With SEO, you can increase your reach online and constantly bring in new leads. Below, I explain the basics of SEO for therapists and what you need to know to knock your SEO for counselors out of the park. We lay it aaaaalllll out there, so you're going to want to bookmark this one 💪
P.S. Are you a coach as well as a therapist? We do SEO for coaches too.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the ongoing work of optimizing your website to rank better on search engines like Google. If you want your website to bring in new clients, therapist SEO is a must. Here, I'll explain a few things: how Google works, keywords for therapists, content (including on page SEO), backlinks, your website's technical performance, local SEO, and more.
If you're interested in working with us for expert SEO for therapists help, take a look at our SEO services.
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Essentially, Google is a giant index of content. Although they've added many products to their arsenal throughout the years, their primary service and source of revenue is the search engine itself.
Google wants to deliver the best search result possible for a user's query. It is the work of SEO to create and optimize the best search result for keywords that your ideal clients are searching for.
When you create a web page, you have two audiences: potential clients and search engines.
When a searcher enters a keyword on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, the search engines deploy bots or spiders that crawl their massive indexes. These bots crawl the text and code of pages, assessing the pages on hundreds of factors, like:
And much, much more. In fact, there are estimated to be over 200 rankings factors, and therapist SEO experts like us don't even know all of them! Through Google's algorithm, the bots sort (aka, rank) all of the relevant results in the order of best to worst.
SEO for psychologists can be complicated, but when in doubt, think like Google.
Google can't verify your therapy practice unless they were to contact you, schedule a session, sit down with you, and pay you for your service. So instead, they take into account the hundreds of ranking factors to verify that your business is real and trustworthy. This process of building trust with Google is even more important in industries that fall under the YMYL category, which stands for "your money your life." Industries in this category involve personal and high-stakes decisions, like choosing a doctor, lawyer, or therapist (as opposed to something less intense like a contractor or furniture store).
SEO boils down to two main things: content and backlinks. But first, let's discuss the core of SEO: keywords and keyword research.
Keywords are the bread and butter of SEO for counselors and psychologists. After you identify keywords that your dream clients are searching for, you can ramp up your SEO efforts.
We recommend finding long-tail keywords, which are keywords that are typically longer in length and more specific. Why? Because the search is specific, we can assume that the person searching those long-tail keywords knows what they are looking for precisely and are ready to hire now.
For example, "therapist" is not a long-tail keyword. If you search "therapist" on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, you'll see a mix of results: articles on how to become a therapist, the average therapist's salary, a Psychology Today or Good Therapy result, and more. Because of these mixed results, we can tell that Google isn't confident in what the searcher wants to see.
However, if you search "therapist for anxiety in Tucson, Arizona," the results are all websites of anxiety therapists practicing in Tuscon, AZ. These searchers know what they're looking for exactly and want to hire someone as soon as possible. These searchers are also more likely to convert. Perhaps best of all, long-tail keywords are also easier to rank for.
Not targeting long-tail keywords is only one mistake you can making doing keyword research. Check out our post on four mistakes you're making with keywords to learn more pitfalls we see therapists make during the keyword research process.
There are many paid tools for keyword research, but I recommend the following free tools for therapists, counselors, and psychologists just starting out with SEO.
Type your best guess for a long-tail keyword and see what Google suggests at the bottom of the page, in the titles of search results, and the drop-down while you type.
I LOVE this plugin. You get all sorts of useful data, like how many times the keyword is searched per month and the estimated numbers of backlinks you need to rank on page one.
Scout SEO offers Scout Suggest: a free keyword research web application. Keyword research web applications are typically paid tools, so take advantage of this.
After you've assembled your keywords list, write content for those specific keywords. Make sure that different keywords have dedicated pages (i.e., make two separate pages for depression and anxiety keywords).
You have serious competition. There are an estimated 4 million blog posts published per day. That's why your content has to be really, really good.
Here are a few tips for writing amazing content that we use to get page one rankings:
But wait... what's a title tag and meta description? We're glad you asked 😁
On page SEO is the process of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher on search engines (primarily Google).
Let us tell ya--it goes a long way. We've had clients see serious rankings improvements by simply updating a title tag or meta description (we'll get to that in a sec). Talk about a simple and effective SEO strategy!
There are many things that go into optimizing a page for SEO, but here are the main items to consider.
We've discussed keyword research already, but correctly targeting keywords on your content is step 1 for on page SEO.
If you don't know what keywords to target and don't list them verbatim in your content, you'll likely never rank for that topic.
Link out to helpful resources (remember the helpful content update?) and link within your website to key pages (these are called internal links). For example, if you're an anxiety therapist, link to your anxiety service page throughout your website.
The more internal links you have to a page, the more you help that page climb up to page one of Google!
URLs should be short and succinct. Think genericwebsite.com/about as opposed to genericwebsite.com/about-our-awesome-team-of-stellar-experts.
