What are the best SEO tips for group practices? What are some helpful marketing strategies for group practices? How can you understand SEO better?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Jessica Tappana on SEO tips for group practices as well as her own group practice journey.
In This Podcast
Meet Jessica Tappana
Jessica Tappana is a therapist, group practice owner, and SEO guru. She filled her solo practice and expanded to a group practice in six months. Now, almost three years later, her 7 clinician group practice has all of the systems in place to run smoothly and she’s busy building a second business helping other therapists reach more potential clients through optimizing their websites for Google! Visit Simplified SEO Consulting or Aspire Consulting.
Why did you start a group practice?
Jessica started her group practice because she felt like it was the next big thing to do. It was easier said than done. She wanted to work less but she was getting more calls and taking on more clients which meant she was working much more than anticipated.
In starting her group practice, she found that support was important at every stage of the growth phase. Having that support was critical to her success. Knowing and talking to other group practices helped too, whether it was virtual or local support.
She now has therapy offices with a meditation room and conference room. Her clinicians see 15 to 20 clients a week, and every one offers evidence-based therapy. Most of her clinicians do trauma therapy but everyone specializes in different things.
What are some helpful marketing strategies that helped your group practice?
Jessica says, do what feels right for you. Finding one or two things that feel right for you is the best way forward and it will help motivate you and excite you. For Jessica, coffee networking didn’t work. She started learning and understanding SEO and grew to really enjoy it. SEO was the right thing that could fill up her other clinicians. When she did the right SEO work, people would call and know what services they offer.
The biggest return on investment has been Search Engine Optimization for Jessica’s practice. Now Jessica’s practice is on the first page of Google with an expected conversion rate of 50%.
What are some SEO tips for group practices?
Focus on the service pages and have a page for every single service you offer. Google ranks content based on how much detailed information you have on a website so this is a great place to start.
Another simple thing to do is give each clinician their own page. Put yourself at the bottom of your clinician listing as you don’t want more clients, you want your clinicians to fill up.
Blog posts will help you reach your ideal clients and rank on Google. The more regular content you have, the better. Find out what questions people are searching for and make a post exactly for that question. Add in subheadings and meta descriptions which also often helps the user experience too.
Think through a couple of places you’re ready to invest in with your group practice. Don’t invest in everything. Whether it’s a VA or SEO. Pick just a few. Your business is worth investing in. And those investments pay off.
- Marketing Tips for a Group Practice with Amanda Patterson | GP 04
- Simplified SEO Consulting
- Grow Your Practice to a Group Practice with Start and Scale a Group Practice Mastermind!
- Email Alison: [email protected]
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Work with us
- Consult With Alison
Meet Alison Pidgeon
Alison is a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a 15 clinician group practice. She’s also a mom to three boys, wife, coffee drinker and loves to travel. She started her practice in 2015 and, four years later, has two locations. With a specialization in women’s issues, the practices have made a positive impact on the community by offering different types of specialties not being offered anywhere else in the area.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
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[ALISON]: Starting a group practice can be really overwhelming. So, if you’re wanting some help to figure out how to start and grow a group practice, please go to practiceofthepractice.com and click on Work With Us. There you’ll find information about everybody on the Practice of the Practice team, including me. I specialize in helping people grow a group practice, and I would love to work with you. So please fill out the contact form on the website or email me, [email protected].
Hi, my name is Alison Pidgeon and I’m your host for the Grow a Group Practice podcast. Today, I am excited to introduce to you my friend Jessica Tappana. She is a group practice owner and also the owner of another business called Simplified SEO Consulting. Jessica was actually in my very first mastermind group that I ever ran through Practice of the Practice. She was such a great participant. She really just hit the ground running with setting up a group practice. She talks a bit about her experience in the mastermind group and she really just took off from there growing a self-pay group practice and really utilizing business consulting from me and from Joe and she started her own SEO consulting business as a result of her experience at Slow Down School in 2018 where I met her in person for the first time.
Jessica is just such a sweet person. She is so genuine and she really knows her stuff when it comes to SEO. I met up with her again this past fall at Killin’It Camp in Colorado and she was very eager to babysit my then four-month-old, which I really appreciated. So, I had to speak for 90 minutes and she was more than happy to babysit, and I think she had a lot of fun. So yeah. So, here’s my interview with just get to pan out. We get kind of into the nitty gritty about SEO for group practices. So, I hope you find that information to be valuable. I know I do.
Today on the podcast I have with me Jessica Tappana, she is a therapist group practice owner and SEO guru. She filled her solo practice and expanded to a group practice within six months. Now, almost three years later, her seven-clinician group practice has all of its systems in place to run smoothly and she’s busy building a second business, helping other therapists reach more potential clients through optimizing their websites for Google. Jessica, I’m so glad that you decided to join us today.
[JESSICA]: I’m so glad to be here. Alison, I think I did tell you this the last time I saw you, but I often refer to you as my very first consultant because I worked with you right when I was transitioning. I’d spoken to Joe on the phone, but then I got to work with you through your Start a Group Practice mastermind. And so, when you asked if I could be on the podcast, I’m like, “Yes, I would love to be part of the next big thing you’re doing.”
[ALISON]: Oh, thank you so much. We’ll talk a little bit about your experience in the mastermind group. But yeah, that was my very first mastermind group. So, it’s so exciting to see over the last few years how much you’ve grown and what you’re doing now. That’s awesome. But I want to start with kind of just talking about why you decided to start a group practice.
[JESSICA]: Oh, I guess I originally started just because it sounded like the next thing I was supposed to do. Honestly, it sounded easier than it was to start a group practice. I had filled up. I was supposed to only be seeing clients very part time. Going into private practice was supposed to be like this little thing I would do on the side or I would stay home most of the time. We joke all the time about like, “Oh this is my 10-hour a week job. Ha ha ha.” Because it’s definitely not that, but I kept getting more clients and more calls and as I would get more calls, I would take on new clients. And next thing I knew I was working much more than we had anticipated. And my husband was like, “You know, you can’t just keep adding on more clients. At some point, enough is enough.”
