Quick Steps to Grow Your Clientele With Online Keywords

keywordsThere was a rat in the toilet. I was ready to give up. We had looked at so many houses. Our egos and self-esteem were in the toilet, just like the rat carcass. “Is this really what we can afford?” we kept asking ourselves.

Then we found our house.

It’s amazing! It was everything we wanted; the search was over. There is nothing quite like searching for something and finding what you want. Whether it’s a house or your keys, it’s nice to be done searching.

When people are searching for a counselor or consultant, they generally find one in two primary manners:

  •  A personal referral
  • An online search

Having clear connections with others is essential. More times than not, a personal referral is going to land more clients than any advertising or online presence. However, it’s not usually that straight-forward. Think about the last time you purchased something. Imagine a friend says, “I love this new [fill in product]! I know you’ll love it!” You don’t go and purchase it that day.

You might do some of the following:

  • Ask other friends what they think about the product.
  • Look at Amazon reviews.
  • Do a Google search and read about the product on their page.
  • Ask Facebook friends what they think.
  • Go look at the product in the store.

So what is the equivalent in counseling and consulting?

People might:

  • Ask other friends what they think about you as a counselor or consultant.
  • Look at Google+ reviews.
  • Do a Google search and read about you on your page, read blog posts, or watch your YouTube channel.
  • Call to talk with you on the phone.

Why Keywords Make the Difference

Using the best keywords on your website is extremely important in driving potential clients to your site.

Here’s the quick versions of how Google makes decision on rankings. Google’s main job is to make sure that when people type in a search, they find what they are looking for. That’s all that they need to do. So everything they formulate is about trying to more accurately find what people are looking for.

Since most people trust that Google does a good job at accurately finding what they are looking for, most people will click on only the first two search results.

What follows are tips to help you come up with keywords that can get you in a higher spot in Google search results.

How to Determine Keywords

Selecting keywords is essential to growing a private practice. For example, I used Google’s free Keyword Planning Tool to determine what would be the best keywords for a counselor in private practice in Portland, OR:

  • The terms “anxiety counselor,” “depression counselor,” and “marriage counselor” are each only Googled 10 times per month in Portland.
  • The term “marriage counseling” is Googled 140 times per month in Portland, OR.
  • The term “Counselor” is Googled three times more than the term “Therapist”: 390 to 140.
  • “Couples Therapy” is Googled 260 times per month.

See how a little research can help you determine what to focus your keywords on?

These are basic keywords that should be a focus in a private practice:

[your town] + counseling

[your town] + therapy

[your town] + therapist

[your town] + [your specialty]

Google Keyword Planner is a free planner for determining keywords. I’ve created a video that walks you through the process.

So what do you do once you’ve chosen your keywords? Read on.

What to Do After Determining Keywords

After you select a keyword, you want to start optimizing your website toward that keyword.

Improve Your Meta Description

A meta description is the text that pops up when someone searches. So for example, you Google “Counseling Traverse City” and then you get a list of possibilities. A meta description is 156 characters to describe the page or blog post. Meta descriptions give the reader an opportunity to quickly scan what they are looking for. A meta description is a really quick summary of the article, blog post, or page.

For those of you with WordPress websites (which I recommend) WordPress SEO by Yoast is a great plug-in to help WordPress users. Here’s an article about transitioning your website to WordPress.

Improve Your Tags

Tags are like a highlighter for specific topics. If you have a WordPress website, you’ll see an opportunity for “tags.” It’s a way that websites sort related articles. At this time, Google does not use them for searching. However, they do help the reader to find things that they are looking for within the website. Anything that improves the user’s experience will help site ranking in the long run.

Reduce Your Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is the rate at which people leave your site from the front page. Imagine the earlier example where someone is searching for a private practice, but they get a Thai restaurant. They will quickly hit the back button and search again.

Not all traffic is good traffic. Google wants to know that you are what you say you are. A bounce rate of 60% means that 60% of people that come to your counseling website leave because they think that they are not in the right place.

Improve Your Site Ranking

Site ranking is a way that search engines determine the authority of a website. For example, CNN, Huffington Post, or NPR will have a very high site ranking. They are known and people trust them. Site rank is determined in a number of different ways. When high ranking websites link to lower ranking websites, this can help. It’s sort of like a bunch of famous people saying, “Donate to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.” Their individual famousness gives authority to St. Jude’s.

 Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Your Website

The following are some things that used to work, some that still work, and others that are a waste of time when it comes to SEO.

Here’s what not to do with SEO for your private practice:

  • Don’t pack keywords to make it annoying. For example, if you list all of your specialties on the front page, it may help drive people to your private practice website, but people won’t stick around.
  • Don’t use the same keywords. When Google sees that you always use a specific term, they know that you are trying to pack in keywords. So if you want to rank for How to Become a Consultant, which I am trying to do, use other terms like Becoming a Consultant or How to Become a Business Consultant.
  • Don’t buy comments or links. Google knows. They are watching. Don’t do it. They have figured it out. Also, using websites that have articles and huge backlinks don’t work anymore!

 Quick Steps to Build SEO in Private Practice

Step #1: Create Great Content

Write content that people care about. Think about what people are going to search for. Instead of writing an article about depression, write an article about women with new babies that experience depression in winter. By specializing, you make sure that your article is really focused.

Step #2: Optimize the Article

Within the headings, make it easy to read. Use headings, bullets, and numbers to make the article easy to consume.

Step #3: Optimize Meta Description

Use the free plug-in WordPress SEO by Yoast to write a meta description for each article and see how it ranks. It will rank how you are doing based on your stated keywords.

So remember these important guiding principles to get the outcomes you want using keywords on your website:

  •  We want users to stay on the website as long as possible.
  • We want to reduce bounce rate and increase engagement.
  • We know that great content will always drive up great traffic.
  • We know that optimizing a website should always reflect what the website is all about.
  • We know what not to do in terms of SEO.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at

Quick Steps to Grow Your Clientele With Online Keywords

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joseph Sanok

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC teaches consultants how to become better consultants through his website Joe also helps counselors with growing private practices through his website He also loves sailing and playing with his two daughters.


APA Reference
Sanok, J. (2015). Quick Steps to Grow Your Clientele With Online Keywords. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Apr 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Apr 2015
Published on All rights reserved.