On today’s Reach, Dan Parscale speaks with Patti White, a Content Specialist at Audigy and a recurring guest on the show about blogging. Patti and Dan explore blogging and go into detail on best practices that will help you maximize the benefits of having a blog for your hearing care practice. Near the end, we answer some of the most common questions sent in by listeners and members.
DAN: Welcome to Reach, a podcast for audiologists, ENTs, and other hearing care professionals who want to reach more patients and maximize their marketing potential. My name is Dan. And each week, I’ll bring you interviews from industry experts who are specialized in marketing to the hearing care industry. Reach is a production of the Attainable Podcast Network. Visit attainable.fm for more information or to access the transcript of each show.
Today on Reach, we’re going to be talking about blogs. If you’ve ever had any questions about whether you should blog, or how to write a blog that’s both useful and sharable, and it won’t drain all of your time away from your business, today’s episode is for you. Joining us today is Patti White, our content specialist at Audigy. Good morning, Patti.
PATTI WHITE: Good morning, Dan.
DAN: How are you doing?
PATTI WHITE: All right. How are you?
DAN: I am great. It’s the holiday season. And I’m stressed. But I’m– everything’s going well.
PATTI WHITE: Well, aren’t we all?
DAN: Oh, Yeah. Well, we’re going to have a fun conversation today, though. And you are the perfect person to talk to about blogging, because you are our content specialist here at Audigy Group. The intention of this is to do two things. We want to be able to inspire people to blog on their own, because we see it as a real opportunity for our members. And then also to give a groundwork for the right way to do this. Because there are best practices, and there are guidelines that I think that every blogger should follow if they want to be successful with their blogging for their business. But they’re easy to miss, especially if you don’t know what to look for.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely.
DAN: My main point, I think– if I were to sum this up in two sentences– is that a business blog is not like a personal blog or a live journal. And we see that sometimes where people really want to share their emotional story or their personal perspective, but not necessarily their professional perspective.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with tying in a story. But you do want to be as professional as possible. This is your business we’re talking about. And there’s a lot of things that go into becoming that expert– that go-to resource of information that you don’t want to spoil by sounding unprofessional, or by working in personal details that may or may not be relevant to what you’re talking about.
DAN: Right. If people are reading your blog because you’re the expert, they want to read your expert opinion and not necessarily the the personal details that are associated [INAUDIBLE]
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. And you have to be cautious, too. Because there’s another side to this, especially since we’re talking about health care. And we’re talking about professionals that work with real people. I mean HIPAA is a real concern. You have to be cautious about what kind of information you’re putting in a blog, if you’re giving a real life example from a patient. So that’s definitely something to consider when you’re writing a blog for your website.
DAN: Right. And obviously because this is business related, the bottom line is going to be– or the question we’re asked anyway, is how is this blog actually going to help generate revenue.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely.
DAN: So I have a couple of ideas about how that can work. Why do you think that it is revenue generating, or can lead to that?
PATTI WHITE: Well, it does provide a practice with the opportunity to become that go-to resource in their community. These type of blogs, especially when you’re talking about a local private practice, can really portray not just how much they care about what they do but how ingrained they are with their community.
So putting this content together, having it available on your website, and then sharing it via social media or whatever other channel you may choose, can be pretty powerful for a practice to get out there and share their story– and share more information about what they do, why they do it– and even advice on any number of prospects that’s not necessarily about just health care, or just hearing or– yeah, just hearing. It can be about what’s going on in your community and how that ties back into your business, and what you’re doing to participate and to share. And that association can bring people into your door.
DAN: Yeah. You talked about sharing and social there. And I think that’s one of the best ways to– or at least the most common ways to use a blog is to develop something that is– I don’t know– maybe a mini press release– like a little tiny one that you feel like people would be excited to share with their community if they saw it.
Another aspect of this, too, is we’ve talked a lot about being an expert. And you were hinting at this just now, too. If you’re writing a blog about something that people are actively searching for on a search engine, there’s SEO benefits to this as well. So you might be able to target a new kind of client or patient if you write a blog about– well, who knows– a service that you’ve got, or an event that you were with, or something like that. So there’s really multiple different ways that you can use these to draw traffic to your business.
PATTI WHITE: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. I mean taking that step to put yourself in your patient shoes and ask yourself the question what would they want to know. Especially since we just talked about sharing this on social media and that sort of thing. Primarily what you’re going to see on your social platform– any social channel that you’re participating in– is that the people who like your page or are fans of you are either current patients or their friends and family. And this is a good opportunity for you to provide something that they would be interested in. And that’s the audience you’re speaking to.
