As a mental health professional in private practice, you’re in business to help and heal your patients, not to do marketing. That’s why we’re here to help you grow your practice. In this post we will go through 7 tips for marketing counseling services. This article will cover the following topics:
- Building a strategic website
- Content Strategy and why it’s important
- Search Engine Optimization
- Advertising Benefits and Negatives
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Directory Listing
1. BUILDING A STRATEGIC WEBSITE
Having a website that looks pretty is just one piece of the puzzle. Your website needs to be built with a strategy in mind to prepare your practice for marketing successfully.
Here are the steps we took to build a website strategy for one of our mental health professional client’s private practice:
Keyword research is one of the most important steps in building your website strategy. Our goals in keyword research are:
- Understand how patients are searching for your services and your expertise
- Find how your competitors are getting new patients through search engines like Google
- Connect your services to search queries, (known as keywords)
You can accomplish keyword research using free tools like Google Ads but we use SEM Rush, a paid tool, to accomplish this. There are many other tools for keyword research so if you’re building your own strategy, please search for the best option that works for you and your budget.
CREATING A SITEMAP
After you perform keyword research, the next step is to create a sitemap. According to techopedia.com:
A site map is a model of a website’s content designed to help both users and search engines navigate the site. A site map can be a hierarchical list of pages (with links) organized by topic, an organization chart, or an XML document that provides instructions to search engine crawl bots.
In the case of the sitemaps we build for mental health professional websites, it’s simply to help us organize which pages we will be building as well as keywords that match up with each page.
PAGES TO INCLUDE ON YOUR WEBSITE’S SITEMAP
So now that I have reviewed keyword research and what a sitemap is for your strategy, which pages should you include on your sitemap? Let’s take a look at a few must haves:
- Home page – This page is an obvious one. However, building a strategy for your home page is often misunderstood or unknown. We highly recommend choosing your main keyword “Psychiatrist” + in “Your City Name” if you’re operating a local practice. This keyword should be included in your main title (h1 title). This keyword summarizes your entire website, meaning, everything else on your website will be related to “psychiatrist Charlotte” or whatever your city happens to be. Your home page is typically the most powerful page on your website, so trying to rank for one of the most competitive keywords in your field for your city makes sense.
- Service pages – Service pages are important to show potential patients what you offer for treatment. However, we would advise you to not name these so technically. By this we mean, keep these service names in simple words a person without a mental health background will understand. Unless your target market is other mental health pros, your language should be written in a more simple manner for patients to understand. Most didn’t go to medical school and don’t have your extensive background and training. These service pages should tie to keyword research that you performed in the above steps.
- Conditions pages – Conditions pages are a great way to target specific conditions your patients suffer from. I advise my mental health professional clients to not lump all conditions (or services) into one bucket because patients don’t search like this on search engines. Patients want specific help for their specific ailment. For example, if I suffer from anxiety, I want to find anxiety treatment. If you treat anxiety, you should have an anxiety treatment page. So when you’re marketing your counseling services, I advise you to create a list of all the conditions you treat, and create a page for each one.
- About page – Your about page (along with your home page) establishes the credibility of why a patient should work with you. You can pull in public reviews, list your education, list your expertise, and create a warm message that conveys you’re here to help your patients who are going through difficult times and that there is hope for a better life.
- Contact page – Your contact page is an important page in your funnel of connecting with patients. In addition to a phone number listed (which should be listed somewhere in your header and footer also), having a contact form is a great way to connect with patients. A contact form is great because you can track submissions and know exactly where they came from. Your forms should use Google reCAPTCHA v3 to prevent spammers from bogging down your inbox.
- Thank you page – A thank you page is often not included in a website strategy. A thank you page is very important because it’s a great way to track leads using Google Analytics Goals. We use “goals” to count visitors who land on your thank you page. Because the only way someone can reach your thank you page is by submitting your form, Google Analytics will count these submissions, which will help you gather a ton of information about your leads. One main piece of information is the source/medium of your lead, or where they came from. When you’re spending money to advertise or spending money on SEO, it’s crucial to know where you’re getting leads from.
- Blog page – A blog page is a crucial page to have on your website. We will discuss more about SEO below.
Now that you know which pages at minimum your website should have, along with the previous steps of performing keyword research, you should be able to properly build out an effective website strategy.
2. CONTENT STRATEGY ON YOUR WEBSITE
After you build a strategic website, setting aside time or a budget for a robust content strategy is one of the best things you can do for marketing your private practice long-term. As with the pages you built in on your website, blog posts essentially enable you to target new opportunities your patients are searching for. There are thousands or even hundreds of thousands of content possibilities you can create to attract patients to your practice.