And so, I was considering, I’d had two different people approach me about just using my office, essentially subleasing and I thought, how hard could it be to start a group practice? “Why not? I’ll just give this a go.” And around that time, I’d heard Joe on the podcast talking about the Start a Group Practice mastermind. I was like, “Okay, well if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it the right way.” And so, I reached out and from there, I guess the rest is history maybe but I will say it was a rough transition for me because it wasn’t as easy as just like filling the extra space. And it was a whole different set of skills than I had ever anticipated and so I say, you know, 2017 I started by, right before 2018, I had turned into a group practice. And so, I joke that the entire year of 2018 was me deciding like, “What is a group practice and do I really want one?” And I landed on the side of yes. And I still have a group practice, but it took a little adjusting for sure, for me.
[ALISON]: Yeah. So, how do you feel like the mastermind helped you to build up the group practice?
[JESSICA]: I think I would have thrown in the towel about the time my second clinician quit, otherwise, because I think that a big part of the start group practice mastermind was A, talking to other people that were in it at the same time, but B was really just knowing that some of what I was going through were normal. Maybe, you know, we each react to those things differently but like I remember big discussions in there about how much of a struggle it is to hire people and to find people that are a good fit. And that was a really important discussion for me because three of the first four people I hired are no longer with me. Oh, I didn’t hire them, contracted with. We have 1099s. Also, just those decisions about like, “Do I go W2 or 1099?” Those were really impactful. But I think a big thing is, you know, when my first person quit, I personally have always struggled with like the idea of leadership. And so, I think I may not have worked through that as well and without the Start a Group Practice mastermind, I probably just would’ve been like, “Okay, clearly I wasn’t intended for this. Let’s not worry about it.”
But being in there and hearing the other people had been through that and hearing your tips about like how to interview a little bit differently next time, things like that, I was able to just kind of keep going. I guess it’s the big thing. And make logical decisions based on other people’s experience, not just on my own moment of whatever, positive or negative. I also think that the other big thing you did is you shared with us some projections kind of, that your accountant had helped you with and helped me kind of think through like logically, how can I make some money off of this thing? Because in the weeds of it, when you’re first transitioning to a group practice and I’m realizing like all the questions I have to answer in the contract has to be amended because I didn’t get it quite the right way, and even in just all of those growing pains moving into larger office are just stressful. And so, at first, I didn’t make much more money off of it and that was kind of like, well, why am I doing this? And I think that seeing, you know, you talking really realistically with us about the numbers also gave me some of that motivation to be like, “Okay, okay, we can get to a place where this works.”
[ALISON]: Oh, good. I’m glad that was helpful for you. I think too, it sounds like you really just appreciated the support and knowing like, “Hey, this is normal.” Like you might make a bad hire here and there in the beginning when you’re not quite sure what you’re doing yet, and that, it sounds like that support helped you to like keep going when things got hard.
[JESSICA]: Yeah, I think that was everything. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of having support at any phase of growth in our practice. And this is a really unique one to be, you know, I think you want support when you’re opening a business from people who have been there and then you want support when you’re transitioning to a group practice and support when you’re making each of these moves with people that are in a similar phase of practice. And having that support was really critical. I was lucky enough that I’ve gotten to know some other practice owners in my area that have group practices. Not a ton but a few and that’s been really powerful as well. But there’s something about talking to people too that you’re relying on that are around the country and you’re like, “Oh, okay. So, this isn’t even unique to my area too?” And so, I think it was important to have both that virtual support from around the country as well as the support locally down the road as I developed some of those relationships.
[ALISON]: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. Like making connections in your local area too can be really important. So, can you tell us, sort of give us the overview of your practice as it stands now? Like how many clinicians do you have? I think you already said there are 1099s, but sort of if you had to describe your group practice in a nutshell, what would you say?
[JESSICA]: Oh, I love my group practice. Well, let’s see. We have technically seven clinicians. We have one person who’s very part time and just now came on. So, it’s kind of weird to say that because we have a four-office suite, but the fourth office is super small. So, we turned it into meditation room and it isn’t always used for actually seeing clients. So basically, we have three therapy offices and then the meditation/overflow room. And then we have a conference room as well. Most of my clinicians see between 15 and 20 a week, except for that new one that’s coming on pretty part time to start with. Everybody offers at least one form of evidence-based therapy. That’s kind of my personal [inaudible 00:11:00], whatever the, I can’t speak today, but that’s like my personal thing.
Most of us do trauma therapy. I think five out of six of us are trained in like EMDR, cognitive processing therapy, and then some of us are also trained in like prolonged exposure or TFCBT. So, we’re kind of known for trauma. We’re also known for dialectical behavior therapy because we can offer a comprehensive DBT, which is pretty rare in our area. So those are the two things I think that we’ve really gained a name for, but we do, everybody does specialize in different things. And so, I’m like, we have someone now that specializes in working with people more along the retirement age or who have chronic health issues or who are caregivers of any kind. And then we also really have a lot of college students because we’re a college town. The University of Missouri is here and so that’s a huge part of our business as well; is really working with college students who are maybe away from home for the first time and to have something going on.
I think that the college students started coming to us because of the work that I do with trauma. I really enjoy working with survivors of sexual assault. And so unfortunately living in a college town I was getting a lot of college students in that situation and it just expanded to them talking to their friends. And as we worked on SEO, parents from around the country will search for counseling in our area and end up referring their college students to us. So yeah, that’s kind of the overview, I guess of our practice. It is 1090s. I follow Profit First for, those of you that are big profit first fans, and we just try and make it a fun place to work.
[ALISON]: I think we forgot to mention where you’re located.
