Simple Guide to Building a Private Practice Website
Let's cover two things quickly to get your practice website off to a strong start. First, we'll review a handful a good marketing practices to keep in mind and second, we'll review a simple website outline (or page structure) you can get started with.
1. Good Marketing Practices
When putting together your website, try to keep the following ideas in mind. They will help make your website more effective.
Keep things as simple and organized as possible.
Too many web pages have an overwhelming number of elements which distract and confuse visitors. Have a think about what you really want your website to accomplish, and then do the best you can to keep content to that which serves that goal.
The goal for most therapist websites is to get clients to sign up for a first session, or otherwise contact you to discuss your services. So make contacting you and booking an appointment easy to find and easy to execute. Of course, you'll also need your website to contain information that helps convince potential clients that they should reach out to you in the first place! So also include easy to find and understand information about the amazing things you do for your clients.
And do your best to keep it all as organized as possible. A simple website structure can help with that (see the section below).
If your website will attract different types of visitors (e.g. potential clients as well as fellow therapists) your website will attract and consider creating different sections for each of them. And think through the different intentions visitors have when visiting your site. For example, a potential clients might just want to learn more about you. Or they might be ready to schedule that first appointment. Or they might be looking for helpful resources. Think through what the different intentions might be and then make it easy for visitors to find what they're looking for. Ask yourself, what's going on in a potential client's mind at this stage in their journey of getting to know you, and what can you say to make it easier for them to say yes to purchasing your service (if you can truly meet their needs, of course!)
Make it clear what action you want the visitor to take on each page
Pay particular attention to what you want the website visitor to do on each page - what action do you want them to take? What page do you want them to view next? Do you want them to subscribe to your email newsletter? Do you want them to follow you on social? Do you want them to enroll in your course or book a complimentary meeting with you?
In most cases, the action you want someone to take upon visiting your website is to buy your course, or sign up for a first appointment. But keep in mind, most website visitors won't be far enough along in their emotional journey of getting to know you to do that immediately. Yes, it should be easy and clear how to sign up for that first appointment, but most aren't quite ready to do that. So what's your consolation prize? Usually, the second best thing is for them to agree to keep hearing from you. In other words, you want them to agree to be a follower of your content. A follower could be someone who subscribes to your email newsletter (or YouTube channel or podcast) or follows you on social.
The tools used to get a website visitor to take this type of action is what online marketers describe as a Call to Action, or "CTA." Many web pages will have a primary CTA (e.g. book an appointment now) and also have a secondary CTA (e.g. follow me on Twitter). Whatever CTA's you decide are right for your, make them clear and obvious. Use buttons with colors that jump off the page. Use a larger font with a different color you want them to click on. Be obvious and keep it simple.
Speak to your ideal client's problems, challenges, needs and aspirations.
Good marketing articulates what's happening inside the potential client's head. What is an aspirational state or identity which would make them excited? (e.g. live a life free of anxiety.) What problems do they have that are really eating at them? (e.g. are you frustrated that you and your partner aren't as connected as you used to be?) What are they worried about? (e.g. tired of worrying about how to parent your rebellious teenager?)
The idea here is to connect with your potential clients and help them understand you can help. You want them to read your website copy and think "this person really gets me, they understand what's going on for me." And then you want them to come to believe that you can deliver them a result that's attractive to them. And what you deliver isn't therapy. You deliver an outcome, therapy is the process you use to achieve that outcome. Describe what you deliver in terms of what your client wants. Not what your clients needs - but what they want. Sure, they probably need therapy. But no one "wants" therapy. That sounds ugh and like hard work and expensive. What clients want is a better life - so talk about what that better life which you deliver clients looks like.
Avoid Process & "I" Language
Marketing language should use "you" language - keep everything focused on the potential client. Describe a really compelling outcome that you know your ideal client will get excited about.
It's super easy to fall into the trap of talking about what you do to help clients, or what your process looks like or the particular skills or approaches you use. The problem is: no one care about you or your process or your thoughts on therapy.
Ok, that's not entirely fair. Eventually potential clients will care about the process you use. But you must first convince that potential client that you can deliver them an outcome they want. So right out of the gate (for example, top of the home page of your website), avoid making "I" statements, delving into process or using technical language they might not understand. Instead, speak to their problems, challenges needs and aspirations. Use "you" language.
