As well described in a recent New York Times article about the need for therapists to rethink how they market themselves, roughly 4 out of 5 people look online before seeking professional services.
One of our Telehealth Summit speakers addressed this issue in some detail when interviewed about Online Marketing for psychotherapy practices. In fact, Joe Bavonese, PhD, made it clear that it is increasingly essential for therapists in today’s market to create a successful internet presence, because other forms of advertising simply are not as effective.
For those of us in telehealth, the issue is even more salient because people already using technology are the ones most likely to seek our services. Internet marketing is the least expensive, most expansive way to find new clients. Survey research shows that 79% of Americans are online. And, the more income and education someone has the more likely it is that person will be online.
The goal of a successful online presence is to bring steady traffic to your website and to convert visitors to your site into phone calls or emails. In order for people to find your website, you need to understand search engine optimization and how online advertising works. You must have keywords and metatags for your services and areas of specialization that search engines can pick up so people searching on those words can find you. Google can help you find the best keywords for your website using the Google keyword tool. It is important to give careful consideration to the choice of words you use since these are the words that will be indexed by search engines.
Choosing the right domain name to optimize traffic to your website is also important. A well thought-out domain name, combined with the right keywords and metatags will help you show up in a good location in search results for free.
Where to Start
Google Places and Bing Maps/Places are good places to start building your online presence that are also free. However, if you want greater control over where your website will show up in search results, your best choice is pay-per-click advertising using services like Google Ad Words, Google Ad Words Express and Microsoft AdCenter.
Pay-per-click advertising is where people search for a keyword, location or both and your ad shows up. You only pay if a visitor clicks on your ad. Google Adwords Express is relatively easy to use while Google Ad Words gives you the most direct control and flexibility over your advertising. With all pay-per-click advertising, the monthly budget is set by you.
When establishing this monthly budget, it is important to consider business issues such as:
- how many new clients you want each month, and
- what the”lifetime value” for each client might be
Ethics of Online Marketing
While there is nothing unethical about online marketing, there are ethical issues to bear in mind.
Here are a few:
- Don’t make false claims or exaggerations anywhere in your web content, including blogs, websites or ads.
- Don’t use client testimonials. While you can’t prevent your clients from posting reviews or testimonials online, you cannot use them in your own advertising.
- Be honest about your highest degree and licensure in your advertising.
Oh, about that New York Times article, don’t believe everything you read. In my blog post, Can Coaches Practice Over State Lines? I took exception to the statements of one of the”experts” interviewed in the article who seemed to think the regulatory boards would go along with offering”coaching” or”consultation” services over state lines to augment one’s practice.