Making the most of Social Media

Looking for a cost effective and simple way to grow your practice? Social media is continuing to grow in popularity – and it doesn’t seem like the trend is going to end anytime soon. You already know how important it is to ‘connect’ with your clients, but maybe you don’t quite know HOW you effectively do this through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – or any of the other channels out there.

There are endless social media resources available to you! With just 30 minutes a day focusing your attention to your online social media users and using these simple tips, you can build your online reputation.

Here are a few of our favorite tips:

1. Focus on quality, never quantity:

- It’s okay to be a little ‘picky’ with who you connect with online. Quality people and information are what gains trust in patient/clients. No one wants to feel like ‘just another number’ nor “cluttered” with useless information.

2. Respond – (return the favor)?

- If someone takes the time to personally reach out to you, in a positive way OR negative, never ignore them! It feels good to be heard, so be sure to always respond to every message individually and in a timely matter to display the upmost care for your clients.

3. Encourage

- Get your online clients to “share” “follow” or “like” etc. by including links to each social media channel on your website. You could even provide a benefit for the person connecting. For instance, “Facebook friends get 10% off”.

- Initiate conversations, with individuals or within communities. Offer tips and other insightful, relevant information about your practice or news about the industry you are in.

4. Blog

- Show off your voice and your expert advice. A blog is a great way to improve your online reputation by articulating well-researched information to your clients gaining trust that you are in fact an expert in your field. (You’re reading ours, aren’t you?!)

Social Network-Specific Tips

1. Facebook – Page Insights

- This tool provides measurements about your page’s performance to help you better understand how people are engaging with your page/content. Note: you must first have more than 30 people “like” your page (and it must be a Business page) for this tool to become available. You’ll see the “See Insights” button appear on the top right.

2. Twitter – Stay up to date with lingo

- Stay current! Post about the things people care about. Twitter has a special lingo used when effectively “tweeting”. Check out Twitter’s glossary to be sure you’re connecting. OR – Get serious. Using the Twitter website can get frustrating after a while. Instead, it’s easier to use a program like TweetDeck or HootSuite to manage your tweets. Doing this will make your posting a lot more efficient!

3. LinkedIn- Pro Site costs money

- OFunnel is a new tool to help you keep up with your LinkedIn network. It alerts you when someone in your network connects with someone new. Easy to try and use.

- Use Sync.ME  to synchronize contacts with your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts and ensures that you have the most up to date information about them!

Points about Professionalism

business cardsLet’s say you went to a conference to determine what company you want to buy your office supplies/ uniform/ important business-related-item from. You met a lot of people and got their contact information, and when you came home, you sorted out the various materials they provided to decide who you want to do business with. What you’ve been given includes…

1) A professionally printed, well designed business card providing all the information you need to recall who the person was, their business, title, and several ways to contact them and/or learn more about what they’re up to via easily accessed websites.

2) A generic business card with the person’s name, business, title, phone number, email address and perhaps office address.

3) A hand cut piece of paper which looks like someone photocopied their business card: It’s the same information provided in #2, but it looks sloppy and implies the person made these at the last minute.

4) A napkin with “Bill, 555-555-1234” written in sharpie marker.

All four of the examples above get the job “done,” they each provide the relevant contact information. But in addition to the direct message, they present both subtle and overt messages about the person who gave them out.

All else being equal, how would you respond to each of these businesses? How do you think most people would respond? Most importantly, which of these examples reflects the level of professionalism you’d like to convey?

Before people actually get a chance to connect with your business, they’ll make judgements based on physical media such as business cards or office signage. These days, another major way a business is judged is based on the design, layout, and general usefulness of the company’s website. You are more likely to be seen as an organized business when you have an organized website. If your website is informative, you will come across as informed.

Remember, marketing is as much an art as a science, as much a psychology as a numbers game. Think of all the small decisions you make every day; you don’t necessarily stop and ponder every choice you make, but act on a combination of conscious and subconscious thought. You want to be sincerely and authentically appealing to your client both consciously and in subconscious and subtle ways.

Here are a few ways to up your website’s professionalism:

Domain Based email address = Professional email address

For instance, as I have said before, your email address itself can come across as professional or not. For instance, if I were to send you an email, would you rather get it from my department-based address, verifications@therapysites.com, or therapysites@gmail.com, or websiterich@hotmail.com, richisacoolguy@aol.com or stinkymunkey72@tangentcompany.com?

You can see how the order goes from a clear level of professionalism, to connecting to the business, to implying the business, to no real connection to the business at all. It’s even worse if your email is ilovemypetdog@yahoo.com, if your business isn’t dog related.

Many people get dozens, even hundreds of emails each day, and are quick to delete any which seem like spam; having a professional email address helps you when such split- second deletion decisions are made.

Professional Photos > Snapshots and Webcam Pix

Another example I have also previously written about is your photo. In general, it’s a good idea to have a headshot of every key person in the business, and perhaps a staff group photo if appropriate.

As Photography itself is an art form, so too is picking a good headshot to represent you online.

You do not necessarily need to pay a professional photographer as long as you have a well-lit, well-framed, in focus and flattering photo taken with a decent camera. This means you should avoid candid webcam pictures, holding your camera at arm’s length self portraits, and cropping yourself from a photo where you’re clearly hugging someone else.

