Getting started with a counselling website is a big challenge, there are so many things to think about and you might not even know where to begin.
It’s very easy to get stuck in the “look and feel” of the website and trust me, as a designer this is important. But more importantly, you should consider these 5 things before you even get started:
1. Who are you?
Think about your background and experience. Where do you come from? Are you a new counsellor/therapist or do you have 20 years of experience? Your website is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know you. It’s tempting to be shy here and not put a lot of information on your site, but often this will result in a poor quality site. Your clients will likely have a very good idea of where they need help, so show them that you’re the best person to help them with their problem.
2. Who are your Clients?
Having a clear idea of who your clients are will help you create a website that is attractive to them. For example, If you only want to work with couples, then you should consider writing about how you can help people in relationships resolve differences. Similarly, if you have a background in education, perhaps you’re best suited to working with adolescents, so you should write content targeted towards parents.
It’s a good idea to spend some time and think about the “persona” of your typical client. You can draw inspiration from your current clients to get started and think about who you would like to work with.
3. What can you offer your clients that nobody else can?
Now that you have a clear idea of who you are and who your clients are now it’s time to think of the things that you can offer them that nobody else can. This is where you can draw on your background and experience, your skills and attributes. For example. Do you have a specialist language? Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese, can you work with a client in that language? Perhaps you lived in Germany for a while and have a cultural insight that might be useful to German clients?
Do you have specialist training? Perhaps you started your career in another field and retrained to become a client or therapist. That prior experience might be beneficial to a client who is currently in that field and make the conversations easier to have. This is where you sell yourself, and often you may need to iterate on this over time.
4. How will your clients find you?
There is so much to think about here, but generally, the free things you can do will help right off the bat. Make sure your website is indexable by Google and get blogging. Write for your customers, what issues are they facing, and how can you help them. Are there any interesting developments in your space. How about local events that might be interesting. All of these things give you content to write about.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the practice of optimising your website for search engines. There is an entire industry around this because it really makes a difference, but aside from the technical aspects, google likes good clean content that isn’t “spammy”. So write as if you would say it to a person, and that will be good enough, then rinse and repeat. Longer posts are harder to write and even harder for your users to read, so try and keep it to 300-500 words.
Share your content
Start sharing your website around the web. Put links to your site, and content on other sites. Don’t go crazy though. If the search engines see this as “in-organic” or over the top, they will penalise your site and de-list it. Best practise is to link to your profile from other related sites. This is where directories like SpeakEasy, PsychologyToday or Talking Works come in super handy. Just list your profile and make sure to link to your site. This will help everyone find and your services. Think of directories just like the physical phone books, if you’re not listed, people won’t find you when they are looking for a service you provide.
These two steps give you content to share and links to your site. This is the basic requirements for SEO. There are many more aspects to this, but if you only do these two things, you’ll have a good head start.
5. How will your clients get in touch with you?
Finally, make sure your site has a way to contact you. Put your phone number, email address or a “contact form” that automatically sends you an email (your web designer can help with this). Do you offer a free consultation? Do you want to encourage people to drop by your office to book a slot? Do you want people to book and pay on your site? These are a few other things to think about. Generally, though it should be easy and meet the needs of your customers.
Once you’ve answered these 5 questions, you will have a clear idea of what information should be featured on your counselling/therapy site, and having clear answers to these questions will make the whole process easier when you start to look for a web designer to help build it out.