March 16, 2024

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization for Therapists

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization for Therapists

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization for Therapists

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is an invaluable tool for therapists to enhance their online visibility and attract more potential clients. A strong online presence is crucial for mental health professionals seeking to connect with people who need their services.

SEO involves a series of strategies and techniques designed to improve the ranking of therapy websites on search engines, mainly Google. This process is vital because higher rankings increase the likelihood that your website will be found by individuals searching for mental health support. By carefully optimizing various elements of your website, from content to technical aspects, therapists can significantly improve their online profile and ranking, making it easier for potential clients to discover their services.

Why SEO is Essential for Therapists in Private Practice

For therapists operating in private practice, SEO transcends being a mere marketing strategy; it becomes an essential component of their practice's growth and sustainability. In a crowded online landscape, therapists must distinguish themselves and ensure their services are accessible to those in need. 

Start googling for yourself. Imagine you’re seeking mental health support. What other websites show up? How many clicks and bookings do you think those other websites capitalize on by appearing before your website does?

Once you take a few virtual steps in the shoes of your potential clients, it’s easy to see how important it is to have your website be a top option on Google and see how other practices are building a strong client base and establishing a reputable online presence.

SEO Results for Therapist Sites

In the simplest terms, we’re talking about someone in Toronto googling “toronto therapist” or “therapist near me". The top two results below are not surprising. Google loves lists, and Psychology Today's website gets over 5 million visits from Google per month largely due to this.

Maps results also show up as Google will do their best to find a local service, especially when a user indicates a location.

Keyword Research: Finding the Right SEO Terms

So, what do people google? Keyword research is a critical first step in the SEO process for therapists. It involves identifying and analyzing the terms and phrases that potential clients are using when searching for mental health services online.

Examples of keywords in the United States could be:

  • therapist near me (googled 149,000 times per month in the U.S.)
  • therapist (googled 108,000 times per month in the U.S.)
  • child therapist (googled 28,000 times per month in the U.S.)

People will often google their community name as part of their search to find something close to home. Examples of keywords in Canada could be:

  • therapist toronto (googled 1,300 times per month in Canada)
  • therapist calgary (googled 1,100 times per month in Canada)
  • therapist vancouver (googled 800 times per month in Canada)

This research is foundational because it informs the optimization strategy for your website, ensuring that your content resonates with the needs and search behaviours of your target audience. By integrating these targeted keywords into web pages, therapists can optimize their website to rank for relevant searches. This optimization not only helps in attracting the right audience but also in meeting the specific needs of individuals seeking therapy services, thereby improving the chances of a booking from visitor to client.

Optimizing Your Therapy Website with SEO Best Practices

Optimizing a website involves:

  1. Ensuring the content on a page matches with what people are googling for
  2. Editing the content on that page is to be the most informative and robust option for Google to show
  3. Removing technical barriers from the code that can confuse Google
  4. Finding on other websites to prove to Google you’re a trustworthy organization

SEO best practices should not only help therapists' websites rank higher on Google but also provide a better user experience, encouraging visitors to stay longer and engage more deeply with the content.

Local SEO Strategies for Therapists

Therapists are licensed in a certain area, and people tend to want their therapist close to home. That’s why Local SEO is such a crucial factor when increasing organic traffic. 

This strategy involves optimizing your online presence to appear in local search results even if you offer only virtual therapy sessions.

A starting list for Local SEO is:

  1. Claiming and optimizing a Google My Business listing
  2. Incorporating local keywords (such as the city or neighbourhood) into the website's content
  3. Ensuring that the practice's name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent across the web.

Content Marketing and SEO for Therapists

Content marketing plays a vital role in SEO for therapists by helping to establish them as authoritative and trustworthy sources of information. A robust content strategy that includes writing detailed blog posts, articles, and guides on various aspects of mental health can significantly improve a website's SEO.

This strategy not only helps in attracting organic traffic through valuable and informative content but also encourages engagement and sharing, which can further boost the site's visibility. It also provides social media profiles with something to post.

Building Backlinks: A Key Component of SEO for Therapists

Google needs to know how to trust a website to show them at the top of their rankings. One way to know a website is trustworthy is to find many other reputable websites linking to it. Google would notice if The New York Times and CBC linked to your website, and trust it more. That’s why for therapists, building a network of great links from other websites is crucial for enhancing their website's authority and rankings. 

How to get links

There are great ways to build links, bad ways to build links, a ton of ways to simply waste everyone’s time.

