You know you should be marketing your practice with content, but should you be posting videos to YouTube or blogging or both? Steven Coby seeks out the answer
You’ve decided that you want to use some type of content to connect with people. Now you’re overwhelmed by a world of choice. What type of story do people want to read on vet websites? What should it be about? How long should my blogs be?
And then there’s the question of format. Should you be writing, or making videos? Or both?
According to Rob Johnson, director at Engage Content, there are easy answers to these questions. “But,” he adds, “they aren’t always the right answer for your individual practice.”
Johnson and his team at Engage Content produce video content, blog posts and other content-related marketing materials for veterinary practices. He points out that there are a number of practical limitations for what can be achieved with different content formats.
“For example, many practices want to create content because they have been told it will get you a better Google position,” Johnson says. “That is broadly true. But not all content is equal. There are ways Google and other search engines will evaluate the quality of your content and rank it accordingly. One of those ways is length. If you put a video on your website with a short description, it may not have the impact you would like.
“The shortest article you could be writing is 400 words per post. At less than 300 words, search engines may dismiss it as thin content, and not worth indexing. Going for a little more gives you a buffer.”
Johnson says that while video is popular and will appeal to people, the format has limited impact on where you appear in search engine results.
“Content works best when it’s either educational, entertaining, or both. Just getting your head around that will give you a big jump on most veterinary content online.”
Rob Johnson, director, Engage Content
“Search engine crawlers can’t read videos. They have no way of working out what’s in them. They can index them based on metadata, but for people to find the video in Google they still need to be using some very specific search terms. So video is not great for new people discovering you.”
When does content work best?
Once you’ve solved the basic problem of getting your website content found by people, your next challenge is working out what they want to read or see.
“Content works best when it’s either educational, entertaining, or both,” says Johnson. “Just getting your head around that will give you a big jump on most veterinary content online. A lot of the veterinary content I see out there is built around diagnoses or just trying to push people into the clinic.”
If every blog post or video you produce is about what you do—either your treatments, or who you are—you’re not going to grab people’s attention. “That seems counterintuitive,” says Johnson. “I mean, you’re doing this to market your practice. But you have to understand that marketing is a multi-stage process. If you’re trying to push people into the practice too early, they’ll just turn away.”
The major social media sites and search engines have published a lot of articles on what sort of content gets engagement, Johnson says. If your aim is to rank highly in search, or get lots of social shares, the current wisdom is the longer and more comprehensive the content, the better. Which makes sense. People share useful information, or funny stuff.
“If you approach content as being either educational, or entertaining, or both, you will find it works whether you’re talking about video or written content,” says Johnson. “Videos that get shared are funny—like cat videos—or cute—like cat videos—or useful, how-to type videos.”
What is the easiest content to produce?
Johnson says if you keep the goal of being either useful or entertaining in mind, then written content is much easier to produce. It’s cheaper than video. You can offer a greater breadth and depth of information. And it’s quicker to produce.
“Video is more difficult and more expensive to produce, because it involves more people,” he explains. “But if you produce something that is entertaining and teaches people something, it will get a lot of engagement. If you’re prepared to invest in the minimum crew—a producer/director, a camera guy and an editor, for example—there is no reason you can’t make a great little web series.” He adds that if you do go down that route, you should also invest in getting full summaries or transcripts of each video. Those transcripts can be published on your site alongside the video, and they will be what gives you the SEO benefit.