Every month, millions of people read blogs. Blogging is a great way to share our thoughts and experiences. But how do you draw the line between a personal and professional brand as a physician? And what about HIPAA concerns? This week, we get to the heart of a question many doctors have: is blogging a waste of my time?
Hey, what’s up friends, and welcome to the Medical Marketing Podcast from Messenger – the show where we give you actionable tips and advice to help improve your practice marketing, grow revenue, and take patient experience to the next level. I’m your host, Crawford Ifland, and today we’re going to be talking about blogging as a physician in private practice.
Many doctors are hesitant about starting a blog and contributing to it on a regular basis for a few reasons. The most common concerns we hear are these:
- It takes too much time, and I don’t have any!
- It doesn’t provide a good ROI (basically, it’s a waste of time)
- Patients don’t read that kind of thing
- Broader HIPAA concerns
Now, all of these concerns are valid, but I think there’s still a compelling reason for a physician in private practice to invest time in creating good content for their patients to engage with. So let’s address these concerns one by one.
First up: it takes too much time.
Now, we know that all doctors are busy – like, incredibly busy. You have patient schedules, business meetings, and personal commitments with family. The last thing you need is to sit down for an hour and crank out a blog post…every single week. And even if you really wanted to, it would probably be a struggle to find the time in the first place.
In order to make blogging a sustainable content marketing strategy for your practice, you’re probably going to need to our source. This can come in many different forms. If you’re at a practice that has a marketing staff, you can always outsource the writing to the marketing team within your own practice…this may be the best way to make blogging a sustainable strategy.
But if you’re at a smaller practice without a marketing team, or if they’re already stretched too thin, you can always outsource to third parties for content as well. There are tons of freelancers (and agencies like ours) that can reliably crank out quality, SEO-optimized content for you to post, which will do wonders for your SEO.
So, the excuse of “I don’t have the time” isn’t quite valid…because chances are, somebody else does have the time.
Now, let’s talk about ROI. There’s a common misconception that the ROI from blogging or content marketing is terrible…but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Now, I will admit: blogging (and content marketing in general) is definitely a long-term strategy – it takes a long time to see your efforts pay off. But the good thing is that once your efforts do start to pay off, they pay off in a big way that can lead to results for months or years down the line.
That’s because the best blogging strategy focuses on “evergreen” content – content that will be relevant and applicable a few months or years from now as it is today. If you sit down and seek to create content that addresses the needs and questions your patients have, it will be valuable to them for a long time.
Chances are people are going to be asking the same questions about health conditions or surgical procedures a few years from now as they are today…so taking the time to create great-quality content will pay dividends for a long time to come.
And that’s not just our opinion: 72% of digital marketers who engage in content marketing of some sort say that content marketing is directly responsible for an uptick in leads to their businesses. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs about 62% as much as other forms of marketing, yet delivers 3x the leads…so if you’re looking for an effective way to grow your practice, content marketing may be a great way to grow. That doesn’t mean it won’t take a lot of hard work, but the ROI can actually be pretty fantastic.
Now, we also hear from many doctors that they think blogging is a waste because their patients would never actually read what they post. But the numbers prove otherwise.
Today, 8 out of 10 patients begin their search for a medical provider with our good ol’ friend Google…and Google loves surfacing relevant content from sites that keep producing content on a regular basis. In fact, when we look at the analytics data of some of our own clients, it’s blog posts that they wrote years ago that still deliver a meaningful percentage of their traffic each and every month. Each hit on those pieces is a new potential patient, doing their research, looking for providers. Each click is an opportunity.
Blogging is a great way for doctors to engage with patients who may have never otherwise found them: they may not know the doctor or practice by name, but when they were searching online for more info about a health condition or their options, they landed on a blog post that answered their questions, assuaged their concerns, and gave them something to think about. The practice who produced that piece of content has a huge advantage, and a better shot of turning that person into a patient than a practice who hasn’t provided as much value. It’s all about getting your name out there, forming a relationship with a patient through the content up produce, and nurturing that relationship over time until they come in for a visit. And content marketing is a great way to break the ice.
The last concern we hear from many doctors is that they want to ensure HIPAA compliance, and we don’t blame them at all. A few basic guidelines apply: if you’re blogging about a medical condition or surgery, always add a disclaimer that the post should not be considered medical advice, and that patients should always seek the advice of a medical professional who can address the specifics of their case.
If you’re featuring the story or testimonial of a satisfied patient, always get their permission to repost their words or their likeness. And of course, if you’re presenting interesting cases, make sure to strip out any personally-identifying information from the article.
That’s pretty standard advice. But it begs the question: why blog at all?
There are a few reasons that blogging is valuable for physicians in private practice.
First, as we mentioned before, Google likes to see websites that are updated regularly and provide their uses with valuable, meaningful content. Blogging regularly increases your chances of appearing higher in Google’s search engine results, so it’s a great idea to try to blog at least once or twice a month. If you can post once a week on a consistent schedule, even better.
Patients also like to see practices that are engaged with their patients and are seeking to provide value at every turn. That’s why we advise practices that if they can’t keep up the pace of blogging, it may be best to not start at all. There’s nothing worse in a patient’s mind than encountering a practice who last blogged a few months – or worse – a few years ago. Most patients take it as a sign the practice just doesn’t care anymore. But if you can consistent produce good content, your patients will reward you for it.
Ok, so you’re convinced that blogging is a good idea. Where to start?
Well, there are a few best practice to keep in mind. The best way to consistent produce content is to create an editorial calendar that specifies the type of posts you’ll share, the content of each post, and most importantly, establishes a regular schedule for contributing to your blog.
It’s also a good idea for doctors not to get too “preachy” in their writing. You don’t want to come across as condescending when educating patients about medical conditions – you should just focus on providing value at every turn.
And most importantly, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to content marketing. There’s simply no substitute for regularly posting content, engaging with patients, and providing exceptional value in everything you post. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, so you’ve got to be in it for the long haul.
If you are, content marketing can prove to be an incredibly valuable piece of a winning marketing strategy that attracts more patients and helps you grow your practice. The only question is, are you up for it?
Well, that’s all for today’s episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast – thanks for listening. Join us again next week when we take a deep dive into one of the most hairy, complicated – and most important – topics that a doctor can master: SEO.
As always, we’ll have a link to the show notes in the description, and be sure to check out www.messenger.md for more resources on how to improve your practice marketing, grow revenue, and take your patient experience to the next level. For Messenger, I’m Crawford Ifland – see you next week!
Crawford Ifland is the Founder and Creative Director of Messenger Medical Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom medical website design, healthcare SEO, practice promotional videos, and more. Messenger helps the nation’s leading physicians and medical device companies grow their businesses through websites, promotional videos, and smart marketing strategies.