Relevance: One Key to Connecting With Health Audiences

Think back to your last few online searches. What did you search for, and why?

Recently, Verywell conducted an online survey of 2,065 adults with a chronic health condition. Respondents revealed that the majority of their searches in a given week had to do with a timely question or concern. The four most-sought topics were news, COVID-19, personal health and wellness, and politics — topics relevant to them, someone they love, or the world around them.

When users research these types of topics — subjects that are close to them — it’s important to remember that they’re on the hunt for answers that directly answer them and their in-the-moment need, especially when that moment of need is health-related.

Last year, research firm KR&I identified “relevance” as one of four clear-cut factors (along with ease, empathy, and credibility) that led to a positive online health experience, which in turn inspired taking health actions. The takeaway is clear: in order to satisfy health consumers and positively impact their behavior, brands should strive to offer them relevant information.

Defining Relevance

What does it mean to be relevant? Audiences are looking for one thing: does the information directly answer my question, as it relates to me?

The survey Verywell conducted revealed that about 35 percent of users feel frustrated because they can’t find relevant information, and there are several key factors that hinder relevance:

  • 30 percent were dissatisfied when the information was not clear
  • 25 percent couldn’t relate when the information had too many medical terms, and
  • a combined 52 percent felt that health sites are often impersonal and were unhappy when they didn’t feel understood

Interestingly, younger and non-white respondents more often felt that content didn’t serve their needs.

Investing in Relevance

With millions of users, brands understandably can’t respond to each individually, but the way they present their content can offer a more personalized experience, one where readers feel like they’re being spoken to directly. Verywell practices and recommends several strategies.

Voice is of utmost importance. Once a brand identifies and decides to answer a specific question, it’s their responsibility to make sure readers actually understand what they’re reading by talking their talk — breaking down complex health jargon and presenting the most accurate information in a way that’s empathetic and empowers action. This type of editorial policy strives to help users make the best choices for their health.

Brands also need to relate to all people navigating their health and well-being, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, culture, geography, body type, ability, or experience. Verywell recognized this need in online health information, and this year invested in BIPOC writers and reviewers, as well as variety in illustrations, photographs, and other visual content across the site, as part of an anti-racism pledge. This allows for deeper connections with a broader audience who can now see themselves in the voices and content being shared.

In short, when brands approach everything through the lens of their readers, they’ll be able to easily relate to them and offer a more personal and satisfying user experience.

A Response That’s Worth the Investment

Offering relevancy has its payoffs — for both the brand and the user.

When asked about their online health information search behavior, 89 percent of respondents said they click on links that they think will most clearly answer their question. If they don’t find what they want, 78 percent are likely to bounce and adjust their search terms for better results. If they find themselves in a satisfying experience and feel that they found a “good website,” they’ll search more around that site rather than doing another search. Establishing relevance encourages users to stick around for more, and Verywell sees this in their own users’ behaviors.

Finding a clear, relevant answer also empowers users to take a positive health action. When users found what they were searching for, 39 percent scheduled an appointment with a healthcare professional, 49 percent bought a medication or tried a recommended treatment, and 38 percent talked to another person about what they learned. Forty-six percent of users took these actions that same day, and another 30 percent within a couple of days, directly working to positively influence their own outcome.

Stay in Touch
To learn more about how Verywell connects with their users, email us at [email protected]. And look out for our next post to learn about additional factors that connect health brands with their audiences.