Using your Greatest Tool Effectively
A key component of the AHPRA guidelines for medical advertising is that your communications can’t be misleading to an uninformed audience. This rule is in place to help protect people from making poor health decisions based on things they don’t fully understand.
It means that providing an article in highly scientific language as the only information source for your non-medical-savvy patients isn’t just unhelpful; it can land you in serious trouble if it causes them to make a bad health decision. Your audience needs to be able to understand what you’re saying, which means your content needs to be readable.
There’s a key drawback for providing healthcare information online: medical information often takes a certain degree of scientific literacy to understand, and online readers tend to skim read. The combination of these two factors means that many people don’t read medical information as thoroughly as they probably should.
So how do we help our audience read?
Whenever you’re writing a text, it’s important to understand and consider the demographic you’re writing for. In the case of your online content, that’s people who don’t have knowledge of medicine and like to skim read. From there, the solution is an obvious one: optimise the content for the type of people who are likely to read it.
How do you go about doing this? Let’s consult the statistics…
- Your average reader reads about 20% of the actual content on your page when they skim. This makes it important to help your audience focus on the right parts of your text so that they really understand.
- 2-3 letter words are skipped over almost 75% of the time by skim readers, but 8-letter words are usually fixated upon. You can use this trend to make patients focus on the most important words of your content: try to use plain, shorter words where you can to make important terms more likely to be fixated on.
- Only 10-20% of readers make it to the bottom of a page, so keep your most important info near the start of your page.
- People read 20-30% faster online and retain 20-30% less information than when they read on paper. Remember that your audience’s brain is working faster for less information, and do your best to keep things simple.
- Sharing your site’s content through socials may get it more views, but it has no relationship whatsoever with the amount of time your average reader reads it for. Your content needs to be readable to be effective, not just popular.
- 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds reading a single piece of content. Where you can, keep it short and punchy to entice them to read longer!
In short, the easiest way to optimise your content for skim readers is by making short paragraphs that are only one or two sentences long, and bolding extra important bits. This breaks the content up into bite-sized chunks and helps to catch a skimmer’s eye, which makes it easier for them to process the information.
Keep the most important parts of your information near the top of the page where they’re likely to be seen, and remember that you’re writing for an audience that doesn’t know as much about the subject as you do. Keep it basic!
What benefits can I look forward to?
For starters, you can look forward to more educated patients. Providing content that’s easy to understand and process is a great way to help people learn and retain new information. It’s also a great way to help stop the spread of misinformation: Patients who understand their health condition how it’s being managed are much less likely to seek out information from other (and often less reliable) sources.
You can also look forward to being a reliable source for material that’s easy to understand and helps answer your patients’ questions. When you’re recognised as a reputable source for easy to understand information that benefits your readers, you get to establish yourself as an authority.
Finally, providing content that’s optimised for your reader helps show that you care about reaching them on a level they can understand. It helps them to know that you’ll see them as a person and that reaching them matters to you.
Pages loaded with complex procedure information and medical terminology have their purpose: they’re great to share with your medically-minded colleagues who have a thorough understanding of the topic, but they’re not ideal for the majority of your patient base who don’t have a background in medicine.
Instead, good practice is to prepare content that benefits those seeking you out. When you cater to your audience with content that’s easy for them to process, you meet their needs and establish yourself as a good source for healthcare. Considering all you have to gain, why wouldn’t you reach out with optimised content?