Along that same line, avoid having too many folders in your URLs. We don't want Google's bots to navigate through more than four folders, but preferably more like two. This is known as crawl depth. For example, don't do genericwebsite.com/blog/january/2022/blog-post. Instead, do genericwebsite.com/blog/blog-post.
Title tags and meta descriptions are the text that appear on the Google search results.
Adding keywords to title tags and meta descriptions is important, but make sure they're click worthy, too! It's one thing to rank on page one, and it's another to get clicks to your website. This ratio of views to clicks is called click through rate.
If you really want to rank, your content should be the best for a given keyword. We provide some tips for this a few sections back, but if you're looking for more guidance, check out our How to Write Content for SEO webinar.
We recommend posting high quality content to your website at least once per month. You can do that by blogging.
Use plenty of images in your content. Like we've mentioned, they're great for adding keywords, and they also help break up the content visually for readability.
Readability is crucial when writing website content. In fact, it's actually recommended to write at a 6th grade reading level on the internet. That means no jargon or advanced vocabulary, and use simple, easy-to-read sentence structures.
Want more on page SEO for therapists tips? Check out our On Page SEO Guide for Therapists. Get 50% off with promo code HEYGOOGLE.
Backlinks, or links back to your website from another website, are a significant authority signal for all industries, and the SEO for therapists industry is no different. The more quality backlinks you have, the more a search engine will trust your site.
Backlinks are Google's form of social proof. When you're researching where to eat on a Friday night, you look at reviews or ask for recommendations from your friends, right?
Google does that too, but with backlinks.
The more backlinks from high quality and trustworthy sources you have, the more Google will trust your website. This trust helps you rank higher for keywords.
Link building can be so powerful that some SEO agencies offer link building as their primary SEO strategy.
Google released an update back in 2012 that punished websites that used spammy link building techniques (spammy link building is the exact opposite of trust!). When you are building links today, they should be high-quality, and ideally, be one or all of the following.
It's hard to find dynamite links that encompass all of these qualities, but slowly building links with any of the qualities above goes a long way. Note that the anchor text and surrounding words that you use when linking to your website help establish context. If you can, nest your URL in keywords like "therapist for anxiety" or whatever keywords you find for your specialty.
Hypothetically, we should "earn" backlinks over time just by being an involved professional with a great reputation.
But the internet doesn't always reflect the real word, so to make gains more quickly, you can proactively build links yourself (or hire someone like us for our SEO services).
Here are a few types of links that we get for our clients (or coach our therapist clients to in our group coaching program Optimize Your Practice).
Or any kind of speaking events, really. Being a guest on a podcast won't always get you a backlink, but you could get plenty of referrals and your name will be mentioned, resulting in a brand mention or "implied link."
And not therapist directories, unfortunately. Although therapist directories certainly help with implied links, we rarely see these accounted for in our SEO tools. It's a bummer, but even if Google loved therapist directory links, they wouldn't be that meaningful because everyone has them. Google weighs links unique to you that are harder to get heavier than links any therapist could get.
A a glowing review for your chicken piccata from a grumpy and hard-to-please Gordon Ramsey means something. A glowing review from your hungry dog underneath the dinner table means less--anyone's chicken piccata would please your pup!
Try other niche directories, like Poly Friendly Therapists, or local directories, like Yellow Pages.
We love Help a Report Out, or HARO.
All you have to do is submit a quote to journalists looking to quote experts like you! You can get mentioned in publications like Cosmo and Huffpost.
Pst... our clients get access to our proven HARO template and expert submission tips 👀
Posting content on someone else's website and linking back to your website is another great way to get backlinks.
For more guest posting tips, check out our post on guest posting tips for therapists.
There are many more link building SEO strategies, but these four are great starts for therapists.
To rank well on Google, your website needs to be in good technical shape. This area of search engine optimization is called technical SEO.
Your website should be free of error codes like 404s, indexable on Google, have the correct protocol (i.e., HTTP vs. HTTPS), and more.
Remember that websites are more than an online business card. They are tools that require maintenance and optimization. Be careful when choosing a website designer or template--not all designers understand technical SEO. If you are looking for build or improve your website, we offer SEO-friendly therapist websites.
So what all goes into technical SEO?
If your site loads too slowly, potential clients will leave your website!
A slow website could lose you clients, but it's also bad for Google's ranking factors.
Some of the newer and very important ranking signals are related to user experience. If someone spends more time on your page, for example, Google understands that your page fulfills the website visitor's search intent.
Another behavior metric is bounce rate, or the percentage of people who click on your website and leave right away back to the main SERP (SERP is SEO lingo for search engine results page).
Another of these behavior metrics is bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on a website and immediately leave (or "bounce") back to the main search engine results page.
If Google ascertains that your website (or one page on your website) has a high bounce rate, Google interprets that to mean your website isn't helping searchers. Unfortunately, that means your rankings could tank.
