I am so excited about today’s episode because it’s going to help you create better content, which you all know I love to talk about. Today’s guest is Leesa Klich who helps health and wellness professionals build their authority with strategically planned, easy to read scientific health blog content. They want to stand out in the crowded, often unqualified market of entrepreneurs. She helps them establish trust with their audiences, adds credibility to their services and saves them a ton of time so they don’t have to do the research or writing themselves.
Some sites we mention in today’s episode:
- PubMed – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements – https://ods.od.nih.gov/
- Examine – https://examine.com/
So when we are doing this research online, how do we spot red flags?
Leesa Klich: This is an amazing question because we are now living in the world of fake news and alternative facts, and Oxford Dictionary literally had the word post-truth as the word of the year in 2016 so I’m so excited. Mostly because there’s actually research behind what makes the red flags.
Leesa: So I’ll give you a couple just to dive in, some really quick things because a lot of times it’s easy to spot if you kind of take a step back. So when you’re seeing something online, one of the main things, and just before I go into this, there is a difference between research red flags and how the research is presented in the media and in social media red flags. So I’m going to talk about online, are studies being misrepresented? How is this media and social media handling it?
Leesa: So the first one of course is there’s so many jokes and satires out there and they’re meant to be so believable. The Onion and the Beaverton, they are total jokes and sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re real or truthful. So that’s one thing to just consider that is if it doesn’t sound real, it might actually not be.
Leesa: The second one is, it’s almost like the … You’ve heard this so many times when it comes to telemarketers and infomercials and these random emails that we used to get, like if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. So there’s a lot of stuff in health and wellness out there where it’s like, “Oh, I have just discovered the cure for everything with this one pill.” I mean, I’m exaggerating a bit, but honestly if it’s like crazy, like crazy, like novel, like unbelievable, it’s probably clickbait.
Leesa: Another one is that a lot of them … Okay, this is based on a study from MIT. Yes, the MIT, and he did this in 2018 because they wanted to know what made false news spread farther and faster then the truth. So they literally took a bunch of tweets and they analyzed them and they found a couple of common characteristics that made the false news travel way faster, way quicker and way farther than the truth.
Leesa: One of them is, and I’ll tell you, it wasn’t the bots surprisingly. I was surprised to know that it wasn’t the bots that were sharing it and it wasn’t a few people with massive followings. It was literally regular everyday social media users that saw a headline and immediately shared it. And some of these-
Leesa: I know it’s crazy and it’s so interesting. I mean we kind of suspected that the fake news is a lot of the stuff that spreads, but there’s actual data to prove it. There’s a couple of triggers. It’s emotional triggers that helps people to share things. Because if you think about it, we’re wired for survival. We’re wired for if bad news happens, we’ve got to warn everyone. So a lot of these triggers were extreme emotions. So things like fear and surprise and disgust and these really strong kind of visceral emotions were triggers to have people share this false information way farther, faster than more moderate emotions that the truth tends to kind of elucidate.
Leesa: And those are things like joy and sadness and trust and those are so nice, but they don’t get people to share stuff so much. So if you feel triggered, like this is so bad, it’s so disgusting, this is so shocking it’s one of the possible red flags that it’s not actually 100% true.
Leesa: And another one, another red flag I’ll leave you with this one is when somebody says that this new research, this new study or or whatever, automatically just discredits everything we’ve ever learned in an area. All of the scientists from all of the universities in all over the world in the last 10 or 20 years work that’s been funded by all different organizations, it’s all garbage because of this one new study. And that happens pretty much never. So it’s very click baity. You can kind of feel the red flags kind of in your gut.
Jess: Yeah, that totally makes sense. And I think it’s so interesting that it really is just the regular old people making the fake news spread.
Leesa: Totally shocking. I was surprised because they were even surprised. They’re like, “Oh, it must be the bots.” No. “Oh, it must be a few people with huge followings.” No. “Well, who is it?” Well guess what? It’s you and me.
Jess: Right? Our tweets have power people.
Leesa: They do.
Jess: Now I know, I’m assuming when we’re doing research, we’re kind of cross-checking, trying to validate, but I feel like sometimes when I’ve done research on things, it really matters how I’m actually searching for things. If I type in essential oils that work, then I’m going to get a bunch of articles that talk about essential oils that work. But if I Google like proof that essential oils don’t work or something like that, then I’m going to also get a bunch of articles that tell me it doesn’t work.
So do you have any tips for how to start that search? Whether it’s the initial search or you’re trying to validate or cross check the research?
Leesa: That’s a great question and I’m so glad you brought up Google searches because I can say that just since March 2019 a lot of these huge platforms like Facebook and Google and Pinterest have come out with new “misinformation policies” and some of them are specifically around health. So what you Google today might be very different than what you would have found a few months ago before the update. So that’s one area that, you just need to know that this is something that’s changing online all the time.
