"Helping people who help people"

Archive for the ‘Buying Web Help’ Category

Flooding – Yours, Not The Client

Clients are dealing with loss, divorce, solo-hood, mental health, family dysfunction, etc may be emotionally flooded to the point they aren’t even sure therapy can help.  And therapists are being flooded with buzz words, marketing tips, experts who can make you have full practices with all cash-paying clients, plus tons of magical extra money through multiple streams of income. All while trying to see their current clients, keep up with the latest therapy research, attend CEU trainings, maybe be a spouse, parent, friend. How to balance it all?

My goal for 2011 is to help you stop your marketing flooding.  Stop the pounding you feel from every direction to do it all – BLOG! Social media! Get a website but not a static one (and you think, my website doesn’t give me static, what do they mean?) Network!  Give presentations and workshops!  Get video on your website. Go mobile! On and on it goes.

My problem is seeing therapists who stumble around, trying whatever the last marketing expert told them to do.  They aren’t sure why they’re, say, on Twitter, nor do they know what it would be like to have a strategy on it.  They start blogging and hope that’ll fix their problems. They buy a $40/month shopping cart system when they don’t yet have a product to sell, nor anyone to actually sell it to.  They don’t trust people on the internet.  (I’m with you on that one, so not sure if that makes me a self-hater seeing as I’m on the internet selling stuff, too!)  They put a lot of money into Google Adwords and have a horrid website, thus defeating the point of drawing people in to convert them to clients…

What is missing?

Perspective.

Perspective on how it ALL fits together.  On what personality types and skills best match all the options out there.  Honesty on what it takes within each marketing option to really do something real with it.  And honesty about just how much effort each of these ventures take, and honesty on whether it’s worth another $10,000 a year of earnings for you to give every non-therapy hour to a bunch of tasks you may not enjoy…or to throw a bunch of money at virtual assistants to do the grunt work, not knowing if success is around the corner.

I also see no discussion on the dark side of self-promotion as therapists.  I’ve seen it for years and I have private conversations with therapists who watch their peers go down the dark path.  You go from being a solid person who helps people, to a business card, book-pushing, email-spamming self-promoter who becomes blinded to anything that doesn’t result in you selling your books, filling your classes, or getting email addresses for your lists.  You view any potential venture strictly in terms of how much cash you can make, and donating time, energy, or effort feels very naive.  It’s like there is this vortex and once you get sucked in, it’s very hard to get out of it. It’s not all about greed, either, but about ego.  It’s highly unattractive when self-promotion gets out of balance and simply put, it makes me sad.

What do you want to see?

That is my huge task.  To help give perspective.  What questions do you have that I can try answering in this blog post?  And if you had this “big picture perspective”, should it be in a teleclass, written, video, or in a short-term teleseries where I do some teaching and some on-the-fly consulting with people on the call, recorded for others to hear who couldn’t make the call?

I find out soon if I get an interview, then find out in March hopefully, that I got into graduate school.  I’m not going anywhere long term, but for the shorter term starting in the fall I’m not going to be as helpful.  I feel very blessed, however, to have hundreds of therapists friends who can support me emotionally in graduate school and in the internship.  Maybe this blog will turn into YOU supporting ME! 🙂

This is currently on my roster: nuts and bolts book on therapy profiles, book on informational interviews (what they are, strategy, their power), Twitter for therapists (micro-trainings, really affordable!), a 3 part series on journalism for therapists (plus hopefully more smaller ones on, say, new therapists and journalism).   Finally, a really affordable Google Adwords service/product (hopefully launching soon!)

I do all this with an unwaivering passion to provide rock solid information without jazzy hyped up marketing fluff.  I want to help make therapists more rock-star like in order to attract more clients.  My secret mission is to rebrand therapy in our culture and by sharing great information with YOU, more people consider therapy for the first time based on how you market yourself and market what therapy actually is.  And my not so secret mission is to give energy to therapists. Without energy nothing else matters.

I know.  I aim so low, don’t I?

But seriously, comment and I’d love to find a way to help a bunch of you who have the same  struggles.   Ultimately I believe marketing is identical to therapy.  It’s an internal journey first, and a practical journey of skill building and behavior changing second.

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Free Website Designs

For those who are interested in learning how to do a website, I suggest you start with a FREE TEMPLATE.  It means you have the design “done” and you just plug in all your content.  You’ll need a program to do this.  The one I used is Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 (the link goes to the latest version..you’d never buy my super old version) or you can chose a program called Adobe Contribute CS5.  Many webmasters will use Dreamweaver.  Contribute is cheaper and has more limits.