The underlying point is to use a picture that fits the situation; don’t just take a hasty picture and use the first one you take, unless it happens to look great. Of course, every rule has its exceptions; I’ve seen a therapist make a point to be “a regular guy you can talk to” who made appropriate use of a casual webcam picture, great candid shots of a veterinarian playing with dogs, etc. But if you have a casual photo, do so only because it’s logically appropriate, not out of haste.

Reviewing Your Site

Perhaps the most important question I can ask you is: have you looked at your website since you set it up? We recommend reviewing your current site as it appears online, to make sure it is effectively highlighting your practice. It often helps to have a friend, colleague or family member check it over with “a fresh pair of eyes”. This is worth doing every few months, just to check for dated content or lack of important updates about your business. If you’ve moved or changed hours and don’t update your website, problems may arise.

Some specific things to watch for are spelling and grammatical errors. While this is always important, it’s especially important to make sure you get your own business name and contact information correct, and to ensure you don’t have any errors in the main titles of your website.

In general, it’s worth asking if your site looks like a truly professional website, or just like a professional website template which someone hastily filled out and forgot about?

* Have you customized the information so that it describes you specifically, or does it just show the default descriptions of what someone in your field might do?

* Do you have your name (and/or business name), address, phone number, and professional email address in the sidebar? If not, why not?

* Is your website inviting? Does it encourage potential clients to contact you?

* If a potential client saw your website, would they know what to do next? Would clients know how to easily contact you? Would clients know what is expected of them, and what they might expect between the initial contact and an actual appointment?

* Is there anything date-specific that needs to be updated?

Our templates are designed to be elegant, attractive, and professional, and you can edit and alter them to your own preferences. But, if your edits include missed capitalization, typos, wrong addresses or such, we do not and cannot possibly fix these problems unless you’re directly working with us. Remember, we have a whole staff here to help you, so if there’s ever anything with which you’d like some advice or help, please let us know.

Speaking of business cards…

Of course, to return to my original discussion of business cards… you may, or may not know, that we have a professional printshop that can create business cards, brochures, letterhead, and more that perfectly match the images, color choices, design and formatting of all your marketing materials.This can help you achieve a truly cohesive and coherent brand for your practice. You can visit the store at: http://www.therapysitesstore.com. For general information about services and customization, they can be reached directly at info@yourprintproducts.com

By Rich M, Directory Listings Specialist
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com

Do you want a Chauffeur, Tour Guide, or Road Map?

Road TripSome time ago, I attended a seminar by GetListed.org, an organization dedicated to online Local searches. Most of the other attendees were interested in marketing efforts for their own businesses. I was in a unique position because my job is to be a marketing expert for your business.

The seminar’s central metaphor was that marketing is a journey, so, when looking to get somewhere, physically or metaphorically, do you want a Chauffeur or a Road Map?

There’s a big difference between hiring someone to do all the work to get you from A to B and getting instructions so you can learn the process and figure it out by yourself. Both strategies are valid ways to get where you need to go. Unfortunately, you might get lost with a roadmap, or at least disappointed with the trip, if you actually wanted a chauffeur. On the other hand, you may be frustrated by the lack of control when someone else does all the driving for you.

To apply this metaphor to websites; the chauffeur would be an expensive service which would customize a website for you. Even with a chauffeur, you still need to be the one who tells the driver where to go. You’d (hopefully) get whatever you’d want but could pay thousands of dollars just to get the site designed, and more to keep things running. A Chauffeur is generally seen as a luxury. Even if you have the money, the expense might not be the best use of your advertising budget.

The Road Map would be a book or course on how to design and maintain a website. You take your destiny in your own hands. This can be exciting, and you can learn a lot from the process itself, but it takes time and skill, and could result in failure. If you’re already busy with the many other demands of your business, not to mention other aspects of life, maybe learning a new set of tools isn’t that appealing, especially when websites combine aesthetic, marketing, grammatical, programming, and myriad other concerns.

We’re a middle path between these two extremes. I’d say we’re like your tour guides to an online presence. We’ve been there before, we know where to go- and where not to go, we can point out what you should look for, show you some shortcuts, and help you out if you get lost. If we see you’re headed down the wrong path, we try and steer you in the right direction. We’re here to lend a hand if and when you need it.

Of course, since we’re tour guides and not chauffeurs, to get the most out of the experience, some participation is required on your part. We’ve done most of the work; I’ve even had people say we’ve done “99%” of the work. But your website works best if you take a bit of time to look at it, proofread it, and customize it a bit to yourself & your practice.

Of course, being a tour guide means working with the people on the tour. We don’t want to just shuffle you around and recite the same monotone lecture for everyone, we’d much rather learn what you want and how we can help you get it.

If you think you lean towards wanting a chauffeur, let us know and we’ll help you understand what we can (or cannot) do for you, and help explain all of the tools we put at your disposal.

For those of you looking for a road map, let us know and we’ll help you start out your journey in the right direction with some metaphoric trail mix and what other resources are out there to help get you to where you’d like to go.

If you’re not sure where you stand in this metaphor, please let us know your thoughts, questions, and interests. Our websites are customizable to suit you, let us know how we can help!

by Rich M, Directory Listings Specialist – TherapySites Support
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com

Submitting to Directory Listings

Our free Directory Listings service helps promote our members’ businesses by submitting key information to our Directory Database, which is used by over 100 online directories to create listings.

