Have you identified your ideal client? How can knowing your target audience help you to improve your SEO? What can you do to optimize your website for SEO?
In this podcast episode, Sam Carvalho talks to Jessica Tappana about improving your SEO by identifying your ideal client first.
Meet Jessica Tappana
Jessica Tappana is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who wears many hats including owning a 7 clinician private-pay group psychotherapy practice in Missouri and an SEO business where she helps
Jessica Tappan is the owner of Simplified SEO Consulting. Along with help from a team of SEO specialists, Jessica helps private practices get in front of more of their ideal clients by getting to the top of Search Engines. As a group practice owner herself, Jessica understands the importance of not only getting more client calls, but getting the right calls. In addition to using SEO to grow her own practice, she and her team have helped countless other practices grow their own businesses through SEO. In her spare time, Jessica can be found traveling, reading or spending time with her husband and two young kids.
In This Podcast
- Simplified SEO Consulting
- Tips to improve your SEO
- Using photos on your website
Simplified SEO Consulting
When Jessica started her private practice, her two children were very young. She had developed a halfway decent website but nobody was finding it so she would work on SEO at night after the kids went to bed. This was the perfect method of marketing for her as it was something that she could do anytime on her own schedule. The practice grew and Jessica transitioned to a group practice, with people finding the practice online quite easily. The next summer, while at Slow Down School, Jessica started adding her advice when they were discussing SEO and Joe Sanok was very complimentary of her. That whole week, she helped friends work on their sites and after a lot of work managed to get one of the sites, which was in a much more dense and competitive area than she was, showing up on the first search page. Over the course of the week, people started telling her that this could be another business for her and that’s how it started. About two years later now, she has four SEO specialists and they help people all over the US, England, and Canada.
Tips to improve your SEO
It really starts with having that website that’s in good enough shape that when you get people to it, will convert people and the people that will end up calling you are the right people.
- Who is your ideal client? – It’s more important to get in front of the right people than to get in front of the masses. Focus first on who that right person is for you and what your niche is.
- Have a logo and website that speaks directly to that ideal client.
- When creating a website knowing that you want to work on SEO later on:
– Easy to navigate – people shouldn’t have to hunt for service pages
– Free from technical errors – must flow and work well. Jessica suggests using WordPress or Squarespace as they are the easiest platforms to optimize.
- Send your website to a couple of people who are in touch with your ideal client and get their feedback.
- Think about your keyword research – Figure out what keywords your ideal clients are searching for.
a) It’s going to be easier to rank for more specific keywords
b) The people typing in these keywords are more likely to be the clients that you really want.
Some keyword research tools that Jessica recommends: KWFinder, SEMrush, Google AdWords Planner. Ask your friends in your geographic area what they would type into Google if they needed your services as they are going to be more in touch with what your ideal client might be searching for.
Blogging in and of itself gives Google the information it needs to know what to rank you well for.
Therapists should be blogging regularly but many of them are afraid to blog or are critical of their own writing. Blogging is great for SEO but again as it speaks to your ideal client. If there is a subject that you address often in therapy, write a blog post about it. You can assign that blog post as homework and you’ve also just created something that speaks directly to potential clients. Just get the content out there and don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to get it perfect.
- Keep your ideal clients in mind – you will naturally start to use some of the phrases that they use.
- Work some of the keywords that you’re already identified into the headings and titles – this will put you a couple of steps ahead.
- If writing it down feels unnatural, record yourself talking and then transcribe it – you’re used to talking about this, you talk about it in sessions all of the time.
Using photos on your website
Photos can be really powerful for both SEO and branding. Have at least 500 words of content on your blog posts but a big block of text would be very boring so break it up with a few pictures. When you add the photos, give them a specific file name when you upload it, this will help you with SEO.
Some platforms also allow you to add alt text (what’s read on the screen reader to somebody needing one for whatever reason e.g. visually impaired) which is very important for accessibility purposes. Google now knows that you have that text on your website and can actually help you with SEO. You have to figure out what you can optimize on a photo on the platform that you’re using, if you can do all three of those things, or maybe just change the alt text, keeping in mind that you’re being true to the image.
- 5 Tips on How to Improve Communication with Your Designer | MP 32
- Google AdWords Planner
- Email Sam at [email protected]
- Design Services With Sam
- Apply to work with us
Meet Sam Carvalho
Sam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.
She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!
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Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you will discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand your business, visit www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign.
Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today on the Marketing a Practice podcast. Today we have Jessica Tappana with us as our guest. Jessica is a licensed clinical social worker who wears many hats, including owning a 7-clinician, private pay, group psychotherapy practice in Missouri, and an SEO business called Simplified SEO Consulting. Along with help from a team of SEO specialists, Jessica helps private practices get in front of more of their ideal clients by getting to the top of search engines. As a group practice owner herself, Jessica understands the importance of not only getting more client calls, but getting the right calls. In addition to using SEO to grow her own practice, she and her team have helped countless other practices grow their own businesses through SEO. In her spare time, Jessica can be found traveling, reading, or spending time with her husband and two young kids. Hi, Jess. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Hello. It’s nice to be with you, Sam.
So can you share with us a bit about your story and how you ended up starting Simplified SEO Consulting?
Sure. I started my private practice when my daughter was a newborn, like eight weeks, I got the keys to the office.
Yeah, she was really little. And my son was preschool age two. And when you have kids that little and are just starting out and are afraid you’ll never make a penny, you only pay the babysitter for when you have actual paying clients. And so I kept hearing from people that the way to market your practice was to take everybody and their uncle to coffee. And as a people person, I really wanted to do that. I loved the idea of having coffee with people all over town. And I did a little bit of that but mostly I was like, I don’t want to pay a babysitter for me to be away from my newborn longer to do that. So pretty early on, within the first six months I think of my practice, I had a website that I thought was halfway decent but nobody found it and so I could work on SEO at night after the kids went to bed. And it was really for me the perfect method of marketing because it was something I could do anytime, on nobody else’s schedule.
So as we grew… so, as I then transitioned a group practice, right around that same time, everybody, we found people that called – through networking – called directly for me, people who found us online called for the practice and were easier to get to my new clinicians and the new group practice, until I went to actually Slow Down School, through Practice of the Practice that next summer. And when I went there, people were asking Joe questions about SEO, and he knows a decent amount so he’d give them an answer and then I’d be like, well and, Joe, also like I did this when I got my practice, very politely, not wanting to like… I feel kind of bad. I was like adding to this expert – because Joe is an expert in all things private practice – but pretty quickly, he was really complimentary of me. And then that whole week, a couple of friends and I would stay awake, working on their websites really late into the night. And there was one friend in particular that was in a larger, much more dense, competitive area than I was, and we were able to get her website to the first page over the course of the week by doing a lot of work – let me be clear, it was a lot of work – over the course of the week. And people started going, you know, this could be another business. I was like, oh, really? You think so?
And so that’s how it started. It’s been about two years now, and we’ve added four SEO specialists. We help people from all over the United States, and England, and Canada so far; nobody in South Africa yet. But we’re just having a lot of fun. We have refined our strategy. I think like every month or two, we learn some new tweak that helps even more. I think I’m constantly scouring the internet for any changes in Google’s algorithm. And it’s just been a really fun journey.
That’s awesome. Yeah. And I can imagine because I think it is an ever changing topic, so it’s really cool that that could be your focus, and then you can stay abreast of those changes. And I know from my side, it’s been awesome to kind of see the growth because I even remember you coming back from Slow Down School, and getting in touch with me and mentioning that this was something you wanted to get started. And I know we worked together on your logo and things like that. And yeah, it’s been awesome just to see how it’s grown over the two years and how you’ve been able to help so many private practices improve their SEO.
Yeah, you were involved when I had no idea if this was going to be anything that would ever bring in money; it was just a break from counseling. I, at the time, had been seeing, I want to say, like close to 30 clients a week and I absolutely love the clinical work. But yeah, I was like, there’s this other thing that’s different, that gives my brain a break by focusing on something else. It just sounded fun. And now it’s… now, I still do clinical work, I still see about eight clients a week, I still have the group psychotherapy practice. But the SEO business is actually bigger because I kind of reached a point where like, things were really stable at the practice, and just the way I wanted them, and so we’re kind of plateaued there a bit for now, because you can only focus on growing in so many areas, I think.
No, of course. That’s amazing. So can you share with us some tips on how audience members can improve their SEO?
Yeah. I think for me, when we talk about SEO, people think first about like getting to the masses, like oh, I want to get in front of thousands of people through SEO. And a lot of times I like to point out that it really is more important to get in front of the right people. And so, focusing first on who that right person is for you, what your niche is, who your ideal client is, what they look like, and making sure that you have the logo, that you have a website that speaks directly to them. And some things to think about when you’re creating a website, and if you know that you want to work on SEO later, is you want it to be easy to navigate, like, people shouldn’t have to hunt for your service pages. They need to be, you know, like a drop down menu, like pretty easy to get to navigate your website. You want it to be free from technical errors so it flows… so it works pretty well, and that sort of thing. I really like WordPress or Squarespace as a platform because down the road, after you’ve built your site, those for me tend to be the easiest to optimize. We can optimize on most platforms, but I really like those two.
