My little niche is SEO – search engine optimization, specifically for therapists, specifically within that for those who are not techie. I love helping people learn and grow.
Lately, however, I’ve noticed some odd declarations coming from so-called SEO experts. It’s bizarre, especially when I have facts to back up my reality and they’re able to spout out stuff that just plain isn’t true.
A big one is that BLOGS are vital and that a regular “static” website will only give you a handful of keywords. This was from a guy who specializes in SEO and teaches it! I replied that in fact one of my “static websites” gets over 3,000 unique phrases a month. He replied, “Are those from your blog?” No. I have a sad, neglected blog on that website and even at that, I only get about 300 visitors a month. You can do the math. And in fact that blog has been separate from my website and my web visitor numbers didn’t change. He never replied back. I’m guessing because he doesn’t himself have a large website, with great links to it, and just has no way to know that he isn’t actually telling the full truth.
Here’s my super-duper-short run down, demystifying everything about search engine optimization (which is the fancy, intimidating phrase that simply means when people type stuff into their search bar, which websites show up…”ranking high” as it is often called.)
The Three Parts to SEO and what you can do today to help your website
It all boils down to: saying stuff, building a reputation, and looking good to humanless robots. We’ll break these down.
As is true in real life, the more someone has to say on a topic they claim expertise on, the more likely we are to believe they are telling the truth. Google isn’t a human. Google doesn’t know that you have two Ph.D.’s, studied with the founder of your field, did internships that were more ground-breaking than anyone has ever done as a therapist, and that you’ve written 300 books, etc. You get what I’m saying here. YOU know in real life you’re awesome. But Google doesn’t unless you start waxing poetic on your expertise!
This is where people get trapped into thinking blogs are God. Blogs, as I’ve written about before, are simply another way to add a website page. A blog entry represents a blog page. Just as a new “article” represents a new web page. Same thing. My website that gets 3,000 phrases to it is actually a Really Big Website. And I did a lot of research on what people are asking for on search engines and still do when I can find the time. As I’ve mentioned before, one big downside to blogs is if your niche expects “current” info, even if it’s illogical because your expertise is timeless, you may lose readers. I can not have my main website as a blog for engaged couples with basic information dated to 2006. In a young persons eyes, that’s just irrelevant!
What you can do: Writing for writings sake, especially if it’s not your first love, sucks. You won’t keep it up, won’t stay motivated, and frankly, writing just to write is not likely going to get you new followers. You need to really hone in hard core on a niche group and write to them, covering all the nuance of whatever you are an expert with. The tighter the focus, the better. Not only will it keep you more motivated because you’ll have a core audience in mind (vs the generic human being), you’ll be actually helping, deeply, a specific type of client who will want to bookmark and keep coming back.
What you MUST DO, even if you do no other writing, is to LIST YOUR LOCATION and SURROUNDING AREAS on every single website page. Remember, Google is a robot and it’s trying to play matchmaker between people seeking therapy in Schlagapoo, Georgia with therapists in Schlagapoo, Georgia. If you don’t say you’re from there, Google won’t know to match you. Similarly, Google can’t know that super near to Schlagapoo is Fartfranken, Ooglaboogla, and Goikington. List those for Google and for your readers to realize you aren’t in their desired suburb, but you are really close by.
OK, in fancy lingo this is called link building. It relates to page rank, though another big lie is that page rank is God. You can have a very high page rank and almost no website traffic. Trust me – I had that exact situation before I learned SEO. La la la, ok. In big companies they hire firms who exclusively look for websites that are well ranked and who will give them a link. Put another way, two national corporations hired a link finding company, who found my website I keep talking about, said WOW, it’s well ranked, it relates to our business, so let’s PAY them for a link to our website. Every month I get free money for putting a link on my website. (And yes, we’ve said no to as many companies as we’ve said yes to in order to protect our brand.)
This is where the voodoo magic of blogs comes in. If you’re the freak therapist who has a blog with tons of traffic and tons of comments (I say freak therapist because I’ve yet to see this on a private practice blog) then you are building a reputation by having all those people comment! But for my website I have very well regarded websites linking to MY WEBSITE. Hence, my big main website has the reputation in Google’s eyes, not my blog. I know three therapists with wildly successful blogs, by the way, who have full practices because of their blogs. Please note however, their blogs actually have their own website name, own branding separate from the counseling side of their practice, and these blogs are enormously time consuming, require cash outlays for IT and design and become a full force of energy and attention. Only then, with the therapists driving them hard core, they can get a lot of media attention, social media attention, etc. But they are NOT blogs inside boring, small private practice counseling websites.
You’ll hear people tell you to set up articles on ezine directories and other places. This is a bit faulty for two reasons (though I’d never tell you not to if it’s working for you, or if it gives you confidence because someone said you MUST do it.) The first problem is those directories are not IN YOUR FIELD. Reputation is granted by people “in the know” who give recommendations. If your doctor recommends a specialist, you’re going to trust that recommendation and the reputation of that specialist more than if your car mechanic recommended the specialist, as will Google. The second problem is Google and other algorithms aren’t idiots, and they’re now, from what I’m reading, starting to actually penalize websites for using these types of websites to get links. They’re slapping people’s hands saying, no! If you’re really good you must have peers that are saying you’re good. And it makes sense. In real life you need testimonials from your core customers, not from your grandma and the local librarian saying “she sure is a swell woman!” A third issue, in my mind, is you want people to land ON your website when they search for what you are talking about, not on what I consider a brandless, huge messy, ugly directory of a bunch of self-promoting writer types. Not that I have a strong opinion or anything
What You Can Do: The most organic way to get links is to get to know websites out there in your area of expertise and ask to be a guest writer. Maybe even pay for an ad as long as you get a real text link (not a link they use that reroutes your link, because then Google doesn’t see the direct link.) Maybe you could even be a blogger for a large website in your niche area. The point here is to ask for links, but in a way that doesn’t turn off the website owner. I hate being asked for links because, well, that’s just gross. I am protective of my web readers and I’m not going to just sprinkle out links to other websites because you asked me too. I also have money to make selling products, so why on earth would I link to your book, lose revenue on my site and give you free money? However, if you give me high quality content that helps my website, well then, yes, you get a link. (As is the case for numerous people I asked to write for my site!)
Looking the Part: OK, so this part is probably the most dull, but it relates to how you organize your website AND if you’re titling every page with great keywords, if you’re creating great page names, and the actual file name itself is descriptive (example: therapistjane.com/how-to-destress-in-a-hospital-stay, vs therapistjane.com/article2
Similarly, you don’t want the navigation of that article to be where Google starts at the homepage, then has to go to a medical section, then an articles section, then a stress section, THEN finds the link to your destress in a hospital stay article. Google figures if you’re going to bury your article it must not be that important! The closer to the homepage, the better. BUT you MUST give great care to your READERS otherwise you have one of those pathetic “I’m writing for the search engines!” website. If you turn off your reader, it doesn’t matter if you get a lot of free search engine traffic!
I hope this little educational rant helps! As always, I have a lot more to say and have an entire 3 hour audio course on this entire subject, A to Z on how to select a website name (thinking through SEO, marketing, branding), on down to figuring out how and what to write, how to organize your website, and how to market the website.) Check out my store. I also have limited consulting available to be your techie cheerleader, strategist, researcher, and motivator.
Happy Website Enhancing!
Elizabeth Doherty Thomas
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