The best way therapists can acquire backlinks is to provide news outlets with quotes, interviews, and expertise. News websites have strong authority, and mental health has never been bigger in our media. Dozens of journalists per day are out there trying to get to the bottom of a story about how Baby Boomers are struggling with Issue 1, how Milennials think about Issue 2, or how the next generation will be impacted by Issue 3.

One word of caution—building backlinks can be a waste of time and money or very detrimental,. Thousands of linkbuilders, many of them overseas, promise to build backlinks for a price. You should avoid 99% of these or proceed with morbid curiosity.

The Role of Social Media in SEO for Therapists

Although social media signals do not directly influence search engine rankings, social media activity can positively affect SEO outcomes.

If you are helping journalists and other site owners via your linkbuilding strategy, having a strong social media presence will help prove you are a thought leader in psychology and mental health. A journalist cannot quote someone that they do not know has a long trusted track record of offering an informative, accurate, and helpful point of view.

SEO for Therapists: Common Mistakes to Avoid

When implementing SEO strategies, therapists must be wary of common pitfalls that can hinder their website's performance.

Not localizing

Not localizing is number one, because not adding a geography that you serve, means competing nationally against everyone else in the country. By simply adding the city, province, or state name, your ability to reach people has increased significantly.

Not explaining what you do in clear terms

Google and people both use simple language to find content. In your page titles, urls, and headings, don’t use:

holistic experiences to repair connections with loved ones

Try something such as:

family therapist in manhattan

This isn’t the most poetic language in the world, but it gets to the point. It explains what you do, and whether a user has found the service they are looking for.

Not having unique pages per service

Many website owners, not just therapists, make the mistake of having a Services page that lists everything they do. The problem is that people are looking for a unique service. For example, listing all therapy services such as couples therapy, individual therapy, CBT therapy, and anger management will not be as strong as a page that has these broken out individually. 

Accidentally adding technical limitations

A technical SEO review is needed at least once to ensure something in the code isn’t stopping Google. The platform, theme, edits, and settings of a site all have their unique properties that could be a factor. Most technical SEO audits for therapist’s sites are brief and straightforward. 

Measuring Success: SEO Tools and Metrics for Therapists

Free Measurement Tools

Therapists need to know if it’s working. To gauge the success of your SEO efforts, you can pick one of these free tools:

  1. Google Search Console
  2. Google My Business: Performance 
  3. Google Analytics

Google Search Console is great in that it will provide you with rankings, impressions, click rates, and technical reports errors. The only drawback is that they cannot drill down to a local level so all of your measurement will be reported with national volumes, rankings, impressions, and clicks. 

You can see not only the clicks, but the impressions which is crucial. Impressions are the amount of times the website showed up on Google results, even on the fifth page where the user didn't see the website in its results page. They do this to provide feedback on Average Position.

More importantly are the keywords. You can see the clicks, impressions, CTR (click through rate), and position.

Google My Business Performance metrics will show you what you show up for mainly in Maps. That means it’s very helpful for the local searches that Google Search Console can’t cover.

Google Analytics is great to analyze engagement, but not the best for SEO traffic. Below you can see some traffic sources.

A report like this doesn't tell us much other than the the users are coming in from a variety of traffic sources.

Paid Measurement Tools

The two big SEO tools out there are:

  1. Ahrefs
  2. SEMRush

Ahrefs pricing starts at $99 USD, and SEMRush starts at $129 USD. That’s their starting price, but there's always a catch which drives up the cost a bit.

They both offer keyword research, Google Search Ads research, competitive research, technical audits, and everything you’d need to run SEO campaigns. Ahrefs looks nicer, and SEMRush has more features. I’d say give both a try and see what works best for you.

Adapting to Algorithm Changes

Google frequently updates their algorithm to improve the relevance and quality of search results. For therapists, staying informed about these changes and adapting their SEO strategies is crucial for maintaining and improving their website's visibility.

Algorithm updates can affect how web pages are ranked, making it essential for therapists to follow SEO best practices and adjust their tactics to align with the latest guidelines.

This may involve:

  • Adding and updating content
  • Building a better local presence
  • Disavowing links
  • Improving site speed
  • Building better offsite signals
  • Enhancing usability

If you’re continually building a strong SEO presence with best practices in mind, you won’t have to worry too much about algorithm shifts. Google will always value a strong site that is outperforming the competition.

Josh Loewen

Josh is a big advocate for mental health and wellness, and would love to chat with you about your site if it has anything to do with helping people

Josh co-founded The Status Bureau in 2006, and has a deep interest in competitive research and SEO. You can find him between Main Street and Gastown in Vancouver hacking away on a laptop, watching soccer, skateboarding, but probably just doing dad stuff.

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