If you type “blog” into a Microsoft Word 2004 document, the system automatically underscores the word with one of those grimace-inducing red squiggles. And while 2004 was a long time ago by technological standards—yes, I readily admit it’s high time I updated my word processing software—I know I’m not the only one who feels like the era of Livestrong bracelets and flip phones was not so long ago. But alas, times have changed: These days, everybody’s rocking FitBits and iPhones, and “blog” has crossed into the mainstream American vernacular. In fact, the blogging revolution has transcended the trailblazing crew of writers who pioneered the trend of online publishing; today’s blogoshpere isn’t just a forum for personal expression—it’s a crucial element of any digital marketing strategy.

To see what I mean, take a few minutes to browse the websites of your favorite companies. Chances are, those businesses maintain company blogs. And in doing so, they’re not only staying in touch with frequent web visitors and brand loyalists (like you); they’re also expanding their reach to a previously untapped audience. Here’s how:  

3 Ways Fresh Blog Content Increases Your Clinic’s Online Visibility

1. It creates the opportunity for you to become a thought leader.

Blogs are great for sharing news and insights on the latest industry trends and developments. Whether you bring a unique perspective to a current conversation or craft a thought-provoking post to open up a new discussion, you’re putting your name out there in a way people will remember. Plus, timely posts are ripe for social sharing and commenting.

2. It increases your search engine rankings.

Ever wonder how Google decides which sites appear at the top of the results page for a particular search term? One of the most important factors in your site’s ranking is its size—and the more new content you have, the bigger your site appears to the Google powers that be. And while you can only add so many static pages (like your about and contact pages) to your website before things start to look pretty cluttered, there’s no limit to how many blog posts you can publish.

3. It gives search engine users more places to land.

What are your potential new patients searching for online? If you’re like most PTs, that’s a tough question to answer. After all, you offer a diverse selection of services for a wide variety of patient needs. Relying on your site’s main pages to capture all of that traffic likely would be a losing endeavor, but blog posts allow you to dedicate substantial portions of copy to very specific topics—thus increasing the chances that someone searching for information on those particular topics will end up on your site. And when it comes to generating new business, getting customers to land on your website is half the battle.

Okay, now that you understand the “why” part of blogging, let’s talk about the “how.”

Embarking on Your Business Blogging Adventure in 5 Steps

1. Create your blog.

If your website doesn’t have a blog yet, you’ll need to add one. Two of the most common—and arguably most user-friendly—blogging platforms are Blogger and WordPress, so if you’re creating a blog from scratch, I’d recommend using one of these programs. From there, the process for bringing your blog into existence (blog-birthing?) will vary depending on which program you use to maintain your business’s main site. For example, if you already have a WordPress website, adding a blog section is fairly simple: just follow the instructions in this article. If you are looking to integrate your Blogger or WordPress-hosted blog into your main website, check out the steps in this article and this one, respectively. Just make sure your blog is actually part of your practice’s established website and domain. That way, you get all the page-ranking and traffic benefits.

2. Brainstorm topics for blog posts.

For many rookie bloggers, the hardest part of writing a post is deciding what to write about. Maybe you’ve thought of so many possible topics that you don’t know where to start; or maybe you’re struggling to think of even a single viable idea. Either way, I recommend beginning your career as a blog writer by becoming an avid blog reader. Find a few existing blogs that cater to target audiences similar to your own. Once you see what they’re publishing, you’ll naturally start thinking of ways to put your own spin on the content of their posts. And pay special attention to the posts that appear to be the most popular (a good indicator of a post’s popularity is the number of comments and social media shares it has garnered). If you can add your own take on the topics of such posts, you’ll have an easier time getting noticed because you’ll have an instant audience of interested readers.

