Joseph R. Sanok: Counselor, Private Practice Owner, Marketing Expert, and Blogger
The Practice of the Practice Podcast: Counseling | Private Practice | Blogging | Small Business
In this podcast I talk even more about marketing your counseling private practice by developing a killer website. We discuss evaluting other’s websites, improving your own, and gathering content to use and then go even deeper by talking about how to decide whether to hire someone or do it yourself. I then go into exactly how to link a domain name and hosting into WordPress. Lastly, I discuss how to increase SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I got on the front page of Google in 6 weeks! I started with doing one episode, but once I got going, I realized that there was more than enough for two episodes, so this is part two about how to develop your own counseling private practice website.
In this episode you will learn:
- How to evaluate websites in your town so that your counseling private practice can thrive
- Learn how to make yourself stand out without paying a marketing consultant
- Deciding whether to hire someone to do your website or do it yourself.
- Linking your domain name and hosting with WordPress
- Increasing your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to rank higher in Google
- Tips, advice, and ways to continue to grow your counseling private practice
Links and Items Mentioned in this Podcast
Some of these links are affiliate links for which I get a small commission. I only recommend things that I like and think will make your life easier. If you don’t have a positive experience with them, please let me know. Thank you in advance for using my affiliate links so that i can make a little bit of money for all the hard work I put into this website, I really appreciate it!
Website Design Domain Name | Namecheap
Website Design Hosting | Bluehost
Website Design actually designing the website | WordPress
Places to write online articles
Pat Flynn’s Backlinking Strategy
All photos are from the Creative Commons, thank you to LifeSupercharger.
To link to Joe’s Google+ .
Here is the Transcription of This Podcast
Launching a Private Practice Website Part 2
Welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, Session 3.
I’m Joe Sanok, your host. I’m here today to help you make your counseling private practice even more awesome than it already is. I’m so happy that you’re joining me today, and I just can’t wait for this second part of talking about websites. If you didn’t check out the second podcast, podcast 2, you can check that out here. That’s the first part of this. This is actually a two-part podcast. I just had way too much information and I did not want to overload you with too much.
In the first one, we talked about my story and how I developed my website, shifting away from Microsoft Office Live into using a WordPress website. We talked about evaluating the websites in your area, how to stand out from them, and how to gather content. So, by now, if you’re doing this, if you’re taking action like I hope you are, you should have already evaluated your area, maybe looked at all the top websites that came up when you googled your area or your town name plus “counseling”. Then you’ve probably gathered some photos from some creative commons places, you’ve started to write your pages, and maybe you’ve even gotten some client testimonials from some folks that you have permission to use without their name. Of course, we want to respect confidentiality, any identifying features that would expose them, any of those things. You’ve probably had your friends start to read through some of this content.
If you haven’t already been so excited that you went to the website practiceofthepractice.com, under “Articles”, there’s a whole section on how to build websites. If you weren’t so excited that you just had to jump on it that second, well, then you probably came back to this podcast.
Deciding Whether to Hire Someone to Do Your Website or Do It Yourself
The third thing we’re going to talk about is deciding if you’re going to hire someone or do it yourself. Either way, you’re still going to want to do those first two steps: the first step of evaluating your area to realize what other people are doing and then gathering your content. That’s going to save you so much money if you hire someone. It’s just so important.
I was meeting with a friend of mine who’s a local counselor and I respect just how he runs his practice. He’s given me so many tips. He’s actually the guy that gave me the tip about Psychology Today, and he’s just an amazing counselor in our area. He and I meet quite frequently, probably every other month, to just talk about different counseling issues and he told me about how he was using a website that costs $60 a month. I don’t remember if it was like TherapySites, or something like that. But it really got me thinking about how, when you don’t know how to do something, have that heart of wanting to be professional, have great marketing, and just go kill it in the field, it’s easy to start to pay money that you really don’t have to.
My hope is to help you build those skills so that you can use a little bit of sweat equity and figure out what you want to do. On one end of the spectrum, there’s hiring someone to do your website. There are websites that create websites like TherapySites or things like that. There’s a variety of costs there up to 60 bucks a month, but there are other ones that are not that expensive. I’m not real familiar with that, because that’s not really an area I personally recommend or want to pursue.
For some counselors, that’s a great option. I know it can really help with the SEO (search engine optimization) to be part of a large website like that. Other than the cost, I haven’t heard very many negatives about going in that direction.
