In the realm of SEO and private practice, the importance of user experience is often overlooked, leading therapists to rush into website setup without addressing essential business aspects. This mistake stems from a lack of business education during clinical training. To enhance online visibility, therapists must define their ideal client, avoiding generic content that fails to connect. The transition from academic writing to a conversational tone is crucial, with Ashley emphasizing simplicity and clarity. She advocates for a basic optimization level in the SEO landscape, simplifying the process by breaking it into keywords, strategic copywriting, and technical precision. Ashley empowers therapists to navigate SEO’s overwhelming nature, encouraging them to focus on foundational principles for a well-performing website. Through one-on-one interactions, she dispels the intimidation surrounding SEO, fostering a belief that, with basic knowledge, therapists can independently implement strategies, eliminating the need for recurring expenses.
Meet Ashley Darnall
Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and mental health copywriter for therapists. In her
professional work as a clinician, Ashley has experience with in-patient counseling and case
management, outpatient counseling, and medical and insurance practice. Through her business, Copy with Ashley, Ashley combined her love of mental health and writing – to serve other mental health professionals through the development of strong marketing strategies and content to meet their goals. Her mission is to bridge the gap between marketing and the helping profession. She is passionate about lifelong learning, serving others, and traveling. In her personal life, Ashley enjoys coffee, wine, a good meal with friends, and spending time with her husband and two daughters.
Navigating the Intersection of SEO and Private Practice with a Focus on User Experience
One crucial aspect often overlooked in the realm of SEO and establishing a private practice is the user experience. While the foundation of SEO lies in keywords, the journey to building a successful online presence requires more than just a website. Many therapists, myself included, were not adequately educated on business during our clinical training. The common mistake is the rush to set up a website without conducting essential backend work. Forming an LLC, understanding ethical and legal regulations, budgeting, and effective marketing are crucial components often neglected.
In the eagerness to have a virtual presence, therapists overlook defining their ideal client and crafting a targeted message for them. The oversight results in generic content that fails to connect with the audience. Before delving into website copywriting, it is imperative to identify the ideal client, their challenges, and what motivates the therapist in their work. Ultimately, the core questions visitors seek answers to on a therapist’s website are: Can I trust you? and Can you help me? Establishing trust and showcasing the therapist’s ability to address the client’s needs should be at the forefront of website development, offering a more personalized and effective user experience.
From Academia to Authenticity: Crafting a Conversational Therapist’s Online Presence
Transitioning from the academic writing mindset ingrained in us during grad school to a more conversational tone is a significant challenge when establishing an online presence, particularly through a therapist’s website. While our academic backgrounds have equipped us with the knowledge and intelligence, it’s crucial to step back and approach writing as if we’re engaging in a conversation. Avoiding the use of professional bios filled with therapy acronyms, Ashley emphasizes the importance of simplicity and clarity. Writing at a sixth-grade reading level, steering clear of complex sentences and lengthy paragraphs, ensures that the content is accessible to a broader audience. When stuck in the writing process, a helpful tip is to utilize Google Docs’ voice record feature, allowing therapists to articulate their thoughts in a conversational tone and subsequently edit the content for a more approachable and relatable online presence.
Empowering Therapists in Online Visibility
Ashley emphasizes the integral role of SEO in establishing an effective online presence for therapists. She bravely advocates that any content shared on an online platform should incorporate at least a basic level of SEO. Acknowledging the intimidation that often accompanies the term SEO, Ashley simplifies it by defining it as the process of making a website discoverable by individuals using search engines like Google. Breaking down SEO into four fundamental elements—keywords, strategic copywriting, on-page, and off-page optimization—she empowers therapists with the knowledge to enhance their online visibility.
Starting with keywords, Ashley underscores the importance of delving into the mindset of the ideal client and understanding user intent. Therapists can strategically incorporate these keywords into their website content by identifying what potential clients might search for on Google. Ashley encourages therapists to explore related searches on Google to generate ideas and ensure their content meets users’ needs. Through this comprehensive approach, she aims to equip therapists with the tools to optimize their online presence and continue implementing SEO strategies independently for sustained success.
