Is it Better to License a Health Library or Write One?

We received lots of great questions during the webinar. More questions than we were able to answer in the hour we had. A few, like this one on licensing or writing health content, were worth answering in a blog post of their own. You’ll see a few more of these trickle out in the next week, but for now let’s tackle this one.

There are some great advantages to utilizing your own, unique, high-quality health content on your website rather than licensing a syndicated content library from a vendor. For starters, the content showcases your expertise as an organization, specifically represents your organization’s approach to specific conditions and protocols for treatment or management, and it’s much more effective from a search engine optimization perspective.

However, my first thought when receiving this question during our recent webinar Intermediate Writing for the Web was – are you nuts?

One of the biggest challenges the health systems we work with face when launching and managing their online presence is content. Tapping the expertise in the organization, getting a clinical review process in place (a must-have for health library content), and building the thousands of pages needed for coverage of general health topics is a tremendous undertaking. One that most healthcare organizations will choose not to take on.

I think the underlying question being asked here is better phrased as, “What is the role of a licensed health library on my website?” So let’s dig into that question in a little more detail.

Few organizations are going to take on the task of writing a reference guide for diseases, conditions, symptoms and treatments. It is done from time to time, but it’s rare. Mayo Clinic’s done it and, as they so often do, have worked to monetize that asset in a variety of ways (through their consumer site and by licensing), but most of our organizations don’t have the resources of Mayo Clinic.

National Jewish Health in Denver has done it as well. It made sense for them for two reasons – first, they’ve been the #1 ranked respiratory hospital for 15 years so they felt that licensing content from a third-party talking about those areas where they are the world’s top experts seemed to undermine the brand. Secondly, and just as importantly, this approach was possible because they are a specialty facility with a manageable number of conditions to cover. So the task, while large, was far more reasonable an undertaking than what a traditional community health system would need to tackle.

So that leads the next logical question – what about SEO?

When looking to make use of a licensed health library, it helps to understand what your goals are for this content (as you do for all content).

First it’s important to realize that licensed content won’t provide the significant SEO boost that it may once have done. In the past two years, Google has made moves to crack down on ‘black hat SEO techniques’ like content farms and have hurt a lot of legitimate content servers in the process. They penalize sites trying to use content that appears multiple times within a single site or around the Internet. This catches sites that are scraping content from other sites and reusing it – but also catches sites that are legitimately syndicating or licensing content that also appears on other sites.

Google has been clear that this is by design, although they have been less clear in the reasoning behind this particular scenario. Based on a number of scenarios that they have explained, it appears that context within a single site – the argument that you add value by providing this content as a local, trusted source or that you connect that content with relevant services – is unimportant to them. They view context as the Web in general and don’t see that your site’s decision to incorporate this content within – rather than linking to it externally – makes you more interesting in the eyes of a searching consumer.

Whatever the rationale is, it is clear that you need to flag this content or be penalized for duplicate content. Google tells us to use the NoIndex tag, which prevents your page from presenting in its index. Hence the no SEO value.

So what is licensed content good for?

Licensed content is very useful as part of a “content destination” strategy.

Think of a place that someone with a particular concern would come to as a reference on an ongoing basis and return to for new information. Let’s use pregnancy as an example. There are stock articles you’d want about infertility, getting pregnant, week-by-week progress of the pregnancy and some interactive tools such as due date calculators and visual progress widgets. These are all content assets that can be acquired off the shelf from firms like Healthwise. Then there’s other content. Such as the expert topics for pregnancy and childbirth, breast feeding, etc., along with ways to share and engage with other parents and parents-to-be such as mommy blogs and discussion forums where parents can share their experiences.

Integrated health libraries also keep visitors on your site as they explore an issue, working as a reference from original content that you’ve written (about your service, for example). Sending your visitors to a third-party site (either through linking or by not offering links that take them back to Google), often results in not only losing those site visitors, but also losing the chance to convert them into patients.

How do I effectively implement a health library?

The content should be integrated into your site experience rather than merely thumbtacked to the side. A few simple rules to illustrate:

  1. Content should be presented in site templates that match the rest of the site experience. This covers simple items such as fonts and image treatments as well as sharing navigation with the rest of the site.
  2. Relevant cross-linking should be utilized both to and from health library content. When your site visitor is looking at hip replacement services, you want to show them your related health library assets. Likewise, when the site visitor is looking at a slideshow on hip replacements in your content library, you’d want to present them with your orthopedic services and surgeons.
  3. Health library pages should show up in site search results.

The role of health library content is a big topic. Keep an eye on for a complete webinar on the topic coming up in 2013.

Remember that you want your health library to feel like a part of your site. Articles should have meaningful and relevant calls-to-action, such as links to related service information, doc tors and class registration. Articles should appear in the site search and should look and feel like content through the rest of the site.

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This entry was posted in Content, Search/SEO/PPC, User Experience by Ben Dillon. Bookmark the permalink.
Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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