We discussed how copywriting can grow your therapy practice in a previous post, but let’s recap some things about creating a content strategy for your mental health practice:
WHAT IS COPYWRITING?
First of all, what is copywriting? Copywriting is simply writing down words on your site (like this blog!) with specific goals in mind. For this blog, my goal is to get mental health professionals who are marketing counseling services to find TherapistX! Copywriting is performed on pages, blog posts, social media, case studies, or any other medium.
WHY COPYWRITING FOR MARKETING COUNSELING SERVICES?
Creating content for marketing your counseling services is very important because it allows your expertise to be found by patients long-term. When I say long-term, I mean for years. Copywriting aligns with the search queries, or keywords, your target patients are making every day. For example, if I am struggling with anxiety, I may search for the following topics over a few months:
- Ways to reduce my anxiety
- Natural ways to reduce anxiety
- Food to eat to reduce anxiety
- Exercise that can help me reduce my anxiety
- Which type of therapist is best for treating anxiety
- Therapy for anxiety treatment
- Should I get medicine for therapy for my anxiety?
The above list is an example of what I would search for if I struggled with anxiety. I put myself into the shoes of my potential patients, which allows me to relate to them and also can show me ways to market my counseling services. Of course, you should do keyword research when coming up with a strategy, but sometimes you have to trust your gut too as to the type of content you should be creating when building your counseling services marketing plan.
Social media content, while an important spoke on the wheel of marketing, typically only is seen for a few days or a few hours. Content that you create on your website lasts forever on search engines. I advise my clients to focus on blog content first, which can then be circulated to social, email, and other mediums after it’s created.
HOW SHOULD I WRITE?
Writing and writing for strategy are two different things. You may be a fantastic writer, which can help you once your patients get to your page, but you should also in a way that Google can understand (which will help them rank your content on their search engine).
- Writing should be interesting to your potential target, not the way you think it should be written (i.e. Don’t write a bunch of fancy terms that your patients won’t understand)
- The length of each blog should be at least 1000 words. Aim to write the highest quality, most thorough pieces you can
- You should have 1 main topic (known as your h1 title), and subtopics that make sense underneath the main topic. If you’re talking about anxiety treatment, don’t include a title and paragraph about PTSD, it’s off topic and won’t make sense for the reader or for Google.
- Make sure that you have an image with an “alt tag” with your main title. Your “alt tag” is a way that Google images ranks images on their search algorithm. If your blog was about “Foods to eat for anorexia refeeding”, that topic could use great imagery that could appear when someone searches for “anorexia refeeding foods” or similar because the searcher would probably want to click on your image to see more content
- You should include this main title in the meta title and metadescription – these meta words are what Google uses to list your piece of content on their search results. If these aren’t attractive or don’t make sense to the patient browsing for a search result, they won’t click on your content!
- You should include a call to action title (h2 title, not the main h1 title) like this “Get Anxiety Treatment in Coral Gables, Florida.” – See what I just did? I included the keyword + the city + the state symbol. This will help you rank locally in your city for when someone searches for this term. Make sure to diversify this for each page of copy that you create.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I WRITE?
You should aim at writing at least 1000 words per page/blog. You should also take a look at what your competitors are doing and how much words they used. A general rule of thumb is that you should always aim to do more and better than your competitors.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Similarly to the process I went through for pages above, you should do the same for your content strategy via blog posts.
- My recommendation is to list out the top conditions you treat (ex: anxiety treatment), the top services you perform (ex: cognitive behavioral therapy), and list them by importance to your practice. Which conditions do you want to work with and which conditions make you money. These are two important factors for determining the long-term direction of your practice.
- After you’ve listed our the conditions you treat and the services you are offering, you should use keyword research tools to find topics your patients are searching for. Here are a few ideas for “anxiety”:
- Anxiety treatment
- Do I have anxiety?
- Types of anxiety
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Individual posts about each type of anxiety
- Anti anxiety medication – a comprehensive review
- Breathing exercise for anxiety
- There are nearly an unlimited number of topics you could write about for each condition
- Create a content calendar: This is simply a calendar that tells you who is writing the content, the topic, the keywords being targeted, how much people search for these keywords, and the length of copy needed for each blog. Here is an example for the treatment condition “anxiety”
3. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Search engine optimization is our favorite strategy for marketing counseling practices. I’ve gone through quite a bit of SEO above, but there are a few components I didn’t touch on. Let’s go through some common questions about SEO I get asked:
WHAT IS SEO FOR COUNSELING SERVICES?