Dreamweaver and Contribute will do a good job of helping you “point, click and write” your website content.  They will also help you get the content “uploaded”, a fancy term for getting it OFF your computer and ONTO your live website.  There are training manuals or you can try to go to Craigslist, or your local community education class, and learn the program.

I always shock people when I say we’ve saved easily $40,000-$50,000 or more because I bought Dreamweaver and learned all this marketing stuff myself.  That said, I have spent a tremendous amount of time at my computer.  It’s very hard work and if you’re paid by the hour, you’ve got to really think about how much your time is worth.

To give you an example, my main website, Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, uses this template!  It’s fun – see what I did to tweak the free design.  Feel free to poke around that website for more website designs.  They have free ones and ones for fees.

Keep in mind, FREE will most often mean crappy, limiting, or not-tested in the most updated browsers.  (That’s a fancy way of saying your website could look awesome in Internet Explorer and be almost unreadable in Firefox… ugh!)

The start up costs, then to “do your own free website”, will be the $400 or so for Dreamweaver.  $100 for hosting.  $10 for a website name.  Probably $40 for a training book on Dreamweaver.  Plus a huge amount of frustration, stress, and annoyance!  But… if you are successful, then your annual website costs are $100 for hosting and $10 for your website name.  Really reasonable!  However, you may end up hiring out to help build images for your website, or get some cool tools to work.  And you won’t really have someone there if you destroy your entire site, so you’ll want to always keep back ups.

I’ve been the do-it-yourselfer.  It’s really awesome, empowering, fun, speedy, and makes me feel more ownership over my online presence.  It has also caused me extreme anxiety, near-heart attacks when things got broken, or I accidentally put a chat program on that let hackers get in sending thousands of questionable people to hidden pages on my website.  I’ve managed to have emergencies that I have no way to fix JUST before major media stories send people our way.  In short, my husband, father-in-law, and two techie friends have been on the receiving end of my helpless horror.

I can honestly say if you go with websites that charge a monthly hosting fee, you are also paying for your sanity, paying for them to keep up with the latest internet browsers and making sure your website looks good.  You’re paying them for customer support if you run into problems or have questions.  You’re also paying for them to make it really easy for YOU to update your own website.  Dreamweaver isn’t hard, but it’s not as simple as pay-per-month website services.

Don’t get ripped off!

I just got an email from a therapist who went with a  company for a website and isn’t too happy so far.  I had never heard of the company but a simple Google search showed it made some “top worst companies” list.   I should stop being “shocked” and amazed at what I find out there.  This company charges a set up fee (though has a 0 down sale right now), presents you a website… that is fine so far.  Then charges you $80 a month with LIMITED pages and NO ABILITY to update your own website…. so the TIME they give you on any future edits is limited by a certain number of minutes.  AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Nobody should be paying $80/month without access to updating their own website.  Period.

Let’s break this down, folks.

A set up fee should get you something.  In my website solution, it gets you *ME* working on getting a website for you (out of 100 options with zillions of photos and options for layouts).  You also get me doing all the work setting it up AND training you directly.

If you have NO set up fee it means you have a canned, limited template.  Again, this is fine.  Just know that it means you select from a range of templates and you’re fairly on your own, though hopefully you have an 800 number you can call for assistance along the way.  Therapy Sites (see banner deal on this blog!) has no set up fees because they believe you’ll be so happy you’ll stay with them.  Thus, they lower the barrier to skittish therapists signing on, and hopefully get more sales in the long run.  Plus they clearly worked their butts off to make their templates as idiot proof as humanly possible, thus lowering the NEED for therapists to be on the phone for hours with someone… and thus lowering their business expenses overall.  Therapists get no set up fee and the business isn’t hiring pricey employees to be on the phone all day. [Self disclosure per a random comment to this blog, if you go with Therapy Sites they’ll give you a free month ($59 value) and I get a small commission for helping them advertise.   I have three options for websites I believe in (a $99 flat fee to get a website design we hired a webmaster for and I get nothing for that, therapy sites solution or my own website solution (and a good chunk of that set up fee goes to the company who runs the website.)  My goal is to stay as an educator, not talk about any one solution as THE only option.  I could set up being an advertiser for other website options but I can’t endorse most out there, so I won’t.  However, I’m always open to recommending websites I can endorse.]

Editing your own website. This part is easy, even if I’ve confused you above.  If you pay a MONTHLY HOSTING FEE you should be able to EDIT YOUR OWN WEBSITE.  This fee is going to be $50+/month for a robust website with unlimited pages and a lot of features.  Any fee under $50 is going to be restrictive in some manner.  (A small cavaet, if you have a webmaster do your website, this may not apply.)

