Updated November 28, 2020
Think you could never write a blog? It’s not as hard as it seems. All of us have something worth saying, and these days it’s easier than ever.
Just look at me. When I wrote my first vet story, there was no grand plan, just an instinctive need to communicate that I couldn’t explain. I got home from work, sat down at the kitchen bench, wrote a long-form article and immediately posted a link on Facebook. You can still find it here.
I was blown away by how much people enjoyed it, as faulty as it was. With the encouragement of a growing readership, the blog evolved and improved. I learned to listen better to pet owner needs, and picked up some technical skills along the way. But even now, despite its size, reach, and influence, at its heart the blog is still a cottage industry.
DIY Web Deslgn
The website that hosts it is simple, possibly too simple, but structured with care. Walkerville Vet is a WordPress site hosted on GoDaddy and managed by me alone. I could easily give it a fresh and modern makeover, but independent vets don’t necessarily need to, and it can even get in the way.
I have no time for the way websites are marketed to vets. All our clients ask of us is a site that is easy to navigate, informative and up to date. That especially applies to the contact and team profile pages. Everything else is nice, but it barely increases the user experience. Overly fancy websites often load slowly and are harder to use than simple ones, as well as being off-putting to set up.
Fancy websites sold for five figure sums are also often hard to manage. A functional business website should be able to be edited within 5 minutes, without needing advanced skills in web design. You certainly don’t want a website that you need to wait for someone else to update. Or one where someone else chose the hosting service based on price, not reliability or security.
In exactly the same way, most people give too much attention to SEO (search engine optimisation) and fall prey to false promises. I know because I did too. Google doesn’t rank websites by any factor as much as the user experience. If you have a page that people are more likely to stay on than another, it will rank better. Appearance matters only so far as it helps this. Your job is therefore to get people to want to be on your site.
For this, you need only three things:
- Good site structure
- Good content
Ideally you also need a fourth: commitment, which is most often seen as a regular update in some form. However, it’s perfectly fine to stop at number three. I see sites that say ‘blog coming soon’, or where the last post was a year ago and feel they were better off never doing it at all. The purpose of what you do is above all to show the reader your drive and enthusiasm for being a vet.
Maintaining that drive is hard. If you’re not happy, you won’t keep it up. Therefore choose topics and platforms that you are likely to enjoy working with. This is more important than choosing the subjects or type of media your clients want. In an ideal world they are one and the same, but they never exactly are.
Who says it even needs to be veterinary? You’re mad about sports – then do a blog about mascots and the animals that inspired them. Into camping? What about great places to take your dog. The list goes on. Just make sure that whatever you write, it’s accurate, because otherwise it will get noticed.
Blogging is about generating trust and enhancing your reputation. It is rarely about overt sales, and it should never be about using generic or plagiarised content, accepting paid posts or inserting paid links. For those who need to see a ‘return on investment’, blogging creates awareness of your veterinary brand, and pet owners who trust you enough to follow your recommendations.
Other Ways To Connect
But blogging just happens to be the niche I’ve fallen into, not the only one. Modern media have put effective communication within the reach of everyone. Whether you use podcasts, or video, or social media, the only major cost is your time. Probably less time than you already give to Netflix.
Whatever you do, give it a home on your site and let it grow. If you’d told me five years ago if I would write over 500 articles I would have thought you were crazy. It happened just because I enjoyed it and kept enjoying it. The rest followed.
Looking After Yourself
Of course, part of the enjoyment is knowing that your creation will be read, watched or listened to. Therefore, sharing it in some way is almost essential, especially early on, but be careful.
I’ve made mistakes, the biggest being obsessing over the engagement statistics. That was me once, but I learned since not to look at how many people read my blogs. I needed to remind myself that I write because I enjoy the feeling of engaging with other animal people, regardless of number. Readability is important, but paying too much attention to engagement risks burnout.
Comments on social media can also be dangerous for mental health. As our audience grew, the toll became heavier until late last year I felt there was no choice but to leave (hey, Facebook, why can’t comments be turned off on business pages!?). By doing this, I lost the good part of the two-way conversation, but I gained some inner stability. That’s important because I want to do this for as long as I can.
There are sure to be others like me out there. Vets are trained by their job to be excellent communicators, and all of us have a unique story. It’s not for everyone, but I hope more vets will tell it on whatever platform they feel most comfortable.
Otherwise, we will stay in our silos complaining about ‘Dr Google’ when the solution is to make Dr Google sing to our tune instead. All while making this tough job a little more enjoyable.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
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