Improve Your Rank on Google
As a therapist, search engine optimization (SEO) is probably the last thing on your to-do list. You know that you need to get it done, but you have no idea how to get started. The prospect sounds so daunting. Among the questions you may be asking yourself are:
- What exactly is SEO?
- What factors affect your website’s ranking on search engines like Google?
- How do you get a higher ranking for your website on search engines like Google?
- What’s the easiest way to improve your ranking?
If any of these questions sound familiar, you’ve come to the right post. SEO can be complicated and time consuming, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. This guide will help you understand the basics of how (and why) to rank with search engines, along with easy strategies that you can implement yourself right away. Let’s get started.
What Exactly is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Having a website is important, but your responsibility doesn’t just stop there. If you want to get found on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, you must optimize your site for the search engines.
Simply having a website isn’t enough to rank well in search engine results.
Your goal is to make it to page one of Google’s search results when someone uses a keyword related to your private practice. (We’ll discuss keywords in depth a little later.) You don’t want to be on page two because most search engine users never click past the first page of results. So, if your site is on page two, it’s almost as bad as being on page 200.
The good news is that you can tweak certain things on your website so that you can make it to the first page of Google’s search results. And that’s SEO in a nutshell.
But, remember that SEO isn’t an overnight fix. Although you may see an increase in traffic right away, it may take weeks or even months to see a noticeable difference. But, please keep in mind that you will be rewarded if you stick it out.
Why is SEO Important for Therapists?
You may be tempted to think that it’s too big of deal to optimize your site for search engines. Isn’t it enough that you have a website?
While it is important to have a website, it’s even more important to get found. As I mentioned earlier, if your website is nestled within page two of the results, most prospective clients will never see it—and they’ll opt for your competitor instead.
SEO is an essential part of the marketing strategy for your private practice. Search engines are the primary drivers of traffic to your site—and they’re even more important than social media for attracting new clients. With the right optimization, you can get found by people who desperately need your services.
Think Like a Search Engine
What is the primary goal of a search engine like Google?
Google wants happy customers. For Google, a happy customer is a user who:
- Finds the answers they were searching for
- Returns when they need to make another search
It’s in Google’s best interest to return websites that answer the user’s question as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
So, it makes sense that Google (and other search engines) would promote the websites that will provide the best answers to a user’s query.
Your job is to help the search engine recognize your site as the best answer to that user’s query. How do you do that?
Focus on Long Tail Keywords
Keywords are a big deal because they let search engines and search engine users understand what your site is about. You’ll use keywords to describe the pages of your website and your blog. Keywords will go in your title tag, within your content, and your links. Because keywords are so crucial to your site’s success on Google, it’s important that you understand how they function.
A keyword is a single word (sometimes two) that someone types into the Google search bar (i.e. “therapist”). Google will search through its database to match this query with the best answer possible.
However, because single-word keywords are so common and popular, they are incredibly difficult to rank for—don’t even try to compete with a so-called “short tail keyword”.
Instead, focus on long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are keyword phrases with three or more words (i.e. “eating disorder therapist in Des Moines”).
Less competition is the number one reason why you should go for long tail keywords. Most of your competitors are trying to rank for short tail keywords, and very few understand the power of a long tail keyword.
Do This: Create a list of long tail keywords that you’d like to rank for. Start by looking at the services you offer. For example, if you specialize in postpartum depression for new fathers, your long tail keyword phrase maybe “paternal postpartum depression therapist” or “depression and new fathers”.
Keep in mind that you can use a plethora of long tail keywords—especially if you offer multiple types of therapy.
Then, start creating content around these long tail keywords. You can create static topic pages for your website (i.e. “What is Paternal Postpartum Depression?”), or blog posts where you tackle the same topic in a slightly different way (i.e. “How Do I Know if My Loved One is Suffering From Paternal Postpartum Depression?”).
Use an SEO Plugin
One of my favorite tips is also the easiest.
If your site is running on WordPress, you can use a plugin to boost your SEO in Google. The most popular plugin is Yoast. It’s free, which is also a plus.
What I love about Yoast is its ease of use. Once you install Yoast, it’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to optimize your post for Google. It’ll also analyze your content and let you know what needs to be fixed to improve your on-page SEO.
Update Your URLs
Have you optimized your URLs (i.e. http://www.YourSiteName.com)? It’s so easy to overlook URLs, but your website address is another place to optimize for search engines.
The first step is to choose a domain name that indicates what type of service you provide (i.e. “http://www.FranklinFamilyTherapy.com”). Adding “therapy” or “therapist” to your URL can help your ranking on Google.
But also consider the URL addresses of your individual pages and posts. If you’re using WordPress, your default URL structure looks like:
That type of URL doesn’t help your search engine ranking because it’s not descriptive. Instead, you want something like this:
That’s a lot more descriptive and gives the search engines a better idea of what content you’re offering on your site.
So, if you haven’t already, be sure to change your URL structure to descriptive (or pretty) links. In the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Settings → Permalinks. Now, choose the “Post Name” option.
Include Your NAP
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. You should list your NAP on every page on your site. Including your NAP is important for local search. How else will Google know to pull up your site when a user searches for therapists in your area?
The easiest way to make sure that your NAP is included on every page of your site is to simply place it within the header or footer. Plus, with a prominent NAP on your site, your contact information is always visible to your site visitors.
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