This post has been authored by Dr. P. Forrest Talley as part of our guest post series and is Part II in a series to help therapists get the most out of their marketing and SEO strategy. Learn more about Dr. Talley at the bottom of this post.
After reading part I of this series, you’re probably ready to start implementing an SEO strategy to get more traffic to your site. Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be well on your way to doing just that.
Create and verify a Google Business Profile
This should be the very start of any SEO strategy and is important because Google uses the fact that you have a Google My Business profile as additional proof that your website is legitimate. Remember, Google’s business is dependent on sending searchers to good websites. If your website links to a real business (via GMB), then you have a leg up on the competition.
Surprisingly, many clinicians do not take the time to establish a GMB. Their loss, your gain. To get a GMB, go to www.google.com/business and fill out the profile as completely as possible. Be sure to post photos of yourself (professional photos, no ‘this was from my time in Cancun’ type of pictures). The more you let potential clients get a sense that they know you, the more likely they are to pick up the phone and call your office.
Dr. Bavonese notes that “In the past year Google has also added a number of features to this free service, such as the ability to post links to your website; get messages and answer questions.”
You can even post brief videos on GMB. Whatever you can do to draw attention to your GMB page will be helpful to your rankings.
Optimize your meta tags
A good portion of SEO strategy is on the backend of things and meta tags are an important piece. Meta tags are simply short bits of HTML code located in the header of a web page. Their purpose is to help search engines understand what a specific webpage is about. When a page shows up in a search result, the page’s title tag and meta description are usually shown.
Meta tags indirectly help to rank your website. The better your descriptions of your webpages, the more likely it is that someone will want to click on your website when looking at search results. Now here is the key, the more people that go to your website, the more Google views it as a popular site. That means Google will move your website up the search result rankings because popular sites are thought to be helpful to those conducting the search.
“OK, so how do I optimize a meta tag. I don’t know how to code.” No worries. With today’s websites, there is usually no need to learn code to improve your meta tags.
It will be important for you to follow the directions of whatever website platform you are using. For a general description of how to approach this task, with examples, Search Engine Watch has a very nice walkthrough of the process.
If you are using a WordPress website platform look at this guide.
For those who use Squarespace as a platform refer to this guide.
Other platforms will also have guides to help you learn how to optimize your meta tags. These can be easily found through a Google search (e.g., “how to optimize meta tags using WordPress”).
Get Inbound Links
Inbound links are a measure of how many other websites link to your website. After all, if other websites are linking to you, Google assumes it must be a sign that your website has something to offer. Dr. B notes that “The more of these references you have, the higher Google will rank your website. The more popular the site is that lists your site, the more effective this strategy is.”
So, if your website gets a link from PsychCentral, that will matter more to Google than if it gets a link from an unpopular site like Earl’s Rare Botanicals. PsychCentral improves your standing with Google because it is well respected and related to the focus of your website. Earls Rare Botanicals is unrelated to your field (and let’s just assume is not well respected). When developing backlinks it is important to focus on a mix of gathering links from well-known sites and local websites.
One easy way to get local sites to link to you is to join the Chamber of Commerce or the local Better Business Bureau. You can also find opportunities by looking at free local directories (almost every city has some of these directories). To find free local directories do a Google search using the term “free local directories.”
Easy, right? If that is not enough, you can also use the list of 50 free directories (some local, some not) that Backlinkfy has put together.
Does this sound like a lot of work? Would you rather pay someone to do this and focus your energies on serving clients? If that is the case then look at White Spark or Moz. Both offer services wherein they will get you listed on local directories and make certain that your contact information is accurate (an important function for ranking high in local searches).
You may be thinking that is terrific, but still wondering how you can secure backlinks from major publications (e.g., NBC, Huffington Post, Business Insider, etc.). These backlinks are gold because major publications have what is called ‘high authority rank’ which Google looks at when evaluating how much importance to place on a link.
If you receive a link from NBC, Fox or ABC news that will be weighted more favorably by Google than if you receive a backlink from the Lady Bug Times of Sleepy Hallows, with a population of 26.
Perhaps your thinking has taken a turn, and you are now musing about how unlikely it is for you to ever receive a backlink from a major news outlet (or other major publication). Au contraire.
