Best Strategies to Market Mental Health Websites in 2016

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If you’re like most mental health professionals, figuring out how to best market your practice online is tough. With the new year upon us, we have put together all of the best strategies to market mental health websites in 2016.

Throughout this post, I will be talking about:

  • The one factor that continues to have stronger impact on the effectiveness of mental health websites (that most therapists ignore)
  • How social media will impact your website visibility
  • Two things that are very important to check regarding your website if you haven’t yet
  • Why you might want to view Google Adwords as a good strategy in 2016
  • The top private practice marketing formula for the new year

Just like there are constantly new modalities and techniques being introduced to therapists each year, the world of online marketing is also constantly changing.

In the webinar replay above, and in the following post, I cover the changes that have occurred in 2015 and how to get ready for next year, when it comes to being successful in marketing your practice online. In order to prepare you for the new year, we are showing you what you need to do to market your practice in 2016.

Let’s face it: most therapists and coaches aren’t technical experts, marketing experts or trend trackers. And the truth is, if you don’t know how the marketing environment is changing, then you know what how to prepare to get clients in the new year. Smart strategy can no longer be ignored if mental health websites are meant to get clients.

That’s why we’re here! To simplify all the technical information so you actually know what to do.

Why should you listen to us?

CounselingWise has created more page 1 rankings (and site visits from potential clients) than any other marketing company in the therapy field. In every market we’re in, our clients outrank those from all other companies for the search terms that potential clients actually when searching for help. Because of this, therapists that work with us get more calls from their websites.

We do this, and create this success for our clients, by staying up to date on what is changing in online marketing. We go to conferences in online marketing with the real experts, and keep track of the annual marketing studies. (If you’re interested in digging into the knitty gritty of the various studies we look at, you can do so here: Search Metrics Study, Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors, and Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors). We apply what we learn, modify our processes as the new information comes in, and continue to stay at the forefront of the field. An added bonus is that when you work with us, we notify you of any changes that may affect your website.

The Good News

The good news is many of the online marketing basics haven’t changed substantially. While the basics may seem like just that – basic – we are finding that it’s getting more important to take them seriously, as they are mattering more and more each year. After reading through this post, you’ll be clear about what you need to do!

A Story: Lisa & Rich

Lisa and Rich are both Ph.D. bearing career coaches in New York City. In 2008, they opened their coaching practice in New York, a very saturated market for therapist and coaches. After spending 6 years on their marketing, they weren’t making the headway they wanted. Needless to say, they were feeling frustrated and overwhelmed — they thought they were doing everything right — they had a beautiful new website, they had a Psychology Today listing, they created social media pages, and were running an Adwords campaign. Regardless of all the work they were doing, clients still weren’t calling. And to make matters worse, the steps they were told to take by their web developer and SEO expert were complex and too hard for them to do themselves.  

This may sound like something you have experienced with your marketing efforts.

In early 2015, they contacted us to help. We worked with them to create a new strategy for marketing — one that was clear and wasn’t over their heads. Within 4 months of implementing the changes, they were receiving 4 times as many consult calls as they were before. In this post, I will share what we did to help them.

How Someone’s Experience on Your Website Affects Ranking

To start, let’s look at what happens when someone lands on your website. In the marketing world, this is called the “user experience.” This may be surprising to you, but a user’s experience on your website affects your mental health websites ranking.

Let’s picture someone going to Google, typing something into the search field and hitting ‘search’. What happens after that?

Google is going to rank websites in a certain way, and the user is going to choose one of those that is on page 1 (typically). That user will then go to a webpage and have some sort of experience there — either a disappointing experience (maybe there isn’t a lot of info, the site isn’t really relevant to what they are looking for, the site loads slowly, it looks really old, etc) or a good experience where they say “oh yes, this person really gets me” and they then can can look at all sorts of information on your site and dig deeper into the issue that they need help with.

The factors that go into ranking here include:

  • Freshness
    If you’ve read our content before, then know that we tell you to write blog posts and continually add content to your website. When you add a specific page to your website, Google views it as fresh content. Google wants to know that your site is alive and well, and that you are putting “fresh” content out there.
  • Relevance
    Your content should have relevance to your website, as well as relevant search terms. Google will rank content that is relevant to a specific search term (that people are actually typing in), rather than more generic content or terms.
  • Quality
    Lastly, your content also needs to be high quality. Don’t underestimate the power of good writing — it not only will help rank your pages, but it also allows you to connect with your website visitors on a much deeper level.

How Google Determines How to Rank Websites

When you add a new page (freshness), and its relevant to a search term (relevance), and it appears to be a high quality page (quality), Google is going to “trial” the page, In other words, they will let you into the tryouts and put your page up high so users can interact with it and get more data about your page. If users click on it because it looks good on the search results, that is a brownie point for you and improves your click through rate.

Google also looks at the data of once they go to your site. Are they staying there for a long time, or bouncing? If someone is bouncing, then your site likely isn’t what they were looking for. Google will let you be in this trial period for a week or so, and if you do well, you get good “google juice,” you bubble up and become a good search result on page one over time. If you don’t do well, Google says “eh,” and you will need to fix some things in order to bubble up the rankings.

A Specific, Real Life Example

Check out the video above to see an example of all of the three pieces working together (fast forward the video to 17:29).