[JESSICA]: Oh yeah, we’re located in Columbia, Missouri. So, we serve the mid Missouri area, which, Columbia is like right in between Kansas City and St. Louis for people who are familiar with where those are but would have no clue where Columbia is. We’re not teeny tiny, but we are a college town, but it’s also not a major metropolitan area either.
[ALISON]: Right. Okay, and you are all self-pay, correct?
[JESSICA]: Yes, a hundred percent self-pay. We’ve never been on panels. I tried doing some workman’s comp and found that the reimbursement is just very different and I really preferred just be self-pay.
[ALISON]: Yeah, that’s great.
[JESSICA]: It worked well for us.
[ALISON]: Yeah, we’ll talk more about that in a little bit. So I know from obviously knowing you for the past couple years that you have grown and I think one of the things you were trying to navigate when you were in the mastermind group was like, where or when do I move into a bigger space? And I think that’s something common that almost everybody who’s starting in group practice has to deal with at some point. So how did you kind of navigate that whole transition? Like what was your space that you started with and now what is the size of this space you have now?
[JESSICA]: Yeah, so my very first space was one room in an office suite. There was no waiting room or anything. In fact, like down the hall was an ophthalmologist’s office and they had a couch outside their suite and so a lot of times my clients would be sitting on that couch borrowing the ophthalmologist couch before their appointments. But it was a, I had an awesome landlord. And so, I had this one little place and then when I first started subleasing to a friend, she would borrow that room. And then about the time that you met me, we had interest in starting a DBT group. We needed a space to hold it. The office next to me, which was a corner office was coming open and so that was the first thing we did; was it was like holding my breath. It was more than doubling our rent because it was a larger office. But I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to do this group thing. I have two people interested in coming on, let’s do it.”
And so we rented the second office and then for about, I think it was about six months I guess as all we had two offices, one that was really large and so we also had some like folding tables we could put up and use that for group. And really quickly there were four of us at the time that we felt like we had or were outgrowing that. And that’s why, I mean like I was trying to decide how serious am I about this group practicing because if I’m serious about it, if this is going to be a thing, I’m going to need a bigger office. And my big motivator for changing offices was wanting a true lobby like, or a place where my clients could sit because we’d put a folding chair between the two rooms outside in the hallway.
And as much as I loved my landlord and I loved the other people that shared the suite with us, it was kind of awkward, that there was just a random folding chair out between our two offices. And so, I knew that I had to take that leap but it was very scary to leap into a new space. And I think that you were part of some of the discussions with like, “Well, I think to do this I’m going to have to take out a line of credit.” And that seemed really scary, and so I did, that’s what I did. As I took out a line of credit, I had someone that I had known for many years who was a banker and I reached out and we ran some numbers together. I think the scary part looking back was that I did made that leap in the spring and we all know what happens in the summer, right? Yeah. Business drives off of that.
[ALISON]: Yeah, it slows down.
[JESSICA]: It does. I changed office locations and then summer hit. That was actually when I saw you at Slow Down School. That summer was really hard. But I had, at the time that I moved offices, the number of clients I personally was seeing I knew could float the new office space. That new rent was more than double. It’s really high because I also decided to invest in a really nice area of town. There was a huge conundrum for me. Like how do I prioritize the space and what to look for? I ended up deciding to prioritize a space in a really good location for my ideal clients, which were basically high school students, especially at like the high school I had gone to because it’s a nice high school in town, and I enjoy working with their staff.
Occasionally I’ll go for IEP meetings and stuff. So, to be right there would be really convenient. And then our university students being able to get to us really easy and the professionals in our city being able to get to as easy. So, I went with a really nice space. I wanted a space that had enough offices for us to grow into and that I didn’t have to clean the bathroom. So, I did not want a bathroom in my suite, and that all added up to having to kind of take that leap of faith and do that line of credit, which was paid off by the end of December that year. So, I think I moved in June and by the end of December we’d paid off the line of credit completely and have never had to take out any more.
[ALISON]: Wow. That’s amazing. Because I think, excuse me, I think a lot of times when people are looking at taking out a loan, it can be very scary and it’s not always clear how you’re going to pay it back, how soon you’re going to be able to pay it back. But I think that is a really good example of like within six months you were able to pay it back and really that was probably the one thing that allowed you to move to that bigger space. And if you hadn’t had that, you would still be in your old, smaller space.
[JESSICA]: Yeah. I don’t know how we would have grown nearly at the rate that we did without making that move. I think if I was to do it over again, it would have been nice to not do it in the summer just because of the anxiety it caused me. But again, that’s where having that line of credit made the difference because even though they, you know, and I used that too. I will say the other thing about taking up a line of credit is I was able to go and from the time we moved into the nice space, I used it to buy nice furniture, and some of it, my landlord in my new place was really cool. They let us keep some desks on there. They just added that on to our lease but like I told you, I wanted a nice lobby. Like that was like my big motivating factor. And so, it’s not like I went crazy with the spending, but I used that money from the loan to try to figure out how I could create a really nice space and it paid off and yeah, it was scary.
But I was smart about money, I was implementing profit first around that time, and I just really prioritized paying off the loan because I knew that I don’t like debt. Like we haven’t had a car payment in our personal lives for a good five years. So, it’s not like I’m a person who goes around taking lots of debt out. And it did cause me anxiety, but I think it was a necessary step. We couldn’t have grown the way I wanted to if we hadn’t taken it out. You know, I could have saved up for a while, but we couldn’t have brought on any other clinicians, and I think that so much of it too for me was just creating the environment. Once we’d moved in and we had this beautiful environment created, then we hosted an open house and had all kinds of people from the community, many of whom I’d never met before came and saw this space. And I just think that that was critical to our growth and to growing the way that I wanted to grow.
