Are you wondering what it takes to start a health blog?
A health blog can be written by a non-profit, a government agency or a healthcare business. But it can also be an individual’s effort – one blogger’s thoughts, experiences and advice. It is not uncommon to see health enthusiasts take to blogging as a platform to share their knowledge in medical, preventive, experiential, political or other health-related topics.
Some of the more interesting healthcare topics I’ve seen online include conventional vaccines, affordable health insurance, palliative medicine, and EHR (electronic health records).
Starting a health blog doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 basic steps to follow.
#1. Define business goals
Writing a health blog is hard work and takes a lot of time. So before you get started ask yourself the all-important question, “Why am I/are we doing this?”. Are your business goals aligned to your blog? If so, how?
For many healthcare marketers the need to start a blog is tied to increasing website traffic, raising brand visibility and generating high quality leads for their sales and marketing staff to pursue.
#2. Identify blog’s purpose
Why do you want to blog? This is not the same as business goals. Healthcare content exists to educate patients, to inspire through story and narrative, to share medical research and so on. Try not to use your blog to talk about your organization, products or services.
A good blog is not self-promotional but rather seeks to solve readers’ problems by providing helpful content e.g. explaining tough concepts such as affordable health insurance.
#3. Clarify core Message
What is the key message you want people to take away from your blog? What will they learn from it? This has to do with a specific niche that you’re focused on. Perhaps your blog will focus on palliative medicine, hospice care or conventional vaccines.
Whichever the case it is a good idea to develop “cornerstone content”. Copyblogger defines cornerstone content as a series of posts that articulate your core message and provides readers with an overview of what they can expect from you.
#4. Identify your reader
Who are you writing a blog for? Your ideal reader should be similar to your ideal customer or patient. For complex healthcare systems you should go a step further and develop patient personas that include as much detail about your ideal reader as possible.
It is extremely important to understand your reader’s problems, needs, and frustrations so that you can provide them with content that is highly relevant and useful.
#5. Decide on posting frequency
Consistency is the heart of blogging. Ask yourself how much time you’re willing to dedicate each week to creating valuable content on your blog. It is perfectly OK to post content a few times a week.
If you can’t commit to writing at least two articles a week, then you’re doing your readers a great disservice. Remember that Google search engines love fresh content and the most successful health blogs are those that are updated two or three times a week.
#6. Identify Author(s)
Will you have a team of writers to support you or will you be writing the blog by yourself? Remember there are many ways to produce content including content curation, hiring a writer, and even inviting health enthusiasts to guest blog for you.
Whether you’re blogging alone or with a team, make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them so that the blog runs without a hitch.
#7. Know the rules
Healthcare writers must have a clear understanding of HIPAA (a federal law that says a patient has control of his or her own protected health information and no one else can release that information without the patient’s consent).
At the same time HIPAA anxiety shouldn’t stop you from creating valuable blog content that informs and educates your readers. Anyone who blogs for you should be trained in the policies and procedures that govern your organization. And whatever you do, don’t practice medicine online.
#8. Create editorial calendar
Once you’ve committed to blogging regularly you will need to create an editorial calendar to plan content for your health blog. An editorial calendar is basically a tool that keeps you and your team accountable so that you can create relevant content on a consistent basis.
It can be a simple excel spreadsheet with several columns for your blog topic, author, due date, keywords, call-to-action and so on. Here’s an example.
#9. Write and publish content
Some writers can whip up an article in less than an hour. But a typical health blog takes much longer to write and publish. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a blog template to make the process of writing and publishing easier and faster.
A blog template will have several components such as subject, theme, rationale, resources, images, links and so on. Michael Hyatt suggests using Evernote as a blogging tool.
#10. Market your blog
Blogging does not end when you hit the publish button. Now you have to spread it around and share it with as many people as possible.
Post a link of your article on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Pin the blog image on Pinterest (the image will link back to your blog) and share it on Facebook as well. If you have an email list, be sure to send it to your email subscribers as well.
Over to you: What did I miss? Please share what else you would add to this list to prep your health blog for success?