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Your Guide to Healthcare Industry Competitive Analysis for Branding & Digital Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

If you want to dominate organic, paid, and local search results, you've got to study your business from several angles.  

Building a deep understanding of your competitors' strengths and weaknesses and what makes your shared audience click improves branding, SEO, paid search, social media, and other general marketing strategies. 

However, understanding which marketing tactics you and your competitors are doing well and which could use improvement is just the beginning. 

A thorough competitive analysis highlights where there might be marketing gaps, allowing you to find creative or compelling ways to enhance your strategy, attract more patients, and grow your business.

If you want your healthcare business to rank high on Google or Bing, you have to analyze, compare, and contrast your marketing efforts with your competitors. The healthcare industry is highly competitive, so taking the time to understand your aspirational, direct, and secondary competitors and make informed decisions based on your findings are crucial for success.

In today’s blog post, I share:

  • A competitive analysis refresher
  • The benefits of competitor analysis in healthcare,
  • And a guide to healthcare competitive analysis for every marketing branch.

Before we get started, here’s a quick primer on what a general competitive analysis is and why your brand positioning statement plays such an important role.

General Competitive Analysis Refresher

A competitive analysis is used to identify main competitors in your industry and research their marketing strategies. 

It should be at the forefront of your branding and digital marketing strategy when launching a new brand, refreshing an existing one, or merging two or more brands. 

However, to conduct a well-informed competitive analysis, you must first clarify your brand's position in the marketplace. Why? A research-based positioning statement communicates your brand's unique value to your customers as it relates to your main competitors.

There are four crucial parts of a brand positioning statement:

  1. Target audience
    Describe the demographics, locations, values, and attitudes your brand is attempting to appeal to and attract. These factors will influence how you shape your content, branding, and creative elements.
  2. Market definition
    Establish the category your brand is competing in and how it’s relevant to your customers. Identify which keywords your target audience is using—even if it’s not words you’d choose. This will closely inform your SEO analysis.
  3. Brand promise
    Identify the most compelling (emotional/rational) benefit to your target audience that your brand can own (relative to your competition). Understanding what makes your target audience click will inform organic, local, and paid search analysis.
  4. Reason to believe
    Outline why customers should believe in your brand and how it delivers on its promise. Things like proven results and testimonials will inform your social media analysis.

I realize many hospitals and multilocation providers may already have a well-established brand positioning statement. Still, it's essential to review and revise it regularly to ensure your brand promise and 'reason to believe' are relevant and built to satisfy the ever-changing needs of the increasingly informed healthcare consumer. 

Your Guide to Healthcare Industry Competitive Analysis for Every Marketing Branch

Along with the general competitive analysis, it’s important to conduct a marketing-specific competitive analysis. This is the ongoing process of evaluating competing hospitals and health systems to understand current and future market information (e.g. industry insights and performance). 

It also allows businesses to visualize how their product, marketing, sales, copy, and other strategies stack up.

A healthcare industry competitive analysis for every marketing branch helps hospitals and health systems understand their competitive landscape and optimize their digital content. 

A professional healthcare marketing agency can help differentiate your hospital or multilocation practice with a competitive analysis of these service lines so that you can attract more patients:

This guide includes tips on how to conduct five different types of competitor analysis:

  1. General Healthcare Industry Competitive Analysis
  2. Brand & Creative
  3. SEO
  4. Paid Search
  5. Social Media

General Healthcare Industry Competitive Analysis 

A healthcare industry competitive analysis typically includes a thorough SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and strengths) analysis that helps hospitals, multilocation healthcare providers, and other healthcare organizations identify gaps (read: opportunities) in the market.

These audits also provide a helpful perspective on how well your healthcare organization performs against its competitors. 

They allow your organization to:

  • Assess your market position
  • Interpret key trends
  • Plan for the future
  • Uncover new ideas or opportunities
  • Identify key competitor weaknesses

Every competitive analysis begins by compiling a list of aspirational, primary, and secondary, but formidable competitors. Secondary competitors include healthcare organizations that indirectly compete with yours (e.g., those outside your catchment area or those offering niche treatment modalities or services like telemedicine). Emerging healthcare entities should also be given close consideration.

Once you have a complete list, it’s time to analyze each competitor’s suite of services and understand how they market them to patients. Understanding how your patients and referring physicians view your competition shines a spotlight on whether your hospital or multilocation practice offers equivalent (or better) quality or service offerings. 

A general competitive analysis for healthcare also allows your business to identify unique values your competitors don't (or can't) provide and put them front and center in your marketing strategy.

Brand & Creative Competitive Analysis

Unlike the other marketing branches I’ll talk about in this blog, branding is highly subjective. However, marketers and other creatives must be prepared to support their design decisions with relevant data and research.

