Are You Willing to Spend Two Hours Each Week to Gain New Patients?
Blogging is a Low-Cost Practice Builder
By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Writing a blog presents a no- to low-cost opportunity to grow your practice. Use a blog to outline the strengths of your practice and to highlight new events and practice improvements,
Blogging Provides Opportunities
A practice blog provides a multifaceted opportunity to market your practice. It keeps patients up to date on improvements, such as new lines of frames sold in your dispensary, the addition of longer hours of operation, and new ways of improving their vision. More importantly, a practice blog gives patients a window into who you are as a person and how you approach your work. Provided with these additional insights, your patients will be more aware of the services and products you have to offer them.
Search Engine Optimization: When a blog is updated, older content gets archived. As a blog grows, there is more information online about you and your practice, which improves your visibility. Search engines like Google have more information about your practice, so you show up higher in the ratings.
Demonstrating Expertise: By creating unique content, a blogger can create a persona that readers will become familiar with. Optometrists can use a blog to highlight specialty services and unique experiences they offer. When patients are choosing an optometrist, they want to know they are receiving the highest quality of care. For example, you can post a brief story from your practice on how you treated a condition related to your specialty, or an entry that provides tips for better managing an eye condition you specialize in treating.
Patient Education: In an effort to educate patients about vision conditions, we routinely give patients printed information. Often these materials are misplaced or forgotten. You can create blog posts with similar content, customized to the types of patients you see and then e-mail a specific link to your blog. Try publishing a post on why contact lens replacement schedules need to be adhered to, or list the benefits of a certain kind of lens that you dispense.
Calculate the Minimal Cost
While these benefits are real, they take significant time and effort to achieve. Blogs can be set up for free using a platform such as Wordpress (my preference), Blogger or Typepad. A more professional-looking blog can be designed for a few hundred dollars. By far the bigger cost is time. The more frequently the blog is updated--at least once a week, if possible--the more traffic and attention it will receive. If you are already writing unique content for the office, then it may be a good idea to have a blog so this material gets more attention.
Daily Practice Experiences = Blog Content
Use day-to-day encounters with patients to create content for your blog. Think about the conversations you have with patients. Is there a question that comes up regularly, such as the role heredity plays in eye disease or the options available for middle-aged presbyopes who fear having to wear lined bifocals? Or think about exciting developments at your practice, such as a new piece of equipment that will improve patient care. If patients expressed curiosity at a new pre-test you now do thanks to a new piece of equipment, write it up on your blog. Your patients, including their curiosity and needs, are your best fodder for blog material.
Monitor Your Blog
Even online marketing professionals find it difficult to evaluate the return on investment that a blog provides. All bloggers should monitor site statistics such as which posts receive the most views and comments, time spent on posts, and which links visitors click on when leaving the blog. But if these actions do not translate into an increase in patients or revenue per patient, then it may not be doing much more than making you feel good. Track these metrics closely to ensure that the time, and any money you've invested, is translating into more patients in your exam chair. If you can justify an additional two hours per week of time to achieve the above benefits, then blogging may be for you. If not, spend your time on other marketing efforts.
|Launch a Professional Blog
Blogging requires no professional publishing experience. When launching a blog, carefully plan each post and stick to a writing schedule.
* Read other optometric blogs to get ideas (see list in other box on page).
* Develop specific goals for your blog before writing, and use metrics to see if you are reaching your goals.
* Do not start until you are certain you have time and enthusiasm for frequent writing.
* Write six to eight blog posts before launching your blog. This will give you practice. If you don’t get this far, then it is a good sign you shouldn’t have a blog.
* Develop an “editorial calendar” to help you update the blog frequently, such as once every week or two.
* Write about topics you are passionate about. Your enthusiasm will come across to the reader.
* Keep posts short to keep interest. Between 300 and 500 words often is sufficient.
* Use images and video to spice it up. But make sure you have SEO-friendly text to accompany them.
* Leverage your original content with Facebook and your web site.
* End each blog with a question to encourage readers to interact.
Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla., is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. He is a member of the American Optometric Association, and is currently immediate past president of the Hillsborough Society of Optometry, as well as chair of the Children's Vision Committee of the Florida Optometric Association. To contact him: Doc@BrightEyesTampa.com.