One more.  Buying a website name (domain name) is now about $10.49/year with Godaddy.com (my recommended company to buy website names.)  If you are charged $15, that’s fine.  I don’t mind someone earning a few bucks getting a website name set up for you.  The SCAMMERS out there charge $50.  Or $35.  And even worse than overcharging is when they buy it to OWN it directly!  You should always own your own website name so that no matter what, your “identity” stays with you as you potentially move around to different website solutions.

A “Flash” based website example

I’m going to put this website in “Great website examples” even though it’s HORRIBLE FROM A SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING standpoint!  I haven’t spent much time on the site but it’s very colorful, engaging, and seems fun as a parent of young children.  I’d get rid of the music (with an option to play it) but the bummer is Google can only read the homepage, and can only read the text at the VERY bottom of the homepage.

I link to it to show you  this is what Flash looks like.  See how it’s more movie like?  And notice as you click around that the top of your browser you would not be able to bookmark a particular page (bad for parents who are big into social media and would want to share a particular page of the website.)

You can get away with this sort of website is you have no need to market to web surfers who already know who you are.  For example, Chipotle restaurants often do Flash websites and they can get away with that because nobody is searching for “a tasty burrito.”  Flash looks super cool and web designers, as I say over and over, may not have a clue about search engine marketing, so they may sell you on a super slick website without realizing they’re selling you the fanciest, most nearly-useless marketing tool ever.  Sure, if you can GET your website linked all over the web, it’s totally fine to have Flash because you’re “spreading the word” via all those other websites sending you traffic.  But, at least have a non-Flash version of the same website so search engines can read the text.  Or drop flash altogether.

The Stuff Webmasters Never Tell You

 I’ve officially moved The First Dance website to the new design.  I lost two months of work, a lot of my sanity, and even testing things out, I have pages that aren’t working.  I decided however, to just have a semi-broken new site rather than keep on my old design.

So in honor of the hell I’ve been through and seen others unwittingly go through, here is a list of things that can go bad and why I am NOW HONESTLY, OPENLY, easily able to sell a particular website company (contact me for more) because it offers all the positive sides of the best the webmaster and you are able to make your own, easy web edits.

Webmasters as I’ve discussed before are usually broken into two camps.  Programmers and designers.  They won’t tell you this.  Programmers usually make pretty ugly websites, or really “canned” looking sites, but are capable (though for therapists rarely need to) of having very sophisticated stuff behind the scenes.  Marriage Friendly Therapists website required a programmer, databases, all sorts of stuff to collection applications, store profiles (that therapists can edit.)  That takes lots of MONEY because it takes a lot of TIME to build all that.  Even then they don’t necessarily think through the business side.  So for example, when we launched the site almost five years ago, we had no way of knowing when a new application came  in!  Doh!  We had no way to change the status from ‘pending’ to ‘approved.’  On and on.  A good programmer runs $125-$250/hour.

OK, designers.  They usually have awesome looking websites because they are artists themselves.  They focus on the look, though sadly I’ve seen too many designers have “A LOOK” they like and make most websites look the same, save for a color change here, or changing the text box on the site over a little.  Designers are not, however, programmers.  They can be good at hacking code, but because their skills, expertise, and cash is spent on design work, they’re more likely to design websites along side create brochures, business cards, logos, etc.

Think of the scientist (programmer) and artist (designer.)  Few people love both and even fewer are GOOD at both.

The third group I’ll mention are people like me.  I’m neither a programmer, nor designer.  But I am capable of tweaking someone else’s work and making a website fit what I need.  This is what I did for The First Dance website.  The work I put into the site to get it where I needed took me two months and  I’ll guess it would have cost $6,000 or more (that’s with the canned website template.)  If I had a designer make one from scratch AND move alll my content over it would have easily been 6+ months of work and a lot more money. … so I deal with the limitations I have, and launch the site knowing I still have some tweaks to make.  🙂

Let’s now get really grounded.  You don’t care that much what expertise someone has.  You just want a website.  Here is a list of actual problems I’ve run into with therapists websites, all of which combined in shock, awe, and  horror to lead me to put my integrity on the line for the website solution I’ve found and can sell to you.

  • Different “browsers” show a website differently.  This means in Internet explorer the website could look just fine but in Firefox, the site could look awful, text could be buried under a logo, etc,etc.  If the person doing your website is NOT TESTING in all browsers, you may be given a website that doesn’t work for all your web visitors.  Then don’t forget browswers CHANGE over time.  I have never heard of a therapist getting an invoice from a webmaster saying “there have been new updates to browsers, so I’ve done all the testing necessary on your website and here is your bill for the work.”

