Whether I’m designing a new website for a client or talking with a client about ways to improve the effectiveness of their current site, one question seems to come up over and over again and that’s, “Do I really need a blog?”
In all honesty, I can’t answer that question for you. So, let’s see if we can answer it together.
First of all, I’m assuming you’re at least familiar with the term “blog.” Unfortunately, being familiar with a word doesn’t equate to understanding it. The word “blog” is bandied about so much it seems it’s all too often taken for granted that everyone knows what a blog is. But do you? Before we can answer the question of whether or not you need one, the first question we need to answer is…
What Exactly Is a Blog?
The word blog is simply a contraction of the words “web log” and it can be used as a noun or verb.
While there really isn’t a standard definition, a blog typically refers to a web page or entire website that is frequently updated by someone posting an ongoing stream of content that’s written in a conversational, informal style. That’s it.
So according to that definition, in order to have a blog, you need to:
- Create content on a consistent, ongoing basis
- Post this content to a web page or website
- Write this content in an informal, conversational style
Those are the requirements for having a blog. Not too bad, right? Well, it all depends on how you’re going to create that ongoing stream of content and how you’ll be posting it to your website. But first, why are you considering a blog?
What Are Your Goals?
If the question you’re asking yourself is “To blog or not to blog?” stop immediately. You’re asking the wrong question.
The first question you need to ask yourself is: “What is the goal of my online marketing?”
A blog is just one of many marketing tools available to you, including having one or more websites, business cards, YouTube videos, online directories, social media marketing, speaking engagements, advertising in magazines and trade journals, and so on and so on.
Before you choose blogging – or any other marketing media and methods, for that matter – you need to first thoroughly understand your goals as well as understand how blogging (or videos on YouTube or having a Facebook page) can help you achieve these goals.
For many therapists, the goal of their websites and any online marketing they do is simply to generate more calls from prospective clients.
While that’s a fine place to start, the main goal of ANY Internet marketing strategy should be to go beyond simply generating more leads and include building relationships with those prospective clients to the point of turning them into actual clients.
And, if and when you’re ready to go one better, you should also be looking to offer those same leads and prospective clients multiple products and services, as doing so is the key to long-term business growth and success.
What if your psychotherapy services are the only product or service you offer? Then you should focus some time and energy on creating others or consider partnering with other business owners who offer complimentary products and services for a percentage of their sales.
If the only goal of your online marketing is to gain more visibility for your practice and get the phone ringing, you don’t need a blog.
Yes, you heard me right. I’m an Internet marketing professional telling you that creating and maintaining a blog may not be the best use of your precious time, money, energy, and expertise.
So, why does it sometimes seem everyone is telling you to start a blog?
The Benefits of Blogging
While it may seem everyone and their mother has a blog, let me tell you… that’s definitely not the case. And even if they did, following conventional wisdom isn’t guaranteed to help you achieve anything other than conventional results.
Don’t get me wrong. Blogging has definite benefits, and they are the reasons why so many organizations and business owners have jumped on the blogging bandwagon.
The problem is, the vast majority of business owners with blogs have little to no idea why they have them. They were either convinced to start a blog by some web designer or marketing professional and can’t remember why, or they’ve lost sight of their blogs’ original goals and their blogs have become ends unto themselves.
For a blog to confer benefits, it must have concrete goals that are worked toward as consistently as you post content to your blog.
So, less you become yet one more of the thousands – if not tens of thousands – of blog owners who don’t have a thin dime to show for all their blogging efforts, let’s look at some of the reasons why you may want a blog and see if any of them resonate with you and your business:
- Search Engine Rankings – Many website design and marketing professionals will suggest business owners start blogs in order to improve their websites’ search engine rankings. In fact, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard self-appointed Internet marketing “experts” state that “Google loves blogs!” Let’s be clear. The algorithms that power Google and the other search engines have NO IDEA what a “blog” is. A blog is a word that humans understand and that carries with it the expectation of new content and posts being added on a regular and consistent basis. There’s little worse than having a blog and then letting it lay stagnant for a period of weeks or months. Visitors to your blog and any audience you may have will begin to wonder whether or not something’s happened, if you’re okay, and/or if you’re really serious about your business. Don’t misunderstand. Google and the other search engines DO like to see new, relevant, high-quality content being regularly added to your website. As we discussed during our “Search Engine Optimization Simplified” STAR training, regularly adding new, valuable content to your website is a way of telling the search engines that you care about your site and they will reward your site’s search engine rankings accordingly. But this doesn’t mean you need to have a “blog.” To be sure, if you’re blogging about your field of expertise, chances are your content is loaded with keywords that your target audience is likely to search for. And the more relevant content your site has that prospective clients are searching for, the better the chances they’ll find you. But you can just as easily add new content to your site on a regular basis in an “Articles” or “Resources” section without the stress of having to add new posts to your blog every week. So, while blogs do help your site’s search engine rankings, it’s not the blog itself but the fresh, unique content you provide via a blog that matters.
- Relationship Building – A blog can be a great way to get your clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and potential referral sources, as well as others communicating with you and with each other. However, this will only happen if your blog’s content is compelling enough to provoke discussion. If you can effectively engage your blog’s visitors and readers, they’ll subscribe to receive updates about new blog posts, further providing you the means to continue building relationships with these individuals and keeping you and your practice at the forefront of their thoughts. Unlike an “Articles” or “Resources” section on your website, a blog’s more personal, conversational style, coupled with your implied commitment to post new content on a regular basis and interact with your audience via the comments section of your blog posts, means blogging is really the only way to effectively build relationships with potential clients and referral sources ON your website. That being said, your website is NOT the only place you have available to build relationships. You can build an e-mail list, network, and use social media to similar ends.
