Knowing where to start when it comes to writing a medical blog can be one of the biggest roadblocks facing any medical practice launching a new content marketing strategy.
There are so many different directions you could go, so many subjects to address.
On top of all this, you frequently hear how "content is king," but this does nothing to clarify what you should be writing about.
How do you create an editorial calendar for your blog from an infinite number of topics?
We like to start with that simple childhood game, 20 Questions.
20 Questions: How patients can help you build blog posts
What are the top questions that each and every one of your staff members at your medical practice encounter whenever they engage with patients?
If you don't know the answer to this, it's a simple matter of asking your employees. Here's a simple approach:
"What are the most frequently asked questions that patients ask you?"
Put this question on a piece of paper or in an email to be distributed to all of your employees. It should be directed to the front desk staff, laboratory technicians, durable medical equipment reps, nurses, social workers, doctors... anyone who has direct engagement with your patients either in person, on the phone, or via email.
Collect the results and compile into a single report that can be printed out and distributed at will. You may need to refer to this time and again over the course of the next few months.
While compiling the report, do not revise the language of the survey responses in any way. The actual language that patients use to ask these questions is informing of how you will approach your blog subjects.
Do not eliminate similar questions. The wording of these slightly different, yet similar, questions represent the nuanced thinking of your patients. This is valuable for identifying keywords later; after all, these are going to be the same questions that your patients are already going online to ask "Dr. Google."
Identify the most common questions among the entire list. It doesn't have to be 20 questions. It could be 10 questions, or 50 questions. You decide what best serves your editorial needs.
Build your initial blog topics around these questions.
Why do all this?
If patients are going to the internet with these same inquiries—and trust me, they are—you need to be writing blog posts that serve to answer these very questions. If you don't, someone else will. That someone else might be a practice in your area that's competing for the same patients.
It makes good sense, doesn't it? You really can identify the topics for at least a dozen blog posts right out of the gate using this method.
If you're smart, you'll see how you can connect these different posts in logical ways so that you can link back and forth between them, a strategy that works for keeping your readers engaged in your website. The longer they stay to read and learn, the more they will begin to develop trust in your services, products, and procedures.
It never hurts to ask
Another way to find out what your patients want to know about your specialty is to ask them right on your blog. That's right... create a survey in the sidebar they can take, and allow them to fill in the answers with their own words.
You could ask them the simple question, "What about your health are you most concerned or curious about?" Or you could be more specific, and give them opportunities to ask about your practice, your specialty, products you offer, procedures, services... anything that invites them to share what they are most concerned or curious about.
Make sure you let your readers know the survey is there, and build in a landing page to follow that survey.
If you have an email list of your current patients (and you should), make sure you send them a link to that survey as well, which is also connected to a landing page.
Ultimately, a review of the results should give you dozens of ideas for future blog content.
One caveat: What patients may share in an online survey may not be the same as what they really care about the most. And sometimes an online survey may fail to provide them with opportunities to be frank (due to the limitations of the polling utility you use, for instance, or due to an overlooked flaw in the survey design).
This is why it's probably a better idea to simply poll your staff—patients are more likely to open up to them and ask questions about more delicate topics in a face-to-face conversation with another person.
Your patient' concerns: an SEO goldmine
As mentioned previously, the actual way in which patients ask these questions (what words they choose, specifically) makes for part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
This ties in to blog content because these same words are classified by search engines as keywords, which comprise a major part of the foundation for the algorithms they use to connect search engine users with the content they are looking for.
By using specific keywords and keyword phrases in the development of your blog content, you give your content a much greater chance of being noticed by search engine "crawlers" looking for fresh links to rank. Titles, meta tags, the content itself, URLs, image tags... you should use specific keywords and keyword phrases in every place available inside your blog platform in order for your post to "get found."
A patient may be interested in learning more about CPAP. They may not ask about CPAP, however. They may ask about the "sleep apnea machine" or the "breathing machine." If these are the terms they search for, then they should also be the terms you include somewhere in your content, as well as terms like "CPAP."
Don't forget: Content is still king
It can be easy to focus only on keywords and SEO content strategy when developing blog content and forget that the reason why these are important is because you are writing blog posts to answer patient questions.
They say "content is king" for a reason. Without solid answers to patient questions, there is little use for you to even have a blog (much less a social media presence). The importance of regular, relevant medical blog posts that answer the questions that your audience is asking is critical to a strong blog, whether it's a medical practice blog or one devoted to home canning or managing volunteers.
Think about it. If the home canning blogger is asked the same question over and over again—"How do I use a pressure cooker?"—then they really should think about answering that question. And what a great opportunity for outreach.... using a pressure cooker is complicated enough that it might actually justify multiple posts, even a series, on the topic.
If a blogger who helps people manage a volunteer staff is repeatedly asked about how to best keep a record of volunteer hours, they would be best advised to give that answer, and maybe even several different approaches to that answer (because their might be several techniques or tools to effectively do this).
And so it goes with medical practice bloggers. If your dermatology practice fields tons of questions about checking for and identifying different kinds of moles, why wouldn't you build some posts around that topic? Not just one, but as many as will answer the volume of questions you receive from patients about this important practice.
Once you get the ball rolling with your blog content, based on this "20 Questions" approach, you should naturally see a direction for content borne out of these first posts, which means you should never be stuck without ideas for what to post in the future.
Keep it simple, but even better... keep it useful
Finally, if you have something of value to offer your patients for free—such as strong blog content that seeks to help them sort out their healthcare problems in some practical way—then you can hope to be visited by them time and again, especially if you aren't putting the "hard sell" on them every time they stop by.
However, if you only post about topics that have no practical value to them—such as promotional posts that require a purchase—they'll leave your website for the online medical practice which does help them solve their problems. Last time we checked, that wasn't a good way to expand a patient base for any medical practice.
Building trust with readers (who are potential patients) through the regular and reliable presentation of useful, accessible blog content is going to reap more rewards for you in the long run—more new patients, higher community regard, presence as a thought leader in your specialty, to name a few.
How you build that content calendar to provide useful, accessible posts naturally relies on you having a clear understanding of what prospective patients are looking for on the internet in the first place.
Let us help you streamline the process of launching your healthcare blog. Check out our free handbook below to discover ways to get started in content marketing for your medical practice.