Search Engine Optimization (SEO) For Mental Health Therapists: Part 1 – What is SEO? + HD Video

The following guide aims to teach mental health practitioners what is "search engine optimization" and how it can grow their presence online.

SEO, SEM, PPC, ABC, XYZ, are all acronyms that normally cause our eyeballs to roll to the backs of our heads, whereupon immediate snoring commences.

The truth is, acronyms are dumb but Search Engine Optimization isn’t!  Knowing what “SEO” is and how it effects your business, private practice, and presence online is rather critical to your marketing success.

==> If you already know about SEO and want to get a video teaching you how to measure the number of links and social shares you’ve generated over time, click here. <==

Quick tangent: myself, Denny, here, writing this, focused on learning SEO to build up AllTreatment (a drug rehab center and substance abuse information resource).  We used our knowledge and testing to grow our audience to over a million visits a year, all generated through search engines.  This is powerful information.

Okay so, without diving into narcissistic ego-land, hopefully you realize that SEO can help your business.  So, what is it?

What is Search Engine Optimization

Simply put, SEO is the set of habits, practices, and techniques nerdy web people like myself (and soon you too) use to increase your ranking in google search result pages.

If you search for  your name in Google, are you the first result?  Probably not.  Probably your LinkedIn profile and your PsychologyToday profile show up before your own personalized website.

This is because of SEO, because LinkedIn and PsychologyToday are “optimized” to “be higher up in search results” — they have “good” SEO.


How Do Search Engines Rank Content?

This is a multi-billion dollar question and it’s Google’s #1 product.  The short answer is simple:  authority and relevance.

If your website page has information relevant to the search that someone enters into Google and the website is seen as authoritative in the eyes of Google, your website page will rank highly for that search term.

Example: you have a hundred page guide about creating gluten-free organic cat food for your precious kittens and every cat website online links to your site as a reference.  When someone types in “organic gluten-free cat food recipe” your website will show up highly on the list.

Counter example:  If someone were to type in “luxury apartments in new york” they would not expect to find your page about organic gluten-free cat food in their results.

Your page must be relevant to the search in question and must have enough endorsements by  your “niche” of websites (mental health website) to rank well in search engine result pages for that keyword.  Again, think the weird cat food recipe and the person looking for weird cat food online.

Authority & Endorsement: The Obama Handshake

tumblr_m2qe3sd5u31qij8k6Imagine you’re about to launch a book or market out your private practice.  The current President (Barrack Obama) flies to your house, brings his PR team, and shoots a bunch of photos with you shaking hands, he does a short video saying “I trust this product and so should you” and then runs off to take care of other business.  Talk about an endorsement.

Now imagine instead of a handshake, President Obama personally linked from his website ( to your website from a blog post endorsing your product or service.  Huge!

These authoritative endorsements from other “powerful domains” or people online is what generates “authority” to your website.  They are Google’s short-cut to understanding who to trust.  If a trustworthy website links to your website and (even better) does so regularly, Google gets the message that your website is trusted by the group of websites out there covering your topic (mental health).

Google, doing some brilliant math and a lot of other things, takes the quantity and quality of links going to your website and uses them to give each page its own authority metric, often referred to as “Google Page Rank”.

Advanced note:  Google Page Rank or PR is a scale 0 to 10 and is logarithmic — think “earthquake” scale when each PR increases.  So a PR 3 website is actually ~8x more authoritative than a PR 2 website.

Again, authority is measured by how people speak about, reference, and link to your website.  Google also takes into account social media sharing and text-mentions as well.

Think the Obama Handshake.

Relevance: What You Say

kitten-cat-foodIn the aforementioned gluten-free organic cat food example, the website page (not real, sorry) is about gluten-free organic cat food, with a recipe and some photos and steps, even a list of some resources for finding the ingredients, and some comments at the end.  It’s a real webpage and it’s really about some wacky cat food.

There are copious mentions of words like “gluten-free” “cat food” “recipe” “organic” in all sorts of different combinations.  The subheadings are “create the recipe” and “where to find gluten-free ingredients” etc.  Even the image filenames are reflective of the relevant topic (gluten-free-cat-goop.jpg).

Google takes all of these details and matches them to search terms that come into its system from everyday Googlers like you and I.

So if we received results about 1) model airplanes, 2) make up, 3) calendars, etc — totally irrelevant results — we would quit using Google and switch elsewhere.

Search engines are defined by their accuracy in producing the best results for what we are looking for online.

But if there are millions, hundreds of millions of pages about a topic, say “news”, how does Google know how to sort the millions?

Because of their authority and endorsements from other websites.

Relevance & Authority: What Others Say About You

Tying together the two together now makes a whole lot of sense.

Your webpage needs to be relevant to what people are looking for and it needs to have a whole bunch of trustworthy folks out there using it, referencing it, talking about it, and linking to it.

Advanced note: the words that people use to describe your website when linking to you are called the “anchor text of a link”.  Within the following link to gluten-free cat food goop, the words “gluten-free cat food goop” are the anchor text.

Who is talking about you and the words they are using will both influence the authority you have in being higher up in the search engine ranking for a specific term.

Okay, okay, Whatever, Just Give Me EXAMPLES!!!

So, your info is:

Betty Sue, licensed in San Jose, CA, specializing in trauma.

Your site is:

Your main page is:

Understanding and Relieving Trauma with Betty Sue, LMFTA, San Jose CA


You make sure to post up a great article about trauma, your approach, your experiences with clients, testimonials, comments, FAQs, the whole works.  You cover all your dots about mental health trauma treatment.  You mention your office location a few times, that you’re seeking new patients, your phone number, a bit about you as well.

You also get other authoritative websites to link to your site! (Examples):

“Awesome trauma specialist in San Jose” -Steph Curren, LMFTA,

“This relieving trauma guide by Betty Sue really helped me” -Susana Smith,

“Betty Sue helped me relieve anxiety related to my past trama” -Douglas Johnson,



Q1.  How are you going to rank for “CBT therapist in Wisconsin”?


Q2.  How are you going to rank for “San Jose Trauma Therapy”


Q3.  How are you going to rank for “Betty Trauma Therapist San Jose”

Quite well.

Q4.  As long as…?

You have other authoritative websites within the mental health niche linking to your content, using words and phrases to describe your stuff that also include those search terms.


Search Engine Optimization isn’t a complex thing.  Think about endorsements (links) and relevant info (a specific & useful webpage) and make sure that you’re talking with people online in your niche.  This is the best SEO advice anyone can give:

Write great content.

Reach out to other online therapist websites and bloggers and talk with them.

Work together and link to each other!

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