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How’d You Make That Flipping Awesome Content for Northwell Health



How'd You Make That Flipping Awesome Content for Northwell Health

Northwell Health diagnosed a multi-symptom problem in 2017.

“We were undergoing a crisis of trust. Amid misinformation and manipulative messages, expertise had never been needed more, especially in the world of health and wellness,” says Julie Shapiro of Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider.

Sound familiar? As it turned out, Northwell’s prescription for the trust crisis positioned it well to address the global health crisis that struck a few years later.

The Well by Northwell Health launched in 2017 as a digital publication on a mission to deliver expert guidance and empathy at moments of truth in people’s lives through documentary video series, advice columns, first-person essays, and magazine-style reported features.

“Our audience was frustrated with the health information they were finding. Publishers were monetizing anxiety, and other health systems were trying to sanitize it through cold, clinical information, delivered dispassionately,” as The Well and its agency partner Revmade explained in their Content Marketing Award (CMA) submission.

From the start, the publication’s content performed well and earned awards (including a 2019 Content Marketing Award for Best Content Strategy).

Then came the pandemic. Traffic exploded while quality remained high.

The site won 2021 CMAs for Best Content Strategy and Best Overall Editorial – Digital and earned finalist nods for Best Content Marketing Program and Best Content Marketing Program in Health Care. For her work as editor-in-chief, Julie earned a spot as a finalist for 2021 B2C Content Marketer of The Year.

Trusted content helps readers and brand

In January 2020, The Well team developed its first content on the novel coronavirus (they didn’t yet call it COVID-19) and published it in February. In March, the impact reached the United States.

“Our page views exploded because people were just starting to hear about this novel virus and were desperate for information,” Julie says.

Engagements on The Well soared to 3.6 million for the year, about triple the previous year. As Julie explains (and most of us remember), people felt terrified and struggled to find information they could trust. Many found it hard to believe or understand the evolving advice.

“We took the opportunity to figure out specifically what do people need to know and what are they searching for? And then we provided them with it,” Julie says.

Focusing on reader concerns helped the publication get more results from a smaller investment. “We’ve decreased budget every year,” Julie says, “but we were increasing our engagements because we had figured out what people wanted.”

You read that right – as The Well did better than well, its budget got smaller. “There’s a reason for that (budget reduction). We are really data driven in everything we create now,” Julie says.

This year, The Well expects to earn more organic traffic than paid. “We’ve refined this process so much that we can count on it, and we don’t need as much money,” she explains.

As data-driven #content performed better, @NorthwellHealth could spend less on paid promotion and still see soaring engagement, says #JulieShapiro via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: No Need to Survey, You Already Have Data for Great Storytelling [Examples]

A data-driven content development process

Julia shares the process The Well developed for its data-driven approach. It starts with an idea form that anyone at Northwell can submit. The form asks:

  • What’s the idea? What are you looking to do?
  • Who’s the audience?
  • How will people find the content?

The Well team reviews the submitted ideas in a monthly editorial planning meeting with its Revmade consultants. The Revmade team gathers the submitted ideas, adds their own, and does the related search research. They present their findings in a pitch memo.

Each idea gets a single slide that includes the following information:

  • Detailed idea and concept
  • Search volume for targeted keywords
  • Search engine ranking prediction
  • Recommended writers
  • Suggested subject matter experts
  • Proposal to “FLOOD the MARKET” – doing multiple pieces or series – or treat as a one-and-done piece

Julie and managing editor Meghan Holmgren then go through the pitch memos, refine them, and assign the content.

From there, the process goes like this:

  • Meghan works with the writers and interviewees and gets everything approved by the subject matter experts.
  • Julie reviews the final product.
  • The creative team handles the imagery.
  • The development team builds the pages.
  • The quality assurance team makes sure everything works properly.
  • After a final review by a proofreader, the content goes live.

“We used to have a very large dedicated team, and it got whittled away. Now those people are dedicated to other things,” Julie explains. Now she and Megan are the only full-time employees dedicated to The Well, and they tap into other internal teams for assistance. If they don’t have the capacity to write a piece, they contract with freelance writers.

“It’s always an ongoing discussion about how much content we can create. It depends not just on how much money, but how many people we can have to make it happen. It truly takes a village,” Julie says.