Use everyday language your ideal client uses.
Use common, simple words and phrase things in the way your ideal client would talk about it. You don't need to impress anyone with your command of obscure or technical words. Trust me. Business writing should be written very simply - make it easy to skim, easy to process. Reduce the number of calories readers need to burn to understand what it is you're talking about and what action you want them to take.
Use specifics to draw vivid, emotionally compelling pictures
The more vivid and specific details you can use, the more emotionally engaged readers will become. And it is that emotional engagement which will lead readers to take action (like sign up for an appointment or following you online). For an example of this kind of emotionally compelling picture, check out Dr. Asha Bauer's home page. The story she tells there is so powerful! You can feel what it's like for that person. She is describing her ideal client so clearly and vividly. If we were her ideal client, we would be screaming, "Yes, omg, she gets me! And if she gets me, I'll bet she can help me."
2. Simple Website Structure
In the spirit of keeping things simple, here is a sample website structure outline you could follow. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it's a decent place to start.
- Home Page
- About (includes bio and contact information)
- Blog or Resources
- Start Here
Your home page - and the top (aka above the fold) section of your home page is prime real estate. Hook readers quickly, or they'll meander off.
Upon landing on your home page, the visitor should be able to immediately (or at least very quickly and easily) learn three things: first, what are you offering; second, who is what you offer for; and third, what do they get out of it.
For example, if you offer counseling for eating disorders, at the very top of your home page, I want to learn quickly that this is for teens with disordered eating in the Raleigh area. And what do clients get out of that? That might be living a life free from obsessive thoughts around food. I don't know how to describe that result - how do some of your most successful clients describe their lives after working with you? That's how you want to describe the result you create. You want readers to see this aspirational result you deliver and think, "OMG, yes please I need that in my life." Easier said than done I realize.
The home page should really communicate to visitors that you get them. You understand their challenges, what it's like to be them, what's going on inside their head.
The goal of the page is probably to get them to want to learn more about you. Stay focused on them and use that "you" language. Here is probably not the place to talk about what type of therapy you practice, or what school of therapy you subscribe to. Stay focused on your ideal clients problems and the amazing outcomes you deliver to your clients.
Yes, talk about yourself here, but always tie it back to why you love helping your ideal client and continue to reinforce that you understand and get your ideal clients. Be sure to include prominently contact information. Only a small percentage of visitors will land on your site ready to call, text or email you. But made it easy to find that information for those who do.
Here is where you talk about your process. But please, please, please don't get overly technical or use jargon. If a sixth grader wouldn't know the term, assume it's jargon. Use common, everyday language.
You can talk about the type of therapy you practice if that feels important. But as a point of reference, I had worked for FIVE YEARS with a internal family systems therapist. I loved him, loved the results - couldn't have been happier. At that five year mark, someone mentioned internal family systems therapy and I said, "What's that, never heard of it." Somehow not knowing the type of therapy I was engaged with didn't stop me from loving it and getting amazing results. I didn't (and don't) care what type of therapy Nicholas was offering me - I cared that I was getting results.
Should you share pricing on your website? If you're a cash pay provider, I often think you should. Do you get frustrated when researching potential service providers online and you can't figure out whether they're in your budget? I know I do.
Blog and/or Resources Page
Share your thoughts with the world - build authority by sharing your knowledge. This is also great of course for SEO.
Start Here Page
This is something I don't see many therapists use, but I kinda like the idea. It provides a single page where folks should go when they're ready to begin. That page doesn't have to be fancy, it might just be a "call me at this number", or "schedule free consult here" or something like that. But it make it very clear to website visitors where to go and what to do when they're ready. You do not want to confuse potential clients at this stage! Make it so, so, so simple.
One important note. This is NOT a sales page. Just the other day, I clicked on a "purchase now" link in an email and was taken to a sales page that went on and on (and on) about the virtues of the product. I was like "OMG, yes, I know you're great, I just want to purchase the thing!" I scrolled down and down and down... and couldn't find an obvious "buy here" link. And so I lost interest and moved on. Sale lost. Don't do this. Keep it short, simple and sweet. When your potential client is ready to take that next step, the Start here page lays out (with minimal distraction) what they should do.