Strategic Copywriting, Technical Precision, and Blogging Brilliance
Ashley dives into the intricacies of strategic copywriting, which involves strategically placing keywords throughout web pages, headers, meta descriptions, title tags, and alt text. Not only does this optimization encompass textual elements, but it also extends to ensuring site speed, mobile-friendliness, and an aesthetically pleasing website free from errors or typos. She touches upon technical aspects like the significance of backlinks from credible websites validating legitimacy for search engines. The core objective is to position the website as a subject matter expert in a particular field, such as anxiety therapy, earning recognition from search engines like Google. Ashley addresses the intimidating prospect of blogging, highlighting it as a powerful tool to regularly update content and signal to search engines that the website is a credible source committed to helping others. Despite initial apprehensions, consistent content creation is a key strategy to establish authority and enhance online visibility.
Empowering Non-Technical Minds in Digital Marketing Success
Ashley acknowledges the overwhelming nature of the SEO landscape, particularly for those without a technical background. She highlights the potential for analysis paralysis given the abundance of information on the internet. Her advice centers around finding trustworthy resources and adhering to foundational principles. Despite the possibility of delving into highly technical aspects, Ashley reassures that a well-performing website can be achieved by sticking to the basics. Emphasizing a learning curve, she encourages individuals to invest time in understanding the fundamentals, as this knowledge can be applied across various digital marketing avenues. Through one-on-one interactions with her clients, Ashley has witnessed a shift in perception as they realize that SEO is not as daunting as initially thought. She empowers them to take control, fostering the belief that regular implementation becomes manageable with a grasp of the basics, eliminating the need for recurring expenses on external SEO services.
Gordon Brewer: Well, welcome everyone again to the podcast and I'm glad for you to get to know today, Ashley Darnell. Welcome, Ashley. Thank you
Ashley Darnall: so much for having me excited to be here.
Gordon Brewer: Yes. And Ashley and I are, we were chatting a little bit ahead of time, and I think this is a topic that I've covered a few times on the podcast, but maybe not at this kind of angle, but just, we're going to be talking about just SEO and.
Things that you need to keep in mind with your website that I think probably get overlooked by people, or maybe they make some wrong assumptions. But Ashley, as I talk, start with everyone, tell folks a little bit more about yourself and how you've landed where you've landed.
Ashley Darnall: Yeah, so I am a licensed clinical social worker in Louisiana and have in my clinical backgrounds have done the whole gamut of practice.
I have done inpatient, outpatients, kids, adults, been in the insurance world as well as in some medical practices. So I've had a whole bunch of clinical background as a therapist. I am also a mental health copywriter. So. Was looking to I've always enjoyed writing and writing. It's always been a huge outlet for me and Stumbled across a copywriting course a few years ago and figured it just it was really just a great avenue for me to be able to combine my love of mental health and writing and To be able to do something that I could also make a business out of and help Therapists so what I do through my business.
I help therapists with any Of the writing that goes on their online marketing platform. So I know that a lot of people don't even know what copywriting is. Honestly, I didn't really when, before I started. So I like to say just the words, the words that go on any online platform. So whether that's your website, could be your social media, email marketing, anything that's going to go online.
I help therapists craft those words and along with that comes, comes the SEO piece, which we will get into because anything that goes online is going to be run through search engines. So so yeah, so that's what I get to do on the day to day. I, when I first started really thought I would be doing more things like helping therapists write blogs about depression and anxiety and you know, as a clinician, obviously I know where.
How to come from all angles so you're not going to just hire a regular marketing professional You know hire someone who actually knows the ins and outs of the field However, that was not the need of most of my clients Everybody really needed the support with mostly websites. And so that's kind of where I've landed as far as my expertise goes
Gordon Brewer: Do you get into doing much of the actual back end designing of websites or just mainly with the copywriting?