How much #content The Well can create depends on how much money and how many people are available to make it happen, says #JulieShapiro via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet


Handling exceptions and breaking news

That all sounds well organized and strategic. But health content can’t always be planned months ahead. Sometimes, the process goes out the window because certain stories can’t wait for monthly editorial meetings or in-depth research.

When “breaking news” interrupts the standard process, Julie says, the managing editor takes the lead on content development.

For example, when the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccination boosters and vaccinations for children ages five to 11, the managing editor reached out immediately to internal writers. If internal writers aren’t available to handle breaking news, she relies on a core group of freelancers who can do quick turnarounds.

“All the other teams that this project touches know that this is a priority, and everybody does it quickly,” Julia says. “We’re not built to [be a news organization], but we do the best we can.”

Delivering big results

As detailed in their CMA nomination, The Well’s mission is clear: “Become a trusted partner; be there for them during life-altering diagnoses, to correct misinformation, and most recently, to guide them through a pandemic that changed everything overnight.

“We answer questions and address anxieties with expert opinion and advice, through empathetic stories and by delivering ‘I-feel-seen’ editorial. In simpler terms: We tell the truth about health and tell it well.”

How well does The Well do in accomplishing that mission? The team details three measurement areas that evaluated both audience and business impact:

  • Brand trust: Through before-after benchmarking studies, they sought to improve trust in Northwell’s brand and experts.
  • Audience engagement: Relationships with their target community are evaluated based on how their audiences spent time online (e.g., search, social, publications).
  • Business referrals: Clicks to the main site,, serve as the metric for moving from awareness to activation.

The outcomes indicate The Well works as an effective treatment for building trust in Northwell’s health care system:

  • New York residents’ likelihood to seek care at Northwell increased by a 44-point margin after engaging with The Well’s content. The same study found a significant increase in Northwell’s trustworthiness among the community.
  • Coverage of The Well’s content skyrocketed brand awareness, reaching audiences on, ABC 7, Apple News, and even top positions on Reddit’s coronavirus subreddit several times.
  • The Well surpassed 2 million sessions in a year for the first time and nearly doubled its rate of new subscribers.
  • The Well content generated 20% more direct referrals over the previous year.
  • Referrals from The Well to were more cost-efficient than other marketing activities as measured by site engagement and appointments generated.
  • Media-spend efficiency set records, achieving a cost-per-landing-page visit of 21 cents, five times better than published benchmarks.

@NorthwellHealth’s #ContentMarketing site, The Well, works as an effective treatment for building trust in its health care, says Ann Gynn via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet


Go for data- and fact-based content

No universal cure exists for health-related misinformation and distrust of health care experts. Yet The Well has gone a long way toward rectifying the symptoms for their New York communities with a blend of fact-based and empathetic content.

Data allow the team behind The Well to understand and deliver the content their audience wants and needs. That content inspires trust in Northwell Health’s expertise. And its success means the organization can spend less while getting more.

That sounds like an ideal prescription for all content marketers.


Is your work award-worthy? You’ll never know unless you enter. Visit the Content Marketing Awards website to review the rules, study past winners, and sign up to get a reminder when the call for entries opens on March 7.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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A Digital Practioner’s Guide to Starting the New Year Right



A Digital Practioner’s Guide to Starting the New Year Right

It’s that time of year again – the holiday excitement has faded as we fall back into the workweek. With a year’s worth of work stretched in front of us, there can be both a sense of opportunity and overwhelmedness 

Because transitioning back into the swing of things can be daunting, We’ve gathered key takeaways from the previous year, global Opticon Tour, and how we can successfully apply those learnings in 2023.  

1. “Work about work” is holding teams back. Take this chance to declutter.  

Consider the reality of what most digital teams are up against. When it comes to managing the content lifecycle, draft documents that are stored in separate places and disparate tools that don’t work together are the norm for many. With no centralized point of communication and cumbersome workflows, it can take forever for teams to create and approve content, and work is often duplicated or unused.  

After work is completed, it can be easy to dismiss the headaches caused by inefficient, siloed workflows and processes. But the long-term effects of inefficient and bulky collaboration can be detrimental to a brand’s digital experience – and bottom line. (Those who joined us in San Diego at Opticon might recall this concept played out via ). 

Digital teams with unwieldy content lifecycles can take back control using , saving countless hours and frustration over the year.  

