For most therapists, the primary way clients find you these days is online. People type keywords into Google, or another online search engine, and are presented with tons of options. Understandably, therapists that are at the top of search engine results attract the most visitors to their websites and are able to more easily fill up their caseload. The question is, how do you get to the top of online search results?
Well, it might not be as difficult as you think. Therapists, and most other healthcare providers, typically don’t put a lot of effort into optimizing their websites so that they appear high in searches. Many therapists don’t know the first thing about search engine optimization (SEO). And because of this fact, even if you only put in minimal SEO effort, your website could potentially shoot up in the rankings.
In this article I am going to focus on the five most important things that you can do right now to improve your chances of ranking high in online search results. These five suggestions can be accomplished by anyone at any skill level and, ideally, should be completed in the order they are presented.
Focus on 3 to 6 keyword phrases per page
Keywords, or keyword phrases, refers to the word, or string of words people type into online search engines, such as Google. After keywords are entered into the search engine, Google checks its database and returns results, listing pages that feature the keywords submitted.
Each page on your website should focus on 3 to 6 keywords or keyword phrases that will be used to create the content and structure for that page. Let’s take a look at an example. I am a therapist and I have a practice in Portland, Oregon. One of the pages on my website is focused on treating clients that are battling with issues of codependency in their relationships. You can visit my codependency page here. The keywords that I am focusing on for this page are:
· Anxious attachment style
· Symptoms of codependency
By looking at the codependency page, you can get a sense that the content of this page is focused on the six keyword phrases above. I am going to show you where these keywords should be found on your page later. For now, go through each and every individual page on your site and identify 3 to 6 distinct keywords or phrases. It’s natural that some keywords will overlap from page to page. For example, the keywords “therapy” and “Portland” are used on almost every one of my website’s pages.
Optimize your page titles
Every website builder now gives you the opportunity to give each page on your website a unique page title. If you’d like to find out how to edit your page title, just do a Google search for something like, “How to edit page titles on my squarespace site.”
Page titles are super important because your title is the first place that Google looks when they visit your site to try and get an understanding of what its is all about and what search terms it should display for. Page titles can be seen at the top of web browsers.
They are also displayed on search engine result pages.
Just like each and every page on your website should have unique keywords, each page on your website should have a unique page title.
Important things to keep in mind when optimizing a page title:
· Page titles should be no longer than 65 character. That is roughly how many characters will be displayed on search engine results pages before they are cut off with an ellipsis.
· Page titles should use as many keywords for that page as possible.
· A page’s title should at least somewhat resemble a sentence. Stringing together one keyword after the other doesn’t look good and is not recommended.
· The most important keywords for that page should go near the front of the title.
· If you want to display your name or business name, it should be at the back of the title.
If you'd like to read more about page titles and download a workbook that will help you create your pages titles, read this article I recently wrote on the topic.
Naturally integrate keywords into content
After you’ve got your keywords identified and page titles all squared away, focus on naturally integrating your keywords into the content on your website. One of the most important places your keywords should appear is in the headings and sub headings.
The copy on your page should be separated into digestible paragraphs for potential clients to easily read through. Each paragraph should have a heading that informs the visitor about what information they’ll find in the paragraph. When you’re creating your headings be sure to use keywords that are important to that page.
Not only should keywords be found in your copy and headings, but they should also be found in the “alt text” or captions of the images that you upload. You can even use keywords in the file names of the images on your website. If you upload videos to your page be sure to put keywords in the descriptions of those videos.
This may seem obvious, but while your keywords should be found all through the copy of your page, it’s important to only use keywords when it feels natural and organic. Do not stuff in as many keywords as you possibly can. This will make your copy feel unreadable and forced. And even worse, Google will penalize you if you are obviously repeating keywords over and over again. To avoid this pitfall, don’t be scared to use the synonyms of your keywords. For example, if “therapy” is one of your keywords, you should also use words like, “counseling,” “psychotherapy” and “treatment.”
Create quality specialty pages
Your website should have all the necessary and expected pages. Such as a Homepage, About page, Services page and Contact page. But don’t forget Specialty pages. A specialty page is a webpage on your site that is all about an issue that you specialize in. It could be any issue that you have extra training in, are passionate about treating, or a population that you work really well with.
The codependency page on my website is a specialty page that I created. I created five other separate specialty pages as well. A specialty page allows your potential clients to understand areas that you focus on or excel in. Website visitors that are dealing with any of these issues will feel more confident that you can treat their problems if you have a specialty page devoted to them.
Creating specialty pages will also allow you to rank higher for longer keyword phrases. For example, if you perform a Google search for, “Codependency therapy in Portland, OR” then you’ll see my website come up in the top 5 listing on the first page of results. The vast majority of visitors find my website through my codependency specialty page. Specialty pages have a much better chance of ranking on the first page of search results, compared to your homepage for more general search terms, like “Portland Therapy.”
When creating a specialty page, make sure that you address the following things in your copy:
· Define the issue
· List the signs and symptoms
· How will somebody know if they are suffering from it?
· What causes the issue?
· How do you, as a therapist, treat the issue?
· What are the typical outcomes of your treatment?
· What are questions that people typically ask about the issue?
Aquire more links to your website
Once you have all your keywords picked out and put in the right places, focus on getting more websites to link to yours. This is more of an ongoing, long-term play. As a website owner, you should always be trying to acquire more links. The way Google, and other popular search engines look at it, links count as votes. And the more votes you have, the more important your website must be, and the higher you’ll rank in search results.
Again, therapists do not spend much time on SEO and acquiring links. So if you aim for 30 links that are all from different websites, you might experience dramatic results. Of course it all depends on how many links your online competitors have. All things being equal, the website with the most links will rank the highest.
Here are different ways you can get more links:
· Sign up for therapist directories
· Sign up for business listings on Google, Bing, Facebook and Yelp
· Ask your colleagues to link to you on their resources page
· Reach out to other types of health practitioners and ask them to link to you
· Write blogs for websites and link to your website throughout the copy or at the end of the blog
Side note: links from social media do not count as much as links that are not from social media. It’s never a bad thing to collect social media links, but focus most of your energy elsewhere.
To learn even more about improving your digital brand, moving up in search rankings and attracting more clients online, visit my website at www.thepracticeacademy.com. Click here to sign up for my weekly newsletter, filled with even more tips and techniques.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below.
About the author:
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005 and currently leads workshops on how health and wellness practitioners can build their digital brand and attract more clients online. Jeff is the creator and owner of two highly ranked healthcare directory sites, Portland Therapy Center and Wellpdx. Jeff recently launched a new project, the Practice Academy, to teach healthcare workers how to ethically and effectively build and grow their private practices or small businesses.