By Alan N. Glazier, OD, FAAO
A practice blog can boost awareness of your practice—and referrals. Use your blog to interpret eye health news for your patients, and offer guidance on common eye and vision questions.
A great way to boost awareness of your practice among currentand potential patients is to make your practice blog the place they go to get interesting eye health news. Here’s why blogs are an effective driver of traffic to your web site and some pointers on starting your own blog.
Ms. Jones, who lives five miles from your office, has a daughter with a red swollen eye. To learn more about the condition, she Googles”red swollen eye.” If you have done your part, your office comes up at the top of her search. One key to making that happen is to create and constantly update a blog about eyecare.
Blogs are important for practices for branding and search engine optimization. People are searching for the products and services that practices offer within a particular geographic vicinity, and the practices that are most prominently found online when these searches are performed are the ones who attract the most new business. Most people searching for information on health care use blogs, and most search engines prefer to elevate blog content when specific searches occur such as the person who searches Google for “red swollen eye.” Blogs enable practices to remain relevant in terms of appearing cutting edge. When a practice takes the time to educate the public about issues related to eyes and vision, they appear to care, and when businesses offer valuable information for free, people take notice. Blogs also enable practices to establish a reputation as thought leaders on particular topics that people in your area search for when seeking the products and services you offer.
Make Your Practice More Visible
When people have a question about eye health such as when they wake up with a pink, inflamed eye, suddenly notice they can’t read fine print or are concerned that they are experiencing the first signs of a cataract, the first place many turn is Google. By offering a blog that is part of your practice web site in which you either address common eye health and vision questions yourself or summarize and link the guidance of others, you place your web site in the search listings.
My blog helps people find my practice, and practice website, more easily when people search Google, and makes people aware that there is an expert in their region that they have access to. This helps them find my online booking options and phone number; it increases my “find-ability.”
Decide Focus of Blog
You have many options when creating a blog, so don’t worry if writing and journaling aren’t your strong suits. I chose to offer a synthesis of relevant news to patients because when I started the blog, search engines were keyword based, meaning when someone in my region searched for information on a particular eyecare topic, the search engine gave credence to the content that had the most relevant keywords in it. If someone searched for information on dry eyes, I had many blog posts that included most of the relevant keywords searched for when people sought information on that subject. As the focus of my efforts was driving new business by attempting to get to the top of search, it made sense to focus on eyecare issues and not make the blog too practice-personal.
How Will You Maximize Impact?
Deciding the content of your blog and then following through with regular posts to the site–whether that is daily, weekly or monthly–is the first step. Then the job of refining optimization of your blog begins. For example, in the case of my blog of synthesized and linked news stories, it made sense for me to use InfoLinks, a service that pays me every time a person clicks on a news item in my blog to visit the site the news item originally appeared in.
Once you launch your initial blog, you also may find by patient questions or web analytics that a specialized “spin-off” blog is in order. For instance, concurrent with my main blog, I launched a blog targeting dry eye patients. If you notice a particular topic area receiving more attention than all others on your blog, you may want to do the same.
Decide Who’s Going to Do the Work
In the beginning, I periodically posted the content of others on the site; as time went on, I started only posting new content I created. Creating content was easy; coming up with new ideas after writing 600+ blog posts became challenging, so I tapped my staff to help me come up with ideas based on their daily interactions with patients and customers at our practice.
Don’t Guess if the Blog Works; Use Analytics to Measure
Google Analytics is a free, easy-to-use tool that can help you measure traffic and use of any site, including your blog. I use it myself to track my practice web site and all of my social media sites or pages, including my blog. My web site, founded in 1995, was getting about 4,000 unique visitors a month as of 2011. My blog, after year one (2010-2011), was getting 10,000 unique visitors a month. This demonstrates the power of the blog over the web site and how people are likely to find your blog before they find your practice web site homepage.
Promote Your Blog
The best way to get the word out about your blog is to post a link to the blog on your other social media outlets such as on Facebook or Twitter. One idea on Facebook is to excerpt an intriguing piece of information from a recent post along with a link and photo if possible as a status update. Twitter has a 140 character limit, so excerpting the blog will be more difficult, but you may want to try to offer brief information such as a little-known eye health fact along with a link (which you can shorten via the online tool bit.ly). Many others are competing for attention, so posting more than simply the title of the blog and a link can boost traffic to your blog. It sounds obvious, but in case it isn’t, remember to find a spot on your practice homepage where visitors can click to read your blog. For instance, on my practice homepage, we feature a “Read Our Blog” button directly under the left-margin navigation bar. It’s hard to miss that way.
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Alan N. Glazier, OD, FAAO, is the owner of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care in Rockville, Md. He also is author of “Searchial Marketing: How Social Media Drives Search Optimization in Web 3.0.” To contact him: AGlazier@youreyesite.com. Connect with Dr. Glazier on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alan.glazier.