Ashley Darnall: I do. I do do the design as well. I have some full packages that I offer. Now, You know, here's, here's the thing, right? We, we oftentimes as therapists, and myself included, don't come from a whole wealth of resources. And so just from doing a lot of websites myself, I do have the ability to do the design. I mostly specialize in Squarespace websites, very user friendly and easy to, easy to set up therapists for success with later on.
So I will help them with the full on package. Also, I will partner with. with graphic designers as well. It depends on what my client's preference is. So they're a little more on the budget friendly side. They might go with me instead of having to hire two different parties to get that up. Yeah. Yes. Yeah.
Gordon Brewer: do. Yeah. It's, it's been interesting here lately. I've been doing some work on the practice of therapy website, tweaks, but you know, you don't really. You know, I think the thing, and I'm sure we're going to talk about this, is we have to really think about, um, the user experience, as far as how the people that are searching for us, and that sort of thing, how they, how they perceive us on the, you know, when the website comes up, and so really thinking about that.
That whole, that whole piece. Well, I, you know, one of the things that I think is, I think is always a good review and you can really speak to this, Ashley, or in working with people, what are some of the common, I guess, mistakes you see them make with their website that they can probably easily correct?
Ashley Darnall: Sure. So I think you've, you just brought up a really primetime example is the user experience. So. We talk about the foundation, I guess, of SEO would be keywords. And so the, the thing is, is that you want to, okay, let's say with, let me, let me make this more clear. The first mistake I would say is to, is that therapists often, you're trying to start your private practice.
And let me just normalize something to begin with. We, self included as a clinician, we weren't taught this stuff in school. Right. We were taught. We were taught how to sit in a therapy room with someone who has under, who has gone through severe trauma and we know how to navigate that situation. But when it comes to forming a business, at least my education and I went to some wonderful schools.
It was very lacking. A lot of us don't even, you don't even know how to form an LLC, how to open a business bank account, how to make sure you're, you know, you're following all your ethical regulations and legal regulations and how to budget and how to So that's just a experience across the board that many therapists go through when they're starting a private practice.
And you go out on a limb, you're going on working by yourself, and you're like, Oh man, I have to get this website set up. You know, I need to have a virtual website. It's 2023. We got to have a place where people can land. And so I think. Oftentimes, many therapists are just so ready to get a website up. They don't do the back end work prior to getting that website set up.
So that would be not looking at things like what is your ideal client? Who is your ideal client? What presenting problems fuel you, you know, when you leave a session and you feel so like, Oh man, this is why I do what I do. Who is that specific type of client? So before I'm gonna do any website copywriting for a therapist, I want to get into a little bit of that branding.
I'm not gonna say like, I'm gonna develop an entire branding package with you. Mm-Hmm, . But if I'm going to be writing your website copy, I have to know who are we writing to, and. Who are those specific people that you want to land on your website that you want to speak to them? And I think that would be maybe the first common mistake is that you just kind of get something out there and really did it You're kind of just writing to whoever and you're just talking about yourself Instead of necessarily talking to your ideal client Which is kind of what you, what you were just saying, right?
Is that user experience. What are people landing on your page? And to finish that, I'll say, here's the two core questions that I'll pose to my, my therapist. And I'll say, all people want to know when they come to your website is number one, can they trust you? So can I trust you? They want to know that you are who you say you are, that you are genuine, you know, that you're not a scam, a fraud, whatnot.
And number two, can you help me? So can you actually specifically, do you actually know what I'm going through? Can you actually give me the tools and resources I need to get through? So I would say that would be the. One of the most foundational mistakes that happens when you're just trying to get your practice up and running, you need to just get a website out there, is not really thinking about that ideal client audience and really writing the words on your website to speak to them.
Gordon Brewer: Right, right. One of the ways I've heard it kind of put and it might have been through Donald Miller's story brand. Yeah. Which I, you know, just a quick note here to anybody that's listening. If you haven't read that book or looked at his stuff, it's well worth it to be able to get your head around marketing and just thinking about how people want to.
How people on the receiving end, what really resonates with them. But one of the things that they talk about is being able to write in a way that lets people see the transformation. In other words, that you know what it's like now and what it's going to be like in the future. You know, if they, you know, how, like you said, how you can help.