[ALISON]: Yeah, I think that’s great. And I think obviously you took a calculated risk there and it paid off. Like you didn’t just willy nilly take a loan out and like hope that you could pay it back. Like you obviously ran the numbers and were very smart about being on top of paying it back as soon as you could. And I think too, like, you know, what was the alternative, which I think you sort of alluded to, which was like, yeah, I could have stayed in that original space and like saved up for two to three more years, but I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the kind of growth that I’ve had. And also, I’m assuming you wouldn’t have been able to make the kind of revenue you’re making now, so you would have just delayed that whole process.
[JESSICA]: Very much so. I think and I just, and for me, so much of it comes back, I think for most of us, so much of it comes back to better serving the plants. And we just were able to do that with the bigger space, like everything about it. And so, it was a calculated risk. It was a risk that I had talked over with, I believe with you actually in the mastermind and with my accountability partner, with a lot of people that I trusted. I definitely think that when I started the private practice altogether, my mother thought that I was just absolutely going to fail. I mean, not that she’s not supportive. She was like, “Here, take off the extra furniture I have.” But at the same time and so then when I announced that I was going to like move to this bigger location, I think there were definitely people in my life that are like, “Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
And that actually helped me think it through more carefully. But again, having voices outside like my little cautious bubble that I surround myself with, because I’m a very cautious person was helpful too to help me balance and be like, “No, this is okay. This is a calculated risk. It’s something that that I’ve thought through and that worst-case scenario I can I’ve figured out worst case scenario. I can certainly support it on my own income for a while.” And I would probably have to sublease since I’ve looked at what it would look like to sublease those places to like other health and wellness professionals, not even therapists if I needed to, if all else fails. And in the back pocket I guess even now I’m kind of like, “Well you know, if tomorrow something happened with the group practice, which it really doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, but I still know that like I’d come up.” I had come up with that and backup plan.
[ALISON]: Yeah, I think it’s always important to make plans and take those calculated risks with a safety net. That always makes me feel more comfortable when it’s like there’s a plan B and a plan C. So, switching gears a little bit, I wanted to talk about marketing strategies that you use to fill up your self-pay group practice because I get this question a lot. People are always like totally amazed that there are people like you who are able to fill up a totally self-pay group practice. So, tell me some of the marketing strategies that you use that you think would be helpful for other people.
[JESSICA]: Yeah, I think that one of the best pieces of marketing advice I ever got was to do what feels right for me because everybody’s out there telling you like the marketing strategies that worked for them. But I think that kind of finding one or two things that feels right for you and going with it makes a lot of sense, and because you’ll be more silent about it that way. The first marketing thing I ever did was coming up with a really fun business card. A friend told me that a friend who was retiring from a local counseling, she was an independent contractor and was going into retirement about the time I was opening my practice and she said, “Jessica, the best marketing for me has always been a business card I really like and I’m motivated to get out.” And so, I did create a business card I liked, but then I wasn’t giving them out a lot because I was, I didn’t have time to go to a lot of marketing events.
So, then we had, then after that, like I kept being told like, I need to go to marketing events. I need to take everybody and their uncle out for coffee. And I liked this idea. So, I started trying to do that but it really didn’t work well with my schedule. We were just paying a babysitter for the time that I was working. And so now I was paying babysitter for a lot of extra time where I was just going to coffee with friends, which was fun. I loved doing that but it essentially for an hour coffee date, I had to put half an hour on either side to get there and a buffer. So that’s two hours I’m not seeing clients, and so it’s adding two hours onto my day that I’m away from my, at the time newborn. And so, I started researching search engine optimization. I think I had like randomly heard the term on one podcast and became obsessed and started like listening to everything I could on SEO.
I started reading every book I could, I watched every YouTube video. In this like, basically I ate, breathed and slept or didn’t sleep as it was, SEO for like six months. And everybody was calling, wanting to talk to me. I needed to fill up my new clinicians. SEO was a great way to do that. It turns out it was something I could do after the kids went to bed. It was something that that when people found us on Google, instead of calling for Jessica, they were calling for Aspire Counseling. And so, it was very easy to move them on to my other therapist. And we were able to make very clear on our website what services we offered. And so, the people that called weren’t just like, “Okay, I heard that you’re a counseling practice.” But they would call and they would know that we offer DBT or they would know that we offer trauma work, or I have a page specifically on counseling for college students.
So yeah, for me, SEO was huge. Now we’re in a place where I think a still huge portion of our calls come from Google. We do of course have some referrals in the community. I have some psychiatrist that sends me some clients, I have a friend who does mostly couples work. They will send us clients. We have, and then the other thing is for, we’re at a place now where we’re established. Not that a lot of former clients will send us clients. it’s interesting every now and then we’ll be talking in staff meetings and we’ll be like, “Wow, we have a lot of people from this particular organization or this particular profession.” And then we realize like, “Oh, somebody has been spreading the word, a former client.” So that’s been a good one too.
But the one where I’ve definitely invested the most time and energy and that’s had the biggest return on investment from a marketing standpoint is absolutely our search engine optimization, which is how I got started with the second business; was that just took off for us. Actually, to show you the power of it, I think that I just got one of my best examples of it. We, like I mentioned, we’ve done kind of the same few niches for the last couple of years and then I had a friend who wanted to come on and as a 1099 and her specialties are totally different. I think I’d mentioned her a little bit at the beginning then everybody else’s, like “She doesn’t want to do a lot of trauma work. She doesn’t want to do DBT too much.” I mean she might actually in the future but she’s not doing it right now. And so, she didn’t quite fit in with the specialties that we have listed. Instead, she wanted to be offering counseling to caregivers, whether that’s hospice or somebody whose aging mother was living with them or whatever, counseling for chronic illness and grief and loss counseling. And so those were different specialties than we had ever marketed for before.
Because my website had good SEO, I told her, “Okay, we’re going to turn to the marketing strategy I know best to fill your caseload. What we’re going to do is we’re going to add a page for you on our website. We’re going to add new service pages for these different services that you want to offer and then I want you to write me a couple of blog posts. Can you write?” And she’s like, “Well, yes I can.” And she has turned out blog posts like nobody’s business. That’s been great but I think it was like middle of December, like December 10th-ish that we started trying to get things up and going. We are now just about a month out from that, a little bit over a month maybe. And we now rank first on Google, like above Psychology Today for a couple of the keywords that we were targeting with her services. She has completely, her goal was to do two days, I think. And so, she now has 10 appointments this week scheduled and that’s following a really busy season.
