All About Blog Readability for Healthcare Providers

All About Blog Readability for Healthcare Providers



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When aiming for the top positions in the search engines, text must be readable and understood by large audiences and align and be relevant to their searches

About the Author

About the Author

Maria Todd is frequently hired as a consulting expert and trusted authority on business strategy for healthcare providers. She helps medical groups, individual physicians, hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities and other healthcare providers develop strategies and tactical plans to achieve their business goals.

Maria believes that blogging is an excellent way to market one's business, establish authority, and gain favorable positioning for a healthcare brand. Learn why she argues that readability is critical when drafting blogs that effectively achieve marketing and advertising goals.

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Tactics are the "how" we do things to achieve an objective, while strategy is the overall plan of "what" we will do. Strategies involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that governs the ways we will bring the strategy to life.

Many excellent marketing and advertising strategies fail not because of strategic flaws..but instead, because the tactics were not properly executed.

When clients hire me to develop a strategy that they will execute independent of my assistance, they are asking me to draft and develop a unique approach to take to achieve a set of goals that have been defined – by them.

As a consultant, I use a project brief as a checklist to interview the client(s) to learn their goals for the project. I follow the Michael Porter philosophy that argues that there are three strategies any business can adopt:

  1. “Cost Leadership” (no frills)
  2. “Differentiation” (creating uniquely desirable products and services) and
  3. “Focus” (offering a specialized service where you own top positioning in a niche market without distractions)

My deliverable, is therefore a document that outlines a high level approach to achieving goals and sometimes it goes further into detail about the goals and gets into recommended actions for “how to execute” the strategy. If they choose to expand the assignment into tactical execution guidance, that’s a different deliverable. Some clients feel comfortable and say “No thanks, I can take it from here.”, and so I move on to the next project. Other clients want the assistance for a number of possible reasons: no time, no know how, no staff to manage the execution. For the client who wants a strategy but has not determined how they will fund and staff execution, I tend not to accept them as clients because I prefer not to get involved in a project doomed for failure. I have other projects I can accept that will have a better chance of success.

Tactics are neither “outcomes” nor are they “measures of success.” So in the context of blogging as a part of a marketing strategy, the blog is part of the strategy. The tactics of readability and SEO treatments are the specific actions that will be taken to achieve the goal of driving traffic to a healthcare provider’s blog. Once the traffic goal is achieved there’s more to do to keep the reader engaged as they spend time on your site.

If your content is not readable, too technical or not relevant to what they were looking for, your traffic arrives, quickly looks around, and in short order decides it isn’t what they wanted, and leaves. That’s called a drop off.  All that work for no revenue. That’s awful!

An Example of the Difference Between Tactics and Strategy

As a strategist for healthcare business development a surgery center has decided to engage me to develop a strategy for them.

Strategy: Differentiation

We will succeed by offering new surgical technologies to enhance our total and partial knee replacement surgery quality and outcomes. We will do so in a way that our competitors cannot match which allow us to claim higher value for the price we charge to customers.

Objective: To be recognized in the community as a leading healthcare innovator in the space of robotics-assisted knee replacement surgery.

Tactic 1: Select a robotics-assisted surgical system and have the surgeons become certified and competent to use it.

Tactic 2. Negotiate with the seller to protect our territory for at least one year as a barrier to entry for competitive rivals to match our offer.

Tactic 3. Advertise through a full-stack marketing and advertising strategy that includes digital, print, outdoor, and event marketing and advertising. The required budget will come from surgery center funds matched by the robot manufacturer, in accordance with regulatory compliance requirements that don’t violate any anti-kickback and other regulations.

The advertisements will lead to conversions measured by arrivals to a landing page designed to support the campaigns. Each landing page will lead the visitor to spend time on the site learning more by reading blogs, watching videos, or listening to podcasts that will be created as owned content that is an asset of the surgery center.

Tactic 4. Blogs will be written at a level that is relevant and readable by the visitor. For that to occur, branding research must be undertaken to know as much about the targeted visitor as possible.  Blogs will elaborate on the advantages of robotics-assisted total and partial knee replacement surgery over conventional approaches and other robotic or computer assisted systems and compare and contrast the limitations of the other systems. They will not be “too graphic” to the point that they are off putting, scarey, or too technical and will include subtle calls to action throughout the piece of content to encourage the next steps through the purchase funnel: trust, approachability, affordability, accessibility and near term scheduling, playing to the urgency of the pain of an osteoarthritic knee, and a push to take a specific action – call, email, or attend an event to learn more.

