If you’ve been searching for a way to strengthen your online presence, you have probably heard about the importance of SEO, or search engine optimization. But do you know how SEO works, or why it is crucial for growing your practice?
SEO is based on the recognition that the majority of clients will use search engines like Google to access mental health services. Search engines use algorithms, or automated programs, to cull search results from the vast database of the world wide web. Your goal as a therapist is to convince Google’s algorithm that your website is the most relevant to your client’s search so that it ranks on the first page of results. SEO helps you do this.
How do you make SEO work for you? Here is a simple guide to improving your website’s visibility and attracting more clients:
Backlinks are links to your site from other websites. Google uses backlinks to rank search results; the more reputable backlinks, the higher the rank. How do you get other sites to link to your content? Sometimes it is as simple as asking a colleague with whom you have a connection. Other ways of obtaining backlinks include guest blogging, participating in podcasts or webinars, and listing your practice with directories like Good Therapy and Health Grades.
Keywords are words and phrases that indicate what your website is about. They are the search terms that clients are most likely to enter when researching your services. Using relevant keywords is an essential part of SEO. Online tools like Google Keyword Planner or Answer the Public will help you determine the most relevant keywords for your content. But be advised that with keywords, less is often more. Google can detect what they call “keyword stuffing,” and will screen out webpages accordingly.
In order to maximize your SEO success, you want content that is helpful and informative. This means going beyond the standard “services offered” and “about me” pages. Consider writing articles about topics relevant to your treatment niche or posting exercises and worksheets that clients can download. When choosing what content to include on your site, you might think that casting a broad net will yield the most potential business, but in fact, the opposite is true. Experts recommend choosing one specific (and ideally, unique) topic and aiming for 5-10 articles of 600-900 words each.
Search engines like Google distinguish between local results, (“anxiety therapist near me”), and national results, (“relaxation exercises for anxiety”). You can make sure that your website ranks locally by including your address on every page and listing your practice on sites like Google Business and Yelp. In addition, consider using your service area, (for example, “Greater Miami”), as a keyword on your website.
Other optimization strategies
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Clients should be able to access any post or page with just a few clicks. Check your page’s loading time with a tool like gtmetrix.com. In general, anything greater than 3 seconds will get your site screened out by Google, (and will also be annoying for potential clients). Headers, sub-headers, and bullet points will help make your content easier to read and digest. Finally, include relevant images with alt text to improve your website’s accessibility.
The importance of analytics
Once you’ve put these SEO strategies into practice, you’ll want to see how your website ranks. Online tools such as SemRush and Yoast will analyze your website and make suggestions for further optimization. Google Analytics will track your website’s traffic, bounce rate (the percentage of clients who navigate away from your site after viewing only one page), and conversion rate (the number of clients who click “contact me” or “book an appointment”), and identify areas for further improvement.
Search engine optimization might sound like technical jargon, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. At its most basic, SEO requires building a reputation through backlinks, allowing potential clients to access information via relevant keywords, and ensuring that they enjoy quality content once they have landed on your page. By following these basic tips, you can improve your website’s visibility, attract more clients, and grow your practice.