Instead of having to research which business directories are out there, and then figuring out the specific submission requirements for each one, we do most of the work for you. Not only do you save time, but you benefit from teams of experts who specialize in researching and networking with directories, listings, and local search best practices. All you have to do is fill out one simple form in our editor and we’ll take it from there. If your business happens already to be listed on these directories, connection with our directory helps the Directories stay detailed and updated.

Check Twice, Submit Once

Like your website itself, what you get out of our Directory Listings service is based on what you put into it, and it only works if all the information is accurate. As exciting as it is to submit your listings as part of your website launch, it’s best to wait until your website  is complete before promoting it. Take the time to make sure all the important information about your business is on the site, and double, or even triple,  check to ensure for accuracy. You don’t want to hastily submit your billing address instead of your office address, for instance, nor do you want to say your office is on “Oak Street” if it’s really on “Oak Lane.”

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you make sure information is accurate on your website and listings submission. As self-evident as this may seem, you really want to make sure that you spell everything correctly, have the correct and appropriate information showing, and add any details that are important to publicize (including, but not limited to, languages you speak, how a client would set up the first appointment, anything unusual about your location or parking, etc).

While the whole point of directory listings is to promote your business, most online promotion will involve linking to your website, so it’s important to ensure that your website is accurately promoting your business. Once information goes online, it becomes harder to properly update the info later. It’s better to wait to submit accurate information than to submit erroneous information and edit it after the fact. Likewise, if you’re expecting a move or major change, it might be worth waiting to start the listings process until you can promote your long-term information instead of having conflicting information online. Remember, you can always contact us with questions or advice about specific or unusual situations.

While practically everything we do for our members is part of your membership costs, one exception is if we need to resubmit information to our Online Directory Database due to customer error. If you provide inaccurate information which needs to be corrected, there may be a $35 charge.

Remember, we have a whole team of support staff eager to help you, so please let us know if you have any questions or requests.

How it works

Once we receive the information you’ve submitted,  we do a quick cross-reference between the Listings submission and your website.This helps us to ensure that your main information, the Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is correct, that the website is up and running, and allows us to review for other issues. If we notice any problems, we contact you by email before publicizing your information.

Please note: while we do our best to double check your submission, the best way to ensure that we submit your information accurately is to provide accurate information to us. We do our best, but our members have more first-hand knowledge of their own information.

Depending on your location and business model, we submit you to one of two major internal databases. Most, and many of the best known, online directories require a physical “brick and mortar” office in the United States. As a result, our main database focuses on this largest batch of directories, many of which include maps to your business. This database includes Yahoo Local, Bing, Localeze, Superpages, numerous online Yellow Pages and many more.

If you don’t operate in the United States, want to keep your address private, and/or your business model is not based on clients coming to your office, we submit you to our web-based database. This connects to over a hundred listings, but focuses exclusively on driving traffic to your website.

Businesses with Multiple Offices

Our standard membership includes submissions for one office to our directory database. Some of our members prefer to have the information for each additional office to also be submitted in full to our directory database. Additional full submissions to our directory database are possible for a one-time fee of $99 per each additional office. The cost for similar services for independent businesses often ranges from $300- 500 per year.

Google Places and Related Tools

Google Places (also known as Google Local and “Google My Business”) is Google’s business directory, and is connected to Google Plus and Google Maps. It is connected to, but distinct from, Google’s Search Engine tool as well. Google’s Search Engine is what most people think of when they say “Google”, so it’s easy to confuse “Google My Business” with the idea of doing a Google search for a business.

Google Places is arguably the best known and most popular online business directory. The downside of this popularity is that it’s the most exploited by spammers, scammers and assorted online ne’er-do-wells, so Google has created a notably labor-intensive and inconvenient way to verify that all listings are for a legitimate and existing business.

Historically, we have searched for existing Google Places Listings for our members, and updated them if and when needed, and we will continue to do this. However, we no longer can create new listings if we do not find one online.
Google has been changing the way that listings are created, verified and managed, placing emphasis on connecting Google business directories with Google+ and seemingly wanting business owners to be hands on. As a result, it is currently impossible for us to create, verify and manage listings as a third party.

As a result, we strongly encourage you to set up your own Google Account via https://www.google.com/business

If you don’t have a Google Account, you may create one for free via https://accounts.google.com/SignUp

Having a Google Account is useful for most of our members, as it allows you to take advantage of Google Analytics to track visits to your website. Google Analytics is the industry standard tool for tracking traffic to your website, and it can provide you with powerful information about your site visitors, what pages they view, how long they stay on the site, and how they are finding you. Analytics allows you to quantitatively track the results of your site promotion efforts – giving you the data you need to tune your site for the best results. With our integration with Google Analytics – all you need to do is sign up, and plug your profile number into the SEO tab of your website editor.

Businesses with multiple offices should create a unique listing for each location.

Editing and updating information

We are happy to update your listings if you move or otherwise change, update, or add important information to your website. Please contact us via Support@TherapySites.com with questions or edit requests.

Psychology Today

Please note that Psychology Today’s directory is not one of the directories we submit to via the Listings process. They are a completely separate service that charges $29.95/month, although we do partner with them for specific promotions.

If you have any questions about your Psychology Today Therapy Directory profile, you can contact Psychology Today at (212) 260-7210.

