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Archive for the ‘Common Web Mistakes!’ Category

Four Unique Features for Therapy Websites

All websites are not the same!  It’s all about your reader.  Here are some features you should consider if you’re a mental health professional.

Available days/times – I don’t mean you have to keep your website super updated, but if you see clients Monday and have never had an opening, it may be better to avoid that day  as an available day for prospective clients.  Even more importantly, if you offer EVENINGS, EARLY MORNINGS, or WEEKENDS, these times could be a make or break for some clients getting help at all.  Do be sure to list those unusual times.  If you ever do intensives, support groups, classes, list those NEAR where you put your availability.  If someone loves you but can’t see you for therapy they may still sign up for something else you offer even if they do see another therapist!

“Share with spouse/partner” – this could be a simple javascript that your webmaster created, or if you’re able to find a button (free options on socialtwist.com or addthis.com or many other places) you can chose the email feature.  This is a fantastic idea for anyone who does couples therapy or if your audience is a family or parents or kids.  Anytime you don’t have just an individual working on the individual schedule, it’s a great way to acknowledge there will be scheduling issues and someone else is a stakeholder in the therapy.  That other person is likely going to have to read your website and agree that you should be contacted as a potential therapist.  You might as well make it easy for the first person to SHARE your website with a spouse or teenager. With those buttons they usually just have to enter the email address, and it sends without having a “sent” email on your work computer.  It also demonstrates that you’re aware therapy is a “team effort” and conversations will be taking place before the therapist is contacted.

How a Prospective Client Should Connect –  I know that I’m going to do this when I’m a therapist.  If you’ve never seen a therapist before how do you know what to SAY?  Do you send a super short email?  Do you drone on about your issue?  Do you call and leave an awkward, long message?  Does the therapist have a preferred way of being contacted?  Even having a simple area on your site that says, “How to Connect with me” may have a few examples of what they may want to say, or tips to help YOU.  Does it make it easier for you if the client gives you the only available days/times they can see a therapist?  Do you prefer if they mention whether and what insurance they have?  Or what about if they share WHY they’re seeking therapy?  Do you greatly prefer email?  What about whether your phone is an office phone so a client can leave a message at 10pm without worrying about waking you up?  Just mentioning this issue will guarantee new clients because they’ll feel like you GET how scary  it is to call a therapist.

Have Your Email Visible –  people are mostly at work when they’re looking online for a therapist.  Forms on websites sometimes don’t work. Therapists often have weird emails that don’t match their website name which means a client may not even NOTICE you replied and are in their inbox.  People can’t call you at work unless they’re in a private office.  People can wait to call you at home, but then they’re back at work and can’t talk the way they can on email.  For these reasons and more, you are best off getting more spam for more clients.  I’m in my 30’s and I don’t even call my FRIENDS.  I email.  If you don’t believe people use email over the phone, then perhaps you’re never wanting to see someone under 40 years old and this doesn’t apply to you.  I will only passingly mention the phone-bias actually hinders anyone on a sales floor, construction job, or traveling sales people, among many other jobs where email is a better way to share information to book a session.

There are many other unique qualities to being a therapist and having a website, but hopefully I’ll have impacted even ONE therapist reading this.  That one change may give you a new client or even more powerfully, it may result in someone getting therapy AT ALL.  Do comment if you’ve found some cool feature or statement that helps attract clients!


Google Ignorance

I will be writing more about “When To Quit a Therapy Directory” but this post is inspired by a very common myth.  The good news is therapists are more aware of the power of Google and “showing up high.”  The bad news is at least eighty percent of the world of Google understanding (SEO, search engine optimization, whatever you want to call it) is missing and decisions are made on a tiny fraction of information.  And sadly, most of the SEO trainer folks make it extremely technical, or dull.  SEO is wildly entertaining, fascinating, and useful.  That is why I exist at all… to liven it up and make it useful for therapists.

The common line is, “You don’t rank high when I type in [insert their city, or state, or any therapy term they believe everyone searches on.]

I could literally talk for five hours straight answering this mythology, but for this blog post let me be very pointed and clear.

1 – there are countless ways people find a website.  Just because the term you believe is important doesn’t show a website has little to do with the quantity or quality of referrals you may get.  What if that website has developed powerful relationships that send amazing referrals?  You don’t know simply by going to Google.  What if the term YOU believe is vital turns out to get 2 searches a month from prospective clients?  Who cares of the website doesn’t show up for two clients if the website shows up for thousands of terms from people wanting your help?

2 – there is a level of commodity to therapists online so even ranking high by itself is not going to get you clients.  Insert here a lot of chatter about branding, marketing inside your profile, listing with websites that help your brand and aren’t just generic listings like you find in telephone books

3 – Even if one particular website hasn’t given you clients, at some point you may not be listed anywhere and then what happens?  Coke and Pepsi put millions of dollars into advertising and have no way to know what exactly it was that captured someone’s attention.  While I completely appreciate budget considerations, if you don’t list yourself anywhere, you are invisible to their hundreds of thousands of prospective clients  because they did a Google search and our website showed the journalist we are a trusted resource on marriage issues.  Would you pay $240 in one year to get exposure to tens of thousands of local people who see you as an expert on their local TV news?  Thought so.)

4 – Google expects you to have relationships if it will ever display YOUR website to prospective clients.  So even if a website doesn’t give you clients, that LINK to your website is a powerful tool to helping you “rank high” on your own.  Call it indirect marketing, but companies do it all the time.  I just had a company pay me a decent amount of money to be on the homepage of my wedding relationship website.  Even if I don’t directly give them sales representing their advertising, they know the power of that link will give their OWN website more business because I have given them a powerful link in the eyes of Google.

