This SEO for Mental Health guide is for professionals in private practice looking to learn the basics of SEO so they can start to apply changes to their website to rank better in search engine results.

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo exist to deliver information to people with questions. They crawl and index billions of pages of content and use hundreds of ranking factors to determine what should display when you submit a query.

There are two primary types of SEO. Paid and organic. Paid SEO refers to paying for traffic, which will not be covered in this guide. If you’re interested in that you can refer to our Stage 2 guide on Paid SEO which goes in depth on that topic (releasing in March 2022). This guide will cover Organic SEO, which refers to the changes you make on your site and off your site without needing to paying the search engine to appear higher in search results.

The Goal

The goal of this guide is to teach you basic SEO concepts and give you recommendations and clear tasks to complete so you can update your website to improve how many people can find your private practice website.

Organic SEO Overview

Organic SEO refers to doing work that helps your website show up that don’t involve paid ads. Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) include paid ads and organic results. Some SERP features on Google are organic and can be influenced by SEO. These include featured snippets (a promoted organic result that displays an answer inside a box) and related questions (E.G: “People Also Ask” boxes).

While paid advertising through search engines, social media ads, and other online platforms can generate traffic to websites, the majority of online traffic is driven by organic SEO results. Organic search results cover more digital real estate, appear more credible to savvy searchers, and receive way more clicks than paid advertisements. Of all US searches in 2021, only ~2.8% of people click on paid advertisements.

Organic SEO is like growing a garden. You put in a little work up front, and reap the results later. Don’t expect to rank overnight on the pages you create.

Tip: Search Engines take 30-60 days to index your new pages

One of the best ways for therapists to improve their SEO on their own is to create or optimize their service pages using Organic SEO best practices.


SEO Optimized Service Pages

Usually when a potential client is searching for a solution it will look something like like ‘depression therapy’ or ‘therapist for anxiety’. Google needs to take that term and figure out what websites are relevant on that search phrase so they can display relevant results for that user’s search. In our keyword research work we’ve done while working with mental health clinicians, we’ve found that the examples we just used for depression and anxiety are almost always searched the most often. Keep in mind that users are usually searching for what they think they need, not always what they do need. That means that you should probably have pages on your site that are relevant on the intent of the potential client, even if that’s not exactly the service you provide, if you’re sure that search really intended to find you.

Your service pages like ‘depression counseling, anxiety counseling, addiction counseling, marriage counseling’… are all great places to apply the techniques we’re sharing with you in this guide. When done right, these pages can inform a potential client about your services, ask them to engage with you, and appear relevant to Google for that search phrase all at the same time.


Major SEO Ranking Factors

Okay… so let’s get real about this. There actually isn’t a magic formula. Organic SEO is half art, and half science. Google and other search engines will tell web developers what best practices are, but they’re very careful about not revealing too much about how their search engine works (to prevent people from abusing how it works). Their best practices have outlined some of the major key factors in ranking pages though. So we’re going to outline those for you here. If you follow these steps on your service pages, you’ll likely outrank your competition and get more leads to fill your case load and find more therapists to recruit to your practice.

The major SEO ranking factors to follow are:

  1. Choose the phrase you want to optimize for. For a service page, this will often look like [city] [service], like “Chicago Couples Counseling”.
  2. Create or select a page to optimize for this phrase ( stick to one phrase per page ).
  3. Include the search phrase in the link to the page
  4. Include the search phrase in the title
  5. Include the search phrase 2-3 times throughout your content
  6. Your content should be roughly ~700 words
  7. Include an image, and add an ‘alt’ tag using the search phrase

Tip: You’re much better off if you gear up a page to work for one search phrase, not multiple. This way you can focus all of the content to the one phrase, which will give you more weight to rank. The rule of thumb is: each search phrase you want to rank on gets it’s own page.

Last Step – Include a “Call to Action”

Once you’ve added the major factors to your service page, be sure to always add a “Call to Action”, or CTA. This isn’t really SEO related, it’s more of a sales topic, but you’ll get a lot more engagement off of your pages when they’re found if you ask a user to do a specific action. For most therapists this is “Book an intro call” or “Call us at: 555-5555 to learn more”. It’s not pushy or sales-ey to ask them to take the next step. They’ll be thankful you provided it for them.

Content Outline

Here’s how you can set this up in a service page. Let’s say you provide addiction treatment in Chicago, Illinois. Here’s a basic outline to follow

Chicago Addiction Treatment

Content Outline

  1. Introduction paragraph which includes the phrase ‘Chicago Addiction Treatment’ in the first sentence
  2. What is it?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. What can you expect from this service?
  5. Next steps to take action and get this service

Overall, the content should be ~700 words, and include the major factors outlined in the chapter above. If each paragraph is roughly 150 words, you’ll have enough content on the page.

YoastSEO (WordPress SEO Plugin)

If you’re using WordPress for your website – we recommend downloading and installing Yoast SEO. There are other plugins too (they all basically do the same thing by providing areas for you to add your SEO information). Here, you can put in the best keywords for mental health for each page you optimize.

If you’re looking for a guide on how to install YoastSEO to WordPress, you can walk through YoastSEO’s guide to install the plugin.

Once that’s installed, you’ll see a new window for your pages where you can enter the search phrase you’re optimizing for on the page. The plugin will give you some hints on what else you can do to optimize the page for that search phrase, but remember, there is no golden rule. The hints they give are more like guidelines and best practices to follow – don’t worry if you can’t satisfy all of them for the page. If you’ve followed our Major SEO Ranking Factors and Content Outline, you’ll do just fine.

Wrapping up - When to Hire a Professional

SEO is a heavy topic. It’s arguably just as complex and takes just as many years to master as most other professions. Don’t worry about trying to learn everything all at once (it’s really not possible). Just focus on the most basic steps we’ve given you today and you’ll do better than most of your competition who isn’t optimizing their pages like you.

If you’re still not ranking, there are some other major factors to consider – but you’ll probably need to work with a web developer or SEO specialist to address them. Consult with a specialist and have them complete an audit of your website to determine what should be done to improve your Organic SEO. Also, always look through at least 2 or 3 options and read the reviews of the company you’re considering to hire. A good way to think about the potential investment of hiring an SEO specialist is to think about how much business you can expect to close from their work.

Questions to ask when hiring a specialist:

  1. How much will it cost?
  2. What is your plan to improve my website SEO?
  3. How can you improve my page load times?
  4. What does your SEO Reporting look like, what kind of reports can I expect to receive and how often should I expect them?
  5. Where can I find reviews of your services?
  6. Who do I contact if I have questions?

The best way to think about the investment of paying a professional for SEO services is to think of it in terms of what you think you can reasonably get in business from their work. If a client, on average is worth $1,200 in billable hours, and you have $200 left in profit after paying yourself, rent, etc… then you can afford to pay $200 per client to get more work booked. When you think of it that way – if you can expect to get 1-3 clients per month from the SEO work, you can afford to pay $200 – 600/mo for SEO services to grow your case load.

Of course, you need to change those numbers to more accurately reflect what you’re doing in your business. But the bottom line is, Organic SEO is a very worthwhile investment that keeps on giving once you have it set up!

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