A Therapist's Guide to SEO

General Marketing

There are many different versions of organic marketing; this is where you are organically found online without paying to be put in front of new faces.

This leads us into SEO, which is the practice of optimizing your site to rank higher in search engines. I’ll lay down the obvious right off the bat: if SEO confuses you it’s because it is complex and never straight forward. There are hundreds of factors and metrics to pay attention to when optimizing your site for search engines and we don’t even know what they all are! Google purposefully hides their algorithm so that people won’t be able to easily “game the system”. 

The best way to think about SEO is to think, what would you do if you owned Google? It makes it simpler when you understand the motivations behind their hidden algorithms. The main goal of people at Google is to make their platform have the best user experience possible. Therefore, they created an algorithm to do that, to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. “Google” didn’t become a dictionary synonym for “search” because they’re bad at what they do.  

Getting back down to basics, for anyone who has a question or something they want to find or learn, they type it into Google. Now, what is Google going to show them? They want to show them relevant content with a good user experience. To break that down farther, Google wants to show website pages that:

 

SEO Checklist For Therapists

  1. Provide The Answer (Keyword Research)
  2. Expertise, authority, and trustworthiness
  3. Secure & Findable Site
  4. Off-page SEO
  5. More Time The Better
  6. Page Speed
  7. Mobile Friendliness
  8. Local SEO

Provide The Answer

This is where some people might miss the obvious. For Google to show your webpage, you actually have to have a relevant webpage to show. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to invest in content and wants to have a super simple and minimalistic site, you may run into trouble here. When Google scans your site they might not find any words of relevance to the actual search terms that a person is typing into Google. So why would Google show your page? That’s why it’s important to have a content strategy that focuses on writing content that answers questions that people are actually interested in.

How to find what people are searching (keywords)

There are many paid (and very expensive) programs out there, but something like Google Keyword planner can give you some data on what people are searching for. Most notably how often it’s being searched for and how many other people are also trying to rank for that keyword. It’s helpful to think about basic supply & demand. Find the keywords that have tons of searches without many results. To do the research and use these tools you first need to do some brainstorming to come up with seed keywords, basic words that you think people are using that you will then test with these tools to find actual data.

We choose to use program like Spyfu, but there are many out there that can give you the same information. Here is a typical approach that we take towards Keyword Research

SEO Keyword Research Ideas For Therapists

Step 1 - Create lists for each specialty/service you have

These will be your buckets for collecting different keywords. You have to start somewhere, and we think using your services is the best, focused approach. This can be done in many different types of programs that will help you collect keywords in lists. But you can also just create a Google Sheet (like above) and create a tab for each bucket of keywords you'll be collecting.

Step 2 - Start searching for associated keywords and collecting data

Now it's time to start collecting tons of data. This is pretty simple as well. Start by searching your guess at a keyword. All programs will pull up a table like this. Start collecting or pulling the data into your buckets, make sure to ignore or pass over keywords that don't apply to the service you provide. Do this with multiple different searches of similar keywords. For the example above I did "child counseling" but then I'll also want to try keywords like "teen counseling" or "child therapy" to get more and more data. Then you'll soon have a giant list of keywords, all applicable to your service in one sheet. Sort by Volume or Monthly Searches and you're on to the next step!

Step 3 - Review & Analyze Your Keyword Research

You'll want to look at mainly 2 factors, the "Volume" or "Monthly Searches" in comparison to "Difficulty". You could try to go after the top keywords in volume, but those are gonna be tough to get on the first page when you're going up against the big long-standing companies! That's what it's also important to look for "long-tail keywords" or keywords that are simply longer than the high volume ones. It's better to choose a smaller fight you can win, than a large fight you won't be able to. So as I scroll down, check this out.

This gives you insight into what people are really searching, but it also gives you some amazing ideas for content. This is where content planning is huge. Most people just think of blog topics in their head and start writing. Where it's much better to see what people are actually searching so here, keywords that catch my eye for good content are:

  • Group therapy activities for teens (Good blog idea)
  • Can I take my child to counseling without permission from other parent (add this to your FAQ section)
  • Does my child need counseling quiz (create a form on your site that asks questions but also collects their email and phone number for followup!)
  • etc.

