Attracting Clients: How People Search for Therapy Online
Updated: Jan 30
I recently posted on Instagram about the importance of using conversational language when you are creating online content.
It's important because online search is done by people who are not experts in your field and who are looking for immediate answers to their problems.
Additionally, people are using voice search feature on their smartphones more and this trend will only grow in the future.
We tend to speak and write a little differently. According to Neil Patel, when people use voice search they tend to use longer sentences than when they type their queries into the search engine.
But voice search aside, I decided to do a quick google search of my own for a therapist in my area. You can see below that all I typed was "therapist near me".
If you look at the volume right below my entry, you can see that that the number of monthly searches for this sentence is 5,500. That's the amount of time people look for a therapist on google.
When I looked at the results I saw that many of the therapists that came up were physical therapists, so I modified my search to psychologists near me:
You can see from the search volume that this particular sentence brings the search volume to 9,000 a month.
One of the first results that came up was a Psychology Today page with listings of local psychotherapists. I counted about 20 listings for local Psychotherapists in my town. It's a fairly small town in Bergen County, NJ.
I would say that almost 30% of the listings did not have a website, so the little blurb they wrote on themselves and their practice was all the information available online.
This makes me believe that they either rely on referrals, listings or insurance to bring in clients.
Some of the practitioners had very attractive profiles and even more inviting websites and if I was really looking for a therapists and their area of expertise was what I needed, they would be the first ones I would call.
So what makes a successful listing profile?
Profile Picture - If your goal is to invite people to contact you, your profile picture needs to be professionally shot, or taken with a portrait setting on your phone or camera. People want to see your face clearly and warm up to what they see. The expression needs to be inviting and friendly, but I have no strong opinion on smiling, even though some experts recommend a smile with teeth showing. What's important about your picture is showing professionalism and evoking trust.
Differentiation - Defining how you are different from your competition is important. It might be that you are bilingual, intercultural or driven by a specific principle that can attract your ideal client.
Information - Take advantage of all the categories that the listing offers, in writing as much as possible about your practice, expertise, type of clients, location and contact information. Make sure that you give all the information necessary for a person to be able to contact you, but please stay relevant. Don't forget that the goal is to attract a client who would be a good fit and stay with you for a while.
Website - Many people, myself included, rush to skip the listing and go directly to the provider's website, where they will spend more time being thorough in their research. It's incredibly important that your brand carries over from your listing to your website and that you provide the right answers to the person who is considering contacting you.
I mentioned above that about 30% of the listed therapists did not have a website, but some of the ones who did, were not treating it as a marketing tool that it is.
A website should not be an after thought or an online brochure. On one particular website a saw a list of expertise that looked like this:
This is a very long list of specialties and it does a disservice to your brand if you want to position yourself as an expert. It will also attract a very diverse clientele and it will take you a while to discern the good fit from the bad.
Going back to Google
So after I spent some time analyzing the Psychology Today listings, I went back to google and looked at the local listings. Google Maps listed only 7 psychotherapists (out of 20 in Psychology Today) in my town.
The other therapists were not listed on Google, which means that they have not set up a Google My Business account.
That is not good if you want to be found in a local search, because according the top Healthcare Marketing Trends of 2019, location based SEO can make or break your marketing tactics.
Did you notice that I entered "near me" in my search query? This is the first thing that automatically pops up in the search field.
Remember, today people are searching for immediacy and convenience. Unless I am referred to a specific provider, I will likely search for a local one on google. Whether we like it or not people's behavior is driven by a consumer's mindset. It is much easier for a potential client to look at a number of competing providers in a short period of time and compare them based on reviews, pictures, location and communication experience.
Understanding people's journey when they "shop for a therapist" can help you prepare yourself better and optimize your online presence so they would be interested in contacting you first.