For many people, the world of healthcare can be complex, confusing and maybe even a little frightening. But in today's online age, new opportunities exist for healthcare providers not only to reach out to potential new patients, but also to help them feel more comfortable. You can do this by engaging directly with them via content marketing and native advertising. These tools can be game changers — helping to form the backbone of a marketing strategy that will grow your practice in a lasting way.

The Power of Search

One of the reasons why direct advertising may not seem to work with the healthcare industry is that consumers typically don't want to learn more about health-related issues until they need to. For instance, most people probably won't search for "symptoms of strep throat" when they're feeling healthy. Therefore, an advertisement promoting an ear, nose and throat specialist would likely go by unnoticed. However, when someone begins to notice suspicious symptoms, that's when things change. According to Google, 1 in 20 Google searches are for health-related topics, including checking symptoms, researching medical providers and finding hospitals.

Creating content that answers common questions about healthcare, doctors, specific illnesses, symptoms and more is a great way to introduce your practice to the world and, at the same time, to connect with patients who may be wondering about medical issues they've been having. Most successful  healthcare providers view their marketing efforts as "contributing to a conversation" rather than as advertising. It's an approach that lends itself well to search-oriented content marketing: You're providing valuable information your customers are looking for rather than trying to sell them a product.

Keeping Your Practice in Focus

While creating content that addresses patient concerns relevant to your practice is a good start, you don't want to stop there. Marketers can also leverage the power of native advertising. You can publish a sponsored post on LinkedIn or Facebook targeted to your audience that offers health or wellness information. Because it's useful information in a space where your audience is already interacting with other content, you're not interrupting their experience on the site — you're simply ensuring that your content is part of what they see.

Make sure, though, that your content doesn't resort to fear-inducing tactics to gain traffic. Headlines like "Is it Cancer? 5 Signs to Look For" can be misleading and more alarming than helpful to the average reader. On the other hand, presenting factual information and then gently encouraging those who are wondering about a specific condition to make an appointment is a responsible way to utilize native advertising and content marketing — helping patients who need your care to locate you.