“Optimizing Your Practice For Online Visibility” – Presentation & Worksheets

by Dana Lookadoo on November 24, 2010

I recently taught a class titled “Optimizing Your Practice For Online Visibility” for the Sacramento Valley Chapter California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (SVC-CAMFT) at the University of Phoenix.

Below are the slides from the session, a couple worksheets and observations. First, the observations…

Parallels between Counseling & SEO

There are a few parallels between counseling and the realm of SEO and social media:

  • One must get to know their audience – how they think and express themselves, their innermost needs and desires.
  • Communication is more effective when speaking in word pictures, using language that touches and elicits emotion.
  • People like to talk - a lot! Optimize such verbosity to bring parties together; encourage engagement.

Keywords Observations

Understanding terms (keywords) used by one’s audience is key for SEO and for those dealing with marriage and family therapy.

  • In determining the title of the session, I learned “practice” is the term marriage and family therapists use regarding their businesses.
  • They refer to their work using words such as “therapy” or “therapists” more than “counseling” or “counselors.
  • Keyword research via Google AdWords showed that people search (and think) differently:
    • Searchers look for “marriage family counselor” (27,100 local searches) as an occupation more than “marriage and family therapist” (9,900 local searches).
    • Searchers think about “marriage family therapy” (27,100 local searches) as a service more than “marriage family counseling” (9,900 local searches).
Keyword Research for "Marriage & Family Therapy"

Keyword Research for "Marriage & Family Therapy"

Bonus Insight

Study the orange highlights in the keyword research screenshot.

December and January show an increase in the number of searches for counseling and therapy services!

SAC-CAMFT members were not surprised. They all agreed that people need help with marriage and family issues more around the holidays.

THIS is how keyword research helps indicates trends and provides an insight into audience behavior.

Local SEO Observations

Two key insights were gained by observing the query spaces for “marriage family therapist” in local search listings:


Claim the categories, and ensure your local listings are tagged appropriately. A savvy therapist in the class noticed the listing for “Family Tree Counseling” was tagged as:

  • Counseling
  • Marriage Counseling
  • Shrub & Tree Services (horticultural therapy??? OOPS!)
Citysearch Categories & Tags

Tag Citysearch categories appropriately! Shrub & Tree Services?

You must create an account to become a Citysearch user, then claim the business to update your profile page. (The process can take up to 30 days.)

Google Places

Local business maps listings in Google (now known as Google Places) rank based off reviews.

Google Places #1 listing for "marriage family therapist folsom ca"

Google Places #1 listing for "marriage family therapist folsom ca"

(We have not talked about $25/month tags for Google Places that “elevate” your listing to make it stand out.)

The ranking-based-off-review observation is next to mind-boggling when one leaves Google Places to visit the #1 ranking website… IT’S DOWN! Forget SEO and optimizing the site, the server cannot find it!!

Google Places #1 listing - Server Down

Google Places #1 listing - Server Down

Oh, but this #1 Google Places listing had 11 reviews!!!

Ranking based solely off reviews is surely, hopefully, a glitch in the new local maps that will be fixed. Hello, Google??

Discussion in the class erupted. Licensing requirements preclude marriage and family therapists from asking for reviews and using testimonials in their advertising!! (SAC-CAMFT will address this in their next newsletter.)

But, therapists cannot stop people from talking! People will write reviews, and some may SPAM the system. Again… Hello, Google?

This is an example of the even larger intersection between SEO and social media…

It’s definitely word-of-mouth SEO when optimizing for local listings.

Or dare I conclude it’s word-of-mouth without SEO for Google Places?

That’s it for a few observations.


The 68-slide presentation, Optimize Your Practice for Online Visibility, is on Slideshare.net and embedded below:


Two worksheets were distributed to serve as tools to guide therapists in the basics of planning and optimizing for online visibility

1) SEO planning and content development:

2) Social profile worksheet and a directory listing checklist, including tips for securing all social profiles using KnowEm:

Final Takeaway

The course, overall, was a basic introduction to raise awareness about search, social media, and the importance of engaging to be found online. I received the following voicemail from a therapist after class:

“Thank you for the presentation and the ‘ah ha’ moment. I had been saying I couldn’t afford to have a website. You made me realize I can’t afford not to have one!”

I had not considered this extreme. Can you afford not to have a website if you are a business? As seen, you can, however, rank without a website by being engaged and getting reviews.

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