More you can do

While we do as much as possible to promote our members’ businesses, there are some directories that are difficult, if not impossible, for us to work with as a third party. Some of these may or may not be relevant to you and your business:

Healthgrades.com; While focusing on Medical Doctors and Dentists, many of our members have found it worth being listed on Healthgrades.

Yelp.com and Citysearch.com; These review-based directories tend to be more focused on bars, restaurants, hair salons, etc., but are worth considering, depending on your practice and focus. These are likely to be very useful for vets, massage therapists, and dentists, but less so for therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists.

Yext.com; Yext is a good service which some of our customers ask about, however, many consider it to be very expensive, and much of their service is redundant if you’ve submitted to our Listings service, especially if you’ve also created listings in Yelp and Citysearch.

Other listings services; If you’ve read this far, you’ve gotten all of our recommendations specific to our general listings service. However, be sure to look at the Therapy Directories tab in the “Get Help” section of your website editor!

There are other companies and services out there that do good work, but many of them charge for what you’re already getting as part of your TherapySites membership. We don’t want to steer people away from anything that helps them, but we don’t want our members to spend extra money, either. We especially caution you to look into any service or offer that seems too good to be true. Remember, we’re always here for you, so please let us know when you have any questions!

Other ways to enhance your website: The logical next question is “what comes after listings?”. While our SEO department is available to take you in-depth through any of these suggestions, here’s a brief list of other great things to focus on:

1 – Customize your content: We provide some excellent stock content, but the specificity and unique voice you bring to it help potential clients to decide whether or not they want to work with you (link to that blog)

2- Build your content: Bigger is definitely better when it comes to website content. Contact us for suggestions about where to expand on your offerings

3 – Consider Social Media: Search trends lean towards more and more emphasis on the social media sphere, so it’s worth considering the use of such practices in promoting your business.

If you discontinue membership:

If we have created a Google Places Listing for you and verified it, it will remain online, but we strongly suggest you claim it into your own account. Your other listings will be left to expire a year after creation, unless you specify that you are closing your business, in which case we can close the listings outright.

Rich M – TherapySites Support
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com

Promoting Your Address, Even If You Don’t Think You Should

Most of our members have a physical location that clients/customers/patients come to. For such businesses, promotion works more or less the same whether they are running a Dentist office, Animal Hospital, Haberdashery or donut shop; as long as you say who you are, what you do and where you are, people can figure out how to come to you.

If you don’t have a physical office you wish to publicize, it’s extra important to clarify how your business works. If people don’t come to you, how DO they interact with you? Remember, you want it to be as easy as possible for clients to contact and do business with you, so make sure that no guesswork is involved with the process.

When your clients are the only ones you want to find you.

If you do have a physical location, there may still be something about your business, clients or office location which requires keeping the location private. The most common example of this is a home office, but there are many circumstances where this is the case.

This is the trickiest situation to give general advice about, because no matter how much I know about business promotion and marketing, I don’t know much- or anything- about your specific situation. Promoting your home address may very well be dangerous, may be awkward, or could be a complete non-issue; so please, consider our advice with all factors in mind, check in with your own thoughts and those who know your specific situation, and feel free to contact us with specific questions.

Unfortunately, privacy concerns are usually counter to effective business promotion. No public address often means no public listings, and a lack of address may affect your Search Engine results. If you don’t want to share your exact location, provide as much other information as possible, even having city, state and zip is more helpful than no address information at all. Some of our members with home offices list their street name without a number, or substitute a neighborhood or district that the office is in. This allows a context and some idea for a client to know how convenient a trip to see you could be.

Whatever information you do share, make it clear on your website what a client should (and perhaps shouldn’t) do to contact you, and what the next steps would be. If it is relevant to explain why you keep your address secret, you can divulge this later on, it’s not important to state on the website.

When you come to your clients…

If your business model is not based on people coming to you, but you make house calls, do presentations at offices, deliver goods or services, or anything where you come to the client or customer, it’s still important to mention both your general location and where you’re ready, willing and able to travel.

If you do have a physical address you can share, it actually proves more helpful for Search Engines, listings, and client knowledge to have a business access on your website and listings IN ADDITION to a list of areas served and/or distance that you travel.

Many small business owners are under the incorrect impression that showing their address information will somehow hurt other aspects of their business. In general, more information is better than less, and your website works best when you can anticipate client questions and answer them. The key is to be as user-friendly as possible, and take the guesswork out of starting a business relationship.

When you never actually meet your clients in person…

Promoting a business that focuses on online or over-the-phone consultations is different than promoting a “brick and mortar” business.

If you supplement client interactions by calls, Skype or what have you, you’re still best off promoting your business address and making it clear that you ALSO offer these additional methods of contact.

It can’t hurt to use your office on your website or listings even if you never expect clients to come to you; a common misconception is that having an address shown minimizes your appeal for phone or online consultations. At worse, this information is just tangential, but it likely can help establish your presence and credibility. It also can improve your presence in Search Engine Results pages.

Another advantage of having your location, even if nobody comes to you, is that it’s one of many factors that makes you unique. A great example of this is a therapist whose website I helped promote. He only did counseling by Skype, because he specialized in working with people who lived in small towns in Alaska. The very point of much of his work was helping people cope with living with the isolation, loneliness, and other unique problems that such a life could involve. He lived hundreds of miles from most of his clients, but by being in the same situation, he knew their experience first hand.