The One Factor That Continues to Have Stronger Impact on Ranking

The number of — and length of — your pages has an even stronger impact than before (but most ignore this, at their peril).

When it comes to page length, many people get stuck thinking:

  • My clients like the brevity of my website
  • I don’t think anyone will read that much
  • I like to talk to them about all that on the phone

If any of these are your stance, then you are shooting yourself in the foot, because page length matters — a lot.

In the past, you used to be able to get traffic with few pages on your site, and you could have very short pages. Unfortunately, this no longer works.

Today, you need specific pages for each specialty (centered on specific search terms) and you want these pages written for your potential clients (emotionally appealing and very easy to read). Each page needs to have high quality, in depth content that is between 900 to 1200 words. These pages must also have strong SEO (search engine optimization) — this is what will help you rank and get click through in search results.

Tips for Readability:

  • Use short sentences
  • Use short paragraphs
  • Break up text with subheaders
  • Write at a 9th grade level (no big words and keep clinical info off your pages)
  • Run your copy through the readability engine (

Lisa & Rich’s Story, Continued

As I mentioned before, when Lisa and Rich came to us, we worked with them on the overall strategy of their website. The biggest changes we made for them were:

  • We made changes their website navigation to be more clear
  • We added specific pages
  • We increased the length of the pages, taking care to talk to the website visitor using our 7 point marketing message approach
  • They’re now blogging regularly – adding new pages each month for good site authority and freshness

How Social Media Will Impact a Mental Health Websites Visibility

Social media signals correlate highly with rankings. A “social signal” occurs when your website is linked to your social media accounts, and you have any type of social activity occur (likes, shares, comments, etc).

There have been many studies showing that the high ranking sites in Google are more active on social media.

In the past, I would hear from therapists that:

  • Social media is a waste of time
  • You can’t be social if you’re a therapist
  • What the heck would I put out there anyway?

But, because social media signals do have an effect on your ranking, then utilizing the signals is important. We recommend that you share your blog posts on various social platforms. Even if your posts are only being shared, liked, and commented on by other therapists, you’re still getting social signals.

While social media may seem overwhelming at first, when you have a system in place of writing blog posts for your website, then posting becomes easy. You don’t have to wonder what to post, because you already have valuable content to share.

Two Issues to Check On Your Website, if You Haven’t Already

There are two specific issues we recommend looking into on your website, if you haven’t already. These issues include:

  • Unnatural Backlinks (Blackhat SEO)
    This used to be a great way of ranking on Google, but is now frowned upon (big time) by Google. Although Google has been penalizing site with unnatural backlinks for years now, we still see both coaching and mental health websites with this problem.
  • Duplicate Content
    Duplicate content is content that is copied from another site (for example, articles from the New York Times), content posted on multiple sites or pages (for example, you post a blog post you have written on several different sites), etc. Duplicate content – in any form – is frowned upon by Google to.

To learn how to check your website for bad backlinks and duplicate content, and to see Lisa and Rich’s website run through the tests, fast forward to minute 35:33 in the video.

While these two issues were important in the past, they are even more important to look into now. In fact, in the recent ranking studies, these are the top two negative ranking factors.

Why You Might Want Google Adwords in 2016

As you can see, there is a lot to creating a strong site and getting it ranked in Google. Not only the effort up front, but also time to allow your site to bubble up. SEO is a long term game – like a retirement fund – you add money to it over time, and you’re happy in the end, but it grows slow.

While your site is working to move its way up the rankings, Google Adwords can you you clients. It also can augment your traffic, even after you’re ranking.

Unfortunately, though, if you don’t do it correctly, you will lose money.

In the past, Google used to not care about how good your ads were or how good your website was — they would take your money.

Today, Google looks at the ad quality AND the page (website) quality. When you create a campaign, Google will look at your ads and website and give you a “quality score,” which is made up of various different factors. This quality score is what will make it or break it.

Curious about Lisa & Rich’s experience with Adwords? Fast forward to minute 41:30 to see how they could spend the same amount per month on Adwords, and get more clicks.

The Single Best Project to Plan Before The New Year

So, how do you really do all of this stuff? There is a lot that goes into a marketing strategy – blogging, SEO, content, strategy, setting up your site with good navigation, making it work both with SEO and Adwords – and that’s a lot to bite off at once.  

What we believe is THE best thing to focus on is a website built correctly.

If you already have a website that is built strong, you may just need to tweak things. But if you have a weak website with very thin content, not very good organization, maybe it’s older, no built in blog, etc, then you might as well just build a new one and do it right.

When you have a strategic website, it works!

  • Your pages rank, so you have traffic
  • Your copy makes an impact on your readers, so they convert
  • You have relevant blog posts, so people stay on your site longer and can get more in depth information according to their interests
  • If you want to use Adwords, then having a strategic website will cause the Adwords to even better

But, the website must be done correctly! You need:

  • Clear navigation
  • Page specificity
  • Relevant content
  • Good SEO
  • Blog posts categorized correctly
  • Strong internal linking
  • Interactive elements (to build a list)

Curious to hear about Lisa & Rich’s recent success? Fast forward to minute 45:10 in the video.

Overall, there are many factors that go into successfully marketing mental health websites in the new year. If you’re looking to do this on your own, then head over to this page

Have specific questions? Feel free to post them below! I also answered a LOT of great questions at the end of the video above. Simply fast forward to minute 53:57.

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