Blog, blog, bl, blah, blah?
Blogs are everywhere these days. In fact, you’re reading one right now. We’ve talked a lot about having a great website for your practice and that has to be a top priority. If you already have a great website, one question that often comes up is – should it include a blog. It’s not necessarily an easy question to answer. This article aims to help you answer the question.
What is a blog?
This may seem silly but it is important to define what a blog is.
The key thing theme here is that a blog is expected to be regularly updated. Blogs need to fresh and this is a key consideration that is discussed below.
Why should I consider blogging in the first place?
Marketing and attracting patients
It’s really important you ask yourself “why do you want to blog”? If you immediately said “because marketing” to this question, it’s a good start but some serious refinement is a requirement. If you don’t know why you’re going to blog then your blog will be aimless. Here are some reasons why from a marketing perspective:
It could certainly be all of the above. Like any marketing, the goal is to drive more business. To attract attention and interest, you will need to blog about topics people are interested in. This certainly can include updates about your new practice – new staff, new equipment, new services, etc but it also will need to include other topics that can help your potential readers learn about something new, providing something of real value.
Another reason to consider blogging is patient education. This can help patients that are not sure if they need Physical Therapy or what PT is and how it works – serving a dual purpose of both marketing but also a benefit for readers who are looking to learn. It can give patients a sense of comfort that they are in the right place and looking to get the right care. By extension, there are also opportunities to educate potential patients and other visitors on ailments and issues that physical therapy can help with. This can be particularly powerful if you treat in a state with direct access.
This is a really positive way to promote your practice and PT at the same time.
What about Google? I heard that search engines like blogs.
It’s true to some degree that search engines like Google like blog but there’s a bit more to it than that. Google likes blogs that people actually read. In the old days, it was easy to just throw up blog posts but these days search engines have gotten substantially smarter over the years. Your blog has to be good!
Should my PT practice website have blog?
Let’s get right to it. First let’s talk about when your website should NOT have a blog. It may seem odd to do it this way but going through these criteria, it may not even make sense to have a blog in the first place.
Do any of these apply to you or your practice? If so, blogging may not be for you in the first place. It’s perfectly OK if blogging isn’t for you. Marketing dollars and marketing resources are never infinite so you shouldn’t spend your time on it if it isn’t going to work for your practice. The internet is full of blogs that just didn’t make it, with a few posts and then nothing. You don’t want to end up there.
One last thing to mention, blogging isn’t free. Many see the allure of blogging because it seems free. No way! Producing stuff that people actually want to read takes time (e.g. money)! You’ve got to be ready to invest time. Are you planning to blog as Owner of your PT practice? Do you have any staff who could write? Is it worth taking away potential treatment time or your off time to write?
If you don’t have any of these red flags these things then maybe blogging is for your private practice physical therapy business!
Is starting a blog sounding good? Next, think about who you will be talking to
Now that you know why you want to blog on your PT practice website, you can refine who you are speaking to. Like any kind of writing, knowing your audience is key. If your goal is to speak to patients then using medical jargon probably isn’t going to serve your purpose.
Your best bet is to keep your topics understandable and the way you explain what you’re talking about understandable. If readers don’t understand what you’re talking about, they definitely aren’t going to stay engaged. This doesn’t mean you can’t discuss technical subjects. In fact, some of the most successful blogs on the web take complex topics and make them easy-to-understand in a digestible format.
Next, you’ve got to pick topics that speak to your audience. A great way to think of things to write about is to think about the questions that patients or referrers ask you. Don’t get stuck in one specific place, spread your wings and think about a wide range of topics, just make sure that each has applicability to your audience.
It’s important that you’re writing about things people you’re looking for care about. You want to keep people coming back for more. One great example is if you have a specialty such as dealing with runners. A blog about running and staying healthy specifically running could be really well-received by your patients.
Pitfalls to watch out for
Watch out for HIPAA and patient consent
You may be tempted at times to share a patient story and to discuss a specific case. Be very careful about doing this. It’s key that you mind HIPAA at all times. If you are going to talk about a specific patient who had a great outcome but you need to really be sure that you have proper, documented consent that is defensible. Anonymizing the person may help but you still want to be triply cautious. You should seriously consult with an attorney to ensure you are covered.
Sharing photos. Yup, more HIPAA concerns
A picture can be worth a 1000 words, that’s for sure. They add to what you are writing and add intrigue for your website visitors but just remember to be careful for HIPAA again. Sharing a picture of a patient without consent can be real trouble.
Sharing healthcare information
There’s nothing that says you can’t share information about conditions, treatments, etc but just remember to be mindful of your licensure and ensuring that you’re not overextending with the information that you provide. If you want to write about a specific condition or treatment, just be cognizant of this. You might consider putting in a comment that the article is general information and not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Speaking of that, this paragraph is general guidance – we are not attorneys and you should check in with yours for guidance.
I'm still not sure if I should blog. Give me the lowdown.
OK, here’s the cold hard reality…blogging probably doesn’t make sense for most practices. Referrers are unlikely to visit your blog on a regular basis, if ever. Patients are more than likely looking for point-in-time information at the time of their injury or issue not looking to check in on a PT practice blog once a month or a few times a month. Generic content like suggesting that people hydrate more in the summer is highly unlikely to get you more eyeballs or die-hard fans.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have content on your site, it’s just that a blog may not be the right form. See the next section for a helpful suggestion on a way you can beef up your site without necessarily bloggin.
If blogging isn't for your practice, there is another way.
If you’re not prepared to produce fresh blog posts but still want a piece of the action, how about adding a resources section to your website? This could have articles you write but are intended to be more timeless. Think of things like “What to expect during your PT treatment” or “How to dress for a PT session”. Clearly these may need some updates from time to time but they have a solid shelf-life and not something you’ll need to worry about on a regular basis. These fit in well with patient education efforts and establishing you as the authority for PT in your area.
These kinds of articles will be helpful to your patients and potential referrers can also take comfort in knowing that you provide a top-notch services and value communication.
The bottom line
Blogging can be a great way to talk your practice up, educate patients, and to help patients understand what you offer at your practice but it’s not without its considerations. With some planning and forethought, you can make the most of your efforts or put your time elsewhere where it may be more fruitful.