SEO is all the stuff you can do to increase your website’s visibility in organic, non-paid search engine results. And in this article, we will go over SEO basics for therapists in private practice.
Although SEO is wide and deep, at the heart of it all, SEO is about growing the position and the number of rankings of a website’s pages in search engine results pages.
We’ll start off by covering what it is that search engines are trying to do when they deliver search results to it’s users, the benefits of SEO, what stuff is included in SEO, who can do SEO, and more.
What Search Engines Do
The three major, most popular, search engines are Google, Bing, and Yahoo! and when you’re discovering SEO, it’s important to consider what search engines like these are trying to do when they sort websites on a search results page.
One of the primary revenue streams for these search engine companies is selling ads. In order to sell those ads they have to have a lot of users. And they have a lot of users by delivering the best and most relevant search results so that they return and search again and again.
If I go to Google right now and type in “piglet video”, you better believe some of the best piglet videos ever made will be on the search engine results page for me to watch.
Google already crawled the internet, indexed the best piglet videos, and ranked them based on a number of complex factors such as popularity, authority, longevity, and relevance to my search query “piglet video.”
If, however, I type in “piglet video” and the results that I get are for cruises in Antarctica, I would not be a satisfied user and would be less likely to use that search engine again.
Or, however, if I type in “piglet video” but the results are kinda “meh,” then I also may not be satisfied. I’m looking for the most piglet-y videos there are, not just ones in which piglets make a 3 second cameo.
Search engines want to satisfy their users.
When we are doing SEO for our website, we are using known techniques for making our website the one that search engines will be more likely to match as the best result for certain search queries.
“One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO is empathy for your audience. Once you grasp what your target market is looking for, you can more effectively reach and keep those users.” – moz.com
Keeping in mind the way that search engines work and why they are doing what they are doing, can help put you in the right mindset for successful SEO as a therapist in private practice.
Why SEO is a Good Idea
- Get found by search engines. Technical level mistakes can make you invisible, bad user experience can lead to bounce, and un optimized content just won’t be as visible. SEO can ensure you are crawled, indexed, and hopefully found.
- Drive traffic to your site. When you start to rank and visitors like what they see, it may help your website get traffic over time and in turn, make your website a more quality website in the eyes of search engines.
- Derive value out of search queries. When SEO is done correctly, there’s potential for a big return on your investment. The margin of returns can be large for this marketing tactic.
- Get found locally. As a private practice, you may have a business model that focuses primarily on providing a service locally and local SEO, one type of SEO, helps local searchers find you easier.
- Be competitive. Whether your practice is full or you are just starting out, practices that do SEO have an advantage over their competitors with content that will be more readily found than their non-SEO competitors.
What Does SEO Include?
Learning about SEO can be pretty confusing. There’s a ton of jargon, complexity, and sometimes even controversy.
SEO has no official guidebook and is always changing along with the search engines themselves. Many of the things we know about SEO are through trial and error.
Because of this, the following is a simplified outline of what SEO includes lately. It covers what are called on page factors, off page factors, as well as something important for therapists as local businesses: local SEO which includes both on page and off page factors.
On Page Factors
On page factors are factors on a website page that include the things that you directly control in terms of the content, design, or code of your website.
Examples of on page content factors:
- Providing valuable content that satisfies visitors that click on the search engine result.
- Providing share-worthy content that visitors are compelled to share on social media.
- Optimizing content for keywords, a process from keyword research and competitive analysis to human-visitor-friendly insertion of keywords.
Examples of on page design factors:
- Creating a good user experience including a website that is easy to navigate, makes it easy for visitors to find what they are seeking, and to spend time on the website engaged with the content.
- Having a mobile responsive website that presents well no matter what the screen size.
Examples of on page technical factors:
- Ensuring the website is technically crawlable.
- Having a sound website structure including logical internal links and a sitemap.
- Metadata, schema, and rich snippets for search engines, social media, and social bookmarking sites to use.
Off Page Factors
Off page factors are factors off of a website that are used by search engines to understand if your website is a quality website. Search engines recognize how website users and other websites perceive the website.