A brand and creative competitive analysis help businesses improve upon (or develop) high-converting content because it draws on knowledge from the brand positioning statement and provides the justification needed to support creative decisions.

Whether you’re looking to reinvigorate your brand and creative elements or merge with other brands, there are three areas of focus when conducting a competitive analysis:

  1. Brand audit

    A brand audit is an important first step toward elevating your identity as it highlights where your brand and creative are currently aligned, where it’s slipped, and which elements you like or dislike. This phase also helps visualize why there might be more or less engaged in a particular channel.

  2. Competitor audit

    A competitor audit shines a light on how key players are positioning themselves in the marketplace. It answers questions like, "Which colors and typefaces are brands using?" "Is there a common thread in their logos using symbols or other iconography?" "Is their tone formal, casual, serious, or funny?" Depending on your findings, you may want to try a different approach. This exercise aims to identify creative gaps and develop engaging ways to fill them and attract a wider audience.

  3. Demographic audit

    A demographic audit is essential for understanding your target audience and brand personas. Are you targeting the proper age group? Are you considering local audiences? This audit ensures businesses tell the right story to the right people at every stage of the customer journey. It also helps brands identify potential messaging opportunities and content gaps.

SEO Competitive Analysis 

SEO (search engine optimization) competitive analysis identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your and your competitors' websites. While SEO competitive analysis should always be part of your ongoing strategy, we typically perform this analysis during our initial SEO audit and content gap analysis for new clients.

This analysis includes identifying competitor weaknesses and taking specific actions to surpass their SEO strategies so that your website outranks theirs on the search engine results page (SERP).

An SEO competitive analysis consists of three key focus areas: keywords, backlinks, and SERP features.

  1. Key in on keywords

    Consider the gaps between your website and your competitors and determine what you need to do to outrank them. Remember, you can have direct and indirect SEO competitors: direct competitors like hospitals, health systems, or multilocation practices, or indirect competitors like local businesses that happen to rank well for your keywords.

    First, identify existing keywords or phrases that are currently outranking your competitors and let them simmer as long as they continue to meet your business objectives.

    Next, identify under-performing keywords or phrases (e.g., your competitors are ranking higher). Once you have a list of under-performing keywords, look at ways to improve your rankings (e.g., write additional SEO copy, compress images to improve page speed, increase keyword density, etc.).

    Finally, analyze search queries that already drive traffic to your website. You might be surprised to find valuable keywords you hadn’t considered before. It’s vital to stay on top of emerging keywords that neither you nor your competitor has targeted. To help you do this more efficiently, I recommend using tools like Google Search Console, SEMRush, Raven Tools, Ahrefs, Moz, or My Site Auditor.

  1. Be a backlink hero

    You need several backlinks pointing to your site from high-quality sources (i.e., respected websites in related or similar markets) and strong keyword targeting to effectively outrank your competitors.

    Backlinks from authority websites not only elevate your page rank, but they’re difficult to compete with. A focused backlink strategy requires a proactive, ongoing approach, but it will increase your rankings and drive more traffic to your website.

    Here are three ways to acquire high-quality backlinks:

    • Contribute to healthcare publications
      Encourage your team of physicians and medical specialists to contribute to leading healthcare publications as an expert source. Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a free (or tiered fee) crowdsourcing platform where reporters can find expert resources for news stories and feature items.
    • Try different marketing tactics
      Look for the areas that could attract more attention from reputable websites, like increased blog output, videos, infographics, live streams, podcasts, and even semantic markup (a technical tactic that makes it easier for Google to read and rank your website).
    • Hire a professional healthcare content agency
      Keep your focus on healing patients and hire a professional healthcare content marketing agency to build your content strategy. Professional healthcare writers with extensive experience developing relevant, educational content for healthcare consumers can bolster your website with content that attracts backlinks.
  1. Become SERP royalty
    Owning space in the Google Local Pack or featured snippet allows your brand and content to attract more organic clicks.

    A Google Local Pack is a group of three business listings that appear in response to search queries with local intent. The Local Pack ranks in the number one position in 93% of Google searches, making it the most important local search tactic for increasing phone calls, leads, and patients.

    Featured snippets are highlighted excerpts of text that appear before the first search result at the top of a Google SERP. They provide users with a fast, relevant answer to their search query and allow your content to get more organic clicks than other content. Search Engine Land says a featured snippet gets approximately 8% of all clicks. Getting your content into this space will seriously boost your organic CTR (click-through rate).

A paid search competitive analysis identifies key competitors and their strategies, allowing you to make informed decisions about your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, rank higher on the SERP, identify new revenue opportunities, and gain increased market share. 