And so I think that it really starts with having that website that’s in good enough shape that when you get people to it, it will convert people and the people that will end up calling you are the right people, not just Joe Blow down the street that searching for counseling, but like this person that’s searching for the type of counseling that you or your clinicians do. This is even true in a group practice. Even in group practice, we each have our own kind of brand or own flavor, our own specialties. I think what I love about using SEO with my own practice is my clinicians, I’m able to encourage them that it’s okay to turn away – I’ve 10-99s, so they can do this – I’m like, it’s okay to turn away people who aren’t your ideal fit, because we will target your ideal clients through our SEO, and sometimes through other marketing strategies as well. And so my clinicians are able to work with the people that they’ve attended special trainings for, that they know the evidence based practice for, that they really feel good about their work. And I think to me it makes all the difference in the world knowing that my clinicians are seeing the right clients. And so I think it’s not exactly an SEO strategy, but it really is to have a well done website. Because otherwise, a lot of times people will work on their SEO, and then do a website redesign. And that’s possible because we want to redesign our websites every couple of years, but it can get a little complicated, and sometimes people… yeah, it’s just a little complicated to do website redesign with SEO. And it’s a lot easier, if you know you might do one in the next year, to have that well branded website before you even start.
Yeah. And I think that’s such good advice. Yeah. Because I know I’ve heard you speak about that before and I was almost, yeah, I was really impressed with that approach because as you say, you wouldn’t necessarily think that it’s part of your SEO strategy. But I think that just goes to show that you really do you want the best results for the client and, you know, it really is going to the root of the issue and making sure that when you do delve into the SEO, that it will be as successful as it can be because as you say, the website is properly set up. So yeah, I think that’s really awesome. And I think it’s a nice thing for listeners to know now because if they do plan on getting in touch, or on improving their SEO in the future, they know that that’s something that they can start working on straightaway.
Absolutely. And sending your website out to a couple of people who are in touch with your ideal client and saying, like, hey, what do you think? If you really enjoy working with teenagers and you have some friends that happen to have some teenagers running around, send them your website and say, would this speak to you as a parent? So I think that that’s the first place to start. And then the second place that’s equally important is to think about your keyword research. Again, typically what I see is when people are coming to me, they’re like, well, the keywords that I want to rank for are ‘counseling near me’, and I get that. ‘Counseling near me’, it sounds very appealing as a keyword, and I’m not opposed to that; we’ll put that on a keyword list, and we’ll target it. But a lot of times when push comes to shove, and I’m like, no, tell me who are your ideal clients, and they say, well, my ideal clients are couples who have just been through an affair. Then I try to explain that like, if you’re targeting like affair recovery, or marriage counseling, the people that search those keywords are more likely to be your ideal clients, and the ones that you’ll really enjoy working with, and so let’s target those first and then yes, hopefully, we’ll expand to you know, ‘counseling near me’ and rank really well for that. But if we start with your bread and butter, (A) it’s probably going to be easier to rank for those more specific keywords, and (B) the people typing them in are more likely to be the clients that you really want.
A lot of times I just use, like, marriage counseling as an example, or affair recovery. A lot of times [unclear]. We don’t always know the language that our clients are using. Like in California, they’re searching for ‘therapy’, not ‘counseling’, and other parts of the United States, they’re usually searching for ‘counseling’. And so it kind of depends on where you’re located to. But like, a lot of times, couples therapists will want to rank well when you search for ‘couples therapy’. In reality in their area, maybe ‘marriage counseling’ is searched for four times as often. And so maybe we want to target both ‘marriage counseling’ and ‘couples therapy’. So I think that before you get too deep into optimizing a website, doing some keyword research, looking at a couple different tools, talking to some people and trying to figure out what are your ideal clients searching for right now, and starting there.
And I think there’s a common misconception – and you can correct me if I’m wrong – but people do generally want to focus on these more vague terms. But I think the reality is… I mean, if I even just think of the Google searches I do, I’m super specific when I type into Google. I think we know now that Google is so well trained to give us the best result possible. So you can be super specific when you do your search to try and get the right answer that you’re looking for.