Leesa: But also you bring up an amazing point. Whatever you’re searching for, you’re going to find. You’re going to find whether it’s some random tiny mouse or cell study from 30 years ago and that somebody is saying it’s proof of everything or whether it’s a whole bunch of studies and people that have been reviewed and torn apart and put back together and looked at from all different angles. So a lot of what I would say would be with the quality information is going to be the bigger studies in people, the newer studies in people and what’s the best is going to be, for example, a review study.
Leesa: So when you’re looking through the references and you see a study that has actually, if they didn’t do their own research, what they did was they pulled dozens of other studies that are out there and they reviewed them to take a 30,000 foot view, to look at the big picture and then they come up with a conclusion, that is the best that we can do right now. So getting the context on how specific the study was or how general. If it’s a very specific looking at one enzyme in one cell line in one mouse species or if it’s like, “Hey, I reviewed 37 studies on whatever in people and this is what I came up with.”
Jess: Yeah, that makes sense. That that’s really, really helpful. I’m glad you mentioned that. Now I’m curious what you think about companies who do their own research and publish that. Like let’s say General Mills publishes this research. I’m just pulling something out of the air and they’re like, “We have done five years of research and found that cereal is the absolute most healthy breakfast,” or whatever.
Jess: And I know that there are different supplement companies and just different industries that do this where they publish their own research and I’m always kind of wary of that because I’m like, “Well yeah, your research should hopefully prove that your product is actually helpful.” You wouldn’t publish research that’s like, “Yeah, actually no, this is not good. It doesn’t actually help you. So here’s this research.”
Leesa: Right. The funding of studies is definitely one proven area of bias, so for sure it’s possible. It’s not guaranteed because there’s so many areas that that research itself can be bias, which is why it’s good to see people taking a step back and looking at a bunch of studies and not just one. So, yeah, when there’s stuff that’s funded specifically for the industry, the interesting thing is what’s found is that those are actually some of the higher quality studies because they are checking all of the boxes. But they have a publication bias so they only publish studies that show things that are in their favor.
Leesa: But the ones that are in their favor are generally good quality studies. But we don’t always know what other things weren’t published. So that’s why, for example, several years ago, there is a requirement now to list all of your clinical trials that you’re doing in a public forum before you do them. And so that way it’s easier to see if, “Hey, this study was done six years ago, how come I can’t find it online?”
Leesa: So scientists are trying to eliminate even publication bias as a source of vice, but 100% who funds a study can and often has implications on whether it’s published or not. And the quality and what the result is that they want.
Jess: Yeah. Well that’s good to know. Good job.
Leesa Klich: Yeah, for sure.
Jess: So a few minutes ago you were talking about paying attention to how recent the study is and how many people were in it. In the health industry, if we find a source that’s dated 2014 is that too outdated? Is there a rule of thumb about how old of a source we can or should use?
Leesa: There isn’t, but in general the newer studies are going to be more interesting than the older ones. And that’s because when researchers apply for money to do studies … I’m talking about non-industry, like universities and other people, governments, they need to prove that what they’re doing is different in a certain way. So they would have to look at all of the research done in this area and then come up with why they should deserve money to do research in the same area.
Leesa: Because for example, they’re going to do a person study instead of an animal or they’re going to use newer technology that wasn’t available before or something. So the idea is that the newer stuff is always building on what we already knew. So 2014 is great. 2018, 2019 is great too. And there are some really good old studies, but what I do is I have this trick in PubMed, if there’s some classic study that everybody’s quoting, if you are kind of the science-y nerdish type like I am, when you’re looking at a study in PubMed, you can actually go on the right hand side and see where that study has been cited. So you can see which newer studies have been done that use that study as a reference and then you can kind of follow the bread crumbs of the research to see what new things we’ve learned since that amazing old study was done. So yeah, I would definitely stick within the last 10 years in general, but it’s not to dismiss some older stuff that’s out there.
Leesa: Just where would be 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have even known barely anything about the microbiome in the gut if we stuck there, right?
Jess: Yeah. Yeah.
Leesa: New information is so interesting.
Jess: I like it. Okay, well that’s good to know. So let’s get a little bit more specific. I have a lot of health and fitness professionals listening and I know sometimes people in both of these industries get a lot of questions about supplements from their clients. Should I take this? Do I need that? Blah, blah, blah.
What do we need to know about when we’re searching for supplement info and research?
Leesa: Supplements are again a huge, there’s so much research on it, which is so fascinating. What I like to do, I have a few key websites that I look at to get some of the latest and best information on them.
