What is Search Engine Optimization?
When you start a counseling website (or a private practice), you begin with strangers. Strangers are people who have no idea who you are. Strangers don’t know your logo or your brand. They have no idea that you exist right down the street, let alone that you have a website.
The hope for you is that this unknown, unfamiliar website, name, sign, logo, will become a trusted figure in the community that people will seek out, but how do you get there? How do you get to know these strangers?
No matter how great your counseling services are, or what your credentials are, if people do not know about you, they won’t get on a computer and find you by Brand (let alone search for you by name-if they don’t know it).
Counseling Websites that Attract Visitors
So many times, when working with counselors, Counselors spend hundreds of dollars on promoting their brand when people have no idea who they are or what they do – let alone their brand name. They promote “The HappyCenter”, but if people do not know of the HappyCenter – how will they ever find it?
1. Your aim on the website is to attract strangers so that strangers become visitors, and visitors become clients.
To make this happen, you need to create interesting content that is synonymous with who you are, and optimize that content in order to invite viewers onto your website.
2. Once those strangers become visitors, they create pageviews.
And although they are unique people (and they are reading your content), they don’t pay the bills. Those visitors are leads.
3. Next step, get those leads (the people on your page) to contact you, or come and visit you – to become paying customers.
A website / blog is just a platform for you to get people to come to your counseling offices.
4. Once you have those customers, you have to delight them, gain their trust, so much so that they promote your brand, write positive reviews about you, and keep coming back for your services (no matter what they are).
Aka: People come for more than one session.
See the Funnel? As the funnel gets smaller, inevitably – the visitors that really matter (buy your products / services ) get smaller.
So how do you get strangers to look at your site, then take those visitors (who were strangers) and then turn them into customers and brand advocates? Website Optimization.
What is Optimization?
Optimization is making something as effective and functional as possible. Optimizing your website is setting your site up for success.
Optimization, for this article, will cover how to get people to your site (strangers to visitors), and what do you do with them once they get there (visitors to potential customers). If your site is not optimized, you cannot attract strangers. Optimized sites help you reach out.
Who do you optimize your site for?
You must optimize your site for the visitors and search engines. You have to optimize your site for both because a) if you optimize your site for visitors only – by adding tons of images, little text, and making a graphics heavy website – Google won’t notice it, but b) if you optimize only for Google – and do not write compelling, interesting content – you will not have repeat visitors, let alone customers.
Optimize for website visitors.
Visitors are people who come to your site. (If you do not already have it, you can add Google Analytics to your site to track your visitors.)
Visitors are important because they mean more potential customers.
But how do you get visitors?
Write articles to your buyers. Write content that they want to read. If you are a counselor, write about potential problems and how to fix those problems.
For example, since the majority of searches are phrased as questions, write a blog post like, “How do I control my anger? Tips for Anger Management”. This is content that a) appeals to your audience, b) interest your audience, c)makes you the expert, and d) could potentially become a lead for anger management counseling.
If you have been blogging for a while now, but are not seeing any success, think about your audience for a bit. Who are they? What would they want to read?
Marketing professionals like to call your audience “target audiences,” “buyer personas,” or etc… but honestly, don’t think of them that way.
As a counselor, think of them as the person sitting next to you on the couch.
Don’t depersonalize or dehumanize the person. What is the person on our couch (let’s call her Mary) interested in? What would help Mary solve a problem? What would be troubling Mary? What type of content would Mary want to read about psychology?
You know your audience better than many marketing professionals. Why? Because you’ve had a personal conversation with most of them (or someone like them).
Once you have defined your audience, write to them. Everything that you do on your site, should be controlled by who your audience is. Your blogging, offers, CTA’s, contact forms, everything should be directed to your audience.
Create a website and content that is marketing to your audience (Mary). Use language that they are comfortable with. Your audience doesn’t know (or care) about the new DSM-5, or the technical terms when they are reading online. When they visit you in person, Yes!, they want and need to know that you can expertly diagnose, but when they are reading online – they want and need you to use language they are comfortable with.