Absolutely. So I personally love working in PTSD, but within that work a lot with survivors of sexual assault. So I actually target a lot of keywords related to that, specifically – not just even PTSD, but getting that specific and several different terms in that arena. Because yeah, people are searching even that specifically, even beyond just trauma, or PTSD, and we see that quite frequently. And so, yeah, I think people a lot of times are searching more specific, and if they’re more specific, they more know what they want, and so somebody that’s looking very specifically for affair recovery, I feel like… this is a little bit, like I don’t have great research other than anecdotal, but I feel like if I’m searching for affair recovery, like, I’m more committed than if I’m just looking for counseling. Like, I’m ready to see somebody that knows that area.
Yeah. And just quickly, Jess, can you recommend some keyword research tools that our audience can make use of?
Yeah, in the PDF that we’re giving away here, it does have a little bit on researching keywords and it’s a clickable one. So if you click on it, it’ll take you to a whole blog post I wrote on this, but real quick, a couple of our favorites. We really like KW Finder. I like SEMrush – that one has a lot more to it, and so I think if you’re just starting out KW Finder is much more friendly for beginning. Google AdWords planner – I don’t use Google AdWords personally, but you can use their planner. And then usually where I start with is actually saying, send your website to some friends and ask what they would type in Google if they needed your services. Because a lot of times, if you just ask some of your friends that live in your same geographic area, the terms that they use are going to be more in touch with what your ideal client might be searching for.
Awesome. So what are some other tips that you have for us today?
I think that most therapists should be blogging regularly. And blogging tends to get this, ugh, like, groan, whenever I bring it up. Many therapists are afraid to blog, are critical of their own writing, and I would encourage them just to jump in and just go for it because blogging is great for SEO. It again, has that focus on like your ideal client, you’re speaking to them. And I think if you just think of blogging as doing it for SEO, you can get really lost and like you’re trying to gain the system a little bit, and then that feels icky to us as therapists. But if you look at blogging as like, oh, this is something that will help my SEO and help me reach my ideal client, then you’re gonna get a lot further. I know in my practice, like, first of all, early on my rule was if I gave the same speech in therapy three times – and you know what I mean by speech, it’s like, I address sleep hygiene three times in a day, okay, clearly, I need a blog post about that, because then I can assign that blog post later as homework.
We’ve also just had great luck with potential clients finding a blog post, and it speaks directly to them, and then they call. I’ve written a couple that are… I wrote one on like, the Me Too movement that I was so afraid was gonna offend people because it was like, really, just here are my opinions about some of the things coming up on the news. And instead, it got us multiple clients – people that read it and were like, I want to see a therapist who that’s their approach. And so we got calls specifically citing some of our blog posts.
So blogging in and of itself gives Google the information it needs to know what to rank you well for. Like if you have written five blogs on ways family members can support their loved one with substance abuse, and they all link to your service page that’s about counseling for caregivers of loved ones with substance abuse issues, then Google starts to get the idea that like, that’s something you’re an expert on, and is more likely to rank that service page, as well as the blog post could come up sometimes in search results as well. And so the more content you have on your site related to your ideal client, the more information that gives Google, and so to me, one of the top things that somebody working on their SEO can do is to start blogging, and to not put a lot of pressure on themselves to get it just right, or just perfect, but just get the content out there. And keep your ideal clients in mind and you will naturally start to use some of the phrases that they use. And if you can try work some of those keywords that you’ve already identified into the headings, into the titles, then you’re really a couple of steps ahead.
Yeah, I think even just from an outside perspective to kind of give some encouragement to people who are afraid to blog, I mean, just being a therapist, you’re already sitting on a wealth of knowledge that is interesting to most people. I mean, it’s not like other professions that are quite niche and that nobody else is really interested in. It’s mental health, and that’s something that everybody is a part of, and may struggle with from time to time, or it’s whatever your niche is, but it’s dealing with issues that we all will struggle with at some stage. So, yeah, you’ve almost… you’re tapped into a topic that is interesting to most people, so why not blog about it?
And you’re used to talking about it because you talk about it in sessions all the time. It just feels different to write it down. And so sometimes we’ll even recommend that people record themselves talking for a couple minutes and then turn it off, and then playback and transcribe it and type it out, or send it to their friend to type out for them, and call it a blog post, because then it will come across as much more natural for some clinicians versus sitting down, and typing it out, and getting anxious, and thinking it’s like a grad school paper. Your blogs do not need to read like a grad school paper; they just need to read the way that you talk to your clients in session.
Absolutely. That’s a great tip. Was there any other tips that you had for us on how to improve SEO?
