While you were busy learning to help other people, your professors may have let you down: I suspect they did not tutor you about the necessity of effective marketing and advertising for private practitioners, let alone the current importance of SEO for therapists. You were not given a modern-day, private-practice toolbox.
SEO (search engine optimization) “is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.” (Webopedia)
It’s basic counseling/therapy business logic: if the world doesn’t know about you, they will not come to your door for assistance or betterment. If they don’t come to your door, all of your skill and good intentions to help others is for nothing
Today, 65 to 75% of the information people use to select a provider or therapist is acquired from websites on the internet, the result of somebody’s online marketing. In some cases, such as mine, 90% of my clients find out about me from an internet search.
There are numerous reasons for why private practice is the way it is today. Suffice it to say, the fact is, if you do not have an active and effective website presence and high online visibility, you are losing business and may not survive in your profession.
No matter how good you are at your craft or profession, marketing and selling yourself is a must. Digital marketing with strong, high search engine ranking is critically necessary for modern-day business success. With simple tools such as meta tags, keywords and the right content, your website will find people who want to find you.
Online Visibility: A Modern Day Business Tool
Even the professionals who work for an agency or a firm need an up-to-date, well optimized website. Often potential clients will get a therapist’s name from a non-internet referral source (such as a friend, family member, pastor), but before they make a call to schedule an appointment, they will vet that professional by searching for them on line. Website rankings determines which professionals get found.
If you are in the first five pages of their search results, many people give you credit for being a better professional. The belief is that the closer something appears to the top of page one in their internet search, the higher quality that something is. If your page or website is below position 100 in a person’s search hits, not only will they likely never find you, but they may assume you do not exist at all.
Truth be told, there is validity to this belief. It is a well-known fact that Google works very hard to make the best match between the search engine result pages (SERPs) selected in response to a given search term or phrase. In that sense then, the higher page rank you have online, the more credibility you are given by online searchers. Of course, this in turn accrues to an increase in your client flow.
It’s a little bit like having a business phone number but you refuse to allow it to be listed, either in the white pages or Yellow Pages. Why would a business person do that and keep contact information a secret? Marketing your practice today requires making yourself and contact information visible online. That requires optimization SEO.
Especially for professionals in private practice, freelance or stand-alone businesses, it is essential to your business traffic that your website about your services be found as soon and easily as possible after a searcher hits “Enter.”
Website Design versus Website SEO for Therapists
Website design and search engine optimization do go hand-in-hand. However, from a business standpoint I would recommend putting more emphasis on SEO design than a pretty website design.
Yes, it is true that what is called “user experience” (UX) is important. UX refers to how engaging your website is and the extent to which visitors rate your site as valuable in meeting their needs. The design of your website will also affect search engine optimization through what are called “on-the-page factors.” But, the coding, architecture and computer language used to create your site that gets good SEO is not identical to the coding that makes for website beauty.
For example, how your site is constructed with the coding it uses can make your site slower or faster. Fast site loading speed is a huge factor in getting high rank. Coding also determines if your site is mobile friendly, another big SEO factor. If you do not instruct your webmaster or designer which to put first, SEO or pretty, you likely will get a nice site with low SEO.
Let me repeat the adage: no matter how pretty and engaging your website is, if searchers can’t find it because they give up digging down into page after page of search results, they will give up and go elsewhere to someone else’s site they came to first. The research shows that most people who’ve entered an online search will begin clicking through to websites and pages they find in their first 30 results. Generally, this means the first one to three pages a search engine shows them.