What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the way tech gurus describe a website’s connectivity, availability, and tendency to be a top-search item for search engines such as Google, Bing, and MSN.

If you are a private practice therapist or small-business clinician, then SEO can be your best friend in the world wide web.

Or your worst enemy.

Imagine a potential client in your area sits down and searches for “therapist near Boise, Idaho.”  If your website has poor SEO, you could get buried beneath other easier-to-search sites.  Your well-written, or perhaps paid for, site is on page 5 of the search, and the client may not be willing to click through pages to look for your practice.

How Do I Develop Better SEO?

I highly recommend checking out MarketingForTherapists.org for more information about SEO and general marketing strategies.

The author, Daniel Wendler, does an excellent job of walking therapists through the process of generating SEO.

Here are a few things you can do that will, over time, develop better SEO:

#1: Create Excellent Content

Search engines, like Google, used to rely on odd rules like “how many keywords does it have?” to calculate SEO for a website.  So, people responded by creating web content that was chock-full of keywords, sometimes to the point of being nonsensical to the human reader – creating what I call keyword salad.  So, the minds behind the search engines began to employ human-driven metrics for calculating SEO.

This makes the human reader incredibly important.  The biggest myth that people tend to fall into is that writing for the web is all about pleasing the computer, and that simply isn’t the case anymore.

So, you have to give them a strong reason to stay with your content; otherwise, they tend to quickly leave – and we call that bouncing.

And when human readers bounce, search engines notice.

The computer begins to think that whatever they were searching for was obviously not connected to whatever you were providing, and it reroutes future searches to other sites.  This is good in some ways because you do not want to attract people looking to purchase tongue depressors to your services page about therapy for depression – especially if you are using a pay-per-click marketing campaign.

So, creating excellent content is really about hooking the reader and keeping the reader.

You can do that by offering answers and solutions to whatever the reader might be searching for. This is huge for SEO writing.

Here’s an example of how this works. A few years ago, my washing machine started acting up, making a weird clanking noise near the left side.  I went online and searched for “Brand Name washing machine making a weird noise,” and the top result was a post from Reddit that explained what was broken, how to try to fix it on my own, and when to know to get professional help.  If the washing machine repair company had stepped up their SEO game, that top search item should have been written by them, that way they could translate those kinds of searches into business opportunities.

#2: Reputation

In my article about Guest Posts, you probably noticed that I mentioned backlinks.  A backlink is basically a link to your site that is posted on someone else’s site.  Backlinks work because they send viewers to your site as well as inform search engines that viewers for well-known site A were willing to check out not-so-well-known site B.  These are used to help your website develop a reputation on the web, which is all about having a strong online presence.

As you can imagine, a strong reputation can take time to build.  Check out my webinar on boosting your online presence to learn more!

#3: Relevance and Keyword Use

When you search for a website, what words do you use in the search bar?  To find my site, for example, you might have typed “therapists and writing” into Google.  Words that are associated with your site are known as keywords, and search engines use those to direct internet users to the site they are looking for.

How does Google know what the searcher is searching for?  When a search happens, Google also keeps track of where the searcher clicks. In other words, the click indicates to Google that what it brought up was what the reader probably wanted to find.  Google also calculates how often the searched words appear on your webpage.  For example, as I write this article for WritingForTherapists.org, I am targeting the keywords “SEO, Google, search engine, therapist.”

If I wanted my site to be affiliated with a certain location, I would have added in more phrases about a particular state or city.  For example, let’s say I owned an office for WritingForTherapists.org in Portland, Oregon.  I would probably end each of my articles by saying something like “contact WritingForTherapists.org through the web, or come to visit our office in Portland!”

Your content needs to be relevant to the human in question.  This depends entirely on what the purpose of the content is and what you hope to ultimately accomplish.  For example, if you are hoping to get additional applications to your PhD or PsyD program, you would want the content to be relevant to the admissions process and how your program is unique.

Alternatively, you may be working in a private practice looking to get pediatric clients, in which case you would want content relevant to therapy or assessment for children.

Remember that the content should be relevant to the search, and so you can sometimes start by imagining what searches the human reader might use.  If I am looking for a therapist to help with my depression, I might search for “therapy for depression,” for example.

#4: Length of Articles

Any page that you hope to generate traffic for needs at least 1,000 words.  This is where writer’s block becomes a real pain, particularly when you feel like you have made your point in 400 words or less.  Here are a few ways to add content (or at least shake things up):

  • Add a bulleted list 🙂
  • Add citations/references at the end of the article for further reading
  • Provide examples or stories that support your content
  • Search for your topic online for inspiration or other ways of framing your content

#5: Diagrams and Pictures

This one can be tricky, but experts agree that adding an image or diagram can increase your SEO substantially.  The easiest way to do this is to open a new document in Microsoft Word and create a new SmartArt, which you can easily edit and then copy-paste directly into your web editor.


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