simple copy

Why simple copy works best on medical websites

Why do I write about simple copy? Because you may be missing out on one of the nice side-effects of simple copy. Not only do patients understand you better…so does Google when it decides how to rank your website in Google Search results.

simple copy

How to write simple copy for your medical website?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

January 26, 2023

The biggest myth about simple copy on medical websites

copy on medical websites

Copy on medical websites – by definition – is at risk of being too complex. Medicine isn’t simple, and you know all about that.

Let’s zoom out for a moment and remove the biggest myth about simple copy on medical websites. I have come across many doctors who frown during one of my workshops when I point out that their copy is too difficult.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"The patient did not study medicine. The patient did not work as a surgeon. That is a simple reason to consider simple copy. But there is money at stake if you write complex copy."

Yes that is right. There is potential money left on the table if you persist in publishing complicated copy to impress your peers, yourself or the universe.

Oh yes, and I promised to remove the myth.

Educated readers do not cringe when they are going through simple copy. Research across languages and cultures has confirmed it over and over again.

Rothermich, K., Harris, H. L., Sewell, K., & Bobb, S. C. (2019). Listener impressions of foreigner-directed speech: A systematic review. Speech Communication, 112, 22-29. doi: 10.1016/j.specom.2019.07.002.
Schwarz, N., Jalbert, M., Noah, T., & Zhang, L. (2021). Metacognitive experiences as information: Processing fluency in consumer judgment and decision making. Consumer Psychology Review, 4(1), 4-25. doi: 10.1002/arcp.1067.
[Google Scholar]
Shaw, C. A. & Gordon, J. K. (2021). Understanding Elderspeak: An Evolutionary Concept Analysis. Innovation in Aging5 (3), 1-18. doi: 10.1093/geroni/igab023.
[Google Scholar]
Song, H., & Schwarz, N. (2010). If it’s easy to read, it’s easy to do, pretty, good, and true. Psychologist, 23(2), 108-111. doi: 10.1037/e633982013-391.
[Google Scholar]
Stahl, S. A., Jacobson, M. G., Davis, C. E., & Davis, R. L. (1989). Prior knowledge and difficult vocabulary in the comprehension of unfamiliar text. Reading Research Quarterly, 24(1), 27-43. doi: 10.2307/748009.

How simple web pages are assets for you as a doctor

simple web pages

Creating simple web pages – in our universe – means adding high levels of clarity and readability to your copy.

It means communicating with the patient in mind. What is their level of understanding when you talk about a condition, a treatment or a surgery type?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Once you understand how Google looks at your copy, you will become critical of everything you publish on your medical website. You will see it through the eyes of the reader, and that includes Google crawling your content to then decide if it will rank you when patients do a search!"

So now we have a direct link between how visible you will be on Google…and the clarity level of your content. Google scans your copy for readability and it is one of many factors that will define how often your pages will rank well, in local Google Search for your specialty topics.

From medical copywriting to medical content marketing

medical copywriting

What if you moved the goal posts? This Dutch research worked with aged-care content and tested simplified copy at various levels in their communication process.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-Founder Digital Practice

"What they discovered is a game-changer for medical copywriting: In general, consumers appreciate simplicity even if they are very well educated. On top of that, simplified copy in healthcare becomes more convincing and is perceived as friendlier than the complex versions."

Can I be honest with you? I knew this. Back in the 1990s, we experimented with traditional broadcast copy, applying the best practices issued by the BBC. I know, this was before the internet, but a great deal of audience measuring happened when TV was dominant.

The conclusion then was crystal clear: shorter sentences, more action verbs, avoiding subclauses and avoiding long words, combined with visual story-telling, were already accepted as the industry standard in audiovisual media.

Times may have changed but our brains still digest copy in similar ways, and now that we all suffer from different levels of digital congestion, readability is bigger than ever.

Medical content marketing in particular needs this mindset to cut through the noise. First of all, you will see that your pages rank better if the overall flow and readability are optimal. Disclaimer: There are many other SEO best practices to implement if you want to be on Page 1 of Google as a doctor in private practice.

The magic of digital in healthcare marketing

digital in healthcare

When we talk about digital in healthcare, it ranges from technology in your treatment pathways to patient databases and the use of practice management software.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-Founder Digital Practice

"Here at Digital Practice, our focus is the use of digital in healthcare marketing, to use patient education, patient FAQs and optimised medical website content."

The magic happens when you combine the power elements of a successful medical marketing campaign:

  • Research: Find out what patients google for
  • Simple copy: Allocate your paragraphs wisely with that research in the back of your mind and write simple, short, active sentences.
  • Measure: Put in place an ongoing system of monitoring so you create predictable growth, visibility and conversions for your private practice

The new generation of medical copywriters

medical copywriters australia

Medical copywriting is a vast area, populated by amazing professionals who will write product manuals for medical devices, compliance documentation, tenders, investor updates, clinical reviews and general advertising or marketing copy.

Medical copywriters in Australia have an additional requirement: understanding the AHPRA advertising guidelines for healthcare professionals.

The new mindset integrates a number of focus points when we write copy for your private practice:

  • Research: It is critical to understand why patients or referring GPs go on Google to ask questions, read up on conditions or treatments and check out doctors
  • Brand: As much as you may dislike the idea of positioning yourself as a brand, specialist doctors, allied health professionals and even GPs in private practice with particular expertise all need levels of brand positioning. Your brand is the unique combination of attributes that makes you stand out, and be remembered and allows people to clearly identify what you stand for.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimisation is often misunderstood as an activity one performs after your website is launched. In the data we have been collecting since 2016 across Australia, we see that on-page SEO or optimisation of medical copy is best done when the content is published on your medical website.
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Simple website copy starts here. That’s because we’re passionate about content, your practice as a business, patient education and the clarity you can offer to your prospective patients and referrers. Book your free 1:1 to explore how we can make your website copy work for you.

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