I think Christmas was, you know, very hard to be starting up during Christmas but we know that the January rush comes and it’s come as we had predicted. And having that SEO in place, you know, we even did, went so far as like on our service drop down menu on the website, I put her to services at the top of the menu. So, when you drop down, you know, it really looks like, hey, these are two services that we’re really serious about because they’re at the top. And so that’s again, like I’ve relied on the proven marketing strategy for my practice and we’ve about filled a second clinician. As you know, and I think now she’s wanting to expand and go beyond those two days even because we’re like, “Well, okay, we’re good. We’ll did that in a few weeks.”
[ALISON]: Yeah, that’s great. I think that’s awesome how you know, obviously once you learn how to do the SEO part of it, as your group practice grows and changes, you add other specialties, you can just do the same thing and hopefully start rank in Google for those other specialties as well. So, I think that’s a great example. And I think this is a really good sequel. Yeah, go ahead.
[JESSICA]: And I should clarify that the only reason we were able to get ranking on Google in a matter of weeks for a second service, like that’s not normal. Not everybody can do that. Is because we already have such good like authority with Google in our area because we do have good SEO in general. I don’t want everybody think, “Well like I’m trying to, you know, if you don’t rank on the first page for anything to try, it would take a lot longer. Like months versus a couple of weeks. It’s because we’ve had such a good base of SEO that I was able to throw a couple of new pages up and make that progress so quickly.
[ALISON]: Right, right. So when you have people find your website because you’re on page one of Google, because you’re self-pay, do you feel like you still get a fair amount of people who end up calling or contacting you and then they find out you’re self-pay and they’re like, “Oh no, I want to use my insurance.” Like what’s your experience like with that or what’s your conversion rate?
[JESSICA]: That’s a great question. My expected conversion rate is 50%. That’s what my VA and I kind of talk about. And there are certainly times of the year where that’s a lot better than that and then there are times of the year where it’s a lot worse than that. I struggle sometimes because, I struggled at first with the VA because I had like an 80% conversion rate for a long time when I was answering all the calls myself, but that’s not always practical. Again, especially with times of the year and with being private pay, but how I’ve tried to combat that to some extent, we are very clear on our website that we’re self-pay. We have a whole page, like the rates page. A huge portion of it is like why we don’t accept insurance. We’re very clear in giving the reasons.
My VA and I have worked extensively on her script and it’s very individualized for our practice. Actually, one thing I found that is helpful as a self-pay practice is to have somebody answering the phones who has used private pay services for some sort of healthcare on their own, like in the past and truly believes that there are times that it’s worth it. Like I’ve used private pay for counseling for my kid before, and I also had looked at it, we were ready to see a specialist out of network a couple of years ago and didn’t end up having to because, but like I truly understand the value that sometimes you do want to go out of network. And that, I think that comes across when I’m talking to people about it. So, having someone answering the phones who has that similar belief has been helpful.
But so, yes. And I guess yes, sometimes we do still get calls for people that want insurance and we are kind of prepared to have that conversation. We also have referrals that we, like for some issues at least, some issues are easier than others to find people in our area on insurance. But we do have some people that accept insurance that we can refer to especially for certain needs, and then, but we do try to take steps on our website wherever possible to really minimize that. I used to get almost frustrated like, “Oh, people didn’t look fully at the website. Why didn’t they figure it out? Why did they even call us?” And then I’m kind of like, “Well, of course they didn’t. They’re in crisis. No, they didn’t go comb through my website.” So, there’s no way to completely eliminate the calls of people that are looking for insurance, but we’ve tried to be really clear and transparent. Transparency is important to me. And so, we’ve tried to be very transparent about our self-pay status on the website.
[ALISON]: Yeah, so that was my other question. I get this question all the time too, from consulting clients. Like should I put my rates on my website? Should I say I’m self-pay? Should I not say I’m self-pay? So, it sounds like your stance is yes. Just be upfront and clear with people, but still expect that not everybody is going to read all the way through the website. They’re still going to call and be surprised that you’re private pay.
[JESSICA]: Yeah. Yeah, unfortunately they do. As far as like whether or not to put our rates on the website, I feel like I’ve gone through several versions of that. I used to always put the rates on the website because basically I want to weed out people who couldn’t, who like weren’t going to see the value of it, and then we have some provisionally licensed therapists. And so, I also was able to say, “Hey, look, we have some people that are really affordable out of pocket rate.” But I think that now I don’t because essentially somebody had emailed me and a friend had pointed out that we had some outdated stuff on our website. And I realized that as a group practice, having individual people’s rates on our rate page meant like that was one more place when they left, I had to remember to go change it. And so not that any of my staff is disposable. They’re not. I don’t want any of my clinicians to leave. But it’s also reality that sometimes they do.
In fact, from the day I hire someone we have a conversation about that, you know, how long do you expect the stay? Well, when you’re ready to leave, like let’s be very open about it. And so, people do leave. So, my website has their ‘About’ page and then I try not to make a ton of references to individual people on my website. And one of those places is I don’t list their specific rates. I basically talk about we’re self-pay, counseling and investment. Here’s how you get started. Call us. We have a wide range of rates based on the therapist that you’re looking for.
[ALISON]: Okay, interesting. Yeah. So, what you said there, which I realized was more of an aside about you talk to your clinicians from the beginning about, “Hey, I know one day you’re going to leave.” How does that conversation go? And like, how has that, like when, so when somebody does leave, how does that turn out for you?