From links, search engines try to determine if your website is providing value. If your website provides value, it is more worthy of ranking higher in search results.
Backlinking is the most central factor of off page factors but social shares and social bookmarking also fall into this category as these are off page factors that may affect your online reputation and therefore ability to gain quality backlinks.
Local SEO is a combination of on page and off page factors that are specific to coming up in local search results. Today, search engines realize both where searchers are located as well as if the query they are searching for is a local service.
So if I type, “vegan burger” into google while I’m in Greenwich Village, the vegan burger joint By Chloe is sure to come up in the results (and also because it’s fabulous).
As a therapist, counselor, or coach who is providing a local service, it is important to do both on page and off page local search optimization to be as visible as possible for those search results.
Local search optimization includes tasks like
- Grabbing directory listings (like google business).
- Optimizing your website’s title with keywords and locations (practice name + niche + location)
- Including your name, address, and phone number consistently across all citations (listings)
- Putting your address on every page of your website
- And more
Local search is even more important today than it was years ago considering the rise in mobile phone usage so this specific sub-type of SEO tasks is important.
Who Can Do Your SEO?
Let me bust a myth really quick: website designers do not do all of the things included in SEO.
While creating a good user experience is a very big and important part of SEO, when most people “do SEO”, they aren’t talking just about the website design piece, they are talking about the other on page and off page factors as well.
But I do want to take a minute and point out how important that design piece is to SEO. Rand Fishkin, one of my favorite SEOs, once said the following about the role of design in SEO:
“Design doesn’t just matter, it’s 50% of the battle” – Rand Fishkin
And he’s not a website designer. He’s an SEO geek through and through. So things like having a website that is easy to navigate, comfortable, and welcoming, things that come with great website design, you are also achieving a very key part of SEO.
Design is part of SEO but not all of SEO.
Things like researching keywords, writing content, or developing a backlink strategy are very far outside of the job description of website designer and you should not expect your designer to include these things in their services.
So if your website designer is not “doing your SEO,” as in, the non-design part, then who will?
Well, depending on your interest in learning SEO skills and available time to keep up on it, you may be able to do some SEO tasks yourself. There are a lot of great, free resources out there about SEO to help you get started.
You may also wish to hire someone. Some SEO services are more general and will do an audit of your website and give you more of a overview of how to proceed or maybe a suggestion of various services they may be able to offer you.
Other SEO services are more specific, zoned in on one particular aspect of SEO. For instance, there are SEO companies that focus solely on content optimization: keywords, making sure your content is relevant and exceptional, and maybe building out a content marketing strategy to follow over time which may include a content writing service.
Who you hire will depend. But I’d suggest reading up on how to hire an SEO or maybe how to find an SEO (video) to get some ideas about how to find a trustworthy SEO consultant who should both be able to guide you towards the most appropriate services as well as provide those services for you.
SEO, Important but not Everything
SEO is important. It can help your website get seen in organic search results.
But SEO is not everything. It’s important to keep in mind that SEO is one of a multitude things you can do to market your psychotherapy practice.
How else can people find you online? Social media, referrals, media, guest posting, public speaking, workshops, and more. There is an overlap between other types of online marketing and SEO strategies, so there’s a chance that you’ve been doing things that are awesome for SEO without even knowing about it (like blogging and social media!).
So with that in mind, it’s important to bust the myth that if you want to market online you have to have your “SEO done” on some deep radical level or with a huge investment. That’s simply not true. Baby steps and a solid online marketing strategy can get you to a full practice.
Being Present, Helpful, and Generous Online is Good SEO
Search engines are simply trying to serve up the best content to those that are searching. So along with your newfound understanding of SEO basics for therapists in private practice, remember that serving humans also serves search engines. And serving humans is something that you, as a therapist, are awesome at.
So go out there and be present and helpful. Empathy and compassion are your online marketing superpowers.
What do you think? Was this basic guide covering SEO helpful? Did you learn anything new? If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, or maybe getting some tips and tricks you can put to use, then let me know by sending me a note or tweeting me anytime. I would love to hear from you.