Your Guide to Creating a Successful Dental Blog
You’re convinced that creating content and engaging with customers and potential customers through your website and in social media is a good idea. Maybe you’ve been encouraged to do it by your SEO provider, your staff, and even your mom.
In concept, you agree.
However, the devil is in the details, as they say: how exactly can you come up with content that is (cue the buzzwords) relevant, engaging, and SEO-friendly?
And how in the world can you do it on any kind of consistent basis?
Today’s post is going to provide the tools you need. First we’ll look at how to create a good dental blog post and then we’ll talk about a painless plan to do it consistently.
Click here to go directly to the TOOLKIT: Links Summary at the end of the article.
An Overview of the Process
Robert W. Bly, one of the country’s top copywriters, wrote a list that gives us a useful overview and mindset to have when writing (I’ve paraphrased some of the items for our purposes):
Think of yourself as a conduit. Your job is to pass useful information along to those who can use it – your current and future dental patients.
Pay close attention to the questions, problems, and ideas that come up when you’re doing your work or interacting with customers.
Distill the lesson into a tip you can share with your network.
State the problem or situation as an intro to your tip. Distill it down into its essence.
Give an action-oriented solution. Tips are action-oriented, so make sure you give them action steps they can use right away.
Describe the result or benefit of using these tips to provide incentive to take the action.
Put your best tip first, in case people don’t read the whole thing – because sometimes even really short tips are too much.
Share it where people will see it.
You Are a Conduit
Don’t think of posting, tweeting, and otherwise communicating as an annoying self-promotion task that results in words no one wants to read anyway. Instead, realize that you’ve gone through years of expensive training and (likely) have years more of hands-on practice, and you now have the ability to provide people with another valuable service: dental knowledge, or even wisdom in dental care.
Remind yourself of this as you sit down to write.
Pay Attention to Common Pain Points
When it’s time to come up with ideas for topics, your best options come directly out of your day-to-day practice. As you listen to questions your dental patients ask with any regularity, you gather material for your posts. Even the unusual questions or fears you hear give you something to discuss in a post (just be sure to generalize in a HIPAA-compliant manner, as this article says).
Ask your staff for their insights into patients’ concerns. Patients often ask office personnel a different set of questions than those you hear. In addition, asking staff members to contribute dental blog post ideas helps office team-building.
If you get stuck for ideas, or if you want to research the interest level of a particular topic, the following websites can provide inspiration:
BuzzSumo. Enter a topic, and you get a list of online content along with how many shares each article has for each social media outlet. This indicates the “share-ability” of that content. If you’ve done any research that tells you the preferred social media channel your patients use, you can focus on topics with more shares in that channel.
Quora. Here users post questions, and others post answers. It’s especially useful to see the types of questions being asked, and how many related questions and topic-followers each have – great ways to determine interest.
Reddit is another place to see what questions people have on their mind around various topics. Looking at the number of comments each question has can influence the angle you chose to take in writing your post.
Feel like you can’t add anything that hasn’t already been written about over and over? Be confident that your writing style will be as unique as you are, and that your writing will reflect your personality and your knowledge of both the subject and your local community – key reasons potential patients will decide to choose you over your competition.
So don’t fear writing about topics commonly written about in the dental space. Just add your unique perspective.
Doing the Actual Writing
We’ll talk about handy tools to help with this stage, but the bottom line is that YOU will need to come up with the words for the post. For many, this is the hardest part of the process. Writing well is hard work. But Robert W. Bly’s overview above gives you a great way to get the words flowing: State the problem as the introduction to your post.
As succinctly as possible, describe the problem, fear, or topic you will address. Next, provide actionable steps readers can take to solve this problem, conquer the fear, or put into practice their new knowledge.
(If you decide you want to provide historical or empirical evidence or research surrounding the topic, or other in-depth information, just be sure to give the reader the option to skip that section and go right to the action steps, like I did after the opening paragraph of this article.)
Spelling out the benefits to the readers of taking the actions you suggest will help overcome any reluctance they may have in putting their newfound knowledge into practice.
And as Bly says, put your best tip first to keep them reading longer.
And now for some tools that can make the process of writing great dental blog posts easier:
Corralling ideas in the first place can be done using Evernote, which PC Mag chose as its best note-taking app. Use it on your phone and sync your data across your devices so you never forget an idea. A free basic membership to Evernote is available here. Other popular options include Microsoft OneNote, Simplenote, and Google Keep.
