GET A GREAT PRESENCE ON GOOGLE
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION
WHY A PRACTICE NEEDS SEO
The number of people in Dublin searching for the term ‘Therapist’ exploded from about 500 searches per month in 2019 to 5000 per month in 2023. This is not wholly surprising given the pandemic. Drilling into the profession, we can see that people searching for the term ‘Counselling and Psychotherapy’ surged from around 50 per month to 500 from 2019 to 2023.
The key point here is to show how many people use Google to find services - as a Psychotherapist, outside of referrals, you are most likely to be found through online research. In the early stages of your career when referrals are lower, online search will likely be your main source of clients. The process by which you can be found through Google search is called SEO - Search Engine Optimisation.
THE INCREASED DEMAND IS CLEAR
*For the purpose of this exercise we will focus on Google (as opposed to Bing, Safari etc) as the dominant search engine. It is worth noting that while algorithms vary, all search engines operate with similar parameters.
Google is the largest search engine with a market share of over 90% in Ireland so being present there is a key goal for any practice. Interestingly, 30% of all searches are now voice search in Ireland - powered by Google through Siri etc.
HOW DO YOU APPEAR IN GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS?
Google has a specific algorithm to rank websites on their listings. They will reward you for setting up and maintaining your website using certain techniques by giving you a higher rank on the results listing when people search for your type of service. The better the techniques the higher the rankings. The good news is that if you have a website, you are likely doing some already without knowing it! The trick is to do as many as you can to keep your ranking high.
It is important to note that access to the Content Editor of your website is key to implementing some of these strategies. When your website is being designed or updated, these are extremely important considerations.
Key SEO elements are Quality Content, Design and Navigation, Up-to-date Content (via blog, news or other content areas), Relevant Keywords and Terms, Backlinks and Security.
QUALITY CONTENT & RELEVANT KEYWORDS
The services you offer should be detailed clearly and concisely on your website as this makes them thoroughly readable for search engines. In addition to having quality content, including key terms that your target audience uses, is very important to improve rankings. For example, when we look at the search terms on the previous page we can see that ‘therapy’ and ‘licensed mental health therapist’ are key searches that the public use. You should ensure that commonly used terms for your services are featured on your site as that is how clients will find you. Equally don’t pack keywords into your site, use them where relevant. Google now penalises websites that stuff keywords in large volumes as it is not user friendly.
You will find a full list of keywords relevant to Psychotherapy in Ireland at the end of this kit document (Appendix 1).
Rich media (images, video, iframes - embedded content) is also beneficial for SEO. Can you add more imagery to your site? It might be a professional image of yourself from LinkedIn, a quality photo of the practice, or general imagery that suits any of your content pages to help demonstrate your offering.
Have you made any professional videos, or appeared in any that would be beneficial for your website? Another option is to find a quality video explainer aligned to your offering, for example, ‘Managing Anxiety’ or ‘What is OCD’. You can then embed this into your website using the Youtube code attached to the video.
Go back to your website and insert the URL or code in the place you wish to locate it. Test and push live.
If you have the ability to access the SEO settings in the back end of your website (meta tags etc), make sure to include relevant keywords and descriptions for each page. These are the terms that people might use to search for you through Google, such as Psychotherapy Services, Limerick Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional Therapist etc.
If you can access your google preview description (the few lines that appear for your practice under your Google listing) ensure that it is an accurate description of what you do or make changes to it. If you have access to the content manager of your website you will find this under SEO Settings or similar.
DESIGN & NAVIGATION
A lot of this is covered in the website section, and SEO doubles down on the importance of it. Most importantly, make sure that your website appears in a user friendly way and that visitors don’t have to click through multiple links to find the information they need.
Is your site mobile and tablet friendly? Smartphones have overtaken desktops PCs/Laptop when it comes to internet usage - 94% of the Irish population use one compared to 79% with a laptop (or access to one) and 62% with a tablet (Deloitte Digital Consumer Trends 2022 Report). Websites were traditionally built on desktops with the assumption of a desktop majority user base, this is no longer the case. If your site doesn’t work on mobile/tablet (this is called responsive design) you will be penalised by Google.
