If you have a practice, you have a website (you do, right?). However, almost all therapy websites out there have major issues that prevent them from getting as many clients as possible. The following are 10 tips on improving your website so your ideal clients find and contact you.
The first 5 tips deal with “search engine optimization” (SEO). That’s what gets your website nearer to the top of search results. This is critical, otherwise it’s like whispering in a loud auditorium – not very effective. If your website isn’t already optimized, SEO is great. A therapist I know hired an SEO company, which tripled her revenue! However, your mileage will vary. That same SEO company was unable to move the needle at all for my wife’s practice, most likely because her site was already performing well.
Further, just showing up in search results doesn’t guarantee your ideal client will call. For that, he has to feel understood when visiting your site, which my other tips address.
How to Get Closer to the Top of Google Search Results
The biggest “bang for your buck” in terms of marketing is getting your site to the top 10 results in relevant Google searches, and the higher the better. This is because in so-called “organic searches” you don’t pay for clicks (therapy-related ad clicks can cost $10 or more, whether or not the visitor ever calls you, let alone show up for an appointment). So here's how you can get your ideal clients to visit your website.
1. Show Up!
If you don’t already have a website, build one as soon as possible! Even if it isn’t perfect at first, having something relevant up starts Google’s clock ticking, and the age of your website is one of many things Google checks when ranking your site. Read more about this in an in-depth article on the importance of your showing up online.
2. Include Relevant Fresh Content
Google’s mission (beside making billions of dollars in advertising fees) is to give searchers relevant results. That’s why you want content on your website that’s relevant for people who’d want you as their therapist.
This includes logistical details like your name, location, services, whether or not you accept insurance, and even fees. It also includes blog posts and other content that explains things to prospective clients. Things like how research shows therapy is effective, how mental health issues that aren’t dealt with can impact them and their loved ones, etc. Google also favors sites that routinely add relevant content, so post regularly.
Google favors long-form content of at least 1000-2000 words. However, in today’s attention-challenged world, website visitors prefer posts of 1000-1500 words, so 1400-1600 words seems to be the sweet spot. What’s more, readers skim content, so make it easier for them to get your message by using headers, quotes, graphics, and boldface emphases as appropriate. In this post you’ll see that I follow what I preach.
3. Use Relevant Keywords
Your ideal clients search the internet using keywords and phrases, and Google tries to serve up the very best piece of content they can on those. When you write content for your site, keep that in mind. Start by identifying the best keywords and phrases you want to target.
Different keywords and phrases can indicate different intentions. For example, someone searching for "therapist near me" is probably close to making a decision about getting therapy. On the other hand, someone searching for "help for depression," "symptoms of bipolar," or "marriage therapy" might be looking for counseling, but could also simply be looking for information or DIY strategies.
It's a good idea to get your website to rank well for both types of keywords -- those that indicate someone is looking for a therapist to contact as well as for information and strategies they can implement at home. However, you may want different pages to show up in their search results, depending on their most likely intention. If they're looking for a therapist now, you want to provide content that helps them get to know, like, and trust you (see Tips 8 and 9 below); a page that makes them feel comfortable calling you (see Tip 7) and that guides them to that decision and makes it easy to follow through (see Tip 10).
For those looking for information and strategies, you want to offer content that's so valuable, interesting, and useful that they feel compelled to keep reading. You then want to include multiple invitations to join your mailing list so you can send them more great information, while you get to have another new lead in your mailing list.
One word of caution about keywords, don't try to stuff the same keyword into a page or article on your site as many times as you possibly can. That used to be a way that people gamed Google's search algorithms, but Google became wise to that and tends to penalize sites that stuff keywords. Instead, simply write the best, most valuable content you can on any topic that's important enough for you to post on your site. That will make it more likely that you'll earn the interest and backlinks from other websites dealing with similar topics, which will get your site ranked higher in relevant Google searches (more on that in Tip 5).
4. Be Fastest with the Mostest
Graphics make your website attractive to readers, which is really important. As they say, (the right) picture is worth a thousand words. However, size images correctly or they’ll slow down your site’s loading speed. A slow website hurts your Google rank, and may make visitors click the dreaded “back” button before your site finishes loading.