DAN: So let’s talk about how we speak to these people. I think that one of the frustrating parts about writing a blog is that you want it to be expert level. Which in my mind usually means there’s some amount of depth to it, or it’s concise. Or not concise. What’s the word? Completed, I guess, is the better word. But people don’t always want to read every word. They want to skim things, too. So you have to make sure that it’s easy to digest as well as– you want to take into mind how long people are on your pages in general anyway.
PATTI WHITE: Yeah. And there’s two real levels to this in my opinion. So the first is how you’re actually writing. So we find a lot with our audiologists, and with perfect reason, that they’re using words to describe things that their patients may not necessarily connect with. Where a diagnostic hearing evaluation makes complete sense to an audiologist or to anyone working with the practice, a patient is going to more likely refer to that as a hearing test and not see that there might be a difference between the two.
So speaking and using language that speaks directly to them– I remember going through my public relations courses at Auburn. And they always told us that when you’re writing your material that you need to be writing at more of an eighth grade level. And that’s how newspapers write. Because you have to consider that the audience may or may not be familiar with the terminology you’re using. And you have to make sure you’re explaining that appropriately. So using that language that, like you said, is easily digestible and can be read easily is incredibly important.
But the next level of that is exactly what you said– is how you format that content so that people can digest it– so not just what you write but how it’s presented. So shorter paragraphs– using lists or bullet points to break out topics and to highlight the main level. So what you want to see with a blog is not just the headline. But you want to see a sub headline, and then maybe even subtopics beneath that where I’m going to talk about x point now, and then describe it, discuss it a little bit, and then move on to the next one. So people can easily see and easily skim through your blog to get the main ideas, and then maybe dive deeper to the topic that they’re particularly interested in.
DAN: Yeah. Every time I think about that formatting, I’m reminded of back in grade school or high school when you had those outlines for your report that you would do so that you knew how to word it out. And that is the format. It’s more in-depth than that, obviously. But it looks all like that so it can pass what we call “the five second test.” Can you look at this and know immediately that this is what it’s about, so that you don’t have to read all of it, but you’re driven to read it completely?
PATTI WHITE: And that’s honestly a really good way to start writing a blog as well. So if you have an idea for a topic, break it out into little pieces like that. And then fill in the gaps afterward. So start with what you want to talk about, or maybe the couple of types of topics you want to discuss, or points you want to make within your post, and write beneath that afterward. It might help organize it so it makes it much easier to create.
DAN: And when you put this onto your website in HTML, there’s code for these exact things, too. You’ve got the title, which is obvious. And then you’ve got your headers. And then like you mentioned, you’ve got your bullet point lists, or your numbered lists, or whatever. So if you write it out the way that you’re familiar to from that book report style in grade school, it transfers really naturally to a website anyway. Whether or not you know how to code it, someone can do it for you.
PATTI WHITE: Oh, absolutely. And there’s a lot of other options that you just mentioned to make other things stand out. You can bold certain items. You can underline. You can italicize. You can put into quotes and block quote things to make them stand out more. So there’s a lot of things that can be done once it’s actually put onto your website to make it that much more digestible.
DAN: Pictures are really good for this, too.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. Pictures, video, any other multimedia that you could potentially use or work in naturally, it makes sense to include. You want to be careful that the imagery you’re using either belongs to you or was purchased. But anything like that is absolutely wonderful. And it adds that much more interest to your blog.
DAN: So let’s talk a little bit about the specific components that we’re talking about. I’ll put you on the spot. What do you think it takes to write a good headline?
PATTI WHITE: It goes back to what we discussed before. And that’s really putting yourself in the patient’s shoes. What is it that they’re going to be looking for? What question have they asked that they’re trying to find a solution to? So for example, if you’re talking about how hearing and heart health are connected– that co-morbidity– and you want to write something about that. Well, what things might people be searching for that would bring them to this particular topic? I think a good example could potentially be different foods they could eat, or different recipes they could have that help with their hearing health as well as their heart health– discussing more about why it’s important to have good heart health.
There’s a lot of different ways you can format that question and come to it. But you want to dive deeper into your topic. So it’s not enough to just write a blog about hearing and heart health, because that’s a very broad topic. With blog posts, you really want to get specific. And if you find that you have more to talk about, that there’s a lot of things that could be discussed under this topic, maybe consider doing a series of blog posts. But the idea, especially when you’re talking about your headline, is to get to the main point. What might people be searching for in order to get to this content? And that’s really where you’re going to find the best solution– so asking the question in the headline, or providing them with some sort of direct answer.