Performing SEO for marketing counseling services is an amazingly effective way to grow your private practice long-term. So what is SEO and how can it help market my counseling services?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving your website to get placed higher on search engines for relevant searches. The higher your website is ranked for valuable search terms your potential patients are searching for, the more likely your counseling services will be seen, which will attract new patients and grow your practice.
WHAT ARE AREAS I SHOULD FOCUS ON WITH SEO?
SEO is comprised of two main areas that you should focus on:
Map results are the listings on Google and other search engines that are typically below advertisements but above search results. For example, here are the map results for my search “anxiety treatment charlotte”:
You can see local mental health businesses show up in this search because they are located in Charlotte and they treat anxiety.
Search Results – search results are the listings on Google and other search engines that are typically found below Google Maps. For example, here are the search results for the search “anxiety treatment charlotte”:
You can see local businesses show up for my search because Google determined that I was looking for anxiety treatment in the city of Charlotte, NC.
HOW MUCH TIME DOES SEO TAKE TO DO EACH MONTH?
SEO can take as little or as much effort and time as you’d like to dedicate or spend towards. Like exercise, there is no limit to the extent you can go. However, for a small counseling practice marketing plan, we’d recommend setting aside at least 10-15 hours per month, or roughly $750.00 – $1500.00 to pay a company, for some beneficial SEO results. Our SEO plans typically start at around $1000.00 per month and can help your practice grow. For more ambitious practices or larger practices with more than one employee, we recommend ramping up your strategy further with more content, more backlinks, and more citations to blow by your competition and grow your practice for the long-term.
HOW LONG SHOULD I BE DOING SEO TO SEE RESULTS?
SEO is a process of building content that matches keywords, and then climbing above your competitors search results to be seen more often than them. We recommend a minimum of 12 months performing SEO activities. Many of our clients have worked with us for more than two years as there are near unlimited opportunities to get in front of patients.
WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING FOR SEO?
At a minimum, I recommend following the above website and blog strategies. For marketing counseling services, here is what we do typically each month after the website is properly built and a strategy has been implemented:
- Creating blog posts – one to four per month
- Creating backlinks – Backlinks are simply a link from another website to your website. We try to build at least 10 per month
- Creating citations – Citations are listings of your practice’s name, address, phone, and website across many different websites. We like to build at least 20 per month, with a target of 300 to 500 total
- Gust posts – Guest posts with a link to your site are a great way to get more visibility and also strengthen your SEO strategy. We typically work with our clients to position their expertise
The key with SEO, like exercise, is performing regularly. Create a schedule that you have time to follow. If it’s too ambitious and you can’t follow a plan, you should scale it back to something that makes sense. However, because your counseling leads are so valuable (often times $150.00 + per session), we recommend hiring a SEO company that works with marketing counseling services to help you grow your practice.
Advertising is a great marketing tool for marketing counseling services because it allows you to get in front of your patients very quickly. I’d recommend you start on Google ads as it is very similar to SEO in that you are targeting keywords your patients are searching for. One of the major benefits Google has over social media advertising is that people searching on Google have an intention and on social media targeting, it’s based on demographics and other targeting measures. For example, if I’m searching for “anxiety treatment near me”, my intention is to find anxiety treatment near me. As a mental health professional advertising, I can target searches like this with a high degree of confidence that someone wants this service AND that they are located within my location targeting parameters.
Instead of your website pages showing up, an advertisement will appear at the top or bottom of a search. Here is an example of what they look like:
You can see that each of the ads appears to look like the search results, but has a little “Ad” word next to each link. Let’s review some benefits of advertising and some negatives of advertising for marketing your counseling practice:
BENEFITS OF ADVERTISING FOR MARKETING COUNSELING SERVICES
Mental health pros like you can benefit from Google ads because:
- Advertisements can go live rather quickly. While SEO can take months to start getting patients, ads can go up rather quickly and can generate patients for you rather quickly
- Advertisements cut in front of SEO listings. While SEO is extremely valuable, you may consider complimenting your strategy with ads for keywords that are difficult to rank for
- Advertisements target people based on their intent. If done correctly, you can get quality patients reaching out for your counseling services
- Advertisements target people based on their location. Once you set your ads to your city, nearby patients can find your practice
NEGATIVES OF ADVERTISING FOR MARKETING COUNSELING SERVICES
There are negatives of advertising, which is why my company strongly advises mental health pros to invest in a strong SEO strategy first before considering spending a lot in advertising. Some of those negatives include:
- Advertisements cost money per click or view. Depending on the search term you’re targeting, it can cost you several dollars to many dollars per click, and often it takes many clicks to generate a new patient lead
- Advertisements only last as long as you keep spending money. Once you stop paying for advertisements, you stop generating leads. SEO on the other hand, continues into the future
- Advertising can be tricky to understand. Creating successful campaigns can be more difficult than you’d think. This is because some of your competitors have hired experts to beat out your ads, and running a successful campaign can require a lot of knowledge to set up and manage correctly.