Our members work in fields where personality can be crucial, and where you come from, and are, may be seen as part of your personality. Is your way of thinking and doing business influenced by big city living or small town ways? Is your style East Coast, West Coast, Middle America? Is this something you can use to your advantage?

Once again, however you work with clients, you want to make sure your website clearly explains the situation and process. Don’t expect clients to call you because they’d like to learn if you do telephone consultations, because your website and other promotion should make that clear. Your method of doing business should be presented as a selling point, not something websites viewers should have to wonder about or hunt for.

Think about it; if you had the choice between businesses, and one explained how to work with them and the other didn’t, which business would you pick? It’s always worth a few minutes of your time to make sure your website and other promotional material is the best and most informative that it can be, it pays off in the long run.

Rich M – TherapySites Support
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com

Let’s Get Personal

This Above All, to Thine Own Self Be True”
- Shakespeare

TherapySites provides you with a website straight out of the box. This includes a clean and easy to use design, forms (and option to replace those with your own), maps, and even pre-written pages for all the content we’ve found vital for TherapySites practitioners. This content is deliberately written to the average of the average, made to broadly cover the scope of a TherapySites practice. And while it’s a great start, it is no substitute for content that is tailored to exactly where you are and what you do!

The best way to make sure your site reflects you is for you to personalize and add to this content!

Our complete website means you can get started right away, after filling out only a minimum of information in the sidebar and About Page. But rather than consider this where your work with your website ends, you should think about this as where your work begins. Our content is best used as a jumping off point that, over time, becomes more and more tailored to you and your practice. While it’s possible to overload a page with too much information, it’s basically impossible to overload a site with too many pages of unique content. And all that content contributes and boosts your SEO ranking.

Simply put, if you are serious about using your website to grow your practice, then you need to get specific. Getting specific doesn’t mean you have to put hours into writing your own content, but it does mean that you need to make sure the content that you use reflects the specifics of your practice. This often just means changing phrasing, concepts or content to better reflect the specifics of your work.

Oftentimes, people simply leave our content without any alteration because they assume it’s best for SEO. This is in part true, as the content of our site is geared towards the broadest base of searchable terms. But this content is only good if it matches what you do and reflects and conveys the unique ways and approaches you use to do it. Content that doesn’t match what you do will do no one any good. And that’s why you want to keep writing and developing the content and tone of your site.

One of the most important things your site can have is NAP (Name Address and Phone Number) so taking the time to add an accurate practice name, practitioner name, phone number and address to the sidebar and to the Contact Page is time well spent. And very little time at that.

To add this content to the sidebar (or footer, depending on the template), simply log in to your editor and select “Settings and Profile” from the left. Then scroll down to the section labelled “Sidebar Contact Information.” You can fill in the NAP here. To add a picture, check the “custom sidebar box” and then use the “insert/edit” image link in the toolbar (it looks a little like a tiny picture of a mountain) to include a picture. Editing the Contact Page is even easier, from the “Edit Pages” (top tab on the left), click the “Contact” page, and that will bring up the editor. You can use the big green “Add A Photo” button to add that photo too. Or just email the image to us, along with where you want it placed, and we’ll make it happen!

The second most important thing is enabling your “About” page. The About page is the perfect example of how our templates give you a big leg up on content, but still do best with personalization. In the About Page, you simply fill out a series of blanks with information that makes it accurate for you/your practice. To enable the page, simply check the on/off box next to the page name in your list of pages.

However, if you enable the page without customization, your potential clients will be left with a fill-in-blank story, so make sure you do, in fact, fill in those blanks before hitting the “on” box. Then, enhance the customization with a professional looking headshot (see our pictures blog for more). Group practices can have headshots of key staff and a group photo. Consider pictures of your office, waiting room, the front of your building, or anything else that may be relevant. This not only customizes your website, but it helps a client visualize coming to see you. Adding a picture only takes a few moments, but helps potential clients envision what working with you will be like and that can be crucial for conversion.

Finally, above and beyond completing our fill-in-the-blank content, you should strongly consider writing new specific content as well. Specific content is a useful draw for both search engines and people. For potential clients learning more about your approach and thoughts to their specific situation can help them figure out if you’re the right Therapist for them. For search engines, those specific key phrase targeting pages help you stand out.

If it helps, you can think of your website as having its own hierarchy of needs. Most important (like oxygen), you need a website just to compete these days. Secondly (think sustenance) you need to personalize the existing content, because clients on the internet want to know who they’re working with. Thirdly (think companionship) you want to boost the customized content with totally original content, both for search engines and potential clients. And all those things together make your website an optimally effective marketing tool.

Mari F – TherapySites Support
Support@TherapySites.com

Using Google Trends to Stand Out From the Crowd

Where’s Waldo? You know him, the goofy-looking guy in the red and white striped shirt and cap.  Even though he’s often lost in the crowd you know exactly what to look for to find him. But what if, unbeknownst to us, Waldo got a makeover in every new puzzle? What if the red and white stripes were traded for blue and gold? Sure, after some hunting we might still be able to pick him out of the crowd, but would we be sure it was him? Would we recognize that signature Waldo style?