 

  • If you had a website and got a new design, webmasters aren’t search engine folks and may have no idea half your website pages are actually found by web surfers.  A full 50% of a therapists website traffic BOMBED because the new webmaster made all new page names. This means if they ranked high for a certain phrase, and got 200 people a month finding them because they typed in that phrase, with the new web design, 200 people a month continue to type in that phrase in Google, find this website, click on the link, and it’s GONE.  They get an error because that page no longer exists.  Part of my awful work was to ensure I did not change a single page name when I moved 400 pages over to the new design.  That means about-us stayed about-us and didn’t  become about, without the dash and “us.”  I have way too many links from therapists, bridal message boards, marriage educator websites, all linking to various pages on my website.  If Idid not keep the names the same, I’d be creating a lot of unnecessary errors.

 

  • I had one customer with a cool website name that included a common object (I’m avoiding saying who these people are to protect privacy.)  I did a web review and told the person they should find an image of that object so the website isn’t just text.  This person replied, shocked I didn’t see the image!  With some testing, the only people, literally, who could see the image on the website were people using Mac’s.  (Designers usually use Mac’s.)  This person had an entirely different looking website to MOST web surfers than what they saw!

 

  • There are few standards in website coding.  Thinking of this same missing-image therapist, the way the designer had coded the website made it OPPRESSIVELY time consuming and expensive to make even the tiniest change.  I was shocked, and still am.  The only thing I can think of is this company truly are DESIGNERS who aren’t as  “analytical” as a programmer.  There are core elements to a website that a good programmer (even ME!) will do to ensure necessary small changes are really fast.  On my websites I have something called an “includes” file that if I change, literally change 400 pages all at once.  A bad designer will tell you if you want to change the phone number on all your website pages it’s going to cost $50 because of the time to go into each page and make the adjustment. Not cool.  If their design is that tricky that you can’t even ask for small changes, they should not be selling you the design.

 

  • Another therapist’s website turned out to be underneath the programmers own website.  The way to see this in action (and I still see it!) is if you put your mouse over someone’s pages, anything like “Contact”, you will see on your browser the “address.”  Almost always the address is going to be the website your own.  So for example, thefirstdance.com/about is what you’d see.  In this case, I noticed the address actually said (using a sample example), MrWebmastersWebsite/therapistBob/about.  This means instead of “Bob” having his own website, he was UNDERNEATH the webmaster’s website.  That’s like having your book inside someone elses!  You are INVISIBLE to search engines.  It’s also a dirty way to make a lot of money because you can charge “Bob” regular hosting fees even though a small website like his doesn’t take up any room or cost any money.

I was on a therapists contact page the other day and I kid you not, it FROZE my entire computer.  Talk about not wanting to back and contact that therapist!  Run, run, run away!  I can’t even tell the person because I don’t want to waste another 15 minutes to see if I can even GET to the contact page to tell him his website is destroying productivity and computers.  I could go on and on. 

It’s just shocking to get inside people’s websites and frankly it’s dreary to offer a ton of suggested changes, knowing a webmaster costs a lot of money and the changes may or may not ultimately give you more profit.  It’s a common complaint among small business owners.  It’s just ironic that to get a cool “Sale” button made by a designer may cost $85,  and even with an increase in profits from a sale, you may not actually make up that $85 loss.

The website templates I sell are a solution to the above problems and so much more.  On my long to-do list is to actually put my educator hat on and walk you through the various website options, from Godaddy, Intuit, Homestead, to Therapysites, and the solution I offer (they are direct marketing so no commercials, ads, and rely on person to person education so I never share the name because nobody would have heard of them.) A general rule of thumb with websites is the less you pay, the less you get.   Some people don’t care and never need to (their website is plain, brochure-like web presence) but most people want website traffic, they want to market and they don’t want to learn how restricted they actually are on their website.)

If you understand only one thing about “ranking high on Google”

Search engine optimization.

Showing up high on search engines.

There is so much buzz. So many scams.  It  brings out our inner demons of greed and “easy money” or “easy clients.”  Even my Psychotherapy Networker article on “getting clients on a shoe string budget” doesn’t get to the complexity or the history that brought me to launching my husbands therapy career online.

The reality is search engine stuff is challenging and requires a lot of effort!  This is why my approach in my trainings is to TEACH YOU!   It’s the only way the vast majority of therapists will ever be able to do this.  Why? I’m not sure you can really get enough new clients to offset the price of an “SEO firm.”  Or, you can be like friends who hire SEO consultants, but the friend has no idea what they did, or how to make business decisions off any real knowledge of SEO.