If you have enough budget to cover SEO and another $1250 to $1500 for advertising each month, I’d recommend adding advertising to your list of tasks for marketing your counseling services
5. SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is a powerful tool to get your messaging out. It can give your brand character and personality to patients who don’t know you. Social media can also showcase your expertise and reinforce why you’re worth your hourly rate. Here a few common questions counselors and mental health pros ask us about social media:
WHICH SOCIAL CHANNELS SHOULD I BE ON?
Choosing which social channels your practice appears on can vary on the types of patients you’re trying to reach. Here is a rundown of what we’ve seen on various social channels for marketing your counseling services:
- Facebook – Facebook is a safe choice to post your content on. One of the major negatives right now of Facebook is the seemingly low sharability of posts. In years prior, growing a business Facebook channel was easy. By easy, I mean that getting your posts seen by new eyes was very feasible because Facebook shared your content. In the last few years, Facebook has turned down your reach in an effort to make you pay for advertising.
- Instagram – Instagram, while owned by Facebook, is a very popular spot for mental health professionals to be on. There is a high degree of sharability to get new followers and you can also share stories to gain more interactions from your current followers. Instagram seems like a great channel to post out videos.
- Twitter – Twitter tweets can be highly shared and allow you to connect with colleagues and potential patients.
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn can be a great tool to reach colleagues and potential patients who happen to be professionals.
While there are many other social channels, I’d recommend choosing one channel and doing a great job with it rather than picking a bunch of channels to do a mediocre job with.
WHAT TYPE OF CONTENT SHOULD I CREATE?
Like creating blog posts, there are a multitude of post options you could choose. I like to create buckets that can be replicated. Here are a few bucket examples:
- Facts about a condition(s) you treat
- Tips to overcome a condition(s) you treat
- Inspirational quotes that can help someone struggling from a condition(s) you treat
- Sharing a quick video of inspiration on both posts and story sections of each applicable social channel
- Creating infographics with valuable tips
- Rehashing content from your previously written blogs – These are typically loaded with value and can make multiple social posts from one blog
HOW CAN I CREATE GREAT IMAGERY?
Creating imagery is an important part of social media. You can either hire a social media marketing company or you can create your own graphics. We love to use Canva, a tool that helps you create beautiful graphics rather easily.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
This is a very tough question. Each platform has their own recommendations. Our recommendation is to post at an amount that is feasible to your schedule. If you have time to do one post per week, do one post regularly. Try to keep a schedule.
6. EMAIL MARKETING
Email marketing serves many purposes for marketing counseling services, but in this post, we will discuss a few ways you can use it to reach your list of contacts.
Email marketing, like social media, can be a great tool to showcase new blog posts on your website. The aim with all of your marketing is to provide a high degree of value to your patients, not to sell them anything. Here are a few ideas for email marketing:
- Showcase your new blog posts
- Send out a weekly or monthly inspirational message / video
- Create a monthly newsletter
7. JOINING DIRECTORIES THAT ALLOW YOU TO GET QUALITY LINKS TO YOUR SITE
A final marketing idea for marketing your counseling services is to list your practice on mental health directories. While these typically have a cost, they can help patients find your practice and maybe even more importantly, boost your website’s SEO. Here are a few tips to look for when signing up for directories (that will benefit your SEO):
- Join directories that allow you to create guest blogs – These can allow you the opportunity to showcase your expertise AND also provide you with a powerful backlink to your website, which can help you rank higher for specific keywords in your strategy
- Join directories that allow you to list your website – Most directories allow you to do this so this may be a moot point, but it’s still something you should keep an eye out for
- Join directories that promote counseling services that are important to your business– Avoid paid directories that aren’t specifically geared towards mental health
CONCLUSION ON MARKETING COUNSELING SERVICES
My name is Anthony Bart and I am the owner of TherapistX. I’d like to thank you for reading my post on tips for marketing your counseling services. If you need help marketing your counseling services, we can help! We use a proven process that will bring you new patients for the long-term. Please reach out to us to discuss how we can help!