In addition to nosing around the established blogging community, keep your eyes and ears open to possible blog fodder during your normal daily routine. Remember, the vast majority of American healthcare consumers—your patients included—research their symptoms and conditions online before ever setting foot inside of a medical office. Then, once they walk through your doors, they’ll want to confirm the accuracy of whatever explanations their searches turned up—and that means they’ll ask questions. So, start thinking of each one of those inquiries as a potential blog post—especially if the patient’s research yielded misleading, or downright incorrect, information. There’s an endless supply of health-related literature floating around in cyberspace and—unsurprisingly—not all of it is reliable. Those seeking online health advice are becoming increasingly selective about the sources they trust—and that puts you in a position to rise above the noise and demonstrate your value as a clinical expert.

3. Write with reckless abandon.

Another blogging hang-up for first-timers: writing insecurity. Many would-be bloggers—especially those with little to no professional writing experience—find themselves paralyzed by the fear that whatever they produce won’t measure up to the public’s impossible content standards. After all, online readers have a reputation of being terribly unforgiving. But there are a couple of very good reasons why you shouldn’t let the perceived threat of scrutiny get to you:

  1. As I mentioned in the second section above, you—not the people you’re writing to—are the musculoskeletal expert, and the depth of your specialized knowledge and experience should provide you all the ammo you need to defend yourself against any feedback that brings your competence into question.
  2. The ideas, analyses, and opinions you communicate through your writing—not the words themselves—are what make your blog valuable. So, as you pen the first draft of a post, worry more about what you’re saying and less about how you’re saying it. You can always go back later and revise; or better yet, have a grammar-inclined friend or family member give your written work a once-over before you click the publish button.

If the thought of opening up a blank document still has you quaking in your sneakers, check out this blog post to get a general primer on the dos and don’ts of writing for digital marketing. One quick tip to help you get started: break up your post into smaller chunks, and create an outline of the main points you want to cover before you get going. Readers actually prefer posts with visual breaks—which you can create using emboldened sub-heads and numbered and bulleted lists—over large, continuous blocks of text.

4. Stay on the wagon.

Remember when you first got your driver’s license? You probably jumped at any opportunity to take the family car for a spin—even if it meant going to the post office to mail a package or stopping by the grocery store for milk and eggs. Eventually, though, the novelty wore off, and running errands became just as mundane as any other daily chore—meaning that, much to your mother’s dismay, you started avoiding it just as you would any other daily chore. First-time bloggers often fall victim to the same trajectory: They start out strong, posting new content several times a week. But, as the months wear on, their excitement wanes and their publishing frequency becomes increasingly sporadic until—dun, dun, dun—they’ve joined the ranks of the 65% of business bloggers who haven’t posted anything new in a year or more. How can you avoid this all-too-common fate?

  1. Establish a blog schedule and hold yourself to it—just as you would with any other business-related task.
  2. Set aside a certain amount of time each week to devote to blog content creation.
  3. Force yourself to follow through—even if it means posting shorter pieces when you’re super crunched for time.

5. Know your numbers.

One of the reasons people deprioritize their business blogging efforts is that they fail to tabulate the fruits of their labor in any quantifiable way. But if there’s no measurable—ahem, financial—benefit associated with something that requires such a substantial investment of time, then it won’t be long before that something falls completely by the wayside. Thus, it’s crucial that you identify and track a select set of metrics associated with your blogging endeavors. This could be as simple as asking new patients how they heard about you and keeping a tally of those who mention your clinic’s blog. If you really want to flex your metrics muscle, download a free web analytics tool (like Google Analytics) and investigate how your online visitors are finding your blog. Are they searching for advice on rehabbing sprained ankles? Looking for ways to tweak their golf swing mechanics to maximize their drives? Once you’ve got a good-sized bank of common search keywords, you can further capitalize on those traffic sources by posting even more blogs focused on those particular topics. Want more tips on how to track the effectiveness of your blogging strategy? Give this post a read.

Unlike Von Dutch hats and (thankfully) Ugg boots with miniskirts, company blogs are more than a fleeting fad. In fact, much like a black cocktail dress or a simple strand of pearls, they’ll likely remain fashionable for many years to come. So, if you haven’t already, now’s the time to add this staple to your clinic’s marketing closet. Does your website have a blog? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.