Leesa: Now of course, any brand new crazy study is to be taken with a grain of salt as we talked about in the red flags. It doesn’t mean that we dismiss them, but these websites are great. I’ll tell you two of them. One of them is called The Office of Dietary Supplements and it is a division in the National Institutes for Health, so it’s under nih.gov. And in that it’s a really cool website. You can go and you can look it up by active ingredients so you’re not actually looking at the brand or the product, but you’re looking at echinacea in general. And you can find information on there that has been written for health professionals and also information for consumers that you can share with your clients.
Leesa: So the opposite of dietary supplements is one of my go-tos and the other one is examine.com. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Examine. They basically are a bunch of nerds and some of their research that they have online on their website is literally hundreds of studies, that they reviewed hundreds of studies and came up with kind of a really nice little table on how effective certain supplements are for certain health conditions. Those are two of my go-tos when we’re looking at active ingredients.
Jess: That is amazing. I’ll be sure and link to those in the show notes so you guys can hop over and check them out. Thank you for sharing those. That’s really good to know that there are such reliable sources when we’re searching for supplements. So that’s really good.
What do you recommend for our own blog posts that are a few years old?
Like should we constantly be updating these posts with new info or write new ones and link between the two? Say, “Hey, there’s an update,” or just put a disclaimer in each blog post of like, “Hey, this information may soon be outdated,” or what do you suggest?
Leesa: I think that it’s kind of a pro-tip that more health and wellness people need to know because the content marketing people and the eCommerce people are doing this and we need to start doing it on our blogs and that is you can update your posts. Which not only saves you time because you’re not starting from scratch. It’s so much less overwhelming to take something you wrote a year or two ago, read it over, edit it, check to make sure the links are working. And then the trick is of course, make sure it’s branded well if your branding has changed, to change the date. Put it up as a new post.
Leesa: And then what I do is right under the title, I just say “This post was originally written in whatever September 2018 and is now updated September 2019.” Just to put a little note in there and then because this has so much value. Number one, as I mentioned, you’re not overwhelmed with staring at a blank screen every week, which drives even writers crazy sometimes. You’re saving time because you’re looking at what you’ve already done and just kind of putting your editor hat on and fixing it up a bit. You’re making sure your information is up to date for your reader.
Leesa: Have you ever found something either shared on social media or Google or whatever and you find this and you look at and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I went to … this hasn’t been looked at in five years.”
Jess: Yes. All the time. All the time.
Leesa: Exactly. So this is such a great way, man, green. Reduce, reuse and recycle those old posts. Change the dates, letting people know that you’ve changed the dates and you’re going to get rid of any broken links you have too because you just checked to make sure your links are still correct.
Leesa Klich: And or adding, for example, new, some crazy new research that was so interesting and relevant that you never had a year ago. Because to be honest, nobody’s going to remember that you published that a year ago.
Jess: No they’re not. We are always more aware of our own content. I tell people this all the time because people are like, “Oh, what if I share this too many times?” No. You think everyone knows that you posted that and they don’t. They have totally forgotten that you even mentioned that like a month ago.
Leesa: I 100% agree. Do you know I’ve gone through some of my own posts because I’ve been blogging weekly for a few years now and I’ll tell you that a lot of it isn’t updated posts but I go through something I wrote a year and a half ago and do you know I don’t remember half of it? I’m running into like, “Wow, you know what, I could have written this so much better. Let me fix this up right now.”
Jess: Yes. I’ve been doing that a lot on my own blog, honestly. I’ve been going back and just kind of re optimizing, like adding new opt-ins. Oh should I change the title? There was one, I have like a Canva font list thing and I had to update it because Canva added like a ton of new fonts and and so then I added those in and added in the title put 2019 so that’s something else you can do. I do suggest also doing that, “Updated on,” like what you said, “Updated from September 2018 to 2019,” whatever. But you can also to help your SEO is put 2019 in the title itself and then that helps, in Google results can help you show up a little bit higher. People might actually be wanting to search for XYZ 2019. They really want the most recent information.
Leesa: Right, exactly. Exactly. And when it comes to health or even when it comes to blogging strategies or social media, I mean was Facebook Live even around two years ago? There’s so many new and new things that we can, we want to be updating on our blog regularly. And another pro tip is when you’re relaunching a blog post, an updated blog post, treat it like a new post. Send it to your newsletter subscribers, schedule it on social media several times, not just once. And just kind of re give it real life like re liven it up for everyone so everyone knows that you now have some new information. And you mentioned internal links, 100% yes. Make sure that if since then you, since you originally posted it, you have written one or two other blog posts that relate to it definitely add those additional internal links.
