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Getting started with your own medical practice website or blog can be intimidating. Here’s a free tool that flattens the learning curve.
One of the most common questions I get is, "How did you make your website?"
Answer: I built it myself with a program called WordPress.
WordPress was originally designed as a blog creation tool. It now powers 22 percent of all websites on the Internet.
Setting up a blog is the simplest way to get started promoting yourself online. In fact, it’s the most foundational marketing move you can make. Even if you don’t have a "website" for yourself (not just your practice website), you can quickly set up a blog for little or no cost, and start getting found by potential patients online.
I recommend WordPress for any physician who wants to take control of his online presence and reputation.
One major source of confusion among beginning WordPress bloggers or website owners is, do I use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
This article will highlight the differences and I’ll end with my recommendation.
There are pros and cons to each version of WordPress. Here are the major things to know about each one.
1. WordPress.com blogs are free.
Anyone can sign up for a WordPress account and start a blog for free. No recurring fees and no upfront costs. This is the quickest way to get started blogging online.
Think of blogging as getting your expertise "out there," online, where potential patients can find it. You want that information associated with your name.
A free WordPress.com blog is a great way to create an outlet for writing patient education articles or commenting about relevant current events.
Remember it’s the content of your website that is your greatest online asset. Your voice and perspective are unique. No one can duplicate it. But, no one will know about it until you write about it. WordPress will let you do that easily - just sign up, pick a name for your blog, and start writing.
You can even create a bare bones practice website out of a WordPress blog. For example, create a homepage that welcomes patients and describes what you offer. Then create links to four other pages:
• For New Patients
• Directions to Our Office
• Patient Education
• About Dr. Henley
This type of site is easy to create with a free WordPress.com blog. It’s not fancy, but it’s a piece of online real estate you own and control, which only a minority of individual doctors have.
You can also link such a site to social media pages on Facebook or Twitter, both free to set up and use for practice promotion.
2. WordPress.org blogs cost money to set up, but give you total control.
The cost of a WordPress.org blog or website is in the hosting and domain name expense.
Hosting refers to the server computer, owned by a company like HostGator.com, where your website files are stored. Domain names (or URLs - just the web address name) are sold by several companies online like GoDaddy.com.
Cost for these services averages about $100 per year for one website.
Think of a WordPress.com site as the "done-for-you" option - all you have to do is start writing and uploading pictures. You don’t worry about upgrading software or paying recurring fees or fixing something if it breaks.
The price you pay for that security is a loss of control over the appearance and functionality of the WordPress.com website.
Here are some features of the WordPress.org blog option that make it attractive for physicians starting their own website:
• Custom themes available for total control over the site’s appearance
• You can customize every detail of the site: text size, menu colors, picture size
• Nearly any function imaginable can be integrated into a WordPress.org site with the use of plugins - add-on bits of software that spice up the appearance or function of the website
• Better search engine optimization and recognition
My recommendation: Use WordPress.org!
Although the dot-org version of WordPress requires more technical knowledge, the learning curve is not unreasonable for most physicians.
Plenty of help exists on YouTube and Google for WordPress beginners.
For those of you who cannot imagine spending the time to learn how to set this up for yourselves, there are plenty of blog set-up services available online who will get you started.
The biggest barrier to success in online practice promotion is not taking action.
Sign up for a free WordPress.com account and start playing around with the interface. Put up a basic website with your practice information on it, and expand from there! You can always convert your free dot-com WordPress site to a better dot-org site later on.
If you have a question about getting started with blogging using WordPress to promote your practice, ask it in the comments below!