The next step down is to have someone design the website for you. This is something that I do a handful of times a month on the side, but there’s also plenty of other people. If you just google in “website design,” usually, for between $1,000 to $3,000, someone will build you a pretty simple website. It depends on your area, it depends on what you’re looking for, but usually expect to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 for that.
Now, working backwards a little bit, you can just learn a lot about building your own website. You can have people help you with the things that you can’t do, like inserting code, which actually sounds super scary. I don’t know code, I don’t write code, but so many websites have made that really easy for you to do, completely on your own. I’ll get into those details.
Then, there’s the option to build that on your own. For me, that’s been the option that I’ve taken and I’ve really loved it. I think part of it is I just hate when — so you go to the car mechanic and you just don’t know what a good deal is and what’s not a good deal or even what the part is that they explained. I feel the same way about computers and I used to feel the same way about websites. It’s just amazing that if you have basic computer skills: copy, paste, and being able to use Word, you pretty much can build your own website. If you’ve made a PowerPoint you probably have the skills it takes to make a sweet, amazing, killer website.
Let’s talk about what that actually looks like. So, you want to think about a number of different things. There are three big things: there’s your domain name, there’s your hosting, and then there’s the design of your website.
Let’s start with your domain name. Your domain name is the name of your website. You can choose to go through some free things like WordPress or Tumblr or whatever you choose to use, but they’re going to have their name in that URL. So, it’s going to be like wordpress.mentalwellnesscounseling.com, which I personally think looks very unprofessional and kind of stupid. What a domain name gives you is that mentalwellnesscounseling.com. What you need to do is rent that property. A domain name is usually around 10 bucks a year.
I personally use NameCheap. You can use GoDaddy or other places like that. Personally, I feel like there is a lot of sexualization of women that happens in the Godaddy commercials which I personally don’t want to support. They may have an amazing deal that, for your budget, you just need to go with. No judgment there, but do whatever you think is best for your business. I use NameCheap. It’s usually pretty comparable to GoDaddy.
Now, I’m an affiliate with NameCheap. This means that I get a few dollars when I do a referral. Those of you that do choose to go through this affiliate link, thank you so much. It’s just the way that I build a little bit of passive income on the side for all the work I’m putting into the website. I actually do post my income reports every month so you can see where I’ve earned every single dollar. I try to be as transparent as possible about how I’m making money, where I’m making money, and just where that goes.
Anyway, NameCheap. You can put in different URLs to see if they’re available. So, say you want counseling.com. It’s probably not available, but when you’re looking at your URL, you really want to think about keywords: your town name, the word counseling, things like that. For me, I have Mental Wellness Counseling. But I also bought — I believe, it’s “TraverseCityCounseling” or “CounselingTraverseCity”. I don’t remember which one it is, but it just redirects to Mental Wellness Counseling.
I also do supervision for counselors that are fresh out of grad school, so I went with LLPC (in Michigan that’s the “Limited License Professional Counselor”). I bought LLPCsupervision.com and MichiganCounselorSupervision.com. Those two redirect to the page within Mental Wellness Counseling where I talk about supervision. This helps me with my SEO, and it’s nice to be able to have something different than “Mental Wellness Counseling” and just have MichiganCounselorSupervision.com.
Think about what URL or URLs you might want to purchase for your website. Probably have “counseling” be in the name, that’s definitely going to help you with how you rank in Google eventually, and your practice name. Don’t forget that, if you don’t love your practice name, you can always fill out paper work in your State to do a DBA (doing business as) something else.
I have an LLC, a PLLC, called Sanok Counseling PLLC, and that’s where I started. I just didn’t have a good name at the time when I filed all my paperwork. I just figured my last name, counseling, and PLLC.
Now, I do business as Mental Wellness Counseling, and that’s filed with the State. I did all that paperwork. Even if you don’t love the name of your practice, you can always have your URL be what you do love. So say, “SuperSweet -your city- Counseling.com” is what you want. I don’t know why you’d have that because that would sound really weird. Anyway, let’s just say you want the “SuperSweet -whatever your city name is- Counseling.com” and you, for right now, didn’t have “Super Sweet -whatever your city is- Counseling” as the name of your practice. You could still buy that URL, have that be your URL, and eventually move towards switching your practice over to have your paperwork say all those things.
Don’t get stuck with — if you have a big long name and you’re like, “Why did I name myself this?” You don’t have to be sucked there. Getting your URL, renting that space, is key to launching that, to launching that private practice website.