Jess: Yes, it’s so good for your SEO to do the internal links. And, little bonus tip, there is a plugin if you’re a WordPress user. I think it’s just WP broken link checker. It’s something along those lines. If you search in the plugin directory it’ll pop up. You can install it. It will run through your website and show you any broken links you have. Let’s say you’ve changed the blog link, you were linking to someone else’s website for whatever and they’ve changed their blog link. It’ll just give you a list of like, “Hey, all these links are broken.” So then you can also go and fix those as you updating things.
Jess: So, and I’ve also seen in articles, I mean, and this is just also in the tech world, but I’ve seen reading a blog post and a whole paragraph will be crossed out, like the formatting has the strike through and then it’ll say updated 2019, this feature is no longer available or whatever. And so you can also, if you want strike out if you don’t want to delete it or whatever. Or if there is an update of like, “Hey, maybe you read this before,” whatever. You can also do that, just, “Hey this has changed since we last talked about it.”
Leesa: Right. Right. And this all goes to increase your credibility as well. Because you’re up to date in your topic or niche, you’ve got your eye on the game, you know what’s going on, you have seen and done a little bit of more recent research. There’s no downside to updating your old blog posts.
Jess: Absolutely. I agree. I agree. So my last question before we wrap up, this is more of a little more, a little more about you, but how do you personally organize all of your research? Do you just have gigantic bookmark folders on your browser? Do you use Pinterest or Evernote or what are you using?
Leesa: Yes, I have a million bookmarks and you know what that means I never go into them. So I had to come up with a better strategy because it’s overwhelming. Let’s call it like it is. So what I do is I am a planner by nature and I help clients plan their blog posts and I also write for other people. So I know what topics I’m planning on writing about over the next few months. So what I do is I create a Google document for each project, obviously, I’m writing a new article. And then when I come across something that’s the same topic or it would be a great reference, I just take that URL and I copy and I paste it into the Google doc. So this then helps me when it’s like, “Oh, it’s time for me to start writing that article on sleep,” and I open up the doc and guess what? I’m not staring at a blank page because I have a couple of references there already.
Leesa: So I definitely do that. And then on top of that, I make sure that I’m doing new research. So if I found these studies say, a couple months ago or whatever, I will go and I will still look for something new and relevant and different just to keep it as up to date as possible. But yeah, if you know what you’re going to talk about, if you have an editorial calendar, just create one document for each item and then throw those links in.
Jess: Yeah, that’s super smart. And that got me thinking. You could use Zapier. I’ve talked about Zapier before on the podcast, but it’s basically an automation tool. You can basically connect point A to point B and there are so many different variations. I mean it connects with so many platforms like Practice Better, Squarespace, WordPress, Calendly, pretty much everything you could think about.
And it can do so much, like if someone does X, Y, Z, then do X, Y, Z. So for example, one of the, they’re called zaps, it’s basically the action that you are telling Zapier to do, is every time I post a new blog post, like on my website, it will automatically add a new row to a Google spreadsheet with the title and the blog posts. So then I have a whole Google spreadsheet of all of my blog posts that I’ve ever written with a handy link so I can do whatever I want with that spreadsheet.
Sometimes I’ve shared it with people if they need to look through my content for some reason. But you could do that probably also with links you are saving or if you come across and you’re like, “Hey, I may need to talk about this particular supplement in the future.” So I think you could use something like Pocket, which is an app. I think it is desktop and mobile, I know for sure mobile, but basically it kind of helps you read through and save links. But then rather than having to somehow get the pocket links from your phone to your desktop, you could do that. So Pocket adds those links to Google Drive, to your Google Spreadsheet.
I’m sure there’s other apps you could look into that somehow save this link into Google Spreadsheet so you have that kind of backup if you’re like, “Oh, I may need this in the future even if I don’t know for sure that I’m going to talk about this in the next three months.” So that’s something else. If anyone’s feeling a little tech nerdy today you could look into trying. I know some of you are probably like, “What are you talking about Jessica? I don’t understand what you just said,” but it is definitely looking to Zapier. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes.
Leesa: Yeah, definitely some higher tech than copying and pasting a URL into a Google doc.
Jess: It’s just, I’m just thinking if people have come across some research and they’re like, “Well I don’t know that I’m going to be talking about magnesium in the next three months, but this is a really great research article and I want to save it.” Even if just a reference with clients or whatever. So my little techie brain just went off a little bit on Zapier. But this has been so informative. I am so glad that we had you on the show today. Before we wrap up, I’d love for you to share where we can connect with you online and what you’re working on.
Leesa Klich: Thank you. This has been fabulous. I’m so enthusiastic about this topic, so thank you again. Yeah, you can just reach me at my website, which is just my name. So it’s leesaklich.com. I have a bunch of stuff on there when it comes to health writing and research and blogging.
Jess: Awesome. And again, I’ll put all those links in the show notes for you guys so you can go check her out. But thank you so much for being on the show today Leesa.