Depending on your style and your budget, all levels of writing software exist. Scrivener is a robust solution for serious writers and costs around $45. It has some cool features – you can create a series of digital index cards that can be shuffled around to help you decide on the best flow for your content. But for most dental blog post writing, this tool is overkill. Minimalist products that still get the job done include Ommwriter, which includes optional audio and distraction-free visuals to help you focus. It’s available for a user-determined sales price of at least $7 or so. Another option is the popular Hemingway App, which can be used for free in a browser, or purchased for $20 to use on a desktop. And of course you can always use a standard word processor that you may already have access to, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
CoSchedule has a free headline analyzer designed to help you craft a more powerful headline to increase social engagement. Yes, I ran a few post title options through this tool to come up with the beauty above.
While it’s always best to have a professional edit your writing before you post (or at least another person or two you trust), there are some helpful tools for this as well. The Hemingway App mentioned above does an excellent job of highlighting areas of concern as well as estimating the reading level at which you are writing, helping to prevent you from getting too technical for your readers. In addition, you can add the free Grammarly extension to your browser. Not only does Grammarly show you grammar errors, but it will also suggest words to replace any weak language in your writing.
Better at talking than writing? Voice typing tools exist that help you do your first draft by speaking the post and having it transcribed into a file for later editing. Dragon Naturally Speaking is on the high end of the spectrum, with its $15 per month subscription cost for the sharing-across-devices app, to an at-home desktop version for $75, to a professional (individual) version for $300 and higher for an enterprise-level product. If you’d prefer a free tool, Google provides a voice-typing option in Google Docs using Google Chrome. The full details are here, but the power of this option comes with the ability to share the document with others, which we’ll look at next.
Sharing the writing and/or editing process with others usually results in higher quality blog posts, which will increase the likelihood they get shared by readers and in turn generating more traffic to your dental website. Google Docs, mentioned above, allows you to share a file in real time with others in your office, or professional editors, or anyone else you choose. Here’s a link to a tutorial on sharing documents with Google Docs. Another sharing option to try is Trello, which comes closer to a project management tool. If you plan to consistently work with a team in developing your dental blog posts, then give Trello a try for free. You can always upgrade to a paid account if you need more features, but the free account gives you enough tools to easily manage a multi-person content creation process. For a sample of how you can use the visual and intuitive Trello, take a look at this video. At the 6:10 mark, one user talks about how she uses Trello to manage a multi-person content creation team. You may even decide to use it for other aspects of managing your dental practice.
Make It Pretty
Statistics abound regarding the increased traffic that posts, tweets, and other content get when images are added. So where do you get relevant images for your dental blog posts?
Get stock photos. Some sites, like Unsplash offer free photos. (The image in this blog header is from Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash, with text added over the top of the photo.) If you are looking for specific procedure-related images, you may not find many on a site like Unsplash.
But try to think outside the box: surely an image like one of these would be great on a more general, lighthearted dentistry post:
Create an infographic. Studies show infographics (a visual representation of data or information) get “liked” and shared 3 times more than other content. Sites like Canva and Venngage allow you to use their templates to create an infographic of your own. Canva is also a great tool for creating a specific-sized image for Twitter, Facebook, or other social media channels because they provide appropriately sized templates for each channel. That saves you from having to figure out the right size.
Canva also has stock images you can incorporate into your creations; some are free and some cost $1.
Take your own photos. Sharing photos of your actual dental practice – the office, the staff, the exam rooms – gives potential patients a sense of what it’s like to visit your practice. Be sure you have consent forms from staff members before using any inclusive images. In order to use images of patients (even dental images where no distinguishing patient characteristics are shown), have them sign a HIPAA-compliant media release form. Your safest route is to have your attorney draw one up for you that is state-specific.
And be sure to have lots of “white space” on the page so people aren’t overwhelmed by a big block of words. Do this by
Adding bullet points or numbered lists.
Make your paragraphs short – say, 3 to 5 sentences – and allow nice space in between them.
Having images sprinkled throughout longer posts provides additional white space along the way.
Make It Search-Engine Friendly
If you are posting your content on you own dental practice blog, you are probably using a product that functions as a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, or Wix. Each of these platforms have special tools you can use to make sure the blog post you just finished creating is SEO friendly.
WordPress is the most popular choice for those who use a CMS. It also has a vast array of plugins available to help with most tasks. An excellent plugin to help you hone the SEO-friendliness of your posts is All in One SEO Pack, and another is Yoast SEO. These plugins will help you choose the best length for your title, and let you craft a succinct and attention-grabbing snippets that show up in search engine results as demonstrated below
Wix has an App Market where you can get SEO apps such as Site Booster and Testimonial Builder.