Does your site run quickly? If a visitor clicks on your site and it doesn’t load within a few seconds, they will move on to the next Psychotherapist site. Google also doesn’t like slow sites so its in your interests all round to have a speedy website. You can run a speed test for your website here:
If your site is slow (0-49 result), talk to your web developer about what is slowing it down and how to fix it.
Other elements include making sure that your menu is simplified making the site as easy as possible to navigate for your users. For a Psychotherapy practice, you shouldn’t need more than about 5-10 main content pages.
Ensure that your website pages are given clear and relevant names. For example, if the content of the page relates to your service, ensure that it is called Services/Issues We Treat etc, and that this is reflected in the link:
UP TO DATE CONTENT
Check your site every few months to ensure that the content is up to date and when you make any changes to your services, make sure to reflect this on your site.
Blogs will also help to keep your site content up to date with new articles serving as fresh content. The Google algorithm will pick this up on its regular sweeps of your site.
SECURITY & BACKLINKS
Your site should have a Security Certificate called an SSL. If you don’t have one, when a person tries to visit your website they will be warned that your site isn’t secure and that they shouldn’t visit it. Aside from putting off all of your visitors, Google will penalise you too by lowering your website's search ranking. You can obtain an SSL cert from your website provider.
Backlinks are links to your website from another - this could be IAHIP or IACP linking back to your website through their directory, your practice Facebook page or singular Google map. These links provide evidence to Google that you exist and that other organisations will link to you. If you have not linked your website to your profile on any member organisation’s website directories, organise to do that (you can do this directly yourself on the IAHIP website through your login). Make sure to link any practice social media accounts to your website. If you are using a blog, make sure to share your content through email or social media, it may be shared from other websites, increasing your backlink efforts. If you are using social media or forums, share relevant links from your own website. For example, if you have specialist information on ‘Eating Disorders on your site (under your services or in a blog) share that link if someone is asking for that information on a forum or social media.
TRUST SIGNALS - REVIEWS
While Google favours reviews, the reality is that reviews are less likely due to the discreet nature of psychotherapy services. However if you offer workshops, teaching etc, you may invite reviews. A review function will automatically be created on Google so it is important to claim your practice - this is detailed in the next section.
Overall, Google includes health in their ‘YMYL – Your Money Your Life’ category which means that they value Authority & Content Quality more importantly than any other factor. If you focus closely on content, blogging, linking and reviews, you will be doing the best you can for your visibility online and to your audience.
MAP LOCATION / GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
Globally, over 1 billion people use Google Maps every month, and it has become a key way for people to search for businesses outside of Google search. How many times have you been on holidays or in a new location and searched by your Google Maps to find a place to eat or shop? Or to find a medical practice in case of emergency?
A Google My Business account ensures that when someone looks your company up on Google Search, they find it. If they search for ‘Psychotherapists near me’ on a Google Map, you will appear there too. The even better news is that it is free and straight forward to set up.
Your business may or may not have been set up by Google using public records. Simply search for your business on Google Maps to find out.
Once you have found it, click the Claim This Business link and you will be driven to open a My Business account by Google using your company email. Here you will be able to access the full range of tools to enhance your business profile.
SET UP GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
If your business does not appear on Google Maps, you should set it up.
Visit https://www.google.com/intl/en_ie/business/. Click the Manage Now button or sign up if you don’t have an existing gmail account.
Then click Finish and Manage this listing.
You have to verify your business at this stage, and this mostly involves requesting a postcard. From your business account click the Verify Now option.
Choose from phone, text, video or email and fill in the requested details. You will receive a verification code to use. Go back into your business account and place the code where you have been directed to place it.
THE BENEFITS DON’T END THERE
Enhance Your Brand
By registering your practice with a Business Account, you can showcase a lot more than just your location. You can add photos, descriptions and contact details, which help to encourage clients to contact you and get a feel for your services. You will stand out against those without such listings.
Google Maps is the application that allows for Google reviews so claiming your business will allow you to monitor and respond to any reviews effectively.
It is important to note here that all reviews, positive and negative, can be handled to great effect so there is no need to be concerned about all types of feedback coming through this channel. This is discussed in greater detail in the Messaging section of this kit.