Every private practitioner should have their own website, plain and simple. If you don’t, you’re missing out on dozens — if not hundreds — of potential referrals every year. Today’s modern, empowered patient expects to learn more about any professional long before they ever step into their office.
Do not relegate this to an online directory (yes, you should be in all of those as well). You need your own private practice website.
We’ve come a long ways from the days where building your own website required a lot of specialized knowledge. Now, creating a website is as simple as pressing a button, adding your content into pages through your web browser, and letting the world know you’re there.
Choosing a Content System
Very few people hand-code HTML pages (the foundation of a website) any longer. Instead, everyone uses a content management system (CMS). One of the most popular ones is called WordPress, and most good web hosting providers (see below) offer one-click installation of this powerful tool. I recommend it, because while it’s simple and easy to use, it can also be incredibly powerful as you expand your web presence. I’d stay away from any proprietary content system, as it will likely be difficult to move your content to a new system (or hosting provider) if you change your mind.
Once you’ve chosen a content system to use, next you need to choose a template to use. WordPress has thousands of free templates to choose from, with many of them offering hundreds of options to customize. It comes with a few basic ones, but you can also choose to purchase a premium WordPress theme as well.
Stay away from single page designs (that seem to go in and out of vogue every couple of years). The more pages that go to make up your website, the larger footprint it has on the Internet.
There are hundreds of hosting providers to choose from, and you probably wouldn’t go wrong with picking one of the big boys who host thousands of therapist sites already. Most professionals I’ve talked to have had great experiences with BlueHost, so we’ve signed up as an affiliate of theirs (click to get the special hosting offer for only $3.95/month). BlueHost, like many hosting providers, offers one-click installs of WordPress.
Some may try and convince you of signing up with a specialized hosting provider that focuses on the therapy field. I’ve found very little benefit in a therapist using one of these kinds of providers — and they come at greatly increased cost. Web hosting is a commodity business — it costs a well-managed hosting provider less than a $1/month to host your site. That’s why any company that’s charging you anything more than $10 better be providing some sort of gold standard of service (and your site better be on the first page of a Google search result for it!).
Add Some Content
The only sure way to rank higher for search engines is to write quality content, and keep it updated regularly.
Quality content is just that — original articles you’ve written to describe your practice, your approach to therapy, and other things you feel are important to share with potential and existing clients. The sky is the limit for how many articles you want to include on your website, but I generally recommend a therapist have a bare minimum of at least these pages:
- About You (bio, history, experience)
- About your therapy practice
- Intro and approach to therapy
- Hours, location & parking
- Client resources (which can include your common forms)
- Your informed consent/policies form
- Your social media/electronic contact policy
- HIPAA notice of privacy practices
- Contacting you
Your name, address and contact information should also be included at the bottom of every one of your website’s pages (this is often referred to as a “footer” in web design parlance).
Should you start blogging on your own site? Some therapists recommend this, but not everyone is a natural writer. Add content as you can, at least once a month. Search engines like websites that stay fresh.
Good SEO Practices
Google’s search engine uses over 200 signals in order to determine a page’s ranking for any given search term. Some people believe they can manipulate those signals in a positive way to garner a higher page ranking. This is called “search engine optimization” or SEO.
Good SEO practices for most ordinary people boil down to doing some basic things for every page you create on your website. Make sure it has a unique title, keywords and description. While you should ensure you’ve filled out your keyword and description meta tags for each page, something so simple isn’t going to magically propel your website to the top of the search engine results. But every little thing helps, and this is one of those “little things.”
Make sure your content is both unique and original to your website. You can’t just copy content from another website and use it on your own — so don’t!
Whatever you do, I recommend against hiring an SEO firm to help your search engine rankings. SEO firms, even the best ones, will often use gray-area techniques that may actually harm your website’s ranking in the future. Why? Because search engines like Google are constantly changing and updating their algorithm. Since they don’t publicly discuss exactly how the algorithm works, SEO firms make educated guesses about how to help improve a website’s ranking. But when Google changes the algorithm that penalizes the techniques the SEO firm was using — and they do this on a regular basis — your website may go from the first page of Google to the 10th page.
You’re nearly there — having your own private practice website up and running! You’ll need your own domain, which you can also usually purchase and register through your web hosting provider.
Of course this article just touches upon some of the basic first steps toward creating your own private practice website. There are a wealth of other articles and resources for building upon these first steps, such as the Practice of the Practice website by Joseph Sanok.
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