To Blog, is to write down your thoughts on a subject and share that article online for others to read. It should simply be a communication channel between yourself and your readers.
You can blog about advancement in your field of medicine. You can blog about news events affecting your industry. You can write about tips and advice for your patients on a particular condition.
What you should not write about, are unrelated news items i.e., political or sporting events. Blogging is not a travelogue and is not to be confused with social media activity in which you post frequent updates with a few lines of text or pictures.
A common technique to figure out the relevance of any topic is to figure out the persona of the reader you are writing for. If you are writing for other Clinicians, your blogs can be more medical-centric, as opposed to when writing for patients. Also, the approach changes from simply disseminating information with the intent to share, to one of wanting to educate, and advice. Let us go over some of the common guidelines in setting up and managing your Blog.
Setup your Blog
Blogs are easy to set up if you are using a CMS to build your website. All CMSs will have in-built support that allows you to blog right on your website. Rather than going to a 3rd party blogging website, blog on your own website. Blogs will increase the ranking of your website online.
You need an eye-catching title for each Blog you write. The search engine e.g., Google, will display links to your blog, along with the title. If the title is interesting, it is more likely to get clicked.
Now that the title has been clicked and the user is on your blog, you need to back up the title with an equally gripping first paragraph in your blog. If the first paragraph is weak, the user will exit your page, this is called, “bouncing off”. The higher the bounce rate, the lower will become the page rank.
Support your blog with an attractive cover picture. Do not make the mistake of using images in your blog by searching in Google or Google Images. Images are copyrighted and unlicensed use could see you sued and fined anywhere from $2,000+ USD.
There is no right or wrong. You may read suggestions on keeping the sentences short and keeping constructs basic and easy to understand. Ignore all of it. If every blog was sanitized and made to read the same, why would the reader ever come to your blog in the first place? What is different about it compared to the thousands of others that have followed the exact same approach. Each individual has their own unique style of expressing themselves. Stick to your style.
Everyone loves a story. Share de-identified personal case studies where possible. Try to not exceed 1,000 words. Too long, and the focus starts waning. Having a soft limit of 1,000 words will also force you to be your editor, and keep things crisp.
Always write in the first person. Not in the third person ex: A patient who has uncontrolled HTN, should limit the consumption of salt in his food intake.
Rephrase it as If you have uncontrolled HTN, limit consumption of salt in your food intake.
In this era of sharing, make the main content highlightable, and if possible, put your point in a bullet. It makes for easy selection if the reader wants to share content from a mobile device.
Wherever possible, link your writing to past blogs you have written. It helps with the SERPs, allows for the user to easily traverse your website following relevant content, and makes them stay on longer at your site.
Ideas on what to Blog
Share tips, advice, and ideas.
Patient love lists i.e., Top 5 ways to reduce your Cholesterol, Top 3 ways to cut sugar intake in your meals, etc. Lists are easier to write as you can easily change Top 10 to Top 3 based on the ideas you have and the time at hand.
If out of ideas, and comment on news from your industry, it will gradually establish you as a thinker, make you synonymous with being a reliable source of information, and establish you as an expert in your area of work.
Engage with your readers
Mention at the end of your blog that you would love to hear from your readers. Share an email ID where you can be reached – create a spare one and set it to forward emails to your main email. Do check that email for comments and reply back to it. Being slow or being late in your replies is fine. But you must make the effort of communicating back. It will very quickly build a very loyal reader base.
Also, try to end your blogs with a question that encourages discussion and debate amongst the readers. Idea is to make the comment.
Most CMSs will have an anti-spam plugin (i.e., software), that will auto-check every comment that comes through from your readers and blocks the one it thinks of as Spam. These kinds of anti-spam plugins are free and a must-have. Ask your designer to install one for you.
If you do get users to comment, it is a step in the right direction. However, if you do not get any comments, do not get disheartened. It takes quite a while to draw traffic (6 months+ and sometimes longer). This is a marathon you are starting off on, not a 100m sprint, be disciplined in what you are doing, and results will follow for sure.