It is much easier than you think, and the simplest approach is to subscribe to HARO (Help A Reporter Out). The subscription to HARO is free. Once signed up you will receive emails three times a day that list what reporters are searching for experts/sources for their stories. By using the filter functions on HARO (and the search function on your browser) you can quickly scan for those stories that fit your expertise. If the journalist decides to use you as a source, it is likely that you will receive a backlink.
The tips above are only a few of the things you can do to secure backlinks. If you’re interested in learning more check out what Brian Dean has to say at Backlinko.
Create Fresh Content
The last thing to mention is you need to have a blog. This is probably the portion of SEO strategy that is obvious. The point is to produce fresh content on a frequent basis. Google rewards sites that produce such content because this demonstrates that it is an active website (therefore more likely to be relevant).
The content that tends to rank the highest in Google is that which is timely, well written, compelling and has a length of approximately 1800 to 2000 words.
Don’t let that scare you away. Writing 2000-word blog posts is easier than you think. Especially if you publish once a month (rather than weekly). Be sure to write about things that your clients, or potential clients, would find of interest. This might include:
- How to determine if your child needs to see a therapist
- The best way to fight back against depression
- Three ways to avoid destructive arguments with your spouse
- The best chili recipe ever (OK, just seeing if you are still paying attention… don’t include recipes)
Be sure to include within your blogs some references to other local professionals or services. This will improve the search results when your blog is crawled by Google, Bing, etc. because it shows that you are connected locally.
What’s more, it can be especially helpful to interview another local service provider (in a related but not directly competitive profession, such as personal trainers, physicians, chiropractors, nutritionists, etc.). When your blog is published, notify the person you interviewed and suggest that they link to your blog (that way you gain a backlink, goodwill, and a professional connection).
For even more suggestions and expert guidance on how to write a blog so that it moves your website up the rankings check out what Neil Patel has to say on this topic.
If you want to see a real-life example of a blog that helped move a website to the first page in less than a year, check out my blog (the beauty of this example is that it exemplifies the motto “if I can do it, trust me, so can you”).
Websites are potent marketing tools. Essential marketing tools for today’s counselor. Don’t ignore it. Although it may appear, at first glance, to be something that requires a foreign skill set to master, or would take up too much time, this is simply not true.
Devote a little effort each week to become familiar with SEO strategy and how to implement good marketing practices. Very quickly your skills will grow, and with time so will your standing in the search results. Yes, SEO strategy takes time. It is the long game, not a flash in the pan.
But that’s good news. It means that as your website’s SEO improves these gains are likely to remain – as long as you continue to put a little effort into maintaining your web presence.
Daniel Fava, internet marketer, and website developer says it well when he states “There are two key ingredients that I’ve learned you must have in order to see growth in organic traffic to your website. And they may not be what you think of when you first think of SEO tactics. They are consistency and patience.”
This is a bit like therapy, right? Consistency and patience are essential. When harnessed to persistence, and a willingness to try new approaches when the old ones fail, success is the usual outcome.
Along these lines Fava also provides the following advice: “In about 3-6 months [after starting your SEO efforts] take a look at your traffic and rankings to see how you’re doing. If your content isn’t performing the way you’d hoped, you may need to put on your detective hat and try a few things (i.e. adjusting your keywords, creating backlinks from other websites) or you may hire a professional to edit the content you’ve created. As you create that consistent content, you’ll see what works overtime, learn as you go and increase your potential for generating organic traffic.”
Improving your website and your overall SEO strategy is essential for attracting clients that can benefit from your skills. It is a key component for growing your practice and allowing you to enjoy the financial rewards of your hard work. You now know four things that you can do to dramatically improve your website. Pick just one of the strategies we’ve looked at and begin to implement it today. Add more with each week that passes and before long you will have gone through all the strategies, and be on your way to page one ranking.
About the Author
Dr. P. Forrest Talley is a clinical psychologist who has been helping adults, teens, and children for over 30 years. He’s spent 20 years at the CAARE Center, a clinic within the University of California Davis, Medical Center where he served in a variety of capacities and most recently as the Co-Training Director, as well as Manager for the Individual and Group Therapy programs. At his practice, Invictus Psychological Services, he combines his experience of helping adults and teens who struggle with anxiety, depression or trauma with a desire to help those who have a strong Christian faith discuss this aspect of their life and feel both understood and respected. To learn more about his practice and work, visit his site here.