2. Change is constant. Set your team up to be adaptive. 

We all know how difficult it is to create amazing customer experiences these days. The world is moving faster than ever, and change is constant and chaotic with uncertainty on nearly every level: economic upheaval, rapid cultural change, ever-escalating customer expectations (thanks, Amazon), and a tight talent market.  

To not only stay the course but to also grow in this unpredictable environment, it’s important that teams constantly stay on the lookout for new ways to drive more sales and increase loyalty. In other words, consistently deliver modern, relevant, and personalized commerce experiences.  

But keeping pace doesn’t necessarily mean working harder. Optimizely’s Monetize solutions, teams can drive sales and loyalty with fewer costs and efforts.  

3. Data fuels a great customer experience. Test and optimize every touchpoint. 

As practitioners, we all know that the best customer experience wins.  

When teams don’t clearly understand what’s happening and when, they miss the mark. With little patience and high expectations, today’s customers will simply switch to a competitor that better understands them and provides a more personalized experience.  

But when teams work together to inject data across silos, they have the insight needed to make the right decisions and create with confidence.  

For instance, take the marketing team: with access to a slew of customer touchpoints and experimentation data, marketers should be a critical resource for understanding customers’ wants and needs. Developers, product teams, and beyond should utilize this data to remove the guesswork and inform strategies, priorities, roadmaps, and decisions.  

With customer-centricity at the heart of any great digital experience, the best experiences are fueled by data uncovered by high-velocity experimentation. Consider the power that Optimizely’s Experimentation products can have on your entire team’s ability to unlock personalized insights and better connect with customers.  

Hopefully, your new year is off to a great start – but if you’re feeling a little off track, contact Optimizely today to learn more about our DXP can impact your business and set you up for a successful and productive year.  

A special thanks to our sponsors at Opticon London – Microsoft, Google Cloud, Valtech, and Siteimprove – and Opticon Stockholm – Microsoft, Google Cloud, Valtech, and Contentsquare. 

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Top 6 SEO Tips for Bloggers that Will Skyrocket Google Rankings



Top 6 SEO Tips for Bloggers that Will Skyrocket Google Rankings

The majority of blogs rely heavily on search engines to drive traffic. On the other hand, there is a misunderstanding that creating “SEO-optimized content” entails stuffing keywords into paragraphs and headers, which leads to barely readable blog articles.

But that’s not what SEO is all about. In this article, you’ll discover the top 6 SEO strategies and how crucial they are for improving your blog posts rank in Google search results.

How Important Are Google Rankings For Your Blog?

Search engine traffic is essential if you’re blogging in hopes of growing your business. After all, what’s the point in writing content if no one is going to see it? The higher your blog post ranks in Google search results, the more likely people will find and read it.

And the more people who read your blog post, the more likely someone will take the desired action, whether signing up for your email list, buying one of your products, or hiring you as a coach or consultant. So, it is essential to have SEO optimized blog.

How To Incorporate SEO Into Your Blogs?

It would help if you started putting these six pieces of constructive SEO advice for bloggers into practice immediately:

1. Write For Your Readers

The standard of blog writing started significantly declining when “SEO content” became a buzzword. Instead of writing for people, they began to write mainly for robots in search engines. Unfortunately, some bloggers still express themselves in this way nowadays.  

But luckily, things have greatly improved, especially since the Hummingbird update and the rise of voice searches. The Hummingbird update was developed to assist Google in comprehending the purpose of searches.  

For instance, Google would understand that you are seeking nearby restaurants if you Googled “places to buy burgers.” It influences SEO because search engines are now more geared toward providing answers to queries and supporting semantic search rather than merely focusing on keywords.

You typically utilize Google, Bing, YouTube, or even Siri to find answers to questions. Take that idea and use it to improve your blog. Your writing should address the concerns of your intended audience in detail.

Your blog shouldn’t exist solely to help you rank for a particular keyword. Instead of concentrating on keywords, shift your attention to creating content that addresses the issues of your target audience.

2. Link to High-Authority websites

Don’t be scared to use external links when you construct your blog content. In addition to giving blog visitors more resources to read and learn from, linking to reputable websites demonstrates to search engines that you have done your research.

Research-based statistics from reputable websites are the best way to support blog content. Using compelling statistics will help you create a stronger, more specific argument that will help you win your readers’ trust.

3. Design a link building Strategy

Your search ranking is significantly impacted by link building. Why? Consider search results a contest where the people who receive the most votes win.