Google recommends analyzing paid search ads once 30 to 60 days of data has accumulated. This data helps businesses better understand user trends, keyword quality, optimal bidding amounts, and campaign structure within their PPC campaigns.

PPC competitive analysis focuses on three areas:

  1. Stealthy keywords

    More likely than not, your competitors are bidding on the same (or very similar) keywords. In highly competitive markets, like healthcare, your main competitors may even bid on your brand name.

    People are searching for new words and phrases every day, so it's important to keep track of these trends to attract new audiences. Imagine claiming the top search position for a relevant keyword that's not even on your competitor's radar. For these reasons and more, it's crucial to identify top-performing keywords, under-performing keywords, and missed opportunities.

    SpyFu and other competitor keyword research tools allow businesses to go behind the curtain on competitor paid search campaigns. While these tools aren't foolproof, they provide a breakdown of the best-performing and competitor keywords and their search volume. Hospitals and health systems can create a list of keywords to pursue and know which ones to avoid. Conducting this analysis also helps highlight relevant keywords your competitors aren't targeting. 

SpyFu also shows competitor ad copy examples, allowing you to see what vocabulary they're using and create more compelling ad copy that makes your paid search ads stand out.

  1. Positioning prowess

    Analyzing whether competitor ads focus on features or outcomes enables you to differentiate your product or service. For example, if your competitors emphasize location and convenience, you might consider focusing on experience and patient outcomes. A thorough paid search competitive analysis ensures your messaging is unique, effective, and noteworthy.

  2. Offer placement

    Valuable and differentiated offers attract more clicks, which leads to increased revenue and market share. Are you and your competitors offering the same promotion (e.g., free health screenings or consultations)? Note where the offer appears in the ad and give your offer a different placement. For example, if your competitor always promotes free health screenings at the beginning of their headline, put yours somewhere else to differentiate yourself and stand out.

A paid search competitive analysis also provides estimated monthly spending/budgets, giving you valuable insight into how aggressively your competitors are leveraging the paid search marketplace. This knowledge is critical when it comes to developing a competitive monthly budget.

With all that said, sometimes, the most straightforward approach returns the most impactful results. Conducting live searches on Google and analyzing how often and where their competitors appear helps businesses analyze the level of opportunity, determine how to differentiate their products and services, and dominate paid search results.

Marketing Competitive Analysis for Paid Social Media 

Competitive insights for paid social media is essential for learning where your audience is and what resonates with them. A social media competitive analysis informs hospitals and multilocation providers on how key competitors engage with their audience. We typically conduct a social media competitive analysis before launching a new campaign or optimizing an existing one. 

Social media is constantly changing, but one thing remains constant: it allows businesses to connect with and engage potential customers where they are: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, and more. Hospitals and health systems can engage their audience and grow their brand with a solid social media strategy. 

Today, your key competitors are likely engaging with your target audience, so it's imperative to align your social media strategy with theirs. But it shouldn't end there. To make an impact, you need to understand what they're doing, what they're not doing, where they're doing it, and how to improve. 

A social media marketing competitive analysis has three key focus areas: 

  1. Channels

There is a range of social media channels to choose from, however, it’s important to understand where you and your competitors are most active—and which channels drive the most engagement. Many healthcare organizations find their audiences favor Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you notice a competitor lacks a robust Twitter presence, consider amplifying value-based messaging on this channel to attract a fresh audience.

  1. Paid content

    Are your competitors running paid ads on their social media channels? If so, it's essential to understand the types of ads they're running, the tone of their copy, the offers they're using, and the CTAs (calls to action) they're using. This will help identify whether their objective is to increase brand awareness, lead generation, conversions, etc. Knowing these objectives and seeing their paid ads offers valuable insights into your paid social strategy.

    The Facebook Ads Library is a fast and efficient way to gather this knowledge, allowing healthcare organizations to pivot their strategy to attract a large, look-alike audience. This library gives you access to:

    • Every ad that is currently running on Facebook and Instagram,
    • Overall ad spend for each page,
    • And which pages’ ads reference a particular keyword.
  1. Organic content

    Many healthcare organizations leverage paid content to effectively and quickly grow their audience. However, it's imperative to continue building a solid foundation of organic content to support them. Non-paid content allows you to flex your creative muscle and engage your audience in more unique ways. The primary goal of organic content is to provide your audience with the value they aren't getting from your competitors.

Take time to build a deep understanding of aspirational, direct, and secondary competitors. This knowledge will help you make better, more informed decisions and ultimately improve your SERP rank, attract a larger, more engaged audience, and grow your business. 

As a closing note, a healthcare industry competitive analysis for any marketing branch will undoubtedly change over time. It's imperative to conduct these analyses regularly to remain competitive and dominate in organic, paid, and local search result rankings. 

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