DAN: So some of the ways that we, internally here at Audigy, determine what people are actually searching for is there’s tools from analytics that can help us to track some of these search queries that people use– lots of different tools that run the gamut of that kind of approach. Another thing, too, that I think often gets overlooked– you were just talking about food. And that’s a tactic that we use in some of our newsletters that we know has been successful and popular. So we can translate that non-digital data into an understanding about what might work in digital also. Since that’s a perfect shareable thing. People love to share recipes [INAUDIBLE]
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. It’s great content that you can utilize, and especially since people really search for things like that. And it, again– great shareable content for social media. People share recipes and such like that all the time.
DAN: What about calls to action? What’s a good way to do that? Where does it fall in the blog post? Do you need it in every blog post?
PATTI WHITE: I would argue that you don’t need it in every blog post. I think you want a call to action when it naturally fits. If you’re talking about something like hearing and heart health and how those things can be related, it may work naturally to say, if you’re curious about your hearing health, please give us a call, or contact us via our website, or what have you.
Or it could be a soft call to action. Maybe there’s more content on your website that relates to the blog post topic itself. And you can link out to that so that the patient can learn more. Or the prospective patient can learn more about what it is that you provide, the services that you offer. So again, if you’re writing a post that ties directly into some kind of service that you offer, you can always link through to that. And then maybe they take the action at that point. But there doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct “contact us today,” or “submit a form,” “request an appointment” type thing on every single blog. Because it may not be warranted.
It may be that the blog post you’re writing is about something you’re doing in the community. So you’re really involved with a certain charity and you’re working– it’s the holiday season like we said. And you’re working with them. And you want to show to people that you’re really committed to their well-being, and their health, and the community. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a call of action at that point. But you could link out to that charitable organization’s website, or their social media pages, or what have you.
DAN: So let me clarify something you said then. Do you think that you don’t necessarily need to have a call to action or a next step on every blog post? I kind of think that if it makes sense, if the context of the blog post is something that relates to a service or something like that, then it makes sense to. Otherwise you want– I think you called it– maybe it’s like a soft lead into other content for maybe link building purposes.
PATTI WHITE: Yeah. And to be fair, I think that’s definitely a valid point. And what you want to have is not necessarily– and what I meant is not necessarily a direct call to action. You don’t have to have something actionable at the end of a blog post or an article like that. Just because the patient may not be ready to take action. They may just be searching for an answer. And that’s all they need to know at this point.
But it could be something soft– a soft call to action like linking through to another page on your website. Or maybe it’s a simple request to share. Or something as simple without even necessarily having to write it in your blog– but having a share function built into your website’s blog so that they can easily share that material otherwise. And that’s kind of the purpose of blog content to begin with is creating something that is worth being shared. Because if it’s not worth being shared, it’s probably not worth being read either. So you really have to consider how much your patients want to take in this type of information.
So again, just to reiterate what you’re saying, I don’t necessarily think you have to have a direct call to action on every blog post that you do. Based on the content, it may warrant a direct call to action, a direct request for an appointment, or something similar. But it could be that you’re working on something in the community or what have you, and you just want that content to be shared. And you want people to know that this is something you’re doing. And that could be just as effective.
DAN: So this opens up the next, maybe obvious, can of worms about what in the world do you actually write about. Because now we’ve got all these concepts for opportunities where you use a call to action, or you don’t, or you use a picture, or all these things. So maybe what are some of the things that people should write about? Barring all the data that we could use to find out how to write it, what are the general topics?
PATTI WHITE: Before I get into all the general topics, I do want to reiterate– because I think this is incredibly important that whatever topic you end up choosing, you want to be incredibly specific. You don’t want to go into extra detail. And you don’t want to start talking about oranges when you’re talking about apples, right? Unless you’re making a comparison or something like that. But make sure your blog topic is specific.
Because typically when people are going to blogs from organic search, they’re asking a question, or they’re looking for something that’s incredibly specific. So what you want to make sure you’re doing is answering that question fully within your post. And that’s not to say the post has to be short. The topic may warrant it being a little bit longer. But you want to make sure you are staying on topic, and that you are not just discussing the topic but that you have an actual intentional point– that you do come to a conclusion at the end. You want to make sure that you’re answering the question.
DAN: So a page– to reiterate this– it should be about one specific thing.