Those red and white stripes are looking pretty important now, aren’t they?  The same principle comes into play when we search for things on the web. If your potential clients are searching for a specific term, you want to make sure you’ve used it on your site!  But how do you know what those terms are that people are looking for?

Now there is a way to connect the dots between what you can offer and what the client is really searching for. Google Trends gives a behind the scenes peek into how your potential clients are using the web.

That helps you in two ways:

1. “Hot Searches” provide an overview of the most popular searches in the country for any given date. This can be helpful in staying up to date on current new and events and allows you to capitalize on the opportunity when something related to your field is being discussed. Is there a surge in searches for therapeutic treatments for depression because of a special report on the news? Take advantage of that by writing on article on the topic and putting your expertise out there.

2. “Explore Trends” – with this tool, you are able to test keyword popularity and cross-test synonyms. For example, if you knew that the term “therapist” was 29% more commonly searched in your area than the term “counselor,” you could use the word “therapist” to theoretically generate 29% more leads than if you chose to use the word “counselor.”  Do searches in your town usually search for “Therapy for Anxiety” or “Anxiety Therapist?” You can use this tool to find out:

But be careful! Sometimes the most popular search term isn’t always the best. Why?  One word – Competition.

If you have two search terms where one is more popular but has lots of competition for the front page, and another which is not quite as popular but will be easier to lock up a top result – you want to grab that top result!

But if all things are equal, and you think you can get that top spot – go for the term with more traffic!

So what are your red and white stripes? Check out this free tool today to find out!

For more tips on Search Engine Optimization, and to optimize your site for the new keywords you’ve identified with Google Trends, check out our other SEO articles, or contact the SEO team today!

The TherapySites SEO team
Email any questions to SEO@TherapySites.com

 

Your Second Career As A Writer: Advice On Blogging And Articles

You didn’t know you had another job, did you?

It might actually not be your second job, but your fifth or sixth, and while this writing gig may not generate direct income, it can help you bolster your marketing for your main career, and pay big dividends!

As website marketing specialists, we often suggest that our members get published on other websites to better raise awareness and bring attention to their businesses. As a result, we get asked about how to make that happen.  However, this is a topic we can really only discuss in a basic sense, since what you write, how you write it, and where you publish it depends on who you are, who you know, what you do, and how you do it.

1) Consider your audience:
While there’s a logic to writing for your peers and colleagues, remember that when you want to build clientele, it’s more helpful to be published in layperson-friendly media. For instance, I don’t write blogs for other website-marketing types to read, I write for people who aren’t website experts, to help them better use their website. If you are, say, a unicycle instructor, you could write for unicyclist.com, but you also could write for fitness journals about the health benefits of unicycling, or a cycling organization about why unicycles are a great alternative to bikes.

2) Write what you know.
In terms of both your peers and your clients, consider publishing what you tend to say anyway. For instance, most of the blogs I write are fine-tuned versions of things I tend to talk about the most when working with clients. There are several benefits in doing this:
It encourages you to think of the best way to say what you’re saying anyway, and document that phrasing. It gives you a fixed place to refer to, so instead of saying the same information again and again, you can link to the article. This saves time when speaking and space when emailing.In a subtle way, having it “in writing” makes your words seem more official, especially if your article is published by someone besides yourself.

3)  Network!
Forming long-term relationships with local media or other organizations can help establish you as an expert and credible source. This works best when you can create an organic dynamic with media sources, but don’t let that stop you from contacting people and organizations; if you don’t try, you won’t make the connection. Even a “no thank you” today might lead to “Hey, I remember you” next month. It’s tricky to plan, as it works best when such dynamics develop organically, but you only make the connections if you try. Focus on establishing a long-term presence instead of expecting a huge payoff for any given piece.

For instance, I did a stand-up comedy routine about marketing when I lived in Boston. I got some attention for it, and did a lot of free shows in cafes and local colleges. Eventually, local magazines and newspapers would call me up if they wanted a humorous yet informed comment about marketing or advertising, and I wound up getting a lot of well-paid writing gigs. These helped to put my name out there, and thus ended with me getting more and better comedy shows.

There’s a lot of ways to do this, none of them guaranteed, but hopefully this can give you some ideas, such as:

Writing letters to the editor. Remember that most people only do so when a complaint comes up, so consider how impressive a “Thanks for your accurate piece” letter may be. If you write to critique an article, consider offering yourself as a future reference.Think of what sort of activities are coming up in a few months: magazines, journals and websites usually start planning holiday-themed issues well in advance. Check your contact list. Who do you already know and get along with who can help you get a foot in the door. You might not know an editor in the New York Times, but you might have social connections to a staffperson at a local paper.

Remember, of course, that even if your first job is being a writer, a good writer has a good editor. Before you publish anything, make sure it’s reviewed, even if by a friend, colleague, or spouse. It’s counter-productive to publish articles filled with typos or factual errors, so take the time to get your best work out there.

Think of all you have to share. Who can you share it with? How could that sharing help your business grow and prosper?

Rich M – TherapySites Support
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com

Beware The All You Can Buy Domain Buffet

BuffetWhen you sign up for a domain or start researching your domain, one thing becomes quickly clear; your domain name matters and having a keyword in your domain is often an aspect of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Just to define the term, a keyword can be considered any search word (or phrase) people will type into a search engine that you want to be a result for.