And it's not the about the about page on a website isn't about the therapist. It's about the client. And so that's
Ashley Darnall: another major mistake that
Gordon Brewer: often gets me right. You want to say a little more about that?
Ashley Darnall: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So we are so used to writing academically and, you know, we write all these research papers and you get out of grad school and you're just in that mindset and we're all very educated.
Intelligent people. But the thing is, you really have to take a step back and you're just writing like you're talking to someone. So you're writing conversationally, you're using words like I and you. So I really like to emphasize to use the word you, like you're speaking to, if Donna is your ideal client audience, you're speaking to Donna, I just pulled a name out of the back of my head.
So, so yeah, so really writing to a specific person and you're not going to write something like you would in a professional bio. So that's a lot of people on their about page will use, they'll just kind of copy and paste their professional bio that they had maybe on a group practice website. So it'll be Ashley Darnell, LCSW from Louisiana.
Specializes in EMDR, PTSD, CBT, DBT, and so you're using like, first of all, all these acronyms that we know what they mean as therapists, right? People coming here don't, you know, CBT, DBT, EMDR, that could, who knows what that means to someone else, to us it might seem second nature. So using words and speaking, I mean, I like to write on a sixth grade reading level, making sure you're, you're, You are, number one, always writing to your ideal client and writing in a way that's conversational, easy to read, not in long paragraphs, not complex sentences.
Oftentimes if I find myself stuck, here's just a quick tidbit, if I find myself stuck and don't know, you're just staring at a blank screen, which happens a lot to my clients who are trying to write their own copy, is Google Docs has a voice record feature, just put on the voice record and record yourself talking about it, and then you can go back and edit, and so it actually helps you to write in a tone of voice that's actually more conversational rather than so academic, so, you know, Ashley Darnell is a licensed clinical social worker.
Gordon Brewer: Right, right. Yeah. And one, one thing I know. you know, this is going to come up because, you know, just the age we live in as using AI, things like chat GPT and that kind of thing I've found can help me with things like putting it in a, a different, uh, writing in a, like a second person voice versus first person and third person and also putting, changing it from, you know, You know, a higher level of communication to, like you said, the sixth grade reading level.
Absolutely. Yeah. So not that, not that I'm saying that's. It's just a tool that's there that's pretty amazing in that sense. Absolutely.
Ashley Darnall: Yeah. If you give the AI software something, something good to work with, if you give them a good foundation, if you yourself, you know, if you just need some editing, you need this to sound better.
You know, often I'll be like, I have this, I wrote this in it, then I just can't get it to sound right. Put it in the sentence, make this sound better. Literally, that's what I'll say. And then come up with something that makes it sound better. So just turn it around the words some way. It's your words, but you're just using the tool, you know, as a, I'm in a course now and they just say, it's a good personal assistant.
Gordon Brewer: yes, yes, and it's not, I don't think it should be, I think one thing people need to understand is don't just plug something into AI and just take exactly what they give you back. You need to go back and edit it and tweak it and, and make it yours and more in more person friendly to some degree. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. Well, you know, one of the other things that this kind of, I think it leads us to, Ashley, is just thinking about SEO and keywords and all of that sort of thing. So say some more about that and how all this ties in to the copywriting piece.
Ashley Darnall: Yes, yes, absolutely. So I will go out on a limb here and say that anything that you're going to put on an online marketing, on any online platform should at least have a little bit of SEO involved.
They're, you know, they're even saying that thing, you know, your Instagram post or that, that's a whole nother beast that we won't get into, but you know, that even things like your Google business profile should be optimized for a search engine. So Well, let's break it down a little bit. So people get afraid of the phrase SEO.
It is just like, I think sends chills down people's spine, much like the word marketing does as well, I think. So in a simple way, what I like to say is SEO, search engine optimization. So it's just the process of getting your website found by people who are searching on Google. So increasing the organic traffic to your website.