PATTI WHITE: As much as it can be.
DAN: Right. And the way that I always try to remind people about this, too, is that if Google is looking for the best answer to a question, the best answer is going to be the answer to that question and not about a whole bunch of other things, too. That’s your apples and oranges comparison.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. And you don’t want people to have to dig through a really long article about a variety of topics until they find what they were actually looking for. That’s when, as I said before, if you find yourself going through a number of topics, maybe consider a blog post series. So you’re not just having one post, but you have several posts. And they can all link back to each other and– because the information is related, but not necessarily– it doesn’t necessarily have to be on one blog post. Spread it out a little bit.
But as far as topic ideas are concerned, I think the very first and easiest way to get ideas– and we have a member that actually brought this to our attention, and she does it actively in her practice– is when a patient comes in and they start asking questions, they ask a lot of questions. If something comes out that you hear over and over again, or maybe you just recognize as you know what– that’s a really good question. Just write it down on a sticky note. Put it on your desk. And then when you have the time to come back to it. Take that opportunity to write your blogs.
And I know this member in particular, she writes her blogs in bulk. So she’ll just get a bunch of sticky note piles. And once she has enough, she’ll write all of her blogs. And she’ll send them on over to us to put on her website. But that’s a really great way to get those topic ideas. Because that’s the goal of your blog at the end of the day is to answer your patients questions. And what better way to do that than to collect the questions directly from the patient.
DAN: What kind of questions are we talking about just for reference?
PATTI WHITE: So it could be something like, why do my hearing aids squeak, or why do they make that feedback sound. Why do my ears feel wet in the morning? I know we have a member that has that blog on her website. And it gets hits over and over and over. It’s very popular. Something that simple can be a good question. You don’t have to go into a ton of detail. But again, you want it to be specific.
DAN: Especially because people more and more are typing questions verbatim in the way that they would ask their audiologist. Or they’re speaking it into a SIri on their iPhone, or asking Alexa in the [INAUDIBLE] Well, maybe not Alexa. But one day maybe. But yeah, there’s that kind of rhetorical aspect of this that’s really pertinent.
PATTI WHITE: And I think it’s a good way to just get the pulse of what is a concern for your patients and make sure they have a better understanding. And you can always direct them to your blog as a way to find out this type of information so you can become that go-to resource for them.
Another good topic would be community outreach. Are you really involved in the local volunteer program for maybe a homeless shelter or for whatever organization it might be– something you are actively participating in. Or maybe it’s something as simple as supporting the local high school football team. We’ve had members in the past that have gone to some of those sporting events, and they’re handing out just little simple earplugs to bring awareness to their hearing health. Like, hey, you have fun, but you need to take action on this a little bit, too.
But sharing that kind of outreach and what you’re doing in the community, I think, is a great blog post. It’s wonderful content for your social media. And it really shows that you’re invested in the community’s health care. That goodwill in turn could bring patients into your door.
DAN: I think that that’s a good technique also if you want to market yourself to a location that you’re not physically present in, and you’re doing outreach elsewhere. That’s a good way to at least get some location keywords on your website that might help give you a little bit of a boost if someone is searching from those areas, but you don’t have a location in it.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. And it may not obviously increase those rankings overall across your website. But it may help them find you when otherwise they wouldn’t have. But that’s definitely a good topic. And like we’ve said before, your blog doesn’t have to just be about health care. It needs to always be professional, but it doesn’t have to be about hearing health care. It can be about– maybe someone in the practice has achieved something incredible.
Again, this can be used as your personal space to issue your own press releases. I mean you want to have them in that friendly voice. You want to establish that voice for your blog. But talking about a provider that was recently awarded some high honor– or maybe you have a new provider coming in, and you want to introduce him to your patient database. This is a great place to write something up about that person and introduce them to the patients in your practice.
DAN: People search for names of staff pretty frequently, too. Especially if you have good standing in the community or your new staff does, that’s a really great way to get some presence there, too.
So one of the things that we’re going to be experimenting with on Reach starting today is taking questions from our listeners and our members. Because we get a lot of questions from them about marketing. We’ve got a selection of them here that are related to blogging. And we’re going to try and go through them in kind of a rapid fire pace with you, PATTI.
PATTI WHITE: Sounds good.
DAN: You ready for our lightning round?
PATTI WHITE: Let’s do it.
DAN: OK. So the first one is, how do I get people to read my blog?
