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Monday, May 15, 2017

What's next? Don't leave visitors at dead ends on your healthcare website

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Jeremy Dietz, Executive Digital Editor

People come to your hospital or healthcare organization's website to take action. You can help by providing a clear path through each page you create. Cut those dead ends, and your readers will know just what to do next.

Let's set the scene: A hospital has a state-of-the-art sleep clinic that offers sleep apnea testing. The website contains a page that describes the clinic's comfortable setting and expert staff. But the appointment information for the clinic lives on the phone directory page in a totally different part of the website.

Connecting those two sections could—in theory—both help readers find out about the clinic and make an appointment for the tests they need.

How to clarify the next step

There are two things you can do to help your readers move smoothly through your pages, without encountering a dead end:

1. Start at the end. On every page of your website, think about what your reader will want to do next and how you'll make that next step easier to take. You might consider:

  • A phone number to call.
  • A form to complete—to pay a bill or request an appointment.
  • A link to maps or directions.
  • A link to information about related healthcare providers.

This approach is particularly important with action-oriented pages like service pages, location pages and your Contact Us page.

2. Add value with an unexpected invitation. Giving people the information they came to find is a basic, common courtesy. Once you've done that, it's time to do more.

Consider the other types of content a reader on your page might find valuable, and offer a quick way to get to that content. For example, someone who visits your website to learn about bariatric surgery might also be interested in information about nonsurgical weight loss. Or someone interested in pregnancy content might also be interested in learning about early childhood development—or your pregnancy e-newsletter.

Make those next steps compelling

With a plan in place, communicate your page path by following these best practices:

Plan ahead. Think about your goals for the page and plot the path before you start writing. This will help you create focused copy.

Stand out. Work with your website designer and create a consistent strategy for related links and calls to action. Use pull-out boxes, secondary navigation, color or bold text to make those steps really pop.

Don't overdo it. Limit each page to just the most important next steps.

Review regularly. Phone numbers change, links break and staff members move on to other jobs. Doing regular site checks can make sure your next steps remain current.

Take advantage of technology. Look for a content management system (CMS) that can automatically cross-promote related content throughout the website and update your links. This is particularly important if you have a large website, as manually adding and deleting links about events can be time-consuming. Coffey's CMS—Site Assist—has this functionality. We'd love to tell you more about it.

Track the response. Almost everything online can be tracked. That's good news—measuring your impact can help you understand your readers and what they're really looking for.

Think about the data you can grab from your next-step invitations. For example, you could use trackable phone numbers or Google event tracking. You could measure overall call-center volume or form-completion rates. You could even measure impact in terms of appointments booked.

Pro tip: Analytics dashboards can help you track your most important data sets in one convenient place. 

Your next step? Call Coffey for a website consultation

Looking for ideas on how you might help people take action on your healthcare website? Give us a call at 888.805.9101, or email us and ask for more information about our Site Assist CMS or our analytics dashboard tools.

Related reading

Your healthcare website needs a content audit: Here's why
Give people what they want on your hospital website
Hospital website design: 5 best practices for effective navigation


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