This post has been authored by Dr. P. Forrest Talley as part of our guest post series and is Part I in a series to help therapists get the most out of their marketing and SEO. Learn more about Dr. Talley at the bottom of this post.
Owning a private practice means you depend on marketing when you want to get more therapy clients in your door. Some of that marketing involves forming relationships with allied health professionals such as pediatricians, family practitioners, and internists. Another part of your marketing strategy may include giving free talks on topics of importance to the community you serve.
There is little doubt that one other element of your marketing includes having a website. What’s more, if you are like most clinicians you are not optimizing this aspect of your overall marketing plan.
I know, you are thinking “That’s not true. I’ve built a beautiful website.” No doubt. It may even be that you’ve spent a great deal of money to have someone help you make it as attractive as possible. But unless you have maintained a consistent focus on the SEO of your website, the marketing side of things has been neglected.
Don’t feel bad. Most of us have been there – the main thing is not to stay in that rut.
Many therapists have heard about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but very few take the time to learn how to use SEO to rank on the first page of Google results. You have a private practice to run. Learning the arcane secrets of SEO is probably not at the top of your ‘to do’ list. Right?
Not to worry. This brief guide is designed to introduce you to the basics of SEO in a way that is straightforward and easy to implement. When you finish reading this article you will have enough information to begin to substantially improve the ranking of your website. As a result, over time, your site will begin to show up on the first page of Google results.
Why is SEO Important?
As a therapist, you cannot provide potentially life-altering counseling unless those that need such services are able to find you. This is what makes SEO important.
Consider this sobering fact, 95% of web traffic goes to those websites found on the first page of search results.
The first organic result on a page (not an advertisement) receives about 33% of all clicks. The second result earns approximately 18% of all clicks, whereas the seventh-place result on page one of results receives a whopping 4% of all clicks.
Let that sink in for a moment. A result that is on page one of a Google search result, but is at the seventh position (out of ten results per page) is only getting 4% of all clicks. Out of one hundred people who see that page only four will click on the seventh-placed website.
If you want to get more therapy clients you need to optimize your website SEO. That means you need to know how search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo decide where websites get placed in search results. Once you know how they make these decisions, you can use that insider information to improve your website’s standing. Again, our goal needs to always be to get high up on the first page of the search results.
How Does SEO Work?
The general concept of how SEO works is very simple. Let’s use the camping store example again in order to illustrate. Imagine that a potential customer, Hugh, is new to camping and wants to buy a tent, propane stove, and some sleeping bags. He goes to a trusted friend and says “I’m looking for some camping gear and you’ve been doing this ‘wilderness’ stuff for years. What places around here would you recommend I go to?”
The friend responds by quickly writing down a list of stores that might be a good fit. “Here you go,” she says with a smile. “By the way, the stores that are most likely to help you get the gear you want are at the top of the list. But if those don’t work out, try some of the stores I listed further down on the page.”
With that in mind, the soon to be happy camper jumps in his car and heads over to the first store on the list. If he doesn’t find what he is looking for he’ll go to the next store on the list, and then the next, and so on.
That is how internet searches work as well. Your potential patients go to their friend, most likely Google (who performs 75% of online searches), and ask for recommendations regarding therapy.
The person will likely type in a search such as “Best therapist near me” or “Best counselor for depression in [CITY].” Almost immediately Google completes an analysis of the request, reviews its database of billions of websites, and then provides a list of websites that are rank-ordered according to what Google believes will be most helpful.
The big question is how does Google determine what is the best response (the list of websites provided) for a given search query. Google has not issued a ‘white paper’ describing the formula it uses to make these decisions. In fact, they make a concerted effort to keep the specifics of their algorithm secret.
We do know, however, that they use over two hundred variables to determine where a website will rank according to a specific query. The exact composition of the variables they use end up changing throughout the year.
What Does This Mean For Ranking My Website?
At this point, it could be tempting to think that ranking on page one of Google is largely a matter of luck. Hundreds of variables that frequently change? Give me a break.
Not so fast. This is where (SEO) comes to the rescue. There are a lot of SEO experts that make their living by reverse engineering Google searches in order to figure out what works to get a website a high ranking.
By using some of the basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles these researchers have discovered, you too can get your website to climb the SERP ladder.
It worked for my website in just 8 months. Not convinced? Do a Google search of “Depression Counselor Folsom” or “Folsom Depression Therapy” or “Trauma Help In Folsom”, or “Anxiety Teen Therapy Folsom.”
You can get to page one as well. Eventually, with persistence and patience, you will move up to the top of page one and be well on your way to having more therapy clients in your office. It takes a little time, a little effort, and strategy. The reward for all of this is your practice will have greater visibility and more referrals.
What can you do to increase your ranking?
There are dozens of ways to improve the ranking of a website. Most clinicians, however, don’t have the time to implement dozens of SEO strategies, but they still need to get more therapy clients. Most clinicians simply want to learn a handful of techniques that can be easily completed yet still pump up their website ranking.
Joe Bavonese is a clinical psychologist who has built a private practice that employs more than two dozen therapists and has multiple income streams. He clearly knows a few things about running a successful mental health care business. According to Dr. Bavonese the top five SEO factors to focus upon are:
- Creating (and verifying) a Google Business Profile
- Optimizing the meta tags on your website
- Getting inbound links
- Creating fresh content.
In the next post, we’ll spend some time looking at each of these suggestions, and how they can be implemented.
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.