Next, you’re going to have your hosting. The hosting is where all of the information and storage of information is kept. Otherwise, you’d have to have it on your computer. You often hear about systems crashing and all that so, I personally use Bluehost. Bluehost has been very easy to use as it just feeds into WordPress. It’s really easy and I’ll talk about WordPress in a minute. I have some walkthroughs on my website as to how to set up that whole flow from Namecheap, to Bluehost, then WordPress.
What I love about Bluehost is you can have unlimited domain names, so LLPCsupervision.com, Traversecitycounseling.com, all those things are on my Bluehost account and it doesn’t cost me anything extra other than to rent that property that I talked about through NameCheap. For each one of those it’s $10 a year and then Bluehost is going to be around $5 a month. Sometimes they have deals where it’s as low as $3 or $4 a month. Those are your two.
Linking Your Domain Name and Hosting with WordPress
Then, you have to design the website somehow. You’ll install the WordPress icon. It’s right on the front page in what’s called your “C-Panel”, and it has a very clear walkthrough in Bluehost. You’ll install that, then you’ll open up your dashboard in your WordPress. Really, the first two steps are just one-time things that you do to set up your website. Then, WordPress is where you do your design, formatting, color schemes, photos, blog posts, any of that stuff.
Let me tell you about what I like about WordPress. Say you have this whole design for your website. Then, you think about, and just don’t like how that looks. You can switch what are called “themes”. Themes are like the bones of the website or the basic look of the website. You can always kind of change aspects of it. It’s the basic layout.
So, let’s say you don’t like your theme anymore. You want to completely switch. You don’t lose all of the web pages that you’ve created and you have a lot of control without having to be really tech savvy. It’s just been really user-friendly. There’s been a few things that I’ve had to talk to customer service about which has really been easy and it’s free. People are always developing these things called “plug-ins”. You’ll hear about plug-ins a lot. That’s just a term that I hadn’t heard before.
A plug-in is basically a code. You don’t often see the code that makes things happen. For example, I have a podcast plug-in. It was free and it’s the reason that you can listen to these podcasts directly from my website without having to leave the website. Free plug-ins make your website do extra things. They’re kind of like apps for your website. If you think of it that way, it’s like how you have apps on your phone. That’s kind of how it is. The plug-in is like an app for website. It has these really sweet functions. People are always coming out with really sleek new things. Even the contact form that’s on my website. I don’t have to code that or anything. I downloaded a plug-in and then, in brackets, I just type in caps, “CONTACT-FORM-US,” and then bracket it. Then it automatically puts a contact wherever I type that in.
It’s the same with the little Pinterest, “Pin it!” icons that I have on the Mental Wellness Counseling site. I just do brackets, “Pin-It”, bracket, and then it automatically makes these little icons for Pinterest. These are the sorts of things that that you can do with plug-ins through WordPress, and people are always developing more. It’s a way to not get stuck in a certain type of technology as things develop over the next 5 or 10 years.
That’s the way that I did my website. I know it was super technical, but I think it’s important because we don’t talk about these things in graduate school. We don’t talk about these things as counselors very often, so thinking about them will help improve your site. WordPress and Bluehost have a number of video walkthroughs to help you.
Increasing Your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to Rank Higher in Google
The last thing I want to talk about is, once you get your website up and even as you’re in that step 2 of creating content, thinking about SEO. SEO is search engine optimization. It’s doing things intentionally to rank higher in Google, Bing, Yahoo, or whatever people use to search for you. When I first launched mentalwellnesscounseling.com, I ranked at the bottom of page 4 for “Traverse City Counseling”. That’s what my keyword phrase was. So, at the bottom of page 4, but within six weeks, I was ranked number 2, behind Psychology Today.
There’s a number of things that you can do. Whenever you make your header for a website, you want to try to really focus on your keywords. So, if you live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you want to have an Ann Arbor counseling practice or have the words, ‘Ann Arbor counseling’. You’ll see that on my website I use the words, ‘Traverse City” and “counseling”. There are some spots that it’s a little out of a character where it says, “A Traverse City counseling practice” or it’ll say, “At our Traverse City office” and I only have one office, but that helps with some of the ranking. Wherever you can use those keywords, that’s one strategy. For example, throughout your articles, instead of saying, “At my practice”, you can say, “At my Traverse City counseling practice” or “At my St. Paul counseling practice” or “At my London counseling practice” or New York or whatever your town is. I don’t know why I’m listing 50 million towns. I could go on for a long time.