The role of a keyword in a domain is easy to overstate. That is, unless you’re contending for a word that doesn’t have a lot of competition, your use of a keyword in the domain is a single mote of sunshine streaming into a greenhouse — easily lost and having almost no noticeable impact.

That said a relevant and logical keyword does give your website some boost and in today’s keyword saturated market, there’s really no reason not to, unless such a thing would make for a cumbersome domain name.

In this case, cumbersome just means the domain is too long:
johnsmiththerapy.com isn’t long but

johnedgarsmithnewyorkcitytherapy.com is going to be hard to remember let alone rattle off when you’re giving your domain to a prospective client or colleague for referral.

Especially if you consider that your email would then be drjohn@johnedgarsmithnewyorkcitytherapy.com – you’ll be out of breath before you can tell someone where to email you.

But that single keyword looks nice and gives you an SEO boost. So, imagine how many keywords you can get a boost on just by purchasing more domains.

Then before you know it you’re on GoDaddy or Namecheap and own everything from

johnsmithnewyork.com to
johnsmithtoptherapy.com to
feelhealthylifebetterjohnsmith.com

Unfortunately, as tempting and simple as it sounds, buying every keyword domain in your field is not going to boost your search results. If you handle things right, multiple domains will not hurt your website’s search engine ranking, but that same money spent renewing domains would be better spent with a smart adwords buy.

There are several scenarios for multiple domains without multiple sites of content and neither one will ultimately give you the SEO boost you’re looking for.

Scenario 1: Duplicate site content.

Definition: Each domain has the exact same site content but is technically a separate site.

Why it’s bad: Search engines hate duplicate site content. For one, if multiple links go to the same place, then search engines aren’t doing their job. For another, when search engines see multiple sites with the same content, they assume you are spamming or trying to trick the system into giving your site a higher ranking than it deserves, and react to negate, not reward this behavior.

Therefore, when you have two sites with the same content, search engines apply a proprietary and secret (a good search engine will never reveal exactly how to gets results) set of rules search engines to determine which site is canonical and which is just a copy.

Like the branded version and the off brand version, the copy is put on the bottom shelf.

However, which version is canon and which version is considered the copy might vary on a page by page basis, and in the end both of your pages are weakened by this duality.

In a case where you must have duplicate content, there is a tag system to help, but all this tag does is tell the search engine which site version to discount. There is no tag that will cause it to take both sites into consideration.

In short, the best you can do is negate the ill effects a duplicated site has.

Sidenote: This is one reason why we always recommend personalizing your content at least minimally see this blog and this blog for more on that.

Scenario 2: The 301 Redirect.

Definition: Alterations are made to the records which guide your domains’ behavior so that any one who goes to the non-primary domain will be redirected to the primary domain. This is how we handle multiple domains, with some rare exceptions.

Simply put, when a user attempts to go to domain “A” they are automatically redirected to domain “B” which acts as the primary domain and the only domain with content the search sees.

This is how we will handle multiple domains on your account with few exceptions.

But equally relevant, the secondary domains have no weight, only the keyword in the primary domain will be considered when your site is being ranked. Therefore, again, you aren’t getting any boost from having additional keyword-heavy domain names.

Scenario 3: This site is used to point to your main site

Earlier in search engine history, the idea of creating microsites (tiny sites with very little content) that linked to your main site was not a terrible idea. However, with the release of Google’s latest search engine algorithm and similar updates on Bing, this idea is totally obsolete. If your site doesn’t have activity; fresh content, new pages, updates and the like, then it’s going to be less attractive.

Since search engines prefer regularly updated sites, The Hot Topics! page has content which updates regularly.

That means if you want to create pointer sites (sites geared to get more traffic to your main site), every pointer site needs to have active content changes and unique text. Without this, no pointer site is will matter enough to give your main site any juice.

So now, instead of having one site to maintain, you’ve got lots of sites, which means a lot of time (and time is money) spent maintaining sites whose only purpose is to draw traffic to your main site.

To find out some great SEO alternatives, get in touch with the TherapySites SEO team or check out the SEO tab for more information.
Mari F – TherapySites SEO and Support
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com

How to Deal With A Bad Review

Some unpleasant things, like death and taxes, are certain. Others are less certain, but still more common than we’d like. One of these are bad reviews.

In my 20’s, I wrote for a few independent music magazines, and often reviewed albums. One decision I made early on was to not give a bad review of any young band. I figured that if they were bad, they’d get no review, thus the possibility of my readers hearing bad music was lessened without me breaking the hearts of 3-5 young people who had been working hard, even if to make mediocre tunes. One reason I did this is because I often saw how up-and-coming writers often gave horrible reviews to up-and-coming bands in a manner that suggested the reviewer was working out their own baggage and ego issues. Often, a bad review speaks at least as much about the reviewer as the subject of the review.

That said, when you get a bad review, it hurts. It may hurt because it rings true, it may hurt because it seems vengeful and unrelated to you; I’ve even seen bad reviews where the reviewer admits never actually interacting with the business. You may recall the reviewer specifically or have no idea where this comes from. But still, a bad review hurts.

So, my first bit of advice, if you get a bad review, is to stop and breathe. Meditate, pray, vent, commiserate with others; whatever you need to do to deal with the emotional hurt. Whatever you do, do NOT take action on the review until you are able to do so in a calm and focused way.

