THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. Why a blog is a good way to talk to patients when you’re not around
2. A simple way to plan out a year’s worth of blog posts
3. Twelve blog post topics for your vet practice you can find right now, for free
When you’re running a busy veterinary practice, it’s difficult to find the time to write a vet blog, let alone the justification. This article will tell you why blogging is something you can and should do, and how you can make a simple editorial calendar to help you do it. But first, let me tell you a story…
So I’m cleaning out the cat’s litter tray one night when I notice a crimson streak down the inside of the tray leading to a clotted bunch of wet poo. Now, everyone who has ever eaten beetroot soup for dinner or read about bowel cancer knows that blood in your poo is scary, so it would be reasonable to assume that it’s not great for cats. So when I saw it, I immediately did what any sane, loving pet owner would do.
I Googled it.
Calling Dr Google
Now, while there’s some excellent, smart, good advice out there on the web, there’s also a lot of questionable advice. But the problem is the good advice says “Call your vet”, and she’s not around at that hour of the night. I’d call her during the day, but (a) I have a job, and (b) I can’t catch my cat during the day, who sneaks out to poo in the gardens of everyone else in the neighbourhood.
So instead, I click on a link which took me to the article in the picture below, which seemed good at first …
… but then I got to the Google Ad that had been automatically loaded onto the page, and started to get a little nervous.
Now, you and I know that it’s just a Google ad, and to read past. But some people won’t register that it’s an ad. It’s hidden in the copy, and there’s nothing you can do to stop people assuming this content is saying their cat is on the way out …
Now I know that’s a bit ridiculous, but on a more sober note, I’m getting information from a website that may or may not be out of date, and that places ads inside the text of the article. It’s hard to know if that’s a trustworthy source of information. At best, it leads to information paralysis, where I’m unsure whether to do something for the cat or not, so do nothing at all.
But what’s the alternative?
The alternative would be to go to my own vet’s blog—where I’d know and trust the information. If only my vet had one.
The advantages of you, as a vet, writing the blog is you know you’re putting good, solid, trustworthy information out on the web, and by following some simple rules you can make sure people find it.
The disadvantage is you probably don’t have time to do it; you aren’t sure what to write about; you can’t commit to posting regularly; and you don’t think you’re a good enough writer anyway.
You may have even tried blogging in the past and hit those hurdles. But there are two very simple things you can do today that will help you overcome most of them:
- Build an editorial calendar, or publishing plan, for your practice
- Use Google to come up with ideas to fill it
How to build an editorial calendar
You may think it seems strange to build up a calendar of when you’re going to publish articles before you actually know what you’re going to publish. But there is logic behind this idea, and publishers all over the world use it.
You already know that there are ‘peak’ seasons in your practice that require certain treatment plans. The classic is the flea, tick and parasite season which hits each year around summer.
If you open an excel spreadsheet (or just get a bit of paper), on the top of your first column, write SEASON. Underneath that, in the first four cells, write “summer” three times. On the top of the next column, write SUBJECT, and underneath it, write, “flea, tick and parasite” three times, beside summer.
Then start filling the rest of column one: three articles for winter, spring and autumn. What you put in the Subject column will be determined by the kind of practice you run—if you have a large animal practice, spring might be for racing, whereas if it’s normally companion animals, it may be for breeding.
You can use your imagination a bit here—breeding may also encompass baby animals, puppies, or parenting.
Similarly, winter may be for things pet owners may notice in winter—arthritis, perhaps, or viral illnesses, or any of those symptoms that pet owners may notice as their pets spend more time at home in the cold weather.
Finally, for your three autumn articles, you might want to focus on something that’s either of great personal interest to you, or something specific to your practice—which may be pet acupuncture, or something on exotic pets, or perhaps a line of specialty you offer.
So at the end of the exercise (which should take you all of ten minutes, if that) your calendar should look like the one above.
Using Google to find stories
The next step is to add three more columns, headed STORIES, WRITER and PUBLISHED.
What we’re going to do in this step will set your blog apart from those of your competitors. If they have been blogging regularly, there’s still a good chance they have been relying on their own store of knowledge and stories alone to fuel their writing. This is an exhausting way of approaching it.
Much better is to look at what your potential clients are looking for (or at least, what their owners are looking for). The way you do that is with Google Trends.
If you click here it will take you to a service offered by Google which shows you which topics are being searched for right now. Go up to the search box at the top of the page, and type in “fleas, ticks and parasites”. You’ll see a graph that looks like this:
What this is showing you is the number of times people have used Google to search for those terms—more specifically, you can see the seasonal fluctuations in the search for the term “fleas”.
Scroll down further and you will see a box that looks like this:
This is showing related searches and queries. The most interesting list is the ‘Queries’ one on the right, because it ranks the most popular search terms.
Now, look on the top right hand corner of that box and you’ll see two buttons: ‘Top’ and ‘Rising’. Click on the one that says ‘Rising’, and you’ll see this:
Those terms like “fleas on dogs” and “fleas in house” are what people are searching for on Google right now. What you particularly want to see is the word ‘Breakout’ beside one of the terms, because that means it’s growing very quickly. If you can write a blog post on that topic, it follows, people will want to read it.
Filling in the blanks
Now go back to your editorial calendar and start filling out the stories with the query terms. You should have enough information there to at least decide who is going to write that particular post—either yourself, someone else at the practice, or a freelance writer if necessary.
The other thing that’s very important to do is assign a publication date for each story, so you have a regular stream of articles to publish—I’d recommend doing one a month, which spaces them out and keep them relevant to the seasons folk will be searching.
Of course, you can put other content up on your blog as well, including any community-related stuff or volunteer days done by yourself or staff—but the great thing about following the calendar is it gives you a regular publishing schedule, which gives potential patients reasons to come back to your site.
The next steps
It would be lovely if that was enough. But it’s important to assign someone—anyone—the job of writing the posts as a distinct part of their job, or they will never get written. People only do the stuff they have to do. So if it is not officially part of their job, it’ll never get done.
You also have to broadcast your posts to the world. The easiest way to do that is through social media.
It would take another 2000-word blog post to explain how and why to do that, but luckily I’ve written one before, and you can find it here.
If you do this well, and do it for a long time (and by a long time, I mean more than a single year), you will soon build an audience of readers who are interested in the welfare of their pets. Those readers, hopefully, will become your clients.
You can also push that process along by capturing information about who is reading your posts—but that’s a topic for another post.