This is part II of MyWellbeing’s 4-part series on search engine optimization (SEO) for therapists. You can find the other articles here:
Last week on the blog, we talked about what search engine optimization is and the basics of how search engines like Google determine where content should rank in search results. As a quick refresher, search engine optimization is just the process of improving your website to increase the chance that its pages rank in search engine results.
In this post, we’re going to dig into the nitty-gritty of SEO and cover the major topics that you need to understand to make sure that your website ranks well in search.
If you're feeling overwhelmed at any point with this information, I can’t begin to stress how normal that is. In fact, it’s exactly how I felt when I started learning SEO. If you’re getting stressed, try to apply a few concepts of SEO to your site, and come back to add more and more strategies as you become familiar with the basics. You can always come back to this post or the other posts on our blog for support as you work on improving your site.
This post will focus on on-page SEO, which is the steps that you take in your website design and writing on individual web pages to improve how that particular page ranks in search.
If you've been to an SEO webinar before or read any blog posts on SEO for practitioners, most of them will have focused almost entirely on on-page SEO because these strategies are the core of how you improve your blog posts.
The first part of on page SEO is your title and meta description, which are the title and description of your blog posts that appear in Google search results. They look like this:
How you edit your title and meta description really depends on what platform you're using.
If you're using WordPress, and you haven't installed Yoast yet, I highly recommend installing Yoast. Among many other benefits, Yoast will let you edit your title and meta description for every page for free. It will also give you really high-quality SEO advice on your blog posts as you're learning to optimize your content for search traffic.
Unfortunately, there isn't a Yoast alternative for Squarespace and many other page builders. However, Squarespace does a lot of that SEO optimization for you and will also allow you to add your title and meta description in the blog post settings tab.
To find how to change the title and description of your post for other platforms, just Google the name of your platform (Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress, etc.) and “edit title and meta description.”
Why is it important to set up a meta description and title in the first place? Well, this is the part of your blog posts that people see on search engine results pages. You want to make your title and description as compelling as possible to convince people to click on your article and visit your site.
The title and meta description are basically an ad for your article that lives on the Google search results page.
In SEO, keywords are ideas, topics, questions, and other search terms that users type into search engines to find your content. A keyword can consist of multiple words, a phrase, or even a complete sentence.
Your posts should be keyword rich, but not keyword stuffed. You might have heard some advice that you should add your keywords everywhere you possibly can. That was absolutely true years ago (see our intro to search for an explanation of how and why these recommendations have changed over time). Now, Google is increasingly focused on user experience over how many times a keyword appears to determine whether content is relevant.
I don't know about you, but I often notice when people have tried to put their keyword everywhere in a post, and it really affects the user experience. People often enjoy content with a lot of synonyms and rich and different ways of describing things. Seeing the word “therapist” eight times in a short paragraph is a bit much for the average consumer.
When you’re writing or editing a post for SEO, you should use your keyword in:
How often should the keyword appear in the content of your page? You can sprinkle it in a couple times in the paragraphs of your blog post or in your descriptions of different sections of your services on your site.
So, if I was writing a blog post about how to find a therapist in New York, I would have “how to find a therapist in New York” in my headline, I would mention that phrase in my first paragraph, and I would put it and synonyms or rephrasing of that keyword in the body of my text, and I would link to an article on how to find a therapist who is culturally competent.
The URLs on your site are also really important in your search rankings. Make sure the addresses for content on your page are short, descriptive, and clear.
The URL mywellbeing.com/therapy-101/cognitive-behavioral-therapy, the link to the blog post on CBT from our introduction to therapy series, is short and descriptive. You have a clear sense of what you’ll be reading when you click on the link without ever seeing the article.
What you really want to avoid is posts that aren't descriptive at all, like mywellbeing.com/posts/ax84Dsy301. This could be a random blog post, but I have no idea what I'll be reading from the title of this post. It looks like it could have even been auto-generated by a platform. It isn’t a great user experience for me, or the algorithms that determine where content should rank in search.
On the other hand, it’s possible for a blog post title to be too descriptive. For example, take mywellbeing.com/blog/6-12-21-this-is-the entire-title-of-a-blog-post-wow-what-a-url.
This is a common structure for personal blog posts, but it is far too long. You should aim to keep the title of your post at or below five words. You also don't need the date, even though WordPress blogs will often add it.
When a post title is as long as “-this-is-the entire-title-of-a-blog-post-wow-what-a-url”, it's really hard for Google to tell which words are the most important in the post title. The URL also starts to get too long to be easy to share.
SEO also applies to the images on your site as well as the text. Since Google’s algorithm can’t “see” images, you need to help it understand what the images on your page contain.
Give your images file names that use your keyword, and write an alt tag that describes the image. Adding an alt tag also allows you to describe an image for people who cannot see it, whether they are vision impaired or their browser malfunctions.
The alt tag also describes the image for another party who cannot see images: Google Search itself. You always want to be doing what you can to make that algorithm happy.
Finally, your images should be hosted on the same domain and subdomain as the rest of your site. Since our site is mywellbeing.com, all our images are hosted on mywellbeing.com.
Mariah was Head of Growth at MyWellbeing. She is a marketing expert in the areas of content strategy, digital advertising, business growth, and anything related to helping therapists grow their practice.