You love writing, you’re passionate about a health topic and you want to share your health knowledge with the online world. Sound familiar?
If you’re thinking about starting a health blog, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Facing your fears is an important first step in the process.
So many health writers have told me that they want to start blogging but are scared because they either lack confidence in their abilities or are worried about ‘putting themselves out there’ and potentially being targeted by those with opposing views – or even online bullies.
These are two very common fears – yet they shouldn’t put you off from starting. You can gain confidence through practice, coaching, courses and personal development – and you’ll be surprised at how easy this is. As for dealing with online negativity, well, I address this concern later on in the post.
I started my first healthy living blog way back in 2009! It was doing quite well at the time, and I regret letting it slide. Ultimately, I gave up on it because I wasn’t ready to commit – and, if you want to get the most out of your health blogging, you need to be 100% ready to commit to your blog.
Today, I work with and coach other health bloggers, I write health blogs for my clients and I write this blog – and while I can tell you that starting a blog is a process, it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. Here’s a list of key resources and considerations to help you make the process of setting up your health blog a little easier. I hope you find it helpful!
To get your health blog concept right, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Theme/topic – your health blog should have a unique proposition or area of focus. What can you bring to your niche that’s original and unique? How will you stand out and avoid sounding like everyone else?
- Strategy and goals – what do you want to get out of your blog? Is your blog purely a hobby, or do you want to make income from it? The two aims are inherently different and will inform your strategy in different ways.
- Content plan – what will you write about, and how often can you realistically commit to blogging? If you can’t brainstorm 20 ideas for topics right now, you may struggle maintaining your blog in the long term. So, choose an area of focus that you care about and are inspired by – so you will always be keen to learn and research the topic.
- Why are you blogging, and who will you be helping? – knowing the reasons why you want to blog and who your blog posts are helping is what will ultimately motivate you. Is there a gap in the market? Are consumers missing out on something that you can provide? Is there a true need for your blog? How will your blog posts help your readers to improve their health?
- Sense of social responsibility – as a health blogger, you have the power to influence health outcomes in positive ways, and your readers will be swayed by your posts. So, you need to be certain that your messages are socially responsible and well researched, and you must believe in what you’re writing about.
- Ideal reader – it can help to write a profile of your ideal reader and imagine every post is written for them. You could have a series of ideal readers, too – it doesn’t have to be just one.
- Tone – will your writing style be funny, quirky, professional, calm, controversial, scientific? Will you share personal details and stories, or will you be more reserved? There is no right or wrong, but you need to be comfortable with your decision and stick to it – as consistency will help you to develop rapport with your readers.
Now that you have an idea of why you’re blogging, who you can help and what you want to get out of it, the next step is to tackle the practicalities of setting up.
- WordPress – my number one content management system of choice, WordPress is ridiculously easy to update and I will always recommend it to new bloggers, simply because I love it so!
- Themes – using WordPress, you can choose from thousands upon thousands of free or premium themes which you can then customise to ensure your blog looks original and not like everyone else’s.
- Plugins – plugins are third-party add-ons or enhancements that give your website extra functionality. Plugins offer everything from social media sharing capabilities to newsletter enhancements to popups, directories, online courses, online stores and more. You name it, there’s a plugin that will do it.
- Web host – it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that you’ll need a good quality web host (I don’t recommend the cheapest option as your site will experience a lot of downtime).
- Images – what’s a blog without images? You’ll need an image subscription or a list of where you can download free, high-quality images, as well as possibly a Canva subscription or access to an image editor/resizing software like Photoshop.
- Enewsletter – you can send newsletters to your subscribers using WordPress plugins or a third party program like Mailchimp.
- Proofreading software/help – you might want to run your posts through an online editor or second pair of eyes before you publish them.
- Social media accounts – you’ll need to decide if you’re going to link your blog to your personal social media accounts or start new ones that are dedicated to growing your blog.
- Journal subscriptions – if you’re writing about research and evidence a lot, you may need frequent, ongoing access research behind a paywall.
Writing nitty gritty
Producing a great blog is something that novices and experienced bloggers alike need to keep working at. It involves understanding the best practices and most effective strategies that successful health bloggers use to write their posts. You’ll need to know about:
- Blog templates – get your hands on some blog templates to help you understand blog structure and flow.
- Techniques – research the most effective techniques to help you achieve your goals, including internal and external linking, posing questions, click-to-tweet boxes, and more.
- Formatting – avoid the dreaded wall of text and instead aim for nice, clean subheadings, bullet and numbered lists, breakout boxes, images and more.
- Research – linking to research (either PubMed abstracts or full studies) to support your arguments is important in health blogging.
- Headline and lede – you’ll need to learn about effective headlines in order to hook in your readers and keep them engaged in your content – responsibly, ethically and accurately.
People and professionals
It can be a lonely in the blogosphere if you don’t have personal and professional support. You might need:
- A network of like-minded bloggers – identify other health bloggers in your niche, or in a similar niche, to connect with and who share similar values and beliefs.
- Graphic designers – if you run campaigns, or if you want to create dedicated headers or design elements for your blog, a graphic designer can be very valuable.
- Tech support – if you DIY most of your site, you might want to have a technical expert on hand for those extra fiddly bits that you can’t fix yourself (or if you break your website!).
- Community – joining a freelance or blogging community can help you to stay motivated, trouble shoot and share similar gripes and successes – not to mention the added bonus of promoting your blog!
You probably have more than enough to do by now, but when it comes to the personal development aspects of blogging, there are considerations you may not be aware of, such as:
- A thick skin – there’s no easy way to say this, but not everyone will like you in the online world. In the health blogosphere there are a multitude of belief systems at play, including anti-vaccination and pro-vaccination, quitting-sugar and pro-sugar, paleo and anti-paleo, and much more. Your health blogs – however moderate – will probably irritate someone, somewhere. And, if you want to keep on keeping on with your blog, you have to be okay with that. As long as you believe in yourself and stand by your work, you don’t need to worry about the ‘haters’ – and remember that only you can control how other people make you feel. ‘Everyone’ is not your audience – hence you will never please everyone, nor should you. Write for your ideal reader, help them, solve their problems, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
- Long-term commitment – you want to avoid putting energy into launching and then failing to keep the momentum up. You don’t have to blog every week or fortnight, but a schedule and a cycle will be key to keeping your blog alive and widely read. The more you blog, the better – but don’t blog for the sake of it as that just results in mediocre posts.
- Desire to grow – be flexible, change your goals, explore new ideas, refresh your theme, experiment with new techniques, and more – be open to change but don’t change for the sake of change
- Keenness to learn new skills – blogging today is so different from blogging even just a few years ago – you need to keep up with the latest trends to stay relevant, and continuously invest time and energy into learning.
Have I missed anything?
Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to add to this list – and if you’re in the process of starting a health blog, I hope you found this list helpful!