[JESSICA]: Oh man, I guess that’s another one of those transparency’s a key value of mine and I got frustrated after a couple of people didn’t work out. And so basically the way that I have the conversation and the way that I’ve written my contract is like, “Hey, aspire clients or aspire clients.” But when you leave, I’m not, it’s not like I’m like, you can’t open a practice within so many miles because it’s my understanding that that’s very hard to enforce and just causes a lot for misunderstanding on all sides. Someone I know that’s in a related field kind of have one of those non-competes and it just was a huge mess when they left because they realized they couldn’t practice their profession in the general area without violating that. And so, I didn’t want to have that sort of non-compete in our area.
So instead it’s just kind of like aspire clients or aspire clients. I’ve had people leave now who did open their own private practice. They told me months ahead of time. One of them is still kind of phasing out, but they said, you know, “Hey, I think that I’m reaching a place where I’m ready to fully do my own thing.” And they finished up their aspire clients and aspire as they were building, simultaneously building their own practice and when we were full, which they know happens a lot, like, we get a lot more referrals than we can handle. And so even as I’m adding a new clinician now, like we, like I said, she’s getting close to full for her and expanding her hours, but we always have overflow. And so, we’ve sent it to the therapist that have left us because they left us doing it the right way.
And you know, one of them is a good friend of mine who I believe had a full practice like the day she was done seeing clients with us because she’s an amazing clinician. And so of course I wanted to refer to her. I’m not going, you know, we still refer to her, especially for more complex trauma clients. And so, I think just having that conversation, my goal within is to make it less of that like staff, the group owner in the back that I’ve read a lot about on Facebook boards. I’ve read a lot about practice owners who, like people like have this secret pack to leave and they leave secretly. You know, like they’re setting up their practice on the side and then they like just announce that they’re leaving and try to take all their clients. And I try to really be honest with people about like, that’s just not the way to do it. Like we can have a very mutually beneficial relationship here if you’re honest about your intentions and you’re honest about your plan and I want to support you if you get to that place, knowing again that there’s no shortage of counseling clients in our area or I feel like in most areas.
Because if we’re all doing good work, people get better and they go spreading the word in the community that counseling works and more people want counseling. And then there’s more of a market even because you know, there’s a positive spin on mental health treatment. And so, I don’t have to have that mindset. The other thing I’ve done is I reimburse well, and so I point out the costs associated with starting your own practice. So, I know that the people that are leaving are truly motivated because they want to own their own practice. It’s not you know, it would be easier for them to stay with me because they are reimbursed well, they do have a steady stream of clients. I’m very responsive to what suggestions they have. And so, you know, those are the people that their personality is just such that they’re going to leave anyways and so why not be open about it from day one, which I don’t think that that’s the typical approach, but that’s kind of my approach to these things. I’m not afraid they’re going to leave earlier.
[ALISON]: Yeah. I’m so glad that you shared that because I think there’s many instances where the owner, the clinician tells the owner like, “Hey, I’m leaving.” And it just gets to be such a like adversarial, like nasty situation and like it doesn’t need to be that way. You know, like my very first clinician when she started basically told me like, “Hey, my ultimate goal is to start my own practice.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s totally fine. I’m just sort of trying out this whole group practice thing. If at some point you want to leave, I appreciate the fact that you told me that upfront.” And so, then when she did leave, it wasn’t a big surprise and I was supportive. I was like, “I’m happy to refer clients to you.”
And we’re still friends and we still refer back and forth and it’s just so much better than just having it be just like this nasty partying ways and looking at it like, “Oh, we’re competitors and you’re stealing my clients,” and all of that kind of stuff. Because people are going to leave, and that’s just reality. Well, thank you for sharing that. I think that’s really helpful to hear. So, I thought maybe we could transition a little bit to talking about your SEO business. because I hear so much from my own consulting clients who’ve used your services and then I see people in Facebook therapist groups like, “Hey, who do I contact for SEO?” And everyone’s like, “You need to call Jessica.” So, I think it’s awesome the work that you’re doing and I think it is really important too like you’re a therapist, you’re group practice owner, you understand from that perspective too. You’re not just like this SEO expert. You have both things going on. So maybe we could like drill down a little bit into maybe some SEO tips for people who specifically have a group practice. And I know we could probably talk about this for days and days, but if you could just sort of give us some quick tips and then maybe another time, we’ll have you come back on the podcast and we’ll talk in more detail.
[JESSICA]: Absolutely. I could definitely talk about SEO all day because that is what grew our practice. And then in the past year and a half, I’ve had the honor of helping so many other practice owners around the country. And then we now have clients, a couple in London and Canada and we’ve talked to some other, some people around the world actually. And I’ve seen that other people have been able to replicate what I did even in, like one in the New York, much more competitive areas. A couple of tips for group practice owners specifically. The first thing that I recommend is to focus on service pages. Have a service page for every single service that your clinicians do. So, I mentioned that that was like my top priority with my new clinician who had different kind of specialties than I did. I don’t have one page that says these are the services that we offer. And I just added her a bullet point to that list. But I created whole new pages because Google will assume if you have one page that’s like your individual counseling services that lists anxiety, depression, trauma, et cetera, that like, you know how to spell the word anxiety. Google says like, “That’s great. She can spell anxiety.”
And then if you have like a paragraph on each of the services that you offer, like, “Okay. She knows a little bit about postpartum counseling,” you know, but then Google’s like, “Wow, somebody, this other person has like a whole page with like a thousand words all about postpartum anxiety. They must really specialize in postpartum anxiety. That’s their jam. I’m sending people from Google, you know, I’m sending people who do searches to that page.” And so if, so that’s kind of like the starting place where I would encourage any group practice owner to start; is just make sure, ask each of your clinicians, you know, what are the top couple of issues that you enjoy treating and then make sure that you have a service page for each of those. And each of those service pages should preferably have at least 500 words of content. And so just making sure that it’s a content rich site.
