Blogs can have many bells and whistles, but which traits are most likely to set your medical blog apart from the rest?
Here are four specific areas to master if you want your health blog posts to shine.
#1: Smart design
In today's medical practice, making the patient comfortable from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave has never been more important.
In an age of patient-centric care, this is no small thing: the success of their healthcare experience depends upon how positive the nature of their visit is.
The same holds true for blogs; a blog post can be thought of as the "front door" of your blog or website. From there, your reader can access every other "room" in your website.
You'll want them to feel welcomed right away so that they will stay awhile, even linger. A visually appealing blog post can achieve this, and this includes arranging the words and images in a way that's easy on the eye.
If you look closely, you'll notice that the most effective medical blog posts are not composed of giant blocks of text. The paragraphs are shorter and divided by elements of white space, headers, images, and other organizing features (such as the "bullet" point).Remember, people are coming to your website to learn about your medical practice and glean some understanding about a health condition or problem they are concerned about and which you have the expertise to handle. A good healthcare blog post uses design elements to enhance the content, making the text inviting and easy to read.
#2. Clinical validity
The quality of any medical website and its blog posts depends a great deal on the clinical validity of its content. Facts matter: they help to dispel myths and defend against misinformation, two of the biggest concerns about free access to information.
This is not to say that blog posts should read like white papers or clinical research studies. Blogs are meant to be conversational, easy for readers of any education level to access, and an extension of the personality that defines your clinic.
Jargon, scientific language, and statistical methodology are not appealing to most readers. Still, because you are addressing matters of a scientific nature, it's important to write with authority. There are ways to do this in a medical blog post that keep the information flowing without stumping the reader.
- Footnotes do not belong in blogs. Most blog readers aren't interested in reading footnotes and may not even demand links to studies supporting the topic you're posting about. You can refer to studies by the names of their hosts (usually a hospital or university) and also by identifying the names of lead researchers without bogging down the blog with tiny footnotes that may never be read.
- Use internal links as often as possible. The internal link is the one found inside the text which takes the reader to other locations within your website. These create opportunities for the reader to learn more about a given subject while keeping them inside your medical practice blog.
- Use external links when they are appropriate. Sometimes it's appropriate (and good "netiquette") to include links to other websites, such as when you want to share the original text of a new protocol established by Medicare or the Centers for Disease Control. These links help cement your credibility as a content provider.
- Be selective about your sources. For medical posts, the best references come from widely respected sources and government agencies. The best way to protect your reputation is to be judicious about where you are pulling your information. If you've ever heard the phrase, "Consider the source," you'll recognize why it's important to cite only from those who you trust.
- Mention your sources. A good compromise for those medical writers who don't add footnotes but wish to acknowledge sources for information is to include a "Sources consulted" list at the bottom of any blog post for your medical practice. This way readers who really want to examine the subject further can verify that the content is based on research from reliable publications and easily find it themselves.
- Incorporate physician post review. Ask a physician to independently review each post to ensure its accuracy, and credit the review appropriately (i.e. "Details in this blog post were reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Ida Know on June 30, 2016").
#3. Powerful content
"Content is king," no matter what you're writing about.
Strong content is engaging to read, provides the right amount of information to meet the interests of readers, and can even inspire and motivate patients to make positive changes in their lives.
Successful medical content has several characteristics to it.
It's written by someone with a command of language. The writer of quality blog content not only needs to know the subject matter better than their readers do, but they need to be able to write about it with finesse, a sense of style, and a clear voice.
Sometimes this writer can be found among clinical staff, or could even be one of the practice's doctors, but often content providers are skilled writers who are hired separately because they have the skill set, understand deadlines, and know how to corroborate facts.
There's a content strategy in place. Posts are not created randomly with the hopes that, someday, one big idea will go viral. Instead, the practice of intelligent "information release" in medical blogging is driven by an editorial schedule that's premeditated to deliver information to readers in a way that makes them want to come back for more.
Themes, packages, and other kinds of strategic bundling of blog content are all ways to approach content strategy.
Shape your content around the needs of your readers. It's not enough to have competent writing and solid information. You need to constantly think about what your readers are bringing to the experience, as well.
Using plain language can help overcome barriers to culture and health literacy. Illustrating ideas using simple analogies can break down complex discussions into narratives that are fun as well as illuminating for your readers. Also, be cognizant and tactful of subjects that could be sensitive to readers.
These are the tricks of the trade when it comes to having your blog "found" on the web. It doesn't matter how amazing and accessible your medical content is if nobody can find and read it.
Optimizing (originating from the term "search engine optimization," or SEO) essentially means improving your chances of having your blog content rank on page one of search engines like Google.
- Keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases that people use to search for subjects on the web. With the successful use of keywords in quality content, your medical blog content will be easier to find. Search engines "crawl" the Internet looking for these keywords to identify the content of blog posts.
You should use them not only in the body of your blog content, but in every place possible: titles, headers, captions, and other text locations associated with the content.
- Tags. These are also keywords in the sense they are "tagged" on to images or used in blog platform settings such as "meta tags." Tags are pre-set identifiers that search engines also seek out when looking for new content on the web.
When used correctly, tags can help improve the optimization of your blog.
- Feeds. These are the tools you set up to make it possible for readers to follow your blog, subscribe to it, or "aggregate" it to a "feed reader."
In any case, they automate the way you reach followers or subscribers by automatically linking you with them through feeds. More subscribers, followers, and readers lead to much better traffic, which benefits optimization.
- Social sharing. We know this as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the many other social network and media services that provide the texture and fabric of the Internet experience.
Posts that are accompanied by a "sharing bar" bearing links to these popular social media are much more easily shared (and "amplified") out in the web wilderness, which is a boon for optimizing your content.
If you only focus on these four areas of blogging as you start out, you will have started with the strongest foundational approach necessary to pull together an interesting, useful, accessible blog to serve the medical marketing needs of your growing practice.
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