Website Blogging: An Affordable and Effective Way to Boost Google Rankings and Patient Traffic

pictureWhen we mention the word “blog” to most medical practices, we see practice managers and physicians alike begin to cringe. Don’t worry, blogging doesn’t mean taking an hour out of your day to share life lessons. Instead, we’re referring to writing short patient education articles and announcements on practice news and events. Sounds reasonable right? Below is a guide to blogging and why it’s so important.

Do I really need to blog?

Yes, if you want to attract more new patients online; 80% of internet users search online for health information and 44% of those are looking for treatment and/or a provider. If your practice doesn’t have a great website that is easily found online then you are missing out on patients. Blogs are a very effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactic since they add relevant content to your site and keep it fresh with new information.

How many words do the blog articles have to be?

Google does not give a black and white answer to this one, however most SEO agencies will tell you to shoot for around 400-600 words (there’s been more recent arguments for longer articles if the topic warrants it). Google has made a shift over the last couple years away from stand-alone keywords and towards quality content. That means, it’s more important that you write a quality article about something relevant to the topic of your website rather than write a poor, short article stuffed with keywords.

How often should we be blog?

In a perfect world, we would all blog a couple times a week but that’s just not feasible for most small businesses, especially medical practices. Most practices realistically aim for one blog a week or one blog a month at minimum. Any less frequent than one blog a month and your efforts will be futile.

What should I write about?

You want to try and strike a balance between relevant practice news/information and good quality educational content (one serves Google’s purposes and the other serves patients’ needs). Sure, every once in a while you’ll need to just write a short announcement about how your hours have changed or an event you’re hosting but it’s good to mix that in with longer, keyword-rich articles. If you have the luxury of an SEO agency who can perform keyword research for you then you know exactly what keywords to write about. Let’s say one of those keywords is “robotic surgery”. Knowing that is a popular search term, it would behoove you to write various blog articles about robotic surgery to help Google understand that your website is a relevant source of information for this topic.

How do I optimize the blog for SEO purposes?

First of all, you want to make sure that your blog is a part of your practice’s website and on the same domain. If your practice’s website is www.mypractice.com but your blog is located somewhere else (such as www.myblog.com) then Google will recognize these as two separate domain names and you will not get the SEO benefit you are looking for. You’ve probably noticed that many practice websites have a “News & Education” section on their homepage somewhere (here’s an example: www.cornerstonepediatrics.org – see the “What’s New” section in the middle of the homepage). This is how most practices present their blog on their website (rather than calling it “blog”).

Hopefully your website is built on some sort of Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress; WordPress is one of the best if not the best CMS for SEO purposes. This allows you to easily login to your website and add content/blogs as you please. If not then you’ll need to have your IT person or web host (whoever manages your website) add these blog articles for you. As we discussed in the previous question, ideally you’ll want to focus your educational blogs on specific keywords for SEO purposes. Attempt to use the keyword in the title of your blog as well as at least 3-4 times in the body of the article. You certainly don’t want to keyword stuff but you do want to help Google understand what the blog is about.

If you do have WordPress (by the way, your current site can be converted to WordPress if not), then there’s a free plugin you can download called WordPress SEO by Yoast. The plugin forces you to select a focus keyword for your blog article and then essentially tells you exactly where to use the keyword throughout the article to optimize it for SEO. It’s basically a super easy, DIY way to optimize your own blogs.

Can I recycle content from other websites or medical societies?

No. Google’s goal is to fill the internet with unique, quality content. Therefore, recycling old content that already exists on the web will not get you the credibility you need to rank well in Google.

How do I get the most exposure for my blog?

If you participate in social media then the first step is to share a link to your blog on your social media channels. This will not only increase exposure for your blog but the link back to your website is good for SEO. You can also include social media share buttons on the blog itself so patients can easily share the blog on their social channels if they like.

If you don’t participate in social media, then other ideas include adding a link to your blogs in your practice e-newsletter or asking other websites to share the blog (medical societies, etc.)

What if I don’t have time to write blogs?

One idea to share the demands of blog writing is to ask each provider in your group to write a blog; many times providers have articles on hand they’ve already written anyway that just needed to be edited for patient purposes. If you have several providers in your group then that significantly cuts down on writing responsibilities.

If your practice has no desire to write blogs I would consider hiring a freelance medical writer (one that has experience in SEO if possible so they can optimize the blogs for you). There are plenty of affordable freelance writers out there that charge anywhere from $50-$200 a blog depending on how long the article is. They will usually give you a quantity discount as well if you commit to ongoing articles.

Contact Us to learn more if you would like WhiteCoat Designs to manage and write your medical practice’s blog for you.

Nick Nydegger is the President of WhiteCoat Designs – a medical marketing agency whose mission is to help physicians stand out in today’s competitive healthcare market. Services include medical website design, internet marketing, online reputation management, social media, branding and physician liaison programs (increase referrals). Learn more at www.whitecoatmedicalmarketing.com.

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