From there, there’s a ton you can do for search engine optimization. I know we don’t have time to get into all of it, but you have to start with having the content. That’s really the place to start and it helps really, I get people, you know, that will call us and be like, “Well, I could tell from your website that you really know what you’re talking about with this issue.” And it really indicates that to potential clients when they see that you have a whole page devoted to a fair recovery or postpartum depression or which by the way, they’re not calling it perinatal mental health, they’re searching for postpartum depression. I’ve done the keyword research in many different parts of the country, but yeah.
[JESSICA]: Yeah. So, I think that’s the starting place. Another thing for a group practice owner who doesn’t want all the calls for them, but once the fill up their clinicians, a very simple thing you can do is each of your clinicians should have a page about themselves on your site and put yourself at the bottom. When you hover ‘Our Team’ button on my website, I’m listed at the bottom purposefully. I don’t want more clients. I want my clinicians to get more clients. And so, the funny thing is like a lot of people in my life know this stuff and so people will be like, “Oh, okay. So, you’re trying to fill so and, so right? Now they must have openings.” I’m be like, “Yeah. How did you know?” “Oh, because they’re at the top of your dropdown menu right now.” I feel like they are, it does not like I change it every week, but every couple of months. Like, if I add a new clinician, they go at the top and then once they’re full, if there’s someone else who’s had kind of some turnover a couple months later, I might change it so that clinician that’s had a little bit of turnover is at the top.
Because that’s a very effective way to make sure, like people do, are lazy. Like especially, lazy is not the right word. That’s such a judgmental word, but people, especially when they’re in crisis and looking for a therapist, they’re going to take the fastest route to get where they need to go. And so, if they go to your website, they’re just going to go down that list from top to bottom, looking at each clinician and when they hit one that they’re happy with, they’re going to call you. And so, if you’re at the top and you look halfway decent, they’re going to call and ask for you. But if you’re below, that’s your brand-new clinicians at the top, they’re going to see him and be like, “Wow, he looks great,” and call and ask for him. And it’s this magical little thing that’s a small thing that we do. I guess that’s not so much search engine optimization, but about kind of using your website as a practice owner.
[ALISON]: Right. And what would you say in terms of blogging? What would be your recommendations around that?
[JESSICA]: A minimum of twice a month and minimum of 500 words while you’re trying to get ranking well. I was not normal. I admit this, but remember I told you I was doing all my marketing like midnight. I was very, very serious about this. I’d read a lot and was trying to learn to optimize and so forth for about six months. I was literally blogging like every twice a week. So now consistently every Tuesday, Thursday morning. I’ve 27 pages of blog posts on my website, just on like the page that lists because I was doing that. I don’t recommend doing that, doing twice a week unless you can stick with it for a period of time, like I did. And so, but if you’re doing even twice a month in most areas of the country, that’s going to be great.
If you live in a really competitive area, like let’s say you live in New York City, then I’m going to strongly recommend that you do what it takes, pay someone to write them, whatever you want to do so that you’re doing at least once a week for a long time. Because of the more regular content, you have on there the better. There’s a lot I can talk about. We’re actually creating a mini-course on blogging right now because some of it too is choosing the topics that will have the greatest return on investment for you choosing the top. Like if you can write the exact question that somebody is typing into Google and make that the title of your blog post that’s golden from an SEO standpoint and getting you to the top of Google for when somebody types that question in. But regardless, just putting the bog posts up there, if you do nothing else, just getting regular blog posts up there, letting Google see that you’re putting fresh content, you are naturally going to write about things that people are interested in because you know your ideal clients.
People will say like writing blog posts feels like such a marketing thing, or, “I know I’m only doing this for SEO.” And to some extent I get that because optimizing a blog post, writing blog posts will help your homepage show up more often. That’s true. And so, it’s true that not a ton of people will see your blog posts, but I also try to use my blog post to better serve my clients. And so, I write my blog posts on topics that I think will truly help. And I’ve been known to give my own blog posts as homework quite frequently because they’re written on topics that I think truly will help my clients. And then we’ve had some of our longest blog posts, some of our blog posts that we were the most passionate about writing, we have gotten a lot of clients specifically who found that blog post. We have one that one of my former clinicians, she’s one of them who left and started her own practice, wrote one on her fear of escalators and how she basically used exposure therapy to treat her own phobia of escalators.
And we had someone call a few weeks ago specifically because they have a fear of escalators and came across that blog post. And so, and then I’ve written a couple on my opinions related to like the MeToo movement, and we’ve got a decent number actually. Especially there was one blog post that we’ve gotten several clients just because they read that blog post and it really resonated with them. And so, I think not discounting the power of blog posts to do, to help you rank and to even do more than help your rank, but to really help you reach your ideal clients.
[ALISON]: Yeah. I think that’s some great advice. And like you said, it’s sort of like a two-pronged approach of like it’s helping you get SEO juice, so to speak, but then it’s also helping you potentially convert clients.
[JESSICA]: Right. [crosstalk] I think then a lot of times people don’t realize like SEO feels like a bit of a game and sometimes I even get like caught up in that like, “Oh, we just got to get at the top of Google.” But what’s really cool is like Google actually wants clients, wants the person doing the search to find what they want and to find useful material, which means that if you’re doing good SEO work, it will often usually even benefit your clients or the people coming to your website, in addition to helping you on Google. For instance, I say write 500 words, and then from there, what we do is we make your page scannable. We add subheadings and photos. And subheadings are really helpful for SEO, but they also work to the way that the user experiences the website. In this day and age the average website that ranks well, and like on the first page of Google has like 1800 words.
So, when I say 500 words, that’s like, because we’re in a field where that usually can get you ranking, but we’re used to looking at websites with tons and tons of words and we just don’t notice it because we scan and we look for these subheadings. And so in my mind, I’m like, “Okay, when I’m doing good SEO work and I’m adding all these subheadings in here, that’s helping a therapist rank well, but it’s also helping the person that finds their website, get to the part they really care about.” For some people, what they really care about, I talked to someone who had moved and was looking for a therapist and they just scanned every therapist website. they came upon looking for the methods section, which honestly a lot of our potential clients skip over. But like this was the section they scanned the page for and looked for a subheading related to like how I help or something along those lines.
