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SEO and You: How to Use SEO for Your Private Practice
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How to Use SEO for Your Private Practice

You have an inkling that you need to improve your website’s SEO, but you don’t know where to start. You’re not even sure what SEO means. A quick Google search of SEO turns up millions of results, and it’s overwhelming. After all, you’re a therapist, not an Internet marketer. You just want a quick guide to implementing SEO for your private practice in easy-to-understand terminology. You’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll discuss exactly what you need to know about SEO to dominate the search engine results and generate more leads for your private practice. Let’s get started.

What is SEO?

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. In simple terms, SEO means optimizing your site for search engine traffic. Here’s a primer on how search and SEO work: You create a website, publish it, and now your website is “online.” However, with over one billion websites now in existence, your site is not the only one. You have a lot of competition. To make sure that your website is found by prospective clients, you must include specific keywords on the pages of your website. These are keywords that your prospective clients would search for on Google. You include these keywords on your services page, and you also create an educational blog post on a particular therapy topic, such as “pre-marriage counseling Tampa.” A prospective client does an Internet search for the same term and comes across your website. You’ve just received a referral from the search engines. You have the information. Your prospective client needs that information. Between you is a gatekeeper known as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, et al. Your prospective client is also the gatekeeper’s current client. Search engines act as gatekeepers because they want to provide their clients (or users) with the best possible answer to a query. In order to reach your prospective client, you’ll need to prove to the gatekeeper that your website will completely answer their user’s query. But that’s not all. It’s also important to gatekeepers that your website provides a satisfactory experience for their users. They don’t want to send their users to a website that is slow-loading, not mobile-friendly, confusing to navigate, and/or off-message. If the search engine sends their users to such sites, then their users would lose confidence in the search engine’s ability to pull up the right results. They would eventually abandon that search engine for another, more capable service. To prove that you’re a good fit, you must optimize your website for the search engines. This is what SEO is all about: Communicating to search engines that your website will provide a satisfactory answer and experience to their users.

Why is SEO Important?

The prospect of optimizing your site for search engines may sound overwhelming. As a therapist, you’d probably prefer to spend your time helping clients instead of tweaking your website for search engines. Let me explain why you should focus on SEO. SEO helps you get found by prospective clients. SEO helps you with marketing your services. You can canvas your entire target area with direct mail and flyers, but some prospective clients will never find you through those marketing efforts. Instead, they’ll find your through a simple Google search for “mental health services [insert city, state].” SEO ensures that your website pops up ahead of your competitor. SEO helps you manage your reputation. Let’s say that a prospective client is referred to you by a friend. When debating whether or not to make an appointment with you, a prospective client will often search for your name on Google. Perhaps they’d like to see reviews or learn more about your credentials. What will they find? By optimizing your website for search engines, you can control what information they may find. Your diligent SEO efforts will ensure that your website appears on the first page of the search results.

Choosing the Right Keywords

Keywords are one of the most important parts of your SEO strategy. It’s essential that your targeted keywords match search engine user queries. If no one is searching for your keywords, no one will find your page. However, never target a simple keyword like “therapy” or “mental health.” A quick Google search for “mental health” pulled up close to 300 million results. It would be too difficult to compete with all of the other websites devoted to mental health. Plus, you would definitely attract search engine users who have no need or desire to become your client. Perhaps they live in Denver and your private practice is in Boston. Perhaps they’re researching mental health for a school paper. You get the point. Instead, target so-called “long-tail keywords.” Long-tail keywords contain at least three words and are much more specific. Instead of “mental health” (which is a short tail keyword), you’d focus on a term like “binge eating disorder treatment Miami” (long-tail keyword). Limiting your scope will attract more prospective clients than if you tried to reach everyone who’s interested in mental health. To generate long-tail keywords, think about your prospective client. What phrases are they most likely to search for when looking for the content that you may provide? One of the best resources for finding long-tail keywords is Google itself, specifically Google Keyword Planner. With Google Keyword Planner, you can find how many people are actually searching for that term each month. Another place to look is Keyword Tool. The next question is: Where do you add long-tail keywords? Here are 6 places to include keyword phrases:
  • Your domain name (Add counseling or therapy to your domain name, ex.
  • Your page title (Don’t duplicate your title tags, which is the HTML title element that’s displayed both in the search engine result page and at the top of the browser.)
  • Your pretty URL (Include targeted keywords in your page’s URL, for example,
  • Within the body of your content (Add your targeted keyword phrase within the first paragraph.)
  • Your meta description (Much like title tags, meta descriptions show up on search results. These descriptions are a maximum of 160 characters and explain what your page is about. If you use a special plugin like Yoast for WordPress, you’ll be able to add a meta description quickly.)
  • Your image names (Adding keywords to your images can help you appear in image search, too.)

SEO Housekeeping

In addition to creating keyword-rich content, here are a few more ways to improve your website’s SEO: Create a mobile-friendly website – Your website should look good on every viewing screen, including smaller screens such as smartphones and tablets. Focus on speed – A fast-loading page is essential. People will get impatient if your site takes too long to load. Your site should load within 9 seconds or less. Test your site’s loading speed here.

Being Patient

Patience is a virtue when it comes to SEO. To use another maxim, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start optimizing your website for search engines today, but don’t expect overnight results. It takes a while (often, six months to a year) for search engines to recognize your SEO efforts. However, the wait is well worth it when you start generating client leads via your website for free. Remember that SEO is a long-term strategy, so get started today.

Additional Resources

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