- Social Media Engagement – Speaking of social media, while you can use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to effectively build relationships with potential clients and referral sources, ideally you want to bring these people to your website. It can be pretty difficult to gain traction and build relationships if you’re just sharing short quotes, other people’s content, and only the product and sales pages of your site. But, if you’re sharing informative blog posts, articles, and other resources about your field and the services you provide, a lot more people will share your content and you’ll get a lot more traffic to your site. Blogs can provide great content to share and grow your audience on social media networks, as well as give people on social networking sites a continuous stream of reasons to visit and revisit your website.
- Establish Your Authority – If you create emotionally engaging and compelling content for your blog that appeals to your prospective clients or referral sources, then that blog will go a long way towards demonstrating your expertise and presenting you as THE person to come to when people are looking for help solving a specific set of problems. But that’s a big “if” … To create emotionally engaging and compelling content you need to go above and beyond writing simple, cookie-cutter blog posts and strive to create as much value as possible by offering videos, interviews, tutorials, important statistics, resources, infographics, and other helpful information, while injecting your own unique personality and style into each post.
Obviously, if you want to achieve one or more of these goals, blogging offers some pretty compelling benefits. Is there are a catch? You bet!
Blogging Isn’t for Everyone
You’re unlikely to realize any of blogging’s benefits unless you have the time, motivation, and ability to write thought-provoking and valuable content on a consistent basis.
What if you don’t? You’re far from alone and it’s totally okay. Not everyone is a great writer. And even many therapists who are, simply don’t have the time or don’t enjoy having to write as frequently as a blog requires. Unless you really love writing, a blog is likely to involve many hours that you could otherwise spend seeing clients or doing something else that brings you joy.
Of course, you can pay someone else to write and maintain your blog for you. And doing so is likely less expensive than you think and cheaper than many other marketing media. But, you’ll still have to find someone who truly understands you and your business and can communicate that understanding in interesting and emotionally engaging ways on an ongoing basis.
Another major consideration is your target market. Not every audience actively reads blogs. Teenagers and senior citizens are two groups that are less likely to read and benefit from your blog. If one of these is your target audience, I’d recommend looking at other marketing media and methods first.
It’s important to remember that successfully marketing and growing your business is about playing to YOUR strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regularly stretch the boundaries of your comfort zones. But, if you’re a naturally open and gregarious person who doesn’t like to write, don’t blog. Attend networking events, give presentations, and do what you do best by making as much face-to-face contact with potential clients and referral sources as you possibly can.
Questions to Ask Yourself…
The last thing I want is for you to invest any, let alone a lot, of your precious time and money starting a blog that you rarely if ever use and that provides little to no return on your investment. I’ve seen too many therapists do precisely this, and it saddens me a little every time I do. So, before you decide to start a blog, and only once you’re clear on your goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is my blog for? – Do you want to start a blog for potential clients, potential referral sources, or other industry professionals? As we discussed in the “Your Therapy Marketing Plan, Part 1: Targeting the Right Market” STAR training, you need to narrow your focus. If you try to be all things to all people, you’ll only end up being nothing to no one.
- What does your audience care about? – Your blog needs to focus on what’s important for your readers, not on what’s important to you. If your blog is going to target prospective clients and you receive the same questions over and over again from them, then you’ll be off to a good start by simply dedicating your blog posts to answering those questions. What next? You’ll need to find other ways to stay on top of whatever it is that’s at the forefront of your audience’s thoughts.
- Who will write it and how often? – If you will be the one updating your blog, how often will you add new content to it? Do you realistically have the time, motivation, and ability to create valuable, compelling content at least a couple of times each month? Blog posts don’t have to be long. While they can be longer, 300-500 word blog posts, unlike articles, are just fine. But it can still be a challenge to write several hundred words every other week that are emotionally engaging and valuable for your readers. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re up to the challenge, try writing a blog post once per week for 6 weeks before you start your blog. If you can’t do that, blogging’s not for you. If you can, you’ve already got your first six posts ready to go! If you’re going to hire someone else to manage your blog, who? How often will they update it? What commitment are you looking for?
- Who will moderate your blog? – If you’re posting valuable, compelling content on a regular basis, you’re more than likely to start receiving comments on your blog posts and have people subscribing to receive further updates. Someone is going to have to moderate and reply to these comments, and managing subscriptions may require some light technical support. Who will be responsible for these details? If it’s not you, make sure you know who that person is and how much you’ll need to budget for his or her time and services.
- How will you set up your blog? – Only after you’ve answered the previous questions should you spend some time thinking about how your blog will work. Will you use a third-party blogging service like Blogger.com or will you create a “Blog” section on your current website? If the former, how will you make sure your branding is consistent across both platforms? How will you get the word out about your blog and promote it on an ongoing basis?
All of the benefits of blogging involve getting readers to come to your website, and then, hopefully, getting them to revisit it again and again on a regular basis. What you do with them once they’re there is just as, if not more, critical to your success. (See “Your Call to Action” and “Creating Effective Calls to Action” for more information.)
Remember that the goal of each and every blog post you write should be to drive new and returning visitors to your website. Once there, you want them to either make a purchase or subscribe so that you can continue to build your relationship with them.
As I said at the outset, there’s no “right” answer for everyone when it comes to the question “To Blog or Not to Blog?” However, I hope this article helps you decide whether or not blogging is right for you.
If you’re excited to start a blog and you have the time, budget, motivation, and ability to do it and keep it going, then go for it! If you don’t, there are no shortage of other marketing tools that can work just as well and may suit you better. You should never do something just because it seems that everyone else is doing it. You and your practice are unique and your marketing strategies should be tailored to the strengths that make it so.
What do you think? Are you more or less likely to start a blog after reading this article? Do you already have a blog? If so, how successful has it been to date? How can we help make it better? Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!