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Judging by the scuttlebutt, it would seem that not having a website is the same thing as not existing. Nietzsche would be proud – or he would feel nothing at all, I suppose.
As a self-proclaimed expert in the field of psychotherapy technology, I get a lot of questions about how to dodge existential oblivion through building a Web presence.
Getting a website up can be pretty quick and easy, but it’s also easy to fall into some traps. Thus, I give you my listicle about the top 10 mistakes in marketing your practice online:
You certainly want your website to look professional and to have all the essential information that prospective clients need. However, don’t let perfectionism get in the way of launching your website, which is the hub of your Web presence.
A website that conveys the kind of energy that you put out when you meet potential clients in person will go far in helping you not only get more clients but, more importantly, help clients that match well with you find you.
Pictures of yourself, perhaps your space, and words that come from your heart are great ways to create a professional-yet-personal, attractive space on the Web.
2) Paying too much for your web hosting
If a human being is not directly involved in helping you improve your search engine rankings, then all the automated search engine services in the world are well nigh useless. They definitely aren’t worth $60/month.
Good-enough website self-hosting can be had for $10-$25/month. There are also excellent services that provide website hosting and maintenance, specifically for mental health pros, for a little more. We recommend you do not use TherapySites. TherapySites does not offer value for the cost.
If you want services to help you improve your search engine rankings, you can do research on the best ways to do it (see below) or hire a service to help you directly.
These are some self-hosting services we think work well enough. I also like using WordPress with these services:
These are two services we recommend that provide website hosting and maintenance specifically for mental health professionals. These services actually provide value for their cost, unlike TherapySites:
3) Thinking, “If you build it, they will come”
The Web is like a giant ocean of information. The beautiful part is that we can find any piece of information in that ocean if we look for it. The challenge is that no one will find the information we put out unless we tell them it’s there.
As we’ll explore below, helping people find your website can mean several things. Maybe you’ll try to improve your search engine rankings so people find your site when they search for a therapist. Or maybe you’ll just try to make sure your colleagues know your website address, so they can give it to the prospective clients they refer to you.
4) Ignoring your Google presence
Therapist, Google thyself! Regularly. About every week or so.
Or, instead, you can subscribe to Google Alerts and they’ll send you an email when something new about you pops up online.
The stuff that shows up on Google when people search for your name is the stuff that potential and current clients will see when they search for you. Potential clients who’ve been referred to you will almost certainly try to look you up online.
Knowing what they’re seeing when they look for you will help you know what needs to be improved about your Web presence.
5) Making social media accounts without a plan
We all have heard by now that using social media – e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. – can be a good way to build up a professional and large Web presence and attract well-matched clients.
The problem is that many people end up making accounts on these sites without having a plan for how to use them. Twitter, Facebook, et. al. don’t do much for you unless you have a plan for how to create your message, find followers, and get your message out to them.
If you don’t have the time yet to make such a plan, wait until you do before creating an account. Otherwise your account will sit and collect virtual dust, which doesn’t look too great in your overall Google presence.
6) Ignoring local search
One of the most magical ways to attract potential clients to your website it to get well-ranked in the local search listings of Google and other search engines.
Go ahead over to Google and do a search for the words “counselor” + the name of your city. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
If you scroll down a little bit you’ll see a block of search results that are paired with local addresses and a map. This is the Local Search section.
Getting listed in the Local Search is very powerful. To be a candidate for getting listed there, you need to register and verify your office location with the search engines.
Ethics alert!: experts will tell you (correctly) that garnering online reviews from clients is a strong method for elbowing your way into the Local Search results. Unfortunately, we have an odd ethical relationship with online reviews. More at the article below:
- Register your business with Google
- Register your business with Bing
- Ethical and Effective Practice Marketing: Online Local Business Listings
7) Ignoring directories
These directories don’t always bring in a lot of business, but sometimes they do. The success of directories depends on a lot of factors, such as how saturated your zip code is with other therapists.
Don’t ignore them, however. Make sure you give them a strong chance to prove whether they work for you or not – perhaps give them at least 6 months.
And remember that the more professional online presence you have, the better. If these sites only provide marginal returns in terms of new clients, do consider that they add to your overall professional online presence.
GoodTherapy also provides free online CE courses and other support for their members. It is a good site to support and to be a member of.
8) Depending entirely on directories
Some therapists avoid the website thing altogether and just make a Psychology Today profile and leave it at that.
This is a heckuva lot better than nothing. However, it’s also a heckuva lot less than actually making your own website.
Directory profiles don’t provide much space for creating the energy that you want your prospective clients to experience when they see your Web presence. You want them to be able to read all about what you have to say and see what you have to show them.
Also, websites occupy more space in Google search results. A Psychology Today profile will generate one, maybe two lines of results in a Google search. A well-built website can generate many lines of results when clients or prospective clients Google you (which they will.)
9) Going for top search ranking with anything less than full gusto
If your plan is to get your website high on the search rankings, you need to really invest yourself in Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO.”
As Yoda told Luke, “Do or do not, there is no try.” SEO is, for many people, a full profession. You can certainly engage in it as a small hobby and garner the results of more clients in your office, but it’s something you’ll need to devote real time to.
To get started, here is a website with a striking amount of free information about SEO and social media marketing:
For the rest of us who aren’t into SEO, the best strategy for your website is to maintain it as an online professional brochure. Colleagues who refer to you, insurance companies who list you as on their panel, etc. can link to your site.
Or if someone gets your name from a source they trust, the prospective client can do a Web search for your name and they will likely find your website. And that’s one of the most important things about online presence marketing.
10) Depending on your web presence to bring in all your new clients
Unless you’re an SEO and social media wiz, you’re unlikely to get a whole slew of new clients just from building a Web presence.
For most therapists, the Web presence is a much-needed adjunct to classic practice marketing: e.g. networking with colleagues, doing presentations in your community, and the like.
For many of us, a strong Web presence is helpful to our marketing because it exists as an adjunct to marketing efforts in Real Life. Those with a knack for blogging may see a different story, but that’s not for everyone.
The Web cannot be ignored, but it’s also not a silver bullet. Use it wisely and patiently, and it will help you get what you need from it.
See the Other Posts From This Year’s Blog Carnival
This post was part of the 2014 Private Practice from the Inside Out Blog Carnival. Please visit the other carnival bloggers! This year’s theme was “Top 10s in Private Practice.”
- Jeremy Schwartz, LCSW – Top 10 Ways for Therapists to be LGBTQ Friendly
- Rosellen Reif, MS, LPCA, CRC, QDD/MHP – Top 10 Tips to Make Your Private Practice Accessible to Clients with Disabilities
- Clinton Power, Gestalt Therapist, CMGANZ, PACFA Reg. – 10 Creative Ways to Repurpose Content to Attract New Clients Into Your Private Practice
- Dr. Vanessa Pawlowski – Top 10 Ways to Procrastinate on Building Your Private Practice
- Elizabeth Peixoto, MS, LMHC, LMFTA – Top 10 Reasons I Love My Private Practice
- Camille McDaniel, LPC, CPCS – Top 10 Ways to Increase Client Retention in Your Private Practice