Google considers every website that links back to you as a vote for your website, elevating your content’s credibility. You will move up in ranking as a result. Here are some starter ideas for your link-building:

  • Communicate to other bloggers in your niche and offer to guest post on their website. Include a link back to your blog in your guest post.
  • Participate in online and offline community events related to your niche. For example, if you blog about fitness, you could attend a trade show related to fitness or health.
  • Create helpful resources that other bloggers in your niche find valuable, such as an eBook, cheat sheet or template. Include a link back to your blog on these resources.
  • Leverage social media to get your content in front of as many people as possible.

4. Learn About Google Webmaster Tools

Do you remember getting a warning from your teacher when you did anything incorrectly in elementary school? Your opportunity to clean up your act and get back on track to avoid punishment was given to you with that warning. In a way, Google Webmaster Tools serves that purpose for your blog.

Google Webmaster Tools will warn you when something suspicious is happening with your blog by giving you diagnostics, tools, and data to keep your site in good condition.

What you can observe in the Webmaster Tools Search Console is:

  • The percentage of your pages that Google has indexed
  • If your website is having issues with Google’s bots indexing it
  • If your website was hacked
  • How search engine bots see your website
  • Links to your site
  • If Google penalized your website manually

The great thing about Webmaster Tools is that it informs you what’s wrong with your website and how to fix it. To resolve any difficulties Google discovers with your blog, you can utilize a vast knowledge base of articles and a forum.

5. Include Keywords in your Meta Description

Does your post include meta descriptions? If not, you’re probably not providing your content with the best chance of being seen. Google also analyzes meta-descriptions to determine search results. The one- to three-sentence summaries beneath a result’s title is known as meta descriptions.

Use meta descriptions to briefly summarize the subject of your post, and keep in mind to:

  1. Make it brief.
  2. Use between one and two keywords.
  3. Since there will likely be other postings that are identical to yours, you should make your description stand out from the competition.

6. Establish Linkable Assets

A linkable asset is a unique, instrumental piece of content that’s so valuable people can’t resist linking to it. It’s similar to dining at a fantastic restaurant and a merely adequate one. You’ll go out of your way to tell everyone about the excellent restaurant, but if someone asks if you’ve been there, you’ll probably only mention the merely adequate one.

The ProBlogger job board is an excellent example of a linkable asset. For independent bloggers looking for compensated writing opportunities, it’s a terrific resource. The page is constantly linked in blog posts on monetizing your blog or websites that pay you to write for them. Why? Because it is rare and costly.

You can build the following linkable assets for your blog:

  • Free software or apps
  • Ultimate guide posts
  • Huge lists
  • Infographics
  • Online guide
  • Influencer tally reports
  • Quizzes
  • A case studies
  • Industry studies or surveys

Final Thoughts

By following these six SEO tips for bloggers, you’ll be well on your journey to improving your blog’s Google ranking. Remember that SEO is an ongoing process, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. The key is to be patient and consistent in your efforts, and soon you’ll start reaping the rewards of your hard work!

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B2C Marketers Treat Content Marketing as a Project; That’s a Mistake [New Research]



B2C Marketers Treat Content Marketing as a Project; That’s a Mistake [New Research]

In The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath illustrates all competitive advantages are transient. She contends everybody understands that. So why hasn’t basic strategy practice changed?

As Rita writes:

Most executives, even when they realize that competitive advantages are going to be ephemeral, are still using strategy frameworks and tools designed for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage, not for quickly exploiting and moving in and out of advantages.

That last part resonates after working with hundreds of enterprise brands over the last 10 years. Most businesses think about how they can change content to fit marketing’s purpose, not how they might change marketing to fit content’s purpose.

Guess what? Your content will never be a sustainable competitive advantage or differentiator – all content assets are easily replicable and, at best, only transient in differentiated value.

In the newly released Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs B2C Content Marketing Benchmark, Budgets, and Trends – Insights for 2023, I see it’s time to feed the content giant that awakened last year. But be careful not to get so distracted by the food you fail to cook consistently over time. All too often, content marketers get wrapped up in content creation rather than in the ability to lead the capabilities to create consistently.

Content should be a strategic activity

Look at content operations as the catalyst that can change everything for your content marketing challenges. You should recognize the activities you perform are a competitive advantage. Success hinges on the ability of a team (of one or 100) to be dynamic and fluid – moving in and out of “arenas” (as Rita calls them in her book) of content and creating temporary advantages.