Where to put the keywords people are searching?

For all pages of website copy and additional blogs: 

  1. In the URL slug (what goes after .com)
  2. Title Tag
  3. Meta Description
  4. At least in 1 header, first paragraph, subheaders, couple more times in the body along with synonyms or closely related words
  5. Link to other relevant pages on your site so Google sees a pattern

Expertise, authority, and trustworthiness

Google wants to make sure that they are responsibly showing information that isn’t just relevant but also comes from a good source. While we don’t know exactly how they measure it, here are some important tips:

Great Content

  1. Create a detailed “About Us” page on your site
  2. Display any awards, certificates, or credentials proudly on your site
  3. Build your authority across the web with guest posts. Offer to write a blog on another person’s site, and then make sure to link back to your own site.
  4. Respond to both positive and negative reviews
  5. Keep all the information on your page as unbiased and as accurate as possible
  6. Provide an easily accessible contact page with various ways your users can reach you or your team

Scholastic Formatting 

  1. Outbound Links - Link to outside credible sources (think about where you’re sending them - avoid competitors and make sure your sources speak to your credibility
  2. Use proper spelling and grammar (duh)

Domain Age

Something you don’t have much control over is the age of the URL. So ideally if you’ve had a URL for a while that’s good. But the majority of pages that rank well are 3 years older or more. So start the process now if you haven’t already!


Secure & Findable Site

Most of this is standard and automatic, but is worth checking. Make sure when you visit your site you see a little padlock next to your URL showing you have SSL Security. Then make sure your site has a sitemap and robots.txt file created so Google can properly read your site (again, this is probably already done and each platform is different for finding it. Squarespace for example is automatic)


Off-Page SEO

Google doesn’t look at just your website but at the entire internet as a whole to determine your quality. The umbrella this falls under is “backlinks” (or “inbound links”) these are links elsewhere online people are clicking on to get to your site. Think about:

  1. Social media links to your site - create social media posts that are shareable, Google will attribute that to you creating good content.
  2. Newsletters & emails
  3. Guest authoring blogs on others’ sites  with links back to your web page

More Time The Better

Google likes it when people spend more time on your site. This is a metric called the “bounce rate”: how long does it take for someone to leave your site? The longer someone is on your page, the more likely they are enjoying the content you’re producing.

Long-form content

Yes, you might be tempted to think “with today’s short attention spans, my content should be short.” Well, that might not actually be the case. The highest ranked pages have lots of content, think 1500-2500 words. This means that the page does a good job of answering the question the person needs and providing additional, relevant information to keep them on the page for longer (Google likes that). Just remember to organize it well! So if someone wants to skip around to a specific answer they are able to do that easily.

Interactive media

Having photos, videos, quizzes, etc is not only more visually appealing but keeps people interested and on your page for longer. Just don’t forget this type of content can’t be “read” by a Google Bot, so if you create a new page for your video, don’t leave the page blank, transcribe the video, or at least write a description.


Page Speed

No one likes a page that takes forever to load, therefore, Google doesn’t like it either. So how do you make your site load quickly?

Image Size

The biggest culprit here is image size, make sure that all your images that you use are just big enough to look good and no more. Something like under 250KB is great.

Mobile Friendliness

With 50% of traffic being on mobile, it’s obvious that your site needs to work well and look good on your phone.

Local SEO

Other than including local keywords like cities in your keyword strategy, make sure that you are taking advantage of local listing platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, etc. Not only is that good for SEO, it’s a great place to get leads in general!


Track Your Current Standings

With a free tool like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, or other paid options with better insight like SEMrush you can get a good baseline for where you already are and the progress you can make over time.

How do you get found? Depending on where your potential client is on the client journey they will either search for specific issues they are having or specific services. And if you have a page or blog that answers this question, Google might show it in the search results. Potential customers will not put a lot of effort into finding you, but they will put effort into their problems. And if you can help them with that, then you could show up in the search results.

Have More Questions?

We'd be happy to chat. Whether you want us to manage some of this for you or simply want some free advice contact us or schedule a call.


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