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Is Your Content Perceived as Credible?

Research results: What consumers look for to determine credibility

Healthcare organizations across the country are investing more than ever before in content marketing to help educate and convert consumers. While “content is king”, what good is spending significant time, money, and precious resources on content marketing if consumers ultimately do not believe your content is credible?


As the new domain extension for the health industry, the .health Domain Registry commissioned a research study in 2017 to understand how consumers interact with health content online. Among other topics, the study asked consumers which are the most important criteria when rating the credibility of a health-related website and which factors would make them doubt the credibility of a health-related website.


We hope these finding and learnings on consumers’ perceptions can help healthcare marketers and strategists create content that educates and informs, while enticing readers to take action towards improving their health.


The three most important criteria when rating the credibility of a health-related website:


  • Containing information approved by a reputable third party (22%)
  • Having relevant information (20%)
  • Being a well-known website (13%)

Does your content marketing deliver on at least one of these criteria? While having a “well known website” isn’t something that you can control in the short-term, if your content addresses consumers with updated, relevant information that includes citations from trusted sources, you’ll be well on your way to establishing your organization as a trusted resource!


Credibility means different things to different people.


Even though women and men typically exhibit varying purchasing, decision-making, and overall consumer behavior, both genders rated their “red flags” evenly when asked which criteria would raise a red flag on a health-related website. Men and women agreed and rated their top four red flags as:


  • Contains information not approved by a reputable third party
  • Does not answer your question
  • Does not cite sources for its information
  • Has poor consumer reviews

While male and females rated criteria and red flags comparably, consumers searching specific conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, eating disorders, obesity, etc.) rated different criteria as their most important factors when judging the credibility of a website. For example, 24% of consumers/patients with eating disorders (compared to 9% of overall consumers) rated “does not cite sources for its information” as the largest factor to doubt the credibility of a website. Consumers researching Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias rated “contains information only specific to the exact topic” and “has poor consumer reviews” as their top two red flags.


By understanding your readers and which factors help establish your content as credible in their eyes, you can help ensure the return on investment of your content marketing. Below we’ve outlined how you can use these insights to make actionable steps to strengthen your health-related content.


[Download the full .health Research Study here]


Learn which criteria are most important to your identified consumer/patient profile


Is your target audience included in the chart above? If so, great! Take a read through your content and consider if you’ve addressed their “trust criteria” and/or “red flags” – if your audience isn’t included, think through how these points may apply to your audience, or what you may know through other research. If you haven’t developed “user personas” for your content yet – many marketers find that helpful.


Cater your content and website to contain these credibility criteria


Make sure your content or website’s format includes the criteria that is important to your audience, and does not include their “red flags”. For example, if you are creating content for the consumer/patient profile who is researching autoimmune disorders, you should ensure your content is approved by a reputable third party (consumers researching autoimmune disorders rated “contains information not approved by a reputable third party” as the largest factor for doubting a website’s credibility).


Button-up by adding as many factors to ensure credibility as possible


While you’ve identified the most important factors to your consumers/patients, do not avoid the other factors that help ensure your website is viewed as credible and trustworthy. Below are the other factors of health-related websites that consumers rated as other important criteria for increasing credibility:


  • Cites sources for its information Where did you get the information you are including in your blog post? While, as marketers, our natural instinct is to not have users leave our page, consider linking out to your sources from your post. Don’t worry, if you make sure to open the link “in a new window”, you will still keep your page open for them.
  • Has positive consumer reviewsAre there relevant reviews for your organization on websites like Yelp, ZocDoc or Vitals? You can consider adding those ratings to the footer or side column on your post template. If you do not have profiles on those popular review-focused websites, you can encourage comments below the post to start to build this credibility for the future.
  • Has a trusted domain extensionNot all domain extensions are created equal. While .com and .net are generic for any content, other niche extensions like .edu and .health have stricter terms and are designed specifically for certain types of content. If you are aiming to assert your content as focused and credible, it is recommended that your website’s domain extension reflect this intention.
  • Has an overall nice design and is an easy site to useThere’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to design. Luckily, there are many tools to help improve your readers’ experience and ensure a nice overall design. Take advantage of free or inexpensive resources like Canva (to help with graphic design), Squarespace (to put up a quick landing page) and Dribbble (to get inspired and potentially hire a designer) so you can focus your time on your content and not design.    
  • Appears on first page of search engine results When searching online, consumers are typically impatient and demand immediate answers. If consumers don’t see your content on the first page of the search engine results, they most likely will not find their way to the content you worked so hard on producing. New to SEO? We recommend checking out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO – or for more healthcare-specific SEO guidance, check out Aha Media’s blog posts about SEO.

For a more conclusive overview of the .health Research Study – that includes the results broken down by gender, age, income label and specific condition – download the free report at


About the Author
Sidonia Rose Swarm
Healthcare Industry Lead, dotHealth

Sidonia Rose Swarm is the Healthcare Industry Lead for dotHealth. She is responsible for the company’s partnerships in the healthcare industry.


Before working with dotHealth, Sidonia founded Real Dietitian, a company connecting patients to dietitians via on-demand phone appointments. Sidonia is obsessed with leveraging technology to solve problems in the broken, yet beautiful industry of healthcare. She serves as Co-Director of Health 2.0 Miami and is a fervent advocate for building a more consumer-friendly culture of health.Sidonia holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing, Management, and Entrepreneurship from the University of Miami.