So there's a few key principles that if you start to develop, it will increase the chances of your website getting found on search engines. So I like to teach it. I do a lot of education, just, you know, if I'm going to write for you, I really want my therapist to be set up for success and be able to have that, them have the tools to be able to implement some of these things on their own going forward.
So I like to kind of teach it in four key, there's four key elements. to, to the foundation of SEO. So that would be keywords, strategic copywriting, and then on page and off page SEO. So starting with keywords, this is going to be the foundation of anything that you do related to search engine optimization.
So here is where you really want to get into your ideal client's head. So it comes back to this, user intent. So when somebody is going to be looking for your practice on Google, what are they going to be looking for? Are they going to be searching? Typically, it's things like Anxiety Therapist, Texas, or Trauma Therapy, Texas, or Addiction Therapist, Texas.
So you're going to use a lot of location, some location specific ideas, as well as Your, you know, your either your population you work with or presenting problem. It could just be like even things like I need help with anxiety. That would be like a long tail, a long, long tail keyword. Call it or. How can anxiety therapy help me things like that.
So first is going to be the so whatever the person your user is typing in the Google search bar to find you. That's your keyword. Yeah. So you can use even just You type something in on Google anxiety therapist in Texas, scroll all the way down to the bottom, look at the related searches, and it'll really give you some good ideas on what are actually people looking for.
Here's some related key terms that people are looking for when they would actually come to my practice website. So yeah, so that's kind of the first step is finding the keywords that you want to target that people are looking for and that you want to target on your website.
Gordon Brewer: Yeah. Yeah. You know, one, one quick.
Thank you. Tip that I've used sometimes is, is with your current clients is asking them how they found you. And if they say, well, I just did an internet search, you could say, okay, what did you type in to find, to find us? And how long, how hard did you have to search to get to where we are kind of things.
And so that's a. That's a real kind of low tech way of trying to find out some of those
Ashley Darnall: things. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Always, always, always ask where your clients about you. Oh,
Gordon Brewer: yes. Yes. And so, yeah. So with, with all of that, it's really a matter of kind of getting into the head of your, your ideal client and just thinking about kind of the language they use to describe what is going on with themselves.
Ashley Darnall: Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. That user user intent is is key. And so often, you know, I think we just get so stuck in our own heads. And we're so worried about getting all the things that we need to get set up for our practice that we kind of forget that key step of trying to Figure out what the other side is going to be looking for.
Right. That's kind of the foundation. Foundation of, of SEO is understanding keywords.
Gordon Brewer: Yes, yes. So what, what else do you think of when you think of being found on the internet as far as like that related to SEO?
Ashley Darnall: Yeah, so I guess I can get into a little bit to the other three elements besides keywords would be the strategic copywriting.
So that is. Taking the keywords a step further, so it's going to be placing those keywords in strategic places. Um, so throughout your webpages, in your headers, in your, like, okay, in your meta descriptions, which we can talk about, in your title tags, in your alt text, optimizing your images. Your site speed, making it mobile friendly.
And this is all assuming as well that you have a visually pleasing website. You know, when somebody comes to it, there's not blatant errors, typos, sentences that look like they don't fit on the page. That it is, you know, an actually visually pleasing website. But it definitely goes beyond that. There are, you know, we can get into a whole bunch of technical things, but we can, you can talk about backlinks and how important it is to have credible websites that also link to your page so that the search engines know that you're legitimate.
It's all about. Getting your getting the search engines to say, Hey, yes, this person, their website is a subject matter expert on, say, the subject of anxiety therapy for going on that track that you would want to that Google would want to showcase you as. You know, a practice that helps people with anxiety.
So another key part is blogging, which also scares people. It is, it is a scary topic. And I guess the idea of having to write regular content is, uh, can be very overwhelming, but that is another. really key way. Um, and we can call it articles. We can call it blogging, posting regular updated content to your website, um, is the way that you are telling the search engines that, Hey, I'm legitimate.
I'm here to help people with whatever it is that you focus on helping people with.
Gordon Brewer: Yes, yes. Well, yeah, I know, I think these are, these are, you know, in the time that I've been doing all of this stuff, I remember way back when, when I first put up my first website and having to learn all of this stuff. Yeah.