5. Get Quality Backlinks
Another crucial data point Google uses to assess your site’s credibility and relevance is how many other websites link back to you, and how highly those sites rank for your subject.
Thus, having a link to your therapy website on Psychology Today is incredibly helpful, even if people rarely click on it. That’s because PT is very highly ranked for searches relevant to therapy. On the other hand, having a backlink from a local thrift shop would be next to useless, since their rank for therapy is very low.
Once you have a PT profile that links to your site, it’s time to start thinking about other relevant websites that you can get to link to your site. Some ideas include colleagues’ sites, professional association sites, and websites of referral sources. Linking back to sites that link to yours will help their websites rank higher. This not only helps them, but also enhances how much “Google juice” you get from their link to your site – a “win-win.”
Getting Your Website Visitors to Contact You
Once a visitor gets to your site, you have seconds to convince her that there’s a good chance you’re the one she’s looking for. Your content has to grab her attention and not let go until she’s convinced you understand her and her problems, feels you can help her solve those problems, and contacts you (before her attention is pulled elsewhere). The following tips on are how you can get your ideal client to do just that, once she’s on your site.
6. Use Mobile-First Design
Over a decade ago, mobile overtook desktop/laptop as the primary way we access the Web. These days, over 68% of clicks on my wife’s regular Google ads come from mobile, along with 100% for “call-only” ads. Having mobile-friendly websites used to be uncommon, but is now barely adequate. What you really want is a website that’s designed first and foremost to be viewed on a small screen.
7. Add Videos (because Video is King)
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. Especially for prospective clients looking for a therapist. They need to know they’d be comfortable speaking with you. What better way to help them feel comfortable than including on your site an intro video that gives them a taste of how you come across in person?
8. Use English, not Jargon
Imagine you need an attorney or a CPA and the person you meet with starts talking to you in legalese, or using terms like “EBITDA.” Would you feel comfortable, or that you’re in the wrong place? Or how about the way SEO is described above? Was it easily understandable, or did you feel lost?
That’s why your site should only use words non-therapists understand. In those rare cases that a professional term simply can’t be avoided, define it in the simplest way possible.
Even with English words, simpler is better. For example, instead of “utilizing,” say “using.” While many of us delight in being fluent, eloquent, and articulate, getting profound points across in common language is the true test of your communication skills.
9. Remember that Clients Only Care About Themselves, Not About You
Almost every therapy website out there talks about the theoretical model at the basis of their work and/or their trainings and certifications. This would be great if the target audience was professional colleagues.
However, your target audience is your prospective client. She doesn’t understand those things, and what’s more, she doesn’t care! All she wants to know is that you understand what’s troubling her, and that you can help.
If you want her to call you as soon as she visits your website, write everything in your site from her perspective. Anything you include has to make her feel heard and understood, and give her confidence in you.
10. Include a Call to Action and Make it as Easy as Possible to Contact You
Once Google ranks you highly, and your content resonates with your ideal client, include a call to action specifically asking that ideal client to call you. This is where a site visitor or prospective client becomes an actual client.
Crucially, you have to make it as easy as possible for him to contact you. This means including clickable buttons that initiate a phone call if clicked from a cell phone. Better yet, also include buttons for sending you a text message or email, in case he’s in a meeting or loud restaurant. The less friction when he’s trying to contact you, the likelier he is to become a client.
Bonus tip – when a prospect does text, email, or leave you a voice message, respond as soon as possible. He likely sent similar messages to other therapists, and whomever gets back to him soonest will probably see him in her office.
Bottom Line on Your Website
Your website is the digital equivalent to the neon signs of the 60s and 70s. Done right, it grabs your prospective clients’ attention and turns them into actual clients. Done poorly, it’s a waste of your time and energy.
If you’re not already on my mailing list and want to read my upcoming posts, where I dive deeper into each of the above tips, fill out my super-short sign-up form and get my free rate-setting worksheet too.