If someone does comment, do make the effort to reply, or get involved in the discussion. This form of engagement starts a positive cycle of communication and encourages activity from others on your blog, who may be reading passively but are yet to comment.
More is not always better here. Consistency is most important. If you can maybe write 2 blogs a month, round down to 1 a month. And then make 1 blog a month happen, come what may. Consistency in frequency establishes you as a disciplined writer and gains credibility, both before your readers and the search engines.
Allow for Subscribing
Now that you are in the habit of publishing a blog once a month, how do you inform your readers that a new one has come out?
There are multiple ways to do that. One easy one is to add a plugin form like mailchimp.com – again available for free with most CMSs. This creates a small signup form on your blogging website. Interested readers can put in their email IDs and subscribe to your blog. Mailchimp is the largest digital newsletter company in the world and has a free plan where you can have up to 2,000 subscribers and send out up to 12,000 emails every month for free.
From there on, each time you have a new blog out, an email goes out to your subscribers pointing them to the new blog on your site. Another way of communicating new blogs is by creating an RSS Feed. RSS Feeds are like newspapers that are delivered from your website right into the email inbox of the reader, or they get delivered into a specialized software called RSS Readers of your subscribers who choose to be informed in this manner.
Just ask your designer to enable both. These are free and take only 30 minutes to set up.
Search out others’ health blogs, and write your comments against their blogs. Offer to write a new article for them. In your write-up, you are allowed to refer to your website as part of the content or as part of your bio at the end of the blog. By doing this, you are effectively getting other websites to put in content that refers to your website. This process of associating other’s websites to yours leads to the generation of inbound links. More the inbound links your website gets, the higher its ranking goes before the search engine.
Do not end up sharing something you have already posted on your website. Similarly, after you share something with another website do not copy it back on your own. While there is a workaround to it, technically the search engines tend to give a preferential score to the website that had the first copy of the blog and penalize those that post a copy of the same on their websites.
Blogging and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Let me round it up with yet another aspect of Blogging. It is also a form of indirect marketing. It can improve your online ranking before search engines. Let me explain how this works. Popular search engines like Google, or Microsoft Bing, need to index (store) several billion web pages that are available on the internet today. So, when you go to Google and type a keyword and search, the Google search engine searches for your keyword amongst these billion pages it has stored and comes back with the top 10 results. For this to work correctly every time, the Google search engine needs to ensure that each of those billion pages it has stored is updated with the latest content on them. Let me correlate this for you. It’s like you making a small list of the various cafes and restaurants in your neighbourhood, then doing the same for your city, then going off to the next city and making another list, and then off to the next country. So by the time you come back to where you started from, it could be years, and the small list of your neighbourhood cafes would be obsolete as things would have changed in the massive span of time that has elapsed since you first made the list. Now imagine Google making and displaying an incorrect list of cafes to those who came searching, would you ever come back to Google? So therein lies the problem, the massive scale of work involved, and herein lies the opportunity for you.
In order to make this work, Google (this applies to Microsoft Bing as well), has created software called the Web crawler. It’s like a spider crawling the internet. Instead of making webs, it visits each website and updates the google database with any updated content it finds. Since the crawler cannot crawl a billion pages in a few days, it has worked out a smart approach. It prioritizes each website, on the likelihood of it changing. So, a news website like timesofindia.com would change every few minutes, hence the crawler comes visiting every other minute looking for new content. Whereas your clinic website if it hardly changes once a year, the crawler will come to visit once in a blue moon. The less often the crawler comes visiting, the less often it updates the google database, and therefore the lower is your ranking before Google. Lower the ranking, lower the SERP, and further behind you will fall in the search results Google shows.
So, what should be your objective here? How do you make the crawler come visit your website more often? Changing the website of a medical clinic, is difficult, as there are not going to be that many new programs being introduced. That’s where blogs come into play. By discipline, if you stick to publishing one new blog a month, the crawler will figure out that there is something new for it on your website. It will therefore come visiting at least once a month and compared to a static website of your competitor, your ranking will start climbing up, and draw more patients to your online clinic.