Here’s the real takeaway: Ask everyone in your business – including your CEO – if they believe compelling, engaging, useful, and dynamic content-driven experiences will move the business forward.

If the answer is yes, then the strategic value lies in your ability to evolve and coordinate all the activities to create those content-driven experiences repeatedly. It does not lie in the content or the distribution plans. Your team’s job is not to be good at content; your job is to enable the business to be good at content.

#ContentMarketing’s strategic value lies in the ability to repeatedly deliver content-driven experiences, not the content itself, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Consider some highlights from this year’s research.

Struggle is real for content marketing strategy

Content marketing remains important.

Seventy percent of B2C marketers told us that content marketing has become more important to their organization over the last year. (Only 4% say it’s less important.)

Importance of B2C Content Marketing in the Last Year

With an increase in importance comes a need for more resources. When asked what they would change about content marketing in their organization, they say they want more staff, more budget, and better access to subject matter experts.

70% of #B2C marketers say #ContentMarketing is more important in their organization than last year according to @CMIContent #research via @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Yes, content marketing is more important, but content marketers struggle to keep up with the demand.


Because so many businesses treat content marketing as a campaign-, project-focused effort that requires different “assets.” Content marketers are so busy churning out projects of content that they haven’t figured out how to make it a repeatable, consistent, and scalable process.

As far as their biggest challenges in content marketing, 57% of B2C marketers say creating content that appeals to different target audiences. Rounding out the top three: developing consistency with measurement (44%) and differentiating our products/services from the competition (40%).

B2C Organizations' Current Content Marketing Challenges

57% of #B2C marketers say they are challenged to create #content that appeals to different target audiences according to @CMIContent #research via @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Solving all three of these challenges centers around strategic content operations – setting a consistent long-term strategy to differentiate, developing a measurement plan that stands the test of time, and scaling to meet the needs of different audiences. But most marketers aren’t planning to acquire the help to tackle those challenges. Among the resources they plan to hire or contract in the coming year, almost half (45%) say they will look to grow writers, designers, photographers, and videographers.

It’s like trying to design a bigger house by simply adding more bricks.

45% of #B2C marketers plan to hire content creators in the coming year. @Robert_Rose says that’s like designing a bigger house by adding more bricks via @CMIContent #research. Click To Tweet

But B2C content marketing is working

Despite their challenges, talented practitioners find success. Overall, 81% of B2C marketers rate their success as either moderately, very, or extremely successful. Only 2% say they were “not at all” successful.

How B2C Marketers Rate Their Organization's Overall Level of Content Marketing Success in Last 12 Months

And 86% say content marketing provides a “meaningful/purposeful career path.”

These results align with the research discovered in CMI’s Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook (registration required). We found though content marketers are generally happy in their current roles, they would be happier if their organizations prioritized content marketing, backed it with strategies and resources, and invested in technologies to help them do their jobs faster and more efficiently.

The final bit of good news? Almost three-quarters (73%) of content marketers expect their organization’s investment in the practice will increase or remain the same this year. Only 3% believe it will decrease.

Different activities, not more efficient ones

The B2C research presents some interesting insights into the priorities for 2023:

  • Businesses must increasingly stop organizing and scaling new marketing teams based on platforms, technologies, or inside-looking-out views of the customer journey. The format and placement of those experiences on multiple channels will always be temporal. Success happens when the business becomes skilled and integrated at operating and managing all manners of content-driven experiences.
  • Businesses must stop looking at content from a container-first perspective – designed solely to support marketing tactics or initiatives. Success happens when the business recognizes content operations as a function, supporting the fluid use of content to fuel better customer experiences.
  • Businesses must not say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” when one experience no longer works. Success happens when the business can healthily disengage and dismantle experiences that aren’t working. They can constantly reconfigure their activities and manage portfolios of content-driven experiences.

Starting with the wrong premise

Often the first sign of trouble in any content marketing approach is when you hear, “How do we get more efficient at content?”

Efficiency involves changes to a process to remove friction. The question often assumes a working, standard operation providing value already exists. But if there is no repeatable standard operation, efficiency ends up meaning producing the same or more content with the same resources.

That rarely works out to be better for the business.

The more difficult task for content marketers is to determine the different activities necessary to create or augment the processes and identify the activities to undertake differently.

The content you create provides no sustainable competitive business advantage. But a strategic content operation just might.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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