Weebly offers the free app MarketGoo, as well as some premium paid apps like SEO Headlines and Positionly.
Squarespace doesn’t have third-party apps available. They do have specific SEO-related info for Squarespace in this post.
Whichever CMS you use, be sure to do the following:
Know and use your keywords. Since your post is addressing your patients’ pain points or points of concern, try to boil down your post topic into a few (2-5) words that people will most likely be using for search terms around this topic. Consider those words your keywords. The keywords should naturally show up in the text of your post, and preferably within the first 100 words. The keywords should also be in your title tag, near the beginning if possible. Use them in a natural way with hyphens in the URL, such as “sampledentalsite.com/teeth-whitening-best-practices.”
Add alternative text to your images. Whenever you upload an image to use in your post, be sure to fill out the “alt text” field. It’s designed for users who can’t or choose not to see screen images to help them know what the picture is about. Google ranks websites higher that provide a better user experience, so adding alt text to your images affects your ranking.
Include links to other reputable websites. Your goal is to add value for your patients, so linking out to other authoritative sites when appropriate will help them trust your content. Linking to relevant content also helps Google and other search engines better understand what your post is about and signals that your post is of high quality.
Link to other relevant content on your own dental practice website. When appropriate, linking to other posts or pages on your own site can increase the amount of time visitors stay on your website, which is another ranking factor. Only do so in moderation and when it will beneficial to your website visitors.
Share It with the World
It’s finally time to release your dental practice blog post. Maybe you finished it at 5 pm on Friday afternoon, and you are pretty sure that’s not the best time to publish the post. Or you’re including information about an upcoming event that’s still a ways off in the future, or maybe you have a series of related posts already done but don’t want to release them all at once. Fortunately there are ways to schedule your posts to be published exactly when you want, as well as to push that content out to all your other social media channels on your preferred timetable.
Hootsuite is a service that gives you a single dashboard from which to manage all your social media channels. It is one of the strongest tools out there, and especially useful if you have multiple people handling your dental practice social media. It’s free for one user and up to 3 social accounts. For $19 per month, one user gets up to 10 social accounts, and then it jumps to $99 per month for multiple users and more social accounts.
Buffer also allows scheduling of posts, and is free for one user and one social media channel. An additional $10 per month lets you schedule up to 10 social media accounts, and the pricing goes upward for higher quantities and multiple users.
Increase Engagement with a Call to Action
Your goal is, of course, to have people share and engage with the content you provide. You want to eliminate as many obstacles as possible to the sharing and engaging process. By following the sections above to make your content relevant to patients’ pain points, and then making it as visually attractive as possible, you’ve reduced most objections to sharing the content. But unless you include a call to action, specifically asking for your readers to share or engage with the content, you fail to maximize the reach of what you’ve created.
Adding an easy way for readers to share the content is proven to increase the number who follow through. Make it easy for Twitter users by using a service like Click to Tweet that helps you incorporate a suggested tweet with a button, so all readers need to do is to click the button and that tweet is shared to their followers.
Be specific. Ask people to “Like” your Facebook post, or to share it with friends whom they think could benefit from the information.
Ending a post with a question increases the likelihood of getting comments, as does a request such as “In the comments, list your top three dental concerns.”
How to Create Content Consistently
We’ve covered the ins and outs of creating content for your blog, and making it SEO friendly. Next comes the key to regularly engaging patients for your dental practice: posting consistently. How do you turn hit-or-miss content creation into a solid social media strategy? By using an editorial calendar.
Editorial calendars are used by magazines and journals to effectively schedule all aspects of their content: from researching topics, to contacting writers, to securing advertisers, to final publication. You can use an editorial calendar to plan out how often you publish blog posts, tweet about upcoming events, or post on Facebook to keep your practice in front of your target audience. Here are a couple of editorial calendar options for you to consider:
Hubspot has put together a whole packet of editorial calendars, templates for posts, infographics, and more, along with detailed instructions here. They are detailed but can seem overwhelming when you first begin using an editorial calendar.
A simpler set of templates is offered by CoSchedule, mentioned above for their free headline analyzer. The templates they offer are easily printable for those who prefer to work offline.
Incorporate using an editorial calendar into your staff meetings, and soon it will become an enjoyable process as you brainstorm, plan, assign, and publish meaningful content on your dental blog.
In the summary of links below, we’ve listed the tools mentioned in this post. If you have favorite tools that help with creating your dental blog, let us know what they are in the comments below. Happy publishing!
TOOLKIT: Links Summary
Ideas for Blog Topics
Corralling Ideas (Note Taking)
Sharing Content with a Team
Social Media Scheduling and Sharing