You can test your site speed using GT Metrix, one of our favorite SEO tools. Try to get in the B range or higher.
We've all seen one of these: "404" in huge letters across our screens.
That's a broken link, and it's a bad experience.
Lucky for you, they're an easy fix!
To fix a 404, set up a 301 redirect.
That's a code snippet that tells search engines to move on to another page (that you define) if a user lands on the broken page.
You can check for 404s using Ahrefs' free broken link checker tool, another one of our favorite SEO tools!
For therapist SEO, your domain should match your branding primarily, but optimizing your domain name for SEO is helpful too.
Ideally, a keyword is already in your business name, like therapy or counseling. For example, Better Wellness Therapy. Then, you can have a keyword in your domain name along with your brand name!
Next, you need a top-level domain (TDL). This is the extension at the end of your domain name like ".com" or ".net." Your TDL should be accurate and trusted. To get inspired, you can browse through a list of top levels domains.
For more domain name help, check out our post on tips for choosing a domain name.
Finally, make sure that your domain protocol is secure. That means your domain should use "https," not "http." Many domain hosts automatically offer this, but always check to be sure.
Want to see how your optimization efforts are doing? Use Google Search Console. It's free! Read our post on how to set up Google Search Console and how to use it to track your progress.
Local SEO is like SEO, but instead of targeting the organic search results, you are targeting Google's local search results. The primary asset of local SEO is your Google My Business (name changed to Google Business) listing. These listings are free, so I highly recommend claiming yours if you haven't already.
Boost your Local SEO with a few methods.
First, optimize your Google Business listing. Fill out your listing in its entirety: your hours, your business description, your services, your primary and secondary business categories, and more. Add pictures of your office and the building. Ideally, add a video walkthrough from the front door into your office. This video verifies that your business is real and that you aren't using a fake office.
Second, build citations. Citations are a type of a backlink. In particular, they are backlinks from business directories like Yellow Pages. On business directories, list your NAP, or your name, address, and phone number. Over time as Google crawls these results, your office becomes more legitimate in Google's eyes.
Finally, fight spam. Other therapists inadvertently spam their listing by stuffing keywords into their Google Business listing or altering it in other inauthentic ways. You can report these listings to level the playing field on the local results. Check out our post on fighting spam on Google Business!
Want to learn more about SEO? Watch my interview about local SEO with Marie Fang of Private Practice Skills!
If you're ready to dive into your therapy SEO, we can help. With agency SEO experience in the therapy industry and other YMYL categories, we can help you increase your reach on search engines with our SEO services. Learn more about my services or contact us today to learn more about our services.
To learn more about our services, request access to our Investment Guide below!
We offer group coaching and full-service SEO services. Group coaching is a more affordable way to gain extensive knowledge about SEO for psychotherapists, but some therapists prefer to hire someone to do SEO for them. We're also constantly adding SEO resources to our online shop.
Along with going on seven years in the digital marketing industry, our founder Kristie Plantinga has an agency-background in SEO and content marketing, a Masters degree in Written Communication, and a degree in Psychology. She also has experience in different clinical backgrounds, from psychological testing for autism and ADHD to group therapy. On top of that, we work with subject matter experts to ensure clinical correctness and sensitivity in our content.
What if we told you that you could be on the first page of Psychology Today for forever? And that you never have to market yourself again? Ranking on page one of Google means exactly that—you'll always show up where potential clients are looking far after you've made an investment. It also works. Learn how Lindsay Bryan Podvin took time off from Instagram with our SEO work tgoether.
If you're ready to dip your toes into the SEO world, we have a few options for you. First, you can sign up for our email list. We send our subscribers industry updates, free resources, and first access and discounts to new services. You can also follow us on Instagram.
We offer several tailored approaches for therapists, coaches, and content creators of all budgets and specialties.
Sit back and watch your waitlist grow with SEO for therapists. I'll handle everything from writing content to managing your Google My Business to grow your online presence. Invest once and reap the rewards for years to come.
In 2019, the coaching industry was estimated to be worth $7.5 billion in the United States. If you're tired of relying on Instagram to grow your coaching practice, my SEO strategies specifically for coaches is perfect for you.
Do you dream about passive income? Harness the power of SEO on Google and Pinterest to bring in clients that are looking for courses and product from a mental health and wellness professional like you.
Consulting is perfect for DIY therapists who want to do marketing on their own but need guidance and tailored strategies. During my consulting sessions, I show you exactly what to do and offer hands-on support.
Affordably learn SEO from me with my online, video-based course. You'll gain access to lessons, tutorials, templates, and forum-based FAQs for answers to all your burning SEO questions.
Need support on your own schedule? You can message directly with me for a low, flat monthly fee. I'll personally respond to your questions, and you'll benefit from other members' questions too.
We are honored to have worked with many incredible therapists and coaches. You can hear more about their experiences with us below.