As you can see, one can have multiple tactics aligned to each objective. Which ones you choose and how you execute on them is beyond the overarching strategic plan to “publish” a blog as part of a full stack marketing strategy.  A strategy can include tens if not hundreds of tactics in total – all of which would be limited by the client’s available staff, competency, and funds available to execute. 

Readability is easier said than done

Readability takes time, practice and knowledge of your ideal website visitor/ideal customer persona.

Often, I encounter physicians who write blogs or post videos that are “grotesque” and scarey to patients and prospective patients. To them, the content is perfectly tuned to what they want to say and explain but too graphic or technical for the average patient.

It takes time, commitment and practice to write patient-centric content that is different from articles in scientific journals and peer-oriented articles for referring physicians and other similarly-ilked specialists.

The best intended surgeons, specialists, concierge docs, and other practitioners swear with their hand on a stack of Bibles that they will faithfully write 3 articles per week to promote their expertise, authority and build trust. Yah, right! Heard it before. It rarely if ever happens.  

Once they write a few and find out just how challenging it can be to write at a consumer level of readability, they taper off until their blogging comes to a grinding halt. Very few will hire a professional freelance editor who is competent with search engine optimization (SEO) treatments to help them attain top Search Engine Results Page (SERP) positioning on the pages displayed by search engines in response to a query by a user. 

The main component of the SERP is the listing of results that are returned by the search engine in response to a keyword query, although the pages may also contain other results such as advertisements. Readability and relevance are the first two hurdles. As a Google-certified expert in healthcare digital marketing, it is my business to know that for healthcare SERP, Google has added more complexity to its algorithms to include a new acronym: “EAT” that stands for expertise, authority and trust.  

Those three elements, expertise, authority and trust, must make their way from a strategic plan to tactical execution just to get listed in search engine returns. And as a hands on, part time director of business development for an ambulatory surgical center, and a consultant to many others, I can tell you that the execution part is much more challenging than writing a strategic plan. Armchair experts can write strategies day in and day out. They don’t have to “do” what they recommend. They write, tender and leave. The client tells them that’s all they want – the strategy. 

That’s s lot like having a baby. The strategy was to establish a family. Once you bring the baby home and have to feed it, change its diapers, keep it safe, and educate it, you realize there’s way more to raising a baby – a million and one tactics – to get through the execution of child rearing to meet the objective of raising a kind, successful, healthy child into a self sufficient and productive adult that contributes to society. The strategy wasn’t flawed. The art form is in the execution!

How you communicate with the child is much like how you’ll decide to communicate your message in your blog for readability. To whom are you writing in this blog? Other doctors? Patients? Insurers and employers? Benefits consultants who might recommend your robotics-assisted knee replacement services?  

Try to think about “how” you write to open your content up to an audience you’ve not yet reached. That’s the goal of any SEO-strategy: getting that traffic to your website and having them remain long enough to take a preferred or targeted action that results in new business and revenues.  

If your text is better than your competitors’ for the readers, it is bound to rank better in SERP, as Google optimizes for that same user. It is imperative that you realize here that Google’s algorithm is trying to mimic humans.  It reads as humans read. Its AI now understands and scans text the way humans read and scan. It assesses and awards ranking for simpler, shorter sentences with simple grammatical  structures.

When writing for the internet reader, Google takes into consideration subheadings (H3 and higher) and white spaces between paragraphs that we don’t normally add in when writing a thesis or technical paper to be read in printed form.

Paragraphs and readability

If your sentences are a little bit too long, but you compensate that with short paragraphs, your text will be a good read overall.   Usually, when a sentence is rather lengthy, you’ve created a combined sentence. Such sentences can be easily split into two (or three even). 

Start a paragraph with the most important sentence, then explain or elaborate on that sentence to help readers grasp the concept of your article in the first sentence of each paragraph.

Make sure your paragraphs aren’t too long either (7 or 8 shorter sentences). Add a subheading that tells the reader what to expect in that paragraph.

Passive voice and blog readability

This is where you break the rules we all learned in English Composition 101. To review: A passive construction occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence.  To give you an example: Why was the road crossed by the chicken?

Who is doing the action in this sentence? The chicken is the one doing the action in this sentence, but the chicken is not in the spot where you would expect the grammatical subject to be.  Instead it is the road that is the grammatical subject. This is instead of putting the actor in the position of the subject that does the action. Using verbs to represent what’s being done. 

Passive constructions are easy to spot but we were trained not to write in passive voice.  Now the rules for internet writing change that lesson we mastered in the past.