And then other people will just scan it. They’re like, “Okay, you have a page on postpartum anxiety. The last five pages I looked at didn’t. All I need is to know how to contact you.” And they’ll scan right to that bottom section that says, ‘How to get started.’ And so, I think that you know, whether it’s writing blog posts or adding subheadings or adding a meta-description that describes what the page is about when you do show up in Google, all of these things that we do for SEO are often also helping the user experience, which is really good.
[ALISON]: Yeah, that’s great. And I realize now, as we’ve been talking about this for the last few minutes, we definitely need to have you come back because I have so many questions.
[JESSICA]: I’m trying not to throw out too much though.
[ALISON]: No, no. It’s great. It’s great. And I think like these are questions I get all the time from people who are starting up group practices. So yeah, I’m definitely, we’ll talk after the recording about when you can come back and we could do a whole episode on SEO for group practices.
[JESSICA]: Yay. It’s so much fun to talk about.
[ALISON]: So just kind of wrapping things up here. If you were to give someone advice who is just starting a group practice, now, what advice would you have for them?
[JESSICA]: Think through a couple of places where you’re ready to invest in as you move to a group practice. Like you don’t want to invest in every shiny object and be like, “Okay, yeah, I’m going to do like 20 things.” But if you say, you know, “Okay, I’m going to invest in hiring a VA and I’m going to invest in search engine optimization.” You know, I personally, I would also throw coaching in there. You know, think of like, what are the couple of things that you need to invest in right now and also recognize that’s a period like maybe you’re going to start with, “Okay, I’m going to invest in a group mastermind.” But pick just a couple of those because your business is worth investing in and as scary as that is, I’ve found that usually when you make a careful choice that those investments pay off.
And if you choose, you know, “This year, I’m going to focus my financial and emotional and time energy into these couple of things, then usually you’ll end up getting a pretty good return on investment. But I do see people that try to spread themselves too thin and like pick 20 things and I just think that that can be much more difficult. And so, picking two to three that like, “Okay, I’m going to prioritize and invest here,” would be kind of the advice I would give people.
[ALISON]: Yeah, that’s great. I’m glad that you brought that up because I feel like so many times people are looking at the costs to, you know, learn SEO or the cost to have somebody do SEO for them or do business consulting or whatever it is. And they’re like, “Oh wow, that’s a lot of money,” but they don’t realize on the other end, how much more money they’re going to be making by having that be a part of their growth. And I see you as having leveraged the investments you’ve made in a huge way. Not only have you grown your group practice, but now you have this whole other business. And I think I hear Joe say, you actually make more money now from the SEO business than you do from your private practice, which is amazing. So, you know, congratulations to you for following your own advice about making really strategic investments.
[ALISON]: Yeah. That’s great.
[JESSICA]: It, you know, I think about like the investments, like I was so nervous about even doing the Start a Group Mastermind early on. And then I’m like, “Wow, like just think how much that has paid off.” Like, I don’t think I could have done any of this without that. And it’s really cool now that I have had some SEO clients that have been done for more than a year. And I have had recently the opportunity to look at about three of my first clients, their SEO data, like their data, the backend, because they kept up using the tool that I had introduced them to. And I’m looking, I’m like, “Wow, they’re still ranking on the first page for 30 out of 50 keywords or whatever.” You know, usually it continues to like go up a little bit if they continue to follow my advice and they’re sending former clients to me. I mean, they’re sending their friends to me who are saying things like, “So and so told me that this was the best single investment they made in their business.”
And I’m like, “See if you, it pays off, you just have to,” but when you just look at the price tag of consulting or of hiring a VA, or if moving into a bigger space or of search engine optimization and you just see that price tag, it can be a bit of a sticker shock, but when you think of it in terms of, “Okay, well what will it take for that investment to pay off or for that to work out?” Then I think that you end up maybe taking some calculated risks, but that can have a huge return on investment and then just allow you to grow sometimes quicker than you even expected, which is kind of what happened in my case.
[ALISON]: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Jessica, I know you have a giveaway for our listeners. You want to tell us about that?
[JESSICA]: I do. So, if you go to our website and www.simplifiedSEOconsulting.com\Alison with one L, your name then we will have a link there and you’ll be able to use the code [ALISON] to get 20% off of any of our online courses. The online courses we have, our original one is like a big mega course with over four and a half hours of video, and you’d even be able to use the code on that one just to, it’s a great place to start. If you’re interested, I know I gave like a few tips here and there and kind of threw some stuff out. And if you want to really dive into how to best write blog posts or use content or do the subheadings, like I’d mentioned, you can get all that information through those courses. And you can start out with 20% off using that code, [ALISON] on our website. Again, that’s simplifiedSEOconsulting.com. You can use the WWW or not either way and then just backslash Alison to get there.
[ALISON]: Awesome. That’s great. And then what is the best way for folks to contact you if they want to get in touch with you?
[JESSICA]: You can contact us through the contact form on the website, of course, or you can also just send me a message on [email protected].
[ALISON]: Great. Well, Jessica, I want to thank you so much for your time today. I felt like you gave us so many valuable pieces of information in there, and it was just great to hear your story and how much you’ve grown in such a short period of time. So, thank you so much.
[JESSICA]: Thank you for having me. It was really fun.
[ALISON]: So, I want to thank Jessica again for being on the podcast. And actually, after we stopped recording, she was explaining to me how I could improve the SEO on my own website for my practice. So, I appreciated that she gave me some extra tips there. And if you are interested in checking out her company, I highly recommend them. She and I have many sort of mutual clients and I always hear good things about what Jessica is doing to help them with their SEO. So, I hope you found some good tips in that interview and I will see you all again next time,
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