Where is the work, you may be wondering, in “ranking high?”  This is one small example of how work pays off… work beyond “ranking high” for one word.  It’s been a few days into January, and so far on The First Dance website, I have 47% of my website traffic coming from “showing up on Google” and other search engines like  Bing, Yahoo, etc.    This represents only 1/3 of my traffic, the other two sources being people who type in my website directly, and the other source being links from other websites who direct traffic to me.

Imagine in  7 days, over 1,800 pages have been found  by web surfers.  These web surfers didn’t just say things like “premarital counseling”, or any other term you’d want as a therapist, but they have used a whopping 890 DIFFERENT PHRASES to find me.  890!  Not 1 or 2 phrases, as the scammers “promise you”, and suggest you’ll have great success with “ranking high.”  Rank high for what? Your business name?

Imagine how much work it took me to get what usually results in about 3,000 unique phrases every month? (A phrase is anything someone types out, from “how much does a wedding cost?” or “who do I invite to the wedding?” or simply “counseling.”)  This means lots of writing to capture the vast questions and issues people are bringing to search engines like Google.   What I train, and why I’m so passionate, is this search engine stuff is NOT some super techie geeky thing, but is most simply understanding  HOW to write and writing for your AUDIENCE, what THEY care about, not your pet interest, or some obscure therapy model you did your Ph.D. on but nobody even  cares about, let alone would go to Google to find more information on.

So again, what does “ranking high” really mean?  I want to give you an under the hood look at what it REALLY means.

In 2009  over 87,000 pages from The First Dance  showed up to search engine surfers, using not 1 or 2 keywords, but over 26,000 UNIQUE phrases.  And the crazy part is I could have done way, way,way better if I weren’t balancing motherhood, a major surgery that pretty much took out half the year, other work, and life.  The last time, about a year ago, I spent a SOLID 8 hours of researching and writing specifically FOR search engines, I added 100 new visitors A DAY because of my efforts.  That has sustained itself, and then grows…

So if you were every skeptical of all those “rank high” scams, I hope you see why.  It’s not about one word. It’s more like building a HUGE spider web so you can attract as many bugs from as many directions as possible.  And who is the best person to build your spider web?  YOU!  You have the expertise.  YOU know your clients.  YOU know what you find fascinating and YOU know what you want your spider web to look like.

Therapists and A Hard Reality

A small post as I deal with arm pain from surgery.

There is a lot of hoopla out there about websites.  There are large web marketing conferences.  There are blogs and websites you can visit that don’t even seem like they’re written in English because it’s either super techie or super lingo-filled.  There are markters who go to these conferences and come back with  fantastic information to pass on to their clients.  That doesn’t even include the specific Social Media blogs, websites, conferences……….

But you know what?

The hard reality is most therapists websites get so little traffic that *STATISTICALLY* a lot of the web help given is actually not very applicable to low traffic sites.  Put another way, with all the latest fads,  at the end of the day, you’ve simply got a client in pain wanting therapy. 

People who love marketing and social media are *RARELY* involved in the mental health/educator world.  They would frankly never pursue a group of people who have no business-saavy (as a stereotype), with tiny marketing budgets, and who only see a small number of “customers” (widgets have huge demographics and are easily sold, but you are the “widget” and you have a very small group of prospective customers.)  And keep in mind those marketing folks tend to be successful because they are not marketing to  YOUR client type, they are marketing to YOU, a very eager person wanting marketing help.  It’s very different for someone to say, “I attract [insert your client type” and someone else to say, “I attract a lot of people just like you and sell my stuff to them.”  This is one way I’m unique – I run two websites and am directly involved in trying to attract real people to my websites.  This website marketing stuff is very different!

As it stands now,  I do NOT encourage therapists to set up blogs, join Twitter, or create a group or “fan page” on Facebook.  If you are very intrigued, I would tell you to sign UP for Twitter, to READ any blogs you can find, and join OTHER groups/fan pages on Facebook in your field.  Then watch.  Learn. Observe.  Listen to your gut.  Is that work worth while?  Do you like how the person represents themselves?  Does it seem worth your time?  Heck, ask these folks offline if it’s working for them and how much time they put in.

Remember, social media is about sharing.  And people in  pain are not likely to openly share NOT JUST THEIR PAIN, but their pain with everyone they’ve ever known on Facebook, let alone actually “friend” their therapists fan page.  (That has a whole other set of problems for another post.)

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