While blogging is technically a (digital) print medium, it hardly begins and ends with text. The best blogs don't rely only on words, but on images that support blog's message.
A medical blog is no exception: there are plenty of reasons why pictures carry at least the same weight as the text, and images are poised to not only better serve readers of healthcare content, but also boost search engine marketing (SEM).
Why are images so important to a medical blog?
Images easily and quickly illustrate complex subjects
This is definitely where the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words," earns its keep. Human biology, medical illness, and surgical or pharmaceutical treatments are going to be difficult to explain to average readers, especially because you'll need to avoid using medicalese if you want to be understood. Common terminology among medical professionals is pretty uncommon to the general public, after all.
In example, some patients with lower levels of health literacy may confuse the concept of hypertension with hyperactivity.
Situations like this have led to the current push for healthcare professionals to use "plain language" when communicating with patients in order to avoid these unfortunate confusions.
In the case of hypertension, the preferred plain language phrase is "high blood pressure" because it is more specific to the problem and avoids confusion with similar-sounding terms.
But even plain language may not be always enough. Understanding what blood pressure is is probably a better starting point if your goal is to educate patients. But when trying to explain blood pressure to them, will words be enough? This is where a well-chosen image (accompanied by plain language) can simplify what you are trying to say.
Sharing an image of blood pressure like the one above can clarify what the term actually means. When you go on to then introduce ideas like vasodilation or vasoconstriction (in plain language, of course!) to them in order to explain high (or low) blood pressure, you can be more confident you haven't lost your reader.
Images make the content more readable
Readability has as much to do with the way the content is arranged on the page as it does with font decisions or using proper grammar and syntax. A better term for readability might be "useability" or "accessibility," because it takes into consideration how the images that are embedded in the blog help to benefit the reader by:
Breaking up large blocks of content
Providing an illustrative enhancement of the adjacent content (especially when it's complicated)
Giving the reader a break from reading and comprehension (when a really good image can do the job better than words alone)
Making a webpage more inviting (colorful, appealing, or emotional images are alluring)
In this way, image options like infographics have become really amazing tools for bloggers.
For medical topics which can be statistic-heavy, these user-friendly bundles of facts, figures, and images can pack a huge amount of information into a blog and make it even more accessible for the reader.
The example to the right, of risk factors for high blood pressure, is more likely to be studied with interest by a reader than if it were simply paragraphs of text explaining the very same information.
Images set the tone for your medical blog
Photos, graphics, drawings, animations, infographics, and other visual elements can provide your blog with a kind of visual personality that characterizes the kind of medical practice you have to offer your readers (and patients). Different kinds of images can evoke different kinds of responses in readers. For instance:
Photographs of people interacting are compelling, especially when they have emotional content.
Positive emotion is more appealing than negative emotion when you want to convey friendliness, as may be the goal of a primary care practice.
Smiling healthcare workers engaging with patients can set a proactive and empowering tone for your blog and your business.
If your medical blog is focused on your specialty in research for multiple sclerosis, you may wish to use tables and charts to meet the interests of statistic-hungry readers.
In addition, you could also incorporate images of patients who are active and independent while using assistive devices.
If you show your readers you trust them with information, as well as use images which accurately capture what their lives are like (or could be like), you can develop a bond of trust with them that inspires confidence in your practice.
A physical therapy practice which serves the needs of local athletes may want to use more illustrations of the muscular and skeletal systems on a regular basis in their blog.
Another recommendation: use instructive photographs of techniques employed in a clinical setting—such as step-by-step exercises for recovering from a volleyball-related wrist strain—to attract more readers (and future patients).
Images make content memorable
There's compelling data from several national health literacy efforts over the last decade to suggest that as many as 80 percent of patients forget the information they were given at the doctor's office just 10 minutes after leaving their appointments, and that, of the remaining 2 patients who recalled this information, only 1 recalled it correctly.
The nice thing about a blog is that it has permanence; patients can return to a post they read to revisit the information they found there if they still have questions.
Even better, though, is for the patient or reader to have learned something from their initial visit to your blog. One of the ways you can help your readers remember what they've read and learned is to incorporate images. (There's a term for it: the pictorial superiority effect.)
If a blog post has no images, 90 percent of its content will be forgotten within 72 hours (unless the reader actively engages with that content elsewhere). However, the same blog with images will result in the reader remembering at least two thirds of its content after 3 days have passed. It's as if images are "stamped" onto our memory to help us codify learning.
Isn't learning part of the goal of content marketing for your medical practice? Patient education has become so critical to outcomes that it makes sense to use all the tools in the blog toolbox to ensure that readers are retaining the information you've shared with them.
How can images help your SEO?
This refers to the captions or tags or alt text you assign to the images you use in your blog. Search engines look for those bits of information to help classify and rank your blog. Make sure those tags are optimized using relevant keywords so they work double duty, both as images, but also as fodder for search engine optimization. Google and other search engines prefer posts with images because they create a more satisfying user experience.
People read and share images
Facebook posts with images are far and away more likely to attract attention and to be shared. Of all the top posts in Facebook, nearly 90 percent have images attached to them. Twitter, in 2014, reported that those tweets accompanied by images were 35 percent more like to be retweeted.
Images in your medical blog can provide quality opportunities to amp up your content marketing strategies for your medical practice, if you know how to use them strategically.
Need more tips? Check out our free inbound medical marketing handbook below.
Journal of Experimental Psychology
Orbit Media Studio