The worst time to make decisions is when you are upset, a bad review is best dealt with when you can approach the situation looking at the long-term big picture. It’s not about winning, or hiding, or having a fight with a reviewer, it’s about improving your overall business reputation.

Google Places Listings currently rank as one of the most popular directories online, which means that these are the listings most of our clients check in on, and so these are the ones where a bad review seems to hurt the most. Sometimes this is a review added directly to the listing, sometimes this is a link on the listing to another review site.

When you first see a negative review on your listing, your first inclination might be to try and shut the listing down. This will likely exacerbate matters. While some directories make it easy to close a listing just because the business owner doesn’t want it online, Google is decidedly more focused on putting things up than taking things down; if there is information to be added, Google tries to find it and add it. Google’s mentality seems about totality; as much information provided as possible.

Google wants a listing for every business it knows about. Business owners are best off creating and managing Google Places themselves, unless they have a professional service, such as a website company (that’s us!) to manage it for them. Otherwise, Google may hodgepodge a listing with the wrong information. When you sign up with our service, our listings team searches Google Places to see if you already have a listing. If we do not find one, we create a listing for you in Google Places, as part of our Directory Listings service. I have written additional information on Google Places Listings in a previous article.

If the listing is claimed by the business owner, they may delete it from their personal account, but not Google Maps or other public forums- they have just lost what control they may have had. This can start a spiral of contradictory information, which complicates the situation.

The solution? Respond! Google Places allows you to write responses to reviews. If we’ve created and maintain the listing for you, we’d be happy to relay the responses, or show you how to claim the listing yourself.

How you respond varies on the situation, the details of the review and if the person is writing under their own name, an online handle or anonymously. Make sure that you ADDRESS a bad review publicly, but RESOLVE it privately- you want the public forum to show that you care about your clients and are proactive, but you can leave the details to more direct activity. Every article I’ve ever read about reviews on directory listings agrees that a good response to a negative review can end up as good publicity.

For example, a few years ago, a chef burned my entrée…setting the initial tone for a bad experience. The waitress informed me the meal was delayed and being re-made; presented it as a quality control issue so that I would only get the best food when it arrived, told me that our current round of drinks was on the house, and suggested a few ready-to-bring appetizers I could get for free while I waited. Aha! What began as a problem is now a fond memory and an outright endorsement; the short delay ended up with me getting several freebies.

A more direct example is the Vagabond Lodge in Hood River, Oregon. I was contemplating staying there, and so looked up their Google Places Listing: http://g.co/maps/9krq9

The listing may have changed since when I first saw it, but it includes some bad reviews. However, the responses to the reviews show several things:

1)    That the owners consider bad reviews to be feedback, not attacks.
2)    The owners seemingly have addressed these issues.
3)    That the owners are plugged in and paying attention to their customers.

There were enough good reviews to show that most people liked the place, and precedent showed that any complaints I might have would be addressed. I went and had a great time even though I didn’t expect perfection.

One way to avoid bad reviews on your listings is to make it easy for your clientele to bring complaints directly to you. To use restaurant metaphors again, if I go out to eat and the waitstaff seems to care about my experience, I’d rather complain to them than later online; it’s faster, easier and more likely to address my complaint. This is why many businesses seek out client or customer feedback via comment cards, follow-up emails, surveys, etc. If you allow a client to openly and honestly voice a complaint or a concern TO YOU, either in person or via a direct method, in a way where they believe you will respond in a helpful manner, they are less likely to put a bad review on a public forum.

Consider that it’s easier to deal with a bad review on a forum you have some feedback — such as your own listing — than a forum such as your irate ex-client’s Facebook, blog, or twitter feed. The closer to “home” you can deal with problems, the simpler it can be to deal with such problems. If clients feel like they can bring their complaints to you, they’ll likely do so, but if they don’t think you’ll care, they may take their complaint and make it a public venting.

Of course, one way to beat negative reviews is to try and get good reviews!

If you are good at what you do, clients will like you, and will tell you so. When they do, request that they repeat their praise publicly. Time magazine gave Casablanca a bad review in 1942. Even now, it gets 4/5 stars. Not a perfect score. However, with all the praise and love it’s earned over the years, the complaints are buried. Ask several people you know about the film, and I bet nobody will mention the plot holes which have been pointed out.(1)

I recently participated in a webinar put on by Local Search gurus fromLocaleze, comScore and15miles. It was mentioned that while roughly ⅓ of people surveyed make decisions based on reviews, only about ⅕ actually read all the reviews. It seems the trend is more to “skim” reviews for general opinion, and any themes. So, the aggregate opinion of reviewers in general seems to be more important than the specifics in any reviews.

You’ve probably heard how the Chinese word for “crisis” includes the character for “opportunity.” This may not be entirely true, but it’s still possible that a crisis can be an opportunity. If you handle bad reviews with a touch of class and professionalism, they can end up showing your communication skills and problem solving abilities.

For another professional’s opinion on this, I invite you to read this blog by Mike Blumenthal, who is considered the foremost Local Search expert in North America.

Rich is TherapySites’ Directory Listings Specialist. In a past life, he also was a music reviewer for several magazines.

(1) Harmetz, Aljean (1992). Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca — Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. Hyperion. ISBN 1-56282-761-8.

Rich M – TherapySites Directory Listings
Email any questions to Support@TherapySites.com