How to Do Competitive Content Marketing Research for Healthcare Technology Companies

The healthcare technology space is fast-growing and über competitive. From medical technology and medical equipment technology to information technology, the applications are radically changing how consumers think about their health and how practitioners approach care delivery. Given the trend in healthcare toward a consumer-driven market, successful health systems have the right technology in their arsenal and are using it to their advantage. 

When medical technology companies go to market with their product and messaging, they need to be smart in their approach. The reality is, competition is fierce – and you’re not even competing with only fellow technology providers. There are industry giants like HIMSS, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Medscape that are likely covering topics like EHR adoption and the benefits of smartwatches. 

The good news is, the healthcare digital space is still in the early stages. According to a recent HIMSS and Content Marketing Institute (CMI) survey, “While about one-third of HIT programs have what is considered a mature or sophisticated content marketing program, 36% of programs are just in the early stages and do not yet have a content marketing strategy, process and measurement plan.” With a clear content plan from creation to distribution, you’ll already be one step ahead. 

In comes the importance of competitive research. Your competition may or may not have a sophisticated content marketing strategy in place, but doing this analysis will give you a sense of where you currently fit in the marketplace. Where are you excelling, and where are there gaps that are an opportunity to fill? Use the competitive review to tweak your own focus and give you ideas for the future. 

In this post, I’ll highlight four steps to take during a competitive content analysis: 

1. Take Stock of Existing Content

When you’re looking at competitors’ content marketing strategy, the first step is auditing the content they have. Their strategy likely encompasses a whole range of content types, from blog posts to buyer’s guides and use cases. Don’t forget about webinars and podcasts, gated resources like eBooks and whitepapers, and even infographics. 

Start with a quantitative review: How many of each content type do they have? How often do they post or produce new content? Depending on how in-depth your analysis is, take advantage of a site crawler like Screaming Frog to capture all blog/resource URLs and sort by content type.

Establishing a baseline of much content sets you up for the next stage of analysis – a qualitative review – where you determine the quality and tone. Even if a competitor seemingly has a lot of content, if it’s outdated or too basic for a healthcare executive audience, you can get a leg up by creating higher quality content that addresses their pain points.

Though simple, this initial step in the content review process will give you a sense of which of your competitors, even if they have market share, are lagging in the digital space. There will certainly be others that are succeeding, and you can use their publishing frequency and topic areas to influence your own strategy.

2. Review Keyword Strategy

While you’re conducting a qualitative review of competitors’ content, don’t forget to jot down the keyword theme. That will make your life far easier down the road once you start to translate the competitive insights into an actionable content plan. Are they covering the same content topics? Different topics? Are they covering them in greater depth or are they just skimming the surface? Try creating a word cloud or other visualization once you’ve identified the core themes to determine where they are focusing most heavily. 

Third-party tools like SpyFu and SEMRush will give you deeper insight into the keywords competitors are bidding on or ranking for organically. Cross-reference these insights with whatever campaigns you’re currently running – maybe you’re bidding on a set of competitive keywords like “EHR patient experience” that competitors are ranking for organically. With the right content, you might be able to switch to an organic strategy and save the money. 

At the very least, reviewing a competitor’s keyword strategy gives you a sense of where you stack up rankings-wise and will give you new keywords ideas to slate into an editorial calendar.

3. Evaluate SEO Efforts

Just because a competitor has created a number of eBooks and is ranking for a set of keywords doesn’t mean they have a sound SEO strategy. Again, take advantage of any tools at your disposal to scrape and analyze the content on their site. Screaming Frog will give you a sense of whether common SEO best practices are implemented, from page tagging to heading tags. Are they utilizing keyword targets appropriately, is the page template following the proper hierarchy of heading tags? Are they taking advantage of ALT text?

You might be able to elevate your own content strategy right out the gate with tactics as simple as tagging your content properly and ensuring the page templates are easily crawlable for search engines and readable for users. 

Of course, your competitors’ content strategy doesn’t end with their own site. Backlinks are another element to consider when evaluating organic optimization efforts. Tools like Buzzsumo and Moz will give you a sense of how many backlinks your competitor has and on which publications. When it comes to reaching out for guest posting or other collaboration opportunities (webinars, podcasts), you don’t need to come up with a list of influencers or publications from scratch (though HIMSS and JAMA are two good ones to keep an eye on). Use your competitors’ efforts to your advantage.

4. Evaluate Distribution Efforts

Keyword strategy and organic efforts are two critical pieces to the content puzzle; you can write the greatest eBook known in existence, but if the topic isn’t relevant to your target audience and it’s not optimized properly you won’t get very far. Similarly, your distribution strategy – social media, newsletters, syndication etc. – can make or break success. 

Take a look at what your competitors are doing to distribute their content to target audiences. Audit social profiles to see how many followers they have, how often they’re posting, and what sort of content they share. Sign up for their newsletter to figure out how often their blog content is shared and what sort of email format they use. Check out if they use syndication networks to boost visibility when something new publishes. 

Distribution certainly matters when it comes to content success, so keep that in mind when you’re evaluating a competitor’s strategy. 

Final Thoughts

The healthcare technology space is certainly daunting, with the number of players vying for the attention of health system executives and key decision-makers. With the right keyword targeting, production, and distribution strategy you might just be able to squeak ahead of the competition while digital is still an “up-and-coming” strategy in the healthcare marketing space.

Are there other tactics you use for competitive review? Let us know on Twitter

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