reasons Your Healthcare Site Isn’t Ranking In Search

1. Your site has a technical issue preventing the page from ranking

I’m surprised how often I review a hospital’s site only to uncover technical issues that are preventing search engines from indexing the pages.

The most typical issue I run across is the “meta noindex tag.” This is a line of code that tells search engines not to index the page in search. In other words, the page will not appear when you search for it in Google. This line of code is often triggered by a checkbox or similar feature within the content editor of your content management system (CMS), which is why problems arise when you have many editors or unfamiliar users updating your website.

The meta noindex tag looks like this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

If you’re curious whether a page has this tag, view the page’s source code and search for “noindex.” Another place the “noindex” directive might appear is within the HTTP response header.

Note that there are occasions where using a “noindex” tag to hide a page from search makes sense. For example, a campaign landing page that you only want to direct paid traffic to, or utility pages such as a form submission confirmation page.

While checking the source code of a page may work in one-off situations, it’s better to use a tool like Moz, SiteImprove, or Screaming Frog to perform a crawl of your site. This will give you a nicely-structured report of all pages that contain ‘noindex,’ as well as other issues that affect SEO.

If you do find a page with a “noindex” tag that you want to be indexed, remove the tag (or ask your web vendor how), and request Google to index the page within Google Search Console. Then, have a conversation with your team or establish an SEO governance plan to prevent these issues from arising in the future.

2. Your page topic doesn’t align with your targeted keyword

The second reason a page may not rank for a keyword is that your content isn’t effectively targeting your chosen keyword. In other words, Google doesn’t see your page as a good answer to the question users are searching for. Google always strives to serve the most relevant content to a user. So if you have a page called “Classes” and you’re trying to rank for a search for “birthing classes,” your page topic isn’t specific enough.

Ideally, the topic of your page and your chosen keyword should be identical or closely align. How does Google know the topic of your page? The text appearing in your page’s URL, HTML page title, and H1 are the first places Google looks to understand your page topic. That’s why you have to make careful decisions about what keywords you place in those critical areas.

The other reason your page may not be relevant enough is you’re trying to target too many keywords with one page. Are you trying to rank for “birthing classes,” “prenatal yoga,” and “birth center tours,” with a single page? If it’s important for your organization to rank well for each of these searches, these topics should be broken out into separate pages – each with their own URL, HTML page title, and H1 where you can place these valuable keywords.

When deciding whether to target multiple keywords with a page, think about the user’s intent and what they would expect to find. A user searching for “prenatal yoga” wants very different information than someone searching for “birthing classes.” But a user searching for “bariatric surgery” wants the same information as someone searching for “weight loss surgery,” so these keywords can be targeted by the same page. This mental exercise will help you to ensure that you’re building pages with the most relevant information for your search query and providing a good experience for your users. Now you’re thinking like Google!

3. Your content isn’t geographically relevant to a local user

Remember how I said Google wants to serve the most relevant information to a user? That includes their geographic location. For many healthcare searches, Google makes it a priority to serve people local results for services near them.

Searches like “cardiologist,” “urgent care,” “pain clinic,” or “orthopedics” all prioritize websites from local organizations. That’s why it’s important that your website makes it clear which cities you serve. If your website isn’t ranking for a local keyword, it’s possible that Google doesn’t have a clear understanding of the local areas you serve.

Naturally incorporating city keywords within your page titles, headings, and body copy will help Google to better understand those regions you serve. This can be difficult if you’re a large organization spread across many cities, so strategically optimizing your service line content and building robust location pages to rank for these searches can often help you to remain competitive.

4. Your page has little or no authority

While relevance is an important factor for SEO, so is authority. Google wants to give users relevant and reliable information. This is especially important for healthcare.


The primary way your page gains authority is through links. The more links you have from quality, authoritative sites, the more Google will see your site as a reliable source of information. The more that you can do to build links to your site, whether through content marketing or outreach, the more weight your domain will carry in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, having a good internal cross-linking strategy within your site is just as important. It may be hard for deeper pages to gain authority if there are little or no external links to them. Internal links can pass authority from high-authority pages like your homepage or service line landing pages down to deeper sub-pages on your site. If a page isn’t ranking well in search, placing strategic internal links to your page can help improve the page’s authority quickly.

301 Redirects

One of the biggest issues I come across related to authority is the improper use (or lack of) redirects. If you change a page’s URL but don’t implement a 301 redirect from the old page to the new one, you’ve just destroyed your page’s authority. Google won’t correlate your old page with your new page, so you’re essentially starting over from scratch. By implementing a 301 redirect, you pass most of the previous page’s authority to your new page, thus preserving its hard-earned SEO. This is especially critical when you are going through a redesign and changing your site’s structure or domain.

Canonical URLs

Another issue that often hurts a page’s authority is duplicate content. If you have a page that is identical or nearly identical to another page, Google may choose not to rank it in search. This often happens with provider profiles that display across multiple domains.

If you have a preference as to which URL you want to rank, you can indicate this to Google with the rel=canonical element, which looks something like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

Placing this element on each of your duplicate pages with the preferred URL you want to rank will tell Google which URL you want to display in search results. Note that this will also prevent the other URLs from appearing in search.

5. The keyword you’re targeting is too difficult

SEO for healthcare is unique because the tactics necessary to rank for a keyword vary drastically. For searches for healthcare services, Google highly prioritizes relevance over authority, preferring to rank local websites. For searches related to healthcare conditions or treatments, Google highly prioritizes authority, preferring to rank nationally-recognized brands that have a long-standing reputation.

If the keyword you’re targeting falls into this second realm, you may be barking up the wrong proverbial tree, and your efforts may be better spent targeting another keyword.

When deciding whether to go after a keyword, consider the value gained by ranking for the keyword versus the amount of effort required. Is the time spent optimizing your site to rank going to pay off in the long run?

Estimating Keyword Value

When estimating a keyword’s value, think about the user’s intent and your marketing funnel. Searches for conditions like “heart disease” or “flu symptoms” tend to be informative searches falling at the top of the marketing funnel. These searches may not offer your organization as much return on investment as a search at the bottom of the funnel, such as “cardiologist” or “urgent care near me.”

One of the best ways to estimate a keyword’s value is by running a paid search campaign with your prospective keywords to identify those that are the highest converting. This allows you to go beyond search volume and understand which keywords will actually drive revenue.

Estimating Keyword Effort

When estimating the effort required to rank for a keyword, evaluate the sites currently ranking. Are they local sites, or is Google prioritizing high-authority sites with many inbound links? How are they targeting those keywords with their content? How many inbound links do they have?

Searches for “heart disease” return sites like Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and WebMD.

The Mayo Clinic has over 11.1 million inbound links to their domain. Even if this keyword has some value to your organization, the effort required to rank for this keyword is extremely high. You may be better off researching related, niche keywords that your local users search for, such as “heart disease treatment albuquerque nm.”

Get started and get ranking

While SEO can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be. If you follow the five guidelines above, your site should be in a good position to be competitive in search.

If you’re still having issues, or want help fixing the problems you uncover, Geonetric’s digital marketing team can perform an SEO assessment or jump in and start fixing the issues. Drop us a line and let’s get back those rankings you’ve worked so hard for!

And if you want to learn more, be sure to check our Ask the Experts: Get Answers to Your Top Healthcare SEO Questions webinar.