Why you need a web presence
Prior to contacting you directly, many prospective clients, referral sources and others might want to check you out online. Take some steps to ensure that you show up in a Google search, and also that the results lead with positive information.
Here's a quick summary of 9 ways to be found online:
While it's not absolutely necessary (especially if you are very well known in your community) a website serves as your online brochure, where people can get an overview of your services and your professional qualifications. You have many options to get a website, ranging from free to thousands of dollars. One option I do NOT recommend is an all-inclusive design/hosting plan, which costs very little up front, but can be very expensive in the long run, and is difficult to leave if you ever want to switch.
2. Google My Business
Registering your practice at Google My Business is a quick way to show up at the top of Google search results! When someone searches Google for a therapist, psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional, the search results often begin with a map of local businesses matching those keywords. To include your practice on that map, simply fill out a form at Google My Business.
You don't need a website to establish an immediate web presence with quality content. Start a blog at no cost at blogger.com (owned by Google) or at wordpress.com. You can be up and running in a few minutes. On your blog post brief articles and tips of interest to the types of people you'd like to attract to your practice. In other words, use your blog to provide small samples of your expertise. Once you have a website you can link to it from your blog, or even port all your blog content over to your website.
4. Social media
Through Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Youtube and other social media platforms you can become a curator of content for people who are interested in your area of expertise. Find high-quality and useful information, and post links to it from your social media accounts. Also, participate in discussions on social media. When people search for topics related to your posts, they may find you and decide to follow you. See more about using social media for marketing here.
5. Rating sites
Healthgrades, Vitals, and other rating sites list information about health professionals, even if no one has posted a rating. You cannot get your name removed from their database because they use public records as their source. However, you can correct any inaccuracies in your practice name, address, phone number, etc. While you're checking your profile for accuracy, fill out as many fields as possible. At the very least, people who find you on these sites will see current information about you.
6. Therapist directories
PsychologyToday.com and GoodTherapy.org are both well optimized for search engines. Thus, if you have a listing on either or both of these directories, it will show up when someone searches Google for a therapist in your area - as long as you have filled out your complete profile, including keywords.These directory listings and others typically require a monthly fee. The fee varies, but the return on investment is more important than the cost. More about therapist directories here.
7. Links from other websites
Incoming links from external sources help to boost your ranking in search engine results. For this reason, some professionals prefer to have a blog separate from their website (rather than as a tab within their website) so that one can link to the other. You can link to your blog or website from your directory listings, your social media account profiles, and from some of your posts (although not frequently, since social media etiquette frowns on too much self-promotion). Also exchange links with non-competing colleagues where appropriate, and give your followers and visitors good reasons (e.g., great content) to direct their followers to your web locations.
8. News media and popular magazines
If you are quoted by reporters and journalists, they will mention your name, a relevant book or article you've written, and sometimes your website. When a prospective client or referral source searches on your name to learn more about you, they may run across your mention in the media - which will boost your credibility as an expert.
9. Wikipedia page
Content in Wikipedia shows up high in the search results. If you have accomplished something notable, you may be eligible to have a Wikipedia article on your project. Or, if you have been associated with a person or article that is already listed in Wikipedia, you may be able to have your name included. Keep in mind that Wikipedia is an open-source platform where any registered user can add and edit content - which may be a drawback if they post factual but unflattering information about you.
Maintain your web presence
Google sets its algorithms to identify new content and to rank it higher in the search results (assuming that it is quality content). Therefore, if you want to show up consistently in the search results, with links that people want to click on, you need to be consistent in your online postings. Update your website with fresh content. Post to your blog and to social media on a regular basis. Make yourself available for interviews with news journalists.