PATTI WHITE: How do you get people to read your blog? There’s a couple of different ways to do this. The first is to share it on social media. That’s a really great way to get it out there and get it in front of your current patients. Another is to make sure that it’s searchable– so people finding it through search results– another good way to make sure people are reading your blog. And then just talk about it in your office. Make sure that your patients are aware that you do have a blog and that they can go check it out for information.
DAN: One other thing that might work for you is if you have a blog that you’re very confident is going to be useful to people, you can use a sponsored post or boost that on Facebook.
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely.
DAN: And that will help to get you outside of your followers.
PATTI WHITE: Yeah– your existing fan base for sure.
DAN: OK. Next question. Is there a difference between a blog and an article, or a permanent page, on your site? And what is the difference?
PATTI WHITE: Blogs tend to be more timely– so in-time bound. So there’s more of a urgency to get it out there in a certain set period of time. It’s related to a topic that’s maybe going on. Articles, or pages, that live on your website should be more service based. Or the resource based part of your site should be focused on evergreen content that doesn’t change very often– consistent tips or that sort of thing.
DAN: So the difference between a page, which is we sell hearing aids and this is all you need to know about hearing aids, versus a blog, which is there’s a new hearing aid technology.
PATTI WHITE: Right. That’s a great example and a great way to put it.
DAN: Should I be concerned about allowing comments on my blog?
PATTI WHITE: If you’re not going to respond back to comments, maybe don’t allow comments. It can be a good way to further the discussion, but it’s not necessary.
DAN: There’s also a big chance of getting spam from that, which can make you look less credible. Take that into consideration. Or if you’re going to test with it, then be aware that you might want to turn them off afterwards.
PATTI WHITE: And if you do have comments enabled, I would definitely have the spam filters enabled. Most websites, and our websites included, do come with permissions. So if it’s flagged as spam, it’s not automatically published. It kind of has to be approved. That way, you keep a lot of that from appearing in the comment section when it’s not really valid.
DAN: When I’m thinking about my blog, can you tell me about how long it should be? What’s long? What’s short? What’s just enough?
PATTI WHITE: It’s less really about the length of the post and more about the content and what it’s really about. So what you want to ensure that you’re doing is that you’re answering your patient’s question. So it doesn’t matter if it’s 400 words or a thousand. As long as it’s answering your patient’s question and you’re being specific enough about the topic, it can be as long as it needs to be to provide that valuable information.
DAN: What are the characteristics of the most effective hearing care blogs?
PATTI WHITE: Do they provide valuable information to the patient? Are they answering the patients’ questions? Any good hearing care blog is going to, at the very least, do that. I think a second point for that would be– are you establishing a unique voice for your practice? Or does it sound like someone else is writing the content and a new person’s doing it over and over again? You want to create that consistent trusted voice. So that when your patients go to your blog, they’re reading something in a way they expect to read it. It’s formatted. It’s familiar. Any good blog, not just hearing care, but any good blog establishes a voice and becomes a consistent, familiar voice to their readers.
DAN: How often should I write and publish a blog?
PATTI WHITE: It depends on what it is that you’re writing about and how often you have content that you want to post. I would say at the very minimum, you want to post at least once a month something unique. You can post as often as you’d like. If you have something unique to say, and you want to write content all the time– posting every week– a couple times a week if you wanted to– absolutely go for it. But at a minimum, you should be trying to post at least once a month.
DAN: All right. We’re going to try and compact all of this great learning into our favorite part of the show, which is the top three takeaways. PATTI, you know the drill. What have you got?
PATTI WHITE: Absolutely. So if I could take away three things from this, the first would be, make sure you’re intentional in what you’re writing about. Be specific. Make sure that it’s answering your patients’ questions so that it can be shared. Being specific and making sure you have shareable content is a huge component of blogging.
The second would be, this doesn’t have to be hard. People put a lot of pressure on themselves on– I’ve got to get this blog out. What do I write about? What do I write about? Make this easier on yourself. Collect those questions from your patients. That’s a great way to start.
The third thing that I would take away from this is that formatting. It goes back to making it easier on yourself. Use that outline format as much as you can to write your blogs. You want to make sure that you have a good headline. You have sub-headlines. You have subtopics– and that you break it into a way that a patient can easily take that information and either skim to find what they’re looking for, or they can easily gather the main topic, the main point of your post. And then they can choose to dive deeper wherever they choose.
DAN: Great information on blogs and blogging from PATTI White. Thanks again. It’s really good to have you back on Reach.
PATTI WHITE: It’s a pleasure to be here, Dan. Thank you.