A friend of mine recently emailed me about SEO strategy for private practice. She asked:
I come with a question, this time. I admittedly, have procrastinated on all sorts of things because of the darn “SEO speak”. Do you have something you created/recommend that is the equivalent of “SEO for dummies” ? After a few years of old-timey marketing, I am headed straight to learn some more about this stuff. BUT, it is incredibly overwhelming when done through a Google search. I am such a fan of your site…and am hoping you have something on there that can help or you can recommend a resource?
The basics of SEO Strategy in Private Practice
Since we are all at different points in our learning journey, let’s start with some basics.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” The quick version is that it is how search engines like Google, know you exist and compare you to other websites. Google and others do their best to match what someone is searching for, with what is out there. Take this example, imagine you are looking for some really good French food in Traverse City, MI. You type into Google, “Counseling Traverse City” and then you get a bunch of Thai, Pub, and sandwich shops.
You’d stop using Google because you didn’t get what you want.
So, doing SEO is trying to do your best to match what you do with what other people are searching for. You are optimizing your private practice website for search engines. Make sense?
What is a meta description?
A meta description is the text that pops up when someone searches. So you Google “Counseling Traverse City” and then you get a list of possibilities. A meta description is 156 characters to describe the page or blog post. Meta descriptions give the reader an opportunity to quickly scan what they are looking for. A meta description is a really quick summary of the article, blog post, or page.
What are tags?
Tags are like a highlighter for specific topics. In WordPress, you’ll see an opportunity for “tags.” It’s a way that websites sort related articles. At this time, Google does not use them for searching, however, they do help the reader to find things that they are looking for within the website. Anything that increases the user’s experience, will help site ranking in the long run.
What is a bounce rate?
A bounce rate is the rate at which people leave your site from the front page. Imagine the earlier example where someone is searching for a private practice, but they get a Thai restaurant. They will quickly hit the back button and search again. Not all traffic is good traffic. Google wants to know that you are what you say you are. A bounce rate of 60% means that 60% of people that come to your counseling website leave because they think that they are not in the right place.
What is site ranking?
Site ranking is a way that search engines determine the authority of a website. For example, CNN, Huffington Post, or NPR will have a very high site ranking. They are known and people trust them. Site rank is determined in a number of different ways. When high ranking websites link to lower ranking websites, this can help. It’s sort of like a bunch of famous people saying, “Donate to St. Judd Children’s Hospital.” Their individual famousness gives authority to St. Judd’s.
Why SEO matters to counselors in private practice
Over the last 2 years, I have seen that more and more new clients find me through internet searching. In most towns, Psychology Today will be in the #1 or #2 spot. So even if you are not ranking, being on Psychology Today drives referrals. Here are a few reasons why you can’t afford to ignore SEO:
- Buying decisions are made on how well a private practice ranks
- You can charge more if you have more referrals to your private practice
- Blogging and writing shows off your niche and expertise
- It makes it easier to add other counselors to your practice and grow passive income
- Very few counselors in private practice focus on SEO, so you can start growing quickly
At the core of SEO is creating a great user experience. Thus, my recommendations are based on what not to do with SEO and what to do with SEO. Here are some guiding principles of the outcomes we want:
- Users to stay on the website as long as possible.
- Reduce bounce rate and increase engagement.
- Great content will always drive up great traffic.
- Optimizing a website should always reflect what the website is all about.
SEO: What not to do
Some things that used to work, still work, others are a waste of time. Here’s what not to do with SEO for your private practice:
- Don’t pack keywords to make it annoying. For example, if you list all of your specialties on the front page, it may help drive people to your private practice website, but people won’t stick around.
- Don’t use the same keywords. When Google sees that you always use a specific term, they know that you are trying to pack in keywords. So if you want to rank for How to Become a Consultant, which I am trying to do, use other terms like Becoming a Consultant or How to Become a Business Consultant.
- Don’t buy comments or links: Google knows. They are watching. Don’t buy comments or links. They have figured it out. Also, using websites that have articles and huge back links don’t work anymore!
SEO: What to do
Here are things that are still working to build SEO for counseling private practice websites:
- Use keywords in your writing in a natural way. For example, you could say: “At our practice we…” or you could say “At our Traverse City counseling practice we…” although it is not quite as natural, it uses the keyword in the context of what someone is searching for.
- Use internal links to build SEO. Think about Wikipedia. In each article, they link to other articles to help users stay engaged, Use this same strategy to help keep people reading about your private practice.
- Build relationships to create external links: As you connect with other professionals, links to one another still can help. Check out this great article from Pat Flynn’s Website.
- Build value: In everything, think about this, “Am I making the internet a better place because of this?” If you are, it will help you rank higher.
- Use the Heading 1, Heading 2, numbers, and bullet points to organize your thoughts. Within those, use bold to highlight your keywords. Look at this article, I have tried to show you exactly how to do that within the structure of this article.
Steps to Grow SEO in Private Practice
In summary, here are quick steps to build SEO in private practice.
Step #1: Create great content
Write content that people care about. Think about what people are going to search for. Instead of writing an article about depression, write an article about women with new babies that experience depression in winter. By specializing you make sure that your article is really focused.
Step #2: Optimize the article
Within the headings make it easy to read. Use headings, bullets, and numbers to make the article easy to consume.
Step #3: Optimize Meta Description
Use the free plug-in WordPress SEO by Yoast to write a meta description for each article and see how it ranks. It will rank how you are doing based on your stated keywords.
Step #4: Read more
Here are other articles I’ve written that will help you go deeper.
SEO Podcast Episodes
Blog Posts on SEO
What are you learning about SEO? Leave a comment.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
Joe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.
Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.
To link to Joe’s Google+ .
Photo by Steve Davidson