You want to use that wherever you can, throughout. And with every article I write for my blog, I always put a little bio with my picture. That’s a great way to say, “You know, Joseph R. Sanok is a counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, Michigan. He’s been doing counseling there since blah, blah, blah.” If you have other key words you want like family or depression or anxiety, you put those in, too.
A second strategy is for all of your pictures. Rather than naming them “headshot”, or “photoofamountain”, or “pictureofacouch”, name it what your keywords are. So, in WordPress, this little box pops up and you upload whatever photo from your computer. Instead of naming it mountain, name it “Traverse City Counseling private practice,” or “Traverse City counseling family, individual, couple’s therapy,” or whatever keywords you’re trying to rank higher. Add keywords to the title, the second title, and also in the comments section, or the description section. They won’t pop up unless people put their cursor over it, and it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s a great way to just get those keywords in more often throughout your sites.
The third way of increasing SEO for your counseling private practice website is to start writing for really large websites about the issues that you’re thinking about. Say you’re going to focus on children’s test anxiety. That’s going to be the niche you decided to really focus in on in the first podcast. The thing that makes you think, “You know what? I know a lot about this. I feel like I can work on like kids’ test anxiety.” That’s going to be the focus.
Finding some places that you can write for, whether it’s your local paper or someplace else. There’s a number of websites, I don’t have them listed right here, that have online articles.
Writing there, and then in your bio make sure that you put something about kids’ test anxiety and then have a link to your website. Throughout your article, make sure that you have many places (but not too many) where you’re using those keywords. For example, writing an article about preparing kids for tests to reduce anxiety or working with your child at home to learn de-stressing activities before a big test. The more articles that are out there and referring to your website, the most you’re going rank higher in search results.
Then the next step outside of that is to have different blogs that connect to those articles. Ideally, you’ll have 10 or so small blogs that say, “Check out this great article that so and so wrote about test anxiety in this city.” What’s really interesting about that is that, as you have those blogs that reference the other people’s websites that are then referencing yours, you don’t ever have those blogs referenced directly to your website, that back linking helps you continue to rank higher in the website search engines.
It’s a little complex and, like I said, I wished I had a white board in this for a video podcast, but the quick and dirty is, you write articles on other websites that refer to your website and then you create other blogs that refer to those articles. The big, huge, massive thing I forgot to say is that if Google ends up seeing that all of a sudden you’ve got a million blogs referring to your website directly, they can blacklist you. Google is always changing how they do things, so you want to be careful about having too many things that are kind of spammy and directly pointing to your website. You want to be careful for that, especially as you grow and as you write more articles. Honestly, following these steps took me six weeks and brought me from the bottom of page 4 to the top of page 1.
The last tip for increasing your SEO is to make sure you install a plug-in that indexes your website with all of the major search engines. It’s free, it’s on WordPress, and it lets them know whenever there’s an update on your website.
Keeping things fresh on the website, keeping things new, writing new articles — those are all things that help you rank higher with your website. I know that this podcast and the previous one were very technical in regards to what we’re talking about, but honestly, once you do it, you’ll see just how simple it is to build your own website. And that. by all means, if you have any questions, if you need some consultation, if you want me to build your website, if you just aren’t sure of your next steps, please, please, please send me an email, [email protected].
I know that it takes a lot to earn your money, and I hate the idea of people spending $700 a year to have a website or $2,000 to have it developed. It’s really something that you can do with some sweat and some hard work and honestly, it’s going to serve you in the long run to just be able to save a ton of money.
Thank you so much for joining me in the third podcast. Can you believe we’re already on number 3? Holy cannoli! I just hope that you have an awesome week and that this is really helping you grow your private practice. Thanks for joining me in making your private practice even more awesome.
I’m Joe Sanok and this is the Practice of the Practice podcast, with Joe Sanok. I’m just so happy you’ve allowed me to be in your ears for this period of time. Have a good one!
I really want to thank the bands, Silence is Sexy, Heifervescent and Löhstana David. Thanks for making your music available to us. We really appreciate it.
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that the host and the publisher are not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, counseling or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a competent professional person should be sought. Thanks.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
Joe Sanok is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice that are starting a private practice. He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant. Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI. To link to Joe’s Google+ .