Before you quit a directory, make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it the best profile possible!  And that assistance will be in a future post (and e-book!)  For now I hope you never decide to join, or quit, a website based on what you decide is the vital “phrase” a client would put into Google.

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 baggage your web visitor brings

It’s very easy to put out a mini resume of yourself, your services, your fees, hours, etc on your website.  It’s harder but a lot more interesting to think about the PEOPLE who are viewing your website.  I’m in the process of adding great content to my husbands therapy website.  (You know the whole cobblers kids have no shoes…. I also need to completely revamp the Dr. Bill Doherty website, especially after he’s now got a psychology today blog and we have $100 in free Google Adwords for CE trainings on couples therapy) 

What I tell therapists is to remember your prospective client:

has never, ever been to a mental health professional and is very nervous, unsure, hesitant, etc

has been to someone before and had a VERY bad experience and is uncertain about trying it again

has been to therapy before, loved it, and is a very willing participant in the counseling experience

For EDUCATORS, you have to remember:

how are you different from counseling?  Don’t put down counseling, but draw out the upsides to education alone, or education as a precursor to actual therapy

since most people only know about counseling, you’ve got to put those words on your website.  Hundreds of thousands of people are seeking counseling online, NOT classes and education.  You need to use the words even if you don’t do them.  The honest way is to say things like: “If you are seeking marriage counseling, are you aware there is another option?”  Or, “We’re not counselors, but educators who can help give you the core skills a counselor will give you, for a lower price.”

No matter what, think of all the people who do make it into your doors and remember them as you are writing your website.  Think how many people each personality represents, and think how one line here or there could make the difference in someone calling you or not.

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.)

Passion or knowledge?

It’s interesting how therapy is about being “cool.”  What with all the mirror neurons, healthy boundaries, and unbalanced, non-friendship relationship that is therapy, it can be hard to market yourself as a therapist.

Some therapists say they “love” working with certain types of people.  Example, “I love working with engaged couples because there is so much joy and hope for the future.”  Or, therapists may express the knowledge they have about the group.  Example, “I’ve been working with eating disorder sufferers for over 20 years, teach workshops and have my Ph.D. in counseling psychology”

Neither is better than the other.  But when it comes down to it, what gets your engines going in the therapy session?  What makes your clients most appreciate of you?  Is it your passion for the topics you’re addressing?  Is it how just darn MUCH experience and wisdom you bring to the session?

If you want someone to fork over hard-earned money and their pains to you, the least you can do is show a little zip!  The knowledge you have is great, but can you re-direct the facts towards *WHY* you’ve spent so much of your life in that area?  If you have a lot of passion, how does that translate into being a great therapist?  Do you stay upbeat when other therapists may get bogged down?  Do you come across as more interested and engaged in the nitty gritty of your clients pain because the topic is endlessly fascinating to you?

Common Website Mistakes

I have a short article on my website on Common Website Mistakes, but I’m now creating its own category on here. There are a ton! I’ll slowly walk through them so it’s not just a “simple bullet point list” but so you understand WHY it is a mistake, or at least understand the nuance of when to “break a rule.”  And of course this is America and you are free to completely disagree with me.  It reminds me of a book by Charles Barkley, a hysterical athlete who wrote a book called, “I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It.”

Today I will talk about US vs I/Me. I see so many websites that talk about “us”.  “To contact us…” or “We believe in…” or “Our office is conveniently located….”

You know when that is a problem? When it’s just ONE PERSON!

When there is no “we” it is very confusing for someone to not really know who they are contacting! Will the email go to the person whose ad they read and liked? Will it go to a big group email and they just have to hope the person they wanted replies?  Will it go to a third party, maybe a receptionist or office manager?  What if I don’t want to go to a group office but just want to go to an individuals private office?  Where is the list of the other “we’s” on the website, anyway?

Who in the world is the “WE?”

I know it’s done for a variety of reasons, or perhaps it’s not even something you think about because you wrote in the “business sense” rather than the personal sense of a personal service. But guess what? You’re not a Target store manager where the “we” is a massive corporation offering thousands of varied products. You’re an individual offering your heart, mind, soul, training, wisdom, experience, personality, and time to one other person (couple or family.) Why not keep that personalization going with the “I offer” or “to contact me” statements?  If you do have an office manager, then just be clear!  Either include both people’s contact information, or make it clear who will be reading and responding to the email.

When I call the car dealership or gas station to get my car fixed, I expect “we can get it looked at today.” The WE is fine because I don’t know or frankly care who looks at my car.

But in therapy I care deeply who the therapist is and I want to know that is the person I’m getting!

If you are writing the “we” because you hope to eventually get a group practice going, consider staying with the “I” until you actually have created a “we” in the office, and created space on your website for the other person/people. 

If the “we” is meant to imply you have a huge range of offerings, then I’d recommend rearranging your word choice.  Instead of “We offer a wide range of workshops on topics including parenting, addictions, relationship stress, financial management”, I would change it to either “I offer..”, or “In this office space a wide range of workshops happen every month, including x, y, z.”  Notice the difference?  Perhaps you DON’T teach all the workshops but that is neither here or there for  general web advertising.  The last way is to help advertise the topics  without going overboard on details of potentially 4 different experts you bring in, before someone has actually expressed interest in signing up.

Please comment if you have any questions on the above!

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