After a while, I think if you, if you play around with it, you, you really kind of begin to think about it in that way. And it becomes much easier as far as, you know, thinking about the keywords and just maybe the different systems or different processes really that you put in place when you think about improving your website and doing all of those things, particularly blogging, you know, what is it, you know, figuring out what is it that people are looking for?
What is it that People are, are doing to, to make their websites better.
Ashley Darnall: Right, right, right. Yeah. And that's what I think. I think it, it's, it is just an overwhelming topic and people get, if you don't have a technical background and most of us don't, I would assume that it is something that we can get kind of analysis paralysis.
There's so much out there on the internet where you even begin. And so just. Finding, you know, a good resources that you trust, sticking to the foundational principles, really like, you know, you can get incredibly technical, but if you really just, you can have a good, well performing website, if you just stick to the foundations, now there is a little learning curve as with anything, but if you You know, if you're willing to spend a little bit of time and learn the foundations, like you said, once, you know, you can implement them in all other avenues of your digital marketing, digital marketing aspects.
So once you learn the basics and, you know, and once I work with my clients one on one, they. They're like, Oh, okay. It's not as scary as I thought it was. It really, Oh, it actually does make sense. Okay. I can do this, you know, kind of giving them the ability to be like, yeah, actually this is something I do.
And like, I don't need to pay someone monthly to do this. If I have the ability to just do these small steps. on the right on a regular basis.
Gordon Brewer: Right, right. Yeah. So I know I've got to be respectful of your time, Ashley, but, but maybe real quickly, what are some of your go to tools for helping you with everything?
Ashley Darnall: Yeah, absolutely. So starting with keywords using just the basic Google search, like I said, scrolling down to the related key terms, there is also through Google ads, there's a Google keyword planner, which is completely free. All of these are free that. You can use also Ubersuggest is another keyword research tool.
You can plug it in and it'll tell you, you know, related keywords, keyword frequency, how much competition there is related to that keyword. When it comes to writing good copy, being sure to use a plugin like Grammarly, which will just check your, check for your grammar, make sure you're writing in active voice.
I like to use this program called Hemingway Editor. It tells you the reading level. It tells you if there's hard to read sentences, things like that. That's just a good one. Always as always running it through a plagiarism checker. You don't want to make sure that you have duplicated content either by accident or we're going to assume it's not intentional.
So there's, it's called Q text is the software I like to use for a plagiarism checker. And let's see, for running an SEO audit. If you wanted to just kind of get a baseline, plug it in your, plug in your website and get kind of a baseline of how your website is doing. There's a website called Uber Suggest, which you get, I think like three free searches a day.
Mm-Hmm. . So you can put in your website and it'll give you, it won't let you go into too much detail, but it'll give you a good foundation of how your website is performing as is just to kind of get a baseline before you were to do any SEO work on it. So that's called Uber Suggest.
Gordon Brewer: Well, this is great stuff.
This is great stuff. Well, Ashley, tell folks how they can get in touch with you. If they want to find out more about what you do and maybe talk about how you can help them. Sure. Sure.
Ashley Darnall: Yeah. Go to my website, copywithashley. com. Also on Instagram, like to post. Some lots of good free resources on Instagram. I have a SEO checklist you could download as well as some things to help with your psychology today profile, just anything that you're going to be writing.
I have a couple of free resources for you, but yeah, and either email or website ashley at copy with ashley. com is my email. So I am, I'm here. Yeah, this was
Gordon Brewer: awesome. Awesome. Well, we'll have links in the show notes and the show summary. So people can get to that quickly. Well, Ashley, I really appreciate this and I hope to have you back sometime.
Gordon Brewer: Well, welcome everyone again to the podcast and I'm glad for you to get to know today, Ashley Darnell. Welcome, Ashley. Thank you
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Ashley Darnall’s Resources
Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT
Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast wherever you listen to it. Follow us on Instagram @practiceoftherapy, and “Like” us on Facebook.