If your audience has teenagers, write articles on rebellious behavior (breakdown ODD). If they have a relationship problems, write content on relationship counseling. Keeping it simple markets you to your audience, but also to the search engines.
Optimize for Search Engines
Google receives over 100 billion search queries a month (according to Search Engine Land), and most of those searches are looking for answers. People are more personal with Google than they are with counselors. People are seeking answers for their strained relationships, worries, problems, business, etc…
And although over 500 billion searches are made, 70-80% (according to Search Engine Watch) of users do not look past the first page of search results.
So, this inevitably leads to the most important and most asked question by counselors (concerning their internet marketing):
How do I rank on Google? (or “How do I show up on the first page of Google?”)
SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Your job is to make it easier for the search engines to understand your content (internet crawler). Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc all use robots to crawl billions of sites. Your job, in addition to making great content for the user – is to make content readable for the crawlers.
The search engines crawl your pages with a robot, gather data by looking at a few key areas, identify what it is about, index it, and then serve that content to someone searching for that phrase or content. Confused yet?
Let’s make it a little simpler:
Let’s go back to the first goal: Write content that appeals to your audience. But how do you write content to your audience and search engines?
You select keywords that your audience would be searching. If you are a counselor, you may have a list of keywords including: marriage counseling, career counseling, addiction counseling, etc… You pick a list of keywords “topics’ and write about those.
Use the same terminology that your audience uses. You want to use the same terms they are using because these are the terms they will use to find you. You have to think like your audience, because if you do not use they keywords they use, they will never find you.
There are six different places that you will want to consider adding your keywords to (let’s just be honest – there are millions of factors in SEO [of which, when we optimize, we engage in many more] – but these 6 will certainly help):
The page title is one of the most important places to include your keyword phrase. The title lets your users know what the content will be about. Although a visitor may not notice this, the search engines will. If you are writing an article about Counseling in Boston, you would want your title to include the keywords “Counseling in Boston” or “Boston Counseling”.
Domains. It is great to have the domain describe what you do, such as: “BostonCounseling.com” or “CounselingBoston.com”. In fact, if you are just starting out in practice, considering removing your brand name in the domain, and focus on your keywords (no one knows your brand name anyway). Those domains describe what you do, and they include your keywords.
If you cannot get a domain with your keywords, you need to include them in your URLs, such as www.thriveboston.com/marriage-counseling.
3. Page Headers
When you are in WordPress or your website text editor (even Word), have you ever noticed:
- Heading 1
- Heading 2
- Heading 3
- Heading 4
These headings are important for both the user and the search engines. For the users, they show a subtle progression.
For the search engines, they tell the robot that this content is important. Some people (SEO snobs) will say it is not important, but it doesn’t hurt. And with there being 7 billion websites out there, do you really think the robots read every word? The heading tags help the robots understand the content faster.
Just make sure you use your keywords in your content. Don’t over use it. Just make sure you cover the topic. If you are writing on marriage counseling – just write on the topic. Trust me – you will use the words a lot. You will not have a problem with that.
5. Meta Description
The meta tag is visible on the search engine results. It is the 70 characters that are shown on the results pages (underneath the blue links).
The meta description tag doesn’t play into the robots SEO algorithm (so they say), but it will determine if your visitor clicks on your link or not. Your meta description is a brief synopsis of your article.
Label your images with keywords (but only if those images contain the keywords). By adding the title tag, alt tag, and naming the image with your keywords, your images will show up in Google Searches – which could lead to more visits for you.
- Define your audience. This is the beginning of it all. If you have yet to do this, think about it.
- Build a website and content directed to that audience.
- Structure your SEO on-page elements so they can actually find it. After you write GOOD content, this should just be minor tweaking.
If you are in need of website marketing, you can contact us. We would be happy to help you with your content, website, and SEO. Just give us a call at 1-855-4-THRIVE.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a more complete package, and want us to handle your entire business, visit our franchising pages.