In the previous installment of The Wired Practice, I talked about why doctors might consider blogging. In this installment, let’s look at how to set up a blog and how to pick good blog topics.
Assuming you already have a blog on the internet or a website that’s blog friendly, let’s explore choosing topics. The most common mistakes I see doctors make when blog writing are getting too clinical and scientific, going off topic and providing insufficient explanation.
It’s easier to avoid these pitfalls if you pick topics aimed at simplifying medicine for the layperson. Length is key here. We’ve found that meaningful, patient-centric blogs can each run anywhere from 300 to 2,000 words. I generally recommend shooting for the middle ground of 500 to 1,000 words per blog. That’s usually enough to cover a subject thoroughly without boring readers or veering off subject.
Blog writing topics that sort through medical news
I find that the best topics often come from common patient questions. For example, for primary care physicians such questions might include, can vitamin C and Echinacea do anything to prevent or shorten the common cold? Is it true what I’ve been hearing that red wine might be good for my heart? What is my risk of lung cancer if I don’t smoke? How often should I get a mammogram or a PSA test?
Another reliable source of blog topics is health stories in the news. Mammograms, the PSA test, the Zika virus, promising developments in Alzheimer’s research, whether eating butter is good or bad for you – these are all subjects of recurring – and sometimes conflicting – news coverage and patient interest. No matter whether you’re a primary care provider or a specialist, helping patients sort through today’s superabundance of health news and information can not be only a public service, but it can also bring new patients and engender loyalty and trust in existing patients.
Setting up a doctor blog
Now, for those who don’t already have a blog or blog friendly website, let’s talk about setting one up. This is easier than it may sound. There are quite a few free or low-cost blogging software programs available online. If you do a Google search using the phrase “How to set up a blog,” you’ll find lots of advice on blogging platforms, as the software is called. Personally, I’m a big fan of WordPress, a free platform designed a decade ago for blogging but one that has since evolved into one of the world’s most popular software choices for websites as well.
However, one downside of WordPress and other free blogging platforms such as Tumblr, Blogger and Jekyll, is that you usually don’t get to pick an individual internet address – or the URL, as it’s called. For that, you’ll have to arrange for blog hosting on your own rather than sharing it with thousands of other bloggers. Fortunately, it just takes a little time to learn how to choose and register your own URL, find a hosting service, and install your blog onto a web server over the internet. The hosting cost is typically low, a mere five or six bucks a month.
If you want to skip all this, you can pay anywhere from 5-25 dollars a month for an out-of-the-box blog or website from a service such as Square Space or Wix. These do-it-yourself services offer a large choice of ready-to-go design templates and very easy-to-use software that’s much like word processing applications. And they take care of the hosting for you. Bottom line, spend a little time researching blog platforms on the internet and you’ll learn the options quickly and easily.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot more to explore on the subject of blogging. Look for more soon on The Wired Practice.