Online Marketing Techniques for Counselors and Therapists
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization is the process of helping your website to show up more often on search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. There is a lot of information floating around on how to improve search engine rank. However, the most tried and true methods include:
- having a website with lots of useful information
- having reputable websites link to your website.
Try ‘pay-per-click’ Advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an immediate way to get your website ranked at the top of search engines—sort of. With PCC advertising your website will be at the top, and therefore seen by many eyes, but it will be listed in the “sponsored links” section, which usually appears to the right of the natural search engine rank list (see figure 18). To receive a #1 ranking with PPC advertising, all one must do is pay more than the next guy for a particular keyword. For example, for the keyword “Online Counseling” it might cost $5.00 per click to be ranked #1. For the keyword “Cybercounseling” it might only cost $1.99.
‘Per click’ means that the search engine will charge you the designated fee every time someone literally ‘clicks’ on your advertisement, which is a link to your website. Therefore, to be successful with PCC advertising you need to determine how many visitors to your website it takes to receive a paying client, and how much one paying client will earn you in net revenue. That is also how you should determine your PPC advertising budget. Two major players in the PPC advertising market are 1) Google AdWords, and 2) Bing Search Marketing. There is only a small minimum cost to begin a PCC campaign, so try testing PPC advertising with both these competitions to see which provides better results.
Post in Forums
Posting in forums is one of those marketing endeavors that costs nothing but time. The process works like this: Join some forums or online discussion groups, such as those at groups.yahoo.com, that deal with mental health issues—a group on depression recovery for instance. Then interact with persons in the group, providing free guidance or advice about their life issues. You should know that posting on forums just to promote your counseling practice is considered bad etiquette (or, “netiquette” to be savvy). However, if your post adds value to the discussion, it is usually acceptable to provide your web address and counseling practice’s name in the signature line (i.e., at the bottom of the post).
Sending out email is very similar to sending mailers (see above). However, with email marketing there are no postage charges. With the help of an online email marketing service, like the one at ConstantContact.com, one can send out email notifications or even full newsletters to their personal list of subscribers at a very nominal cost.
Remember that SPAM (unsolicited email) is not an appropriate means to solicit new clients, so make sure the persons who receive your email are persons who opted to be included in your email marketing. The best way to keep, and even earn new, email subscribers is to consistently offer relevant information, not advertisements. Information about a sale might be okay, but a newsletter detailing 10 ways to beat the winter blues, that’s much better.
Submit an Article Online
Remember that article you wrote for a local newspaper or magazine (see above)? Now it’s time to post that same article on the Internet. First, publish everything you write on your own website (remember, the more useful information you have on your website, the better your website rank). Second, post that article on several other websites. Some of the more popular article sites include Helium.com and About.com, but there are tons more if you search for them. With online publishing you can get exposure by means of your author bio (see above), and with online publishing your author bio can include a live web link to your webpage (that means better search engine rank, and direct traffic).
Online Networks and Classifieds
There are quite a few lists of counselors on the Internet one must pay to be a part of (e.g.,PsychologyToday.com, Theravive.com, etc). These are often well worth the money they charge. However, if you look, you will also find free listings. Any free counselor classified is a great opportunity to get your information on the web and viewed by potential clients.
Publish a Blog
A blog, which is short for “weblog” is the equivalent of an online journal, or even perhaps an online column. Publishing a blog is similar to submitting an online article, but with a blog you are both author and publisher. You have the ability to publish as much or as little, as frequently or infrequently, as you like. You can go back even edit your writings after they are published. Does this sound complicated? Does this sound time consuming? Blogs are neither. To try your hand at blogging go to www.blogger.com. If you already have something written, you can have your first blog-article published in the next 20 minutes.
If you have tired blogging, now it’s time to take it to the next level—Podcasting. By podcasting, anyone, anytime, can publish their own audio recordings online. If your content is good, prospective clients will download your podcast and listen to it on their computer. Some may even load it onto their iPod, and listen to your recordings on the go. As counselors, we sometimes forget that we know things the common individual does not. Why not record a few helpful hints on mental hygiene? Or a short podcast on how to improve marital communication? Or a podcast on challenging one’s own stinking thinking?
Listen, stores like Lowes or Home Depot offer free classes on how to do home renovations. Why? Because educated customers are more likely to buy products. If you offer free education, you might be surprised how many persons seek you out for online counseling services.
Let’s face it. Convenience is part of American culture. In response to consumer demands for convenience, some in-person counselors have begun to provide new consumer-friendly services. For example, one US counseling center now provides walk-in family therapy (to ‘customers,’ not ‘clients’), the Samaritans now provide walk-in services in the UK, and one California hotel is offering ‘room-service psychotherapy.’169
Despite these efforts, the convenience of online counseling still reigns supreme. Emphasize this advantage to potential clients.
Build a ‘Sticky’ Website
Getting visitors to your website is one thing, getting them to stay there, and even to keep coming back, is another. A website that persons want to spend time at is called a ‘sticky’ website, and ‘stickiness’ is just as important as getting people to your website in the first place. There are many ways to increase website stickiness: information, news, commentaries, voting, discussion forums, quizzes, shopping, podcasts, pictures, videos, music—these are all things that attract Internet users. What features will your website have that will keep visitors keep coming back?