Look for a form of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, have, has, had, should, would, could, may, might, ust, and can) followed by a past participle. (The past participle is a form of the verb that typically, but not always, ends in “-ed.” Some exceptions to the “-ed” rule are words like “paid” (not “payed”) and “driven.” (not “drived”).

This is especially difficult for non-native speakers of English who elect to write their blogs in English. Ask yourself whether there is an action (treatment, diagnosis, observation, testing, surgery, intervention, etc.) going on in the sentence. If so, what is at the front of the sentence? Is it the person or thing that does the action? Or is it the person or thing that has the action done to it?

In a passive sentence, the object of the action will be in the subject position at the front of the sentence.  

Here’s a sure-fire formula for identifying the passive voice:

form of “to be” + past participle = passive voice

Here’s how to change passive constructions into active ones. You can usually just switch the word order, making the actor and subject one by putting the actor up front:

The patient tolerated the surgery.


The surgery was well-tolerated by the patient.

Now for blog writing, flip it to passive instead of active. The key to identifying the passive voice is to look for both a form of “to be” and a past participle, which usually, but not always, ends in “-ed.”


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Maria is a bestselling author and a top healthcare industry influencer and thought leader. She has excellent references and a huge project portfolio spanning 40+ years in healthcare business development and management.

She holds 25 copyrights, several trademark registrations, and shares several patent applications for software inventions.

She’s been recognized with numerous industry lifetime achievement awards for her work in contracted reimbursement, managed care, physician integration and alignment, and health tourism in the USA and 116 countries. 

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Get Help with Content Marketing Strategy and Tactics

You are probably asking yourself: Where do I start?”

If the marketing tactics you’ve deployed are not working, you may want to know why. With a simple, remote assessment of your content and all marketing efforts, and an interpretation and assessment of your Google Analytics, I can help to identify where and how to improve. I can also develop a custom tailored blueprint you can follow to improve results.

First things first: We examine and describe your customer’s lifecycle, step by step, from early stage interest to post operative or treatment discharge. Your customer lifecycle provides a road map for marketing tactics so you can deliver high value content and messaging that delivers relevant experiences – both digitally and for humans – across your entire customer life cycle.

Analyzing your readability

Once you’ve set your strategy and executed through your planned tactical steps, the next thing on your list should be retrospective analysis. How did it work?

Using a technique called reverse goal path analysis you can see in a report exactly the pathway to understand how the reader found you, your content, what worked in your digital marketing and what didn’t. 

Any marketer who relies on blind luck time after time, or doesn’t bother to look at how readers found their way to the business’ website won’t be in the role for long. 

Total conversions and conversion rates are important but they don’t tell you the full story. Now that I’ve done a full stack tactical execution on our robotics-assisted knee replacement procedures, I need to know what to repeat and what to abandon and move the dollars that didn’t produce adequate results to my satisfaction to a more effective tactic. You must do this and be ruthless about what to cut and what to boost.

To begin the analysis, I ask the following questions about the campaign and results:

  1. What pathway did a visitor follow to reach my contact us page, make a call?
  2. Did they start at the home page or a deeper link or a direct link posted on one of my billboard ads?
  3. Or did they click on a geofenced digital banner ad I purchased that led them to a unique landing page for that digital banner ad?

I want to know which method and what approach did the best job leading someone to reach out for services.  Why was one pathway more successful than another? With just a single number I won’t  know for sure.  In the past, we had several marketing agencies and advertising agencies under contract. When I sat with them as I worked to get my bearings in the role, if they couldn’t answer these questions… they began the circling the drain cycle” for termination for cause. Who sells marketing and advertising and doesn’t have these answers?  Why can’t they tell me my user journey? And don’t dare send me to Google Analytics. That’s raw data. If I must analyze it myself, what the heck do I need them for?  I want a professional’s interpretation that is better than my own. If I can’t have that, I don’t need to pay them. And the first thing I am going to be listening for is the interpretation of the reverse goal path. 

When people find your site via pages other than the homepage, that’s a great sign.  They’ve come in through the section most relevant to their needs or interests. Your pricing page, the page that lists how to set an appointment and which insurance plans you accept, or a procedure description that explains what they want to know about a specific surgery or treatment.  Seeing that this page leads to conversions without additional steps is a sign that the call to action (CTA) here is effective.

Want to learn more? Call me and let’s chat about how you plan to execute on your marketing strategy. Need a marketing strategy? Let’s talk. I can help.


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