Yeah, I think one more that kind of goes along with that, like, with the whole idea of reaching your ideal client, is to use photos on your website. I see a lot of people that just have a photo at the top of their website, or at the top of each page and don’t make much else use of photos. But I think photos can be really powerful, both for SEO and for branding. When I’m looking at a website one of the first things I personally do is I’m like oh, you need more words. I recommend on most pages of your website – not every page, but like your service pages and your blog posts – that you have at least 200… I mean, sorry, not 200 – 500 words of content. And if you’re going to put 500 words of content on a page, it would be very boring to just have a big block of text. And so if you break it up with a few pictures per page, then that visually breaks up big blocks of text. And with photos, you can go in and specify a file name. You don’t just want it to be like ‘img00789’, but specify a file name when you upload that photo that’s related to the picture. Maybe it says ‘happy couple in Columbia, Missouri’, right? And so it describes what it is, but it includes that they’re a couple, and includes my location, so it’s going to help me with SEO.
In most platforms, you have other options too. Once a photo is uploaded, you’ve changed the file name, and now you can change what’s called the alt text. And so alt text is what’s read on the screen reader to somebody who’s visually impaired or using a screen reader for whatever reason. And we’re really lucky, my lead SEO specialist came from the university where she had undergone some training on accessibility. And so she’s really opinionated about how to write alt text. And so this is one of those things that we’ve like tweaked our approach over time. But like, for instance, if we use a word cloud that’s all about ‘mindfulness, our alt text will say something like, ‘word cloud with words related to mindfulness, including…’ and list every single word on that word cloud. Well, that’s really important for accessibility purposes, because now somebody that’s looking at… or that’s using a screen reader to view your website will get that feedback about what’s in the picture.
What’s really cool is how you also have the word ‘mindfulness’ and a bunch of related words in the alt text, which is put in the coding and so, Google now knows that you have that text on your website and can actually help you with SEO even though it’s also a way that you’re being accessible. And so we love changing, changing alt text. In Squarespace and I think maybe a couple other platforms, unfortunately you can’t specify the alt text, they use the caption. And so like, we’ll write a caption and hide it. This is one of those things I love about WordPress, because in WordPress, I can change the file name, specify the alt text, I want it to read a screen reader and write a totally different caption if I want; all three of those things can be present. And so you just kind of have to figure out the platform you’re using, what you can optimize on a photo – if you can do all three of those things, or maybe just change the alt text – to try to get in some keywords, and to try to also like, getting keywords but also, you know, keeping in mind that you’re being true to the image.
That’s awesome. You shared some really amazing tips. And I know that our audience is going to get some great value out of them. You mentioned earlier about the free PDF giveaway – do you want to speak some more about that?
Yeah, absolutely. So we have just a PDF that’s six simple steps for successful search engine optimization. Some of them we talked about a little bit today, like keyword research and choosing great content for your website. But it also has some that we didn’t really get to too much like adding internal links and specifying meta descriptions on your pages. And so if you’re interested in learning even more ways that you can optimize your website and get it in front of more of your ideal clients, that PDF is a great way to start. It’s just a little paragraph about each of those things. But like I said, at the bottom, there’s like… you can click on it and it will take you to a whole blog post that gives you a lot more information about those. My team and I try really hard to write blog posts that will truly be helpful, and will help people that are wanting to learn to do some of this, even on their own. So, once you’re there, feel free to check out, check out any of our blog posts, we’re constantly adding new ones.
Awesome. So that PDF will be available on the show notes page for this episode, along with a summary of all the information that we’ve discussed today. And Jess, if people want to get hold of you and get in touch with you to help them with their SEO, what’s the best way to do that?
Yeah, you can go to simplifiedseoconsulting.com and from there you can either schedule a time to talk with us – we have free 30 minute pre-consulting consultation calls where we look at your website together and talk about what might get you the best return on investment. We also have a seven day free email series and just all kinds of resources. So really, if you want to get in touch with us, or learn more about SEO, or learn about our services specifically, we have all of that on our website.
Awesome. And yeah, guys, for those of you listening, I’d really encourage you to get in touch with Jess if you feel like your SEO can do with some improvement. As she said, she’s helped many private practice owners get onto the front page of Google, so it’s well worth the investment. And Jess, if every private practice owner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
That filling your private practice should be intentional and that you shouldn’t lose focus of who you are, who your practice is, and who you serve. Even if you’re a large group practice, thinking about your culture and who you want to get in front of is just as important as getting massive numbers of clients. I think both are true. When you’re marketing, you want to increase the number of clients, but just not losing sight of who you are.
Absolutely. Thanks so much again for being with us today, Jess.
Thank you. It was really kind of fun. Thank you.
Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want to have a print file designed, head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign. Finally, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes if you like what you’ve heard. Talk to you soon.
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