A little quantitative keyword research can help you to understand what keywords web users are actually searching for (as distinct from what you think they might search for); choosing keywords sensibly and empirically can make the difference between a successful keyword marketing strategy and a huge waste of time.
Choosing Keywords: Finding a Niche
There is much much more to crafting a marketing strategy for your private practice than handling search engines efficiently; but when it comes to handling search engines efficiently, there can hardly be a more crucial task than choosing keywords appropriately.
The job of choosing keywords is all about discovering a way for your potential clients/customers to find you. That means finding one or more niches in the space of possible keywords that balance the two following criteria, which often seem to work against one another:
- the keywords are likely to be chosen by customers searching for what you have to offer, and
- the competitive landscape of other sites already targeting these keywords is not already too crowded.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that the keywords which obviously make a great fit for the first criterion do pretty badly in light of the second — and vice versa. This article explores the balance between the two and suggests that both creativity and hard empirical data are required to find comfortable niches that balance both criteria — and which can make for an effective keyword marketing campaign. The second part of the article describes how to use one of the best empirical tools for the job.
Are You Thinking Like Your Customer?
One of the most important elements of virtually any marketing effort, whether it focuses on the internet and search engines, or whether it is entirely confined to the non-internet world, is also central to the professional lives of those working in mental health and the caring professions: empathy. (See our page on “The Benefits of Basic Marketing in Mental Health Fields”, and in particular the comments on empathy in the section on the first benefit.)
If you have trouble taking on the perspective of your prospective client or customer, you’re going to have trouble tailoring your marketing message specifically for that perspective. The examples below describe how a hypothetical business might choose keywords for a search engine marketing effort; the possibilities range from almost completely ignoring what it would be like to be a potential customer all the way through to obtaining detailed information about how potential customers conduct their web searches.
An Example of Choosing Keywords Badly
When wearing my business consultant hat, I have often listened excitedly to clients or potential clients proudly describing how they’ve successfully tailored their website to reach the first page of Google search results for their chosen keywords. But then I ask which keywords they’ve chosen to target, and all too often they reply with some phrase that no potential customer or client would ever search for, unless they already knew about the business in question. This might be useful if your business already enjoys widespread brand recognition — but if you’re not a brand like Coke, or Apple, or Google, it’s fairly useless.
So, for example, someone might deliberately target keywords in such a way that they can claim first position in the Google search results for the phrase Pickembadly Consulting Services. The trouble is that unless a potential customer already knows about Pickembadly Consulting Services, they will not in a million years think to choose those keywords for a search. The proprietors of Pickembadly Consulting Services will rightfully remain consigned to the dustbin of internet history if they aim only for those easy but useless keywords. (Go ahead and try a Google search on the phrase ‘Pickembadly Consulting Services’: unless you’re reading this page within a very short time after its publication, it’s very likely that we will have accomplished the heady feat of first-page Google ranking for ‘Pickembadly Consulting Services’. Woohoo!)
An Example of Choosing Keywords Obviously
One step up from the bad (but easy) keyword choice is choosing keywords which are too obvious and general; in this case, there might be many people searching using given keywords, but there are so many sites competing for those keywords that it becomes practically impossible for any one site to attain very high search engine rankings for those keywords.
Let’s suppose the proprietors of Pickembadly Consulting Services have been reading up on choosing keywords, and they’ve decided to broaden their search engine positioning efforts to encompass additional keywords. Instead of their business name, they begin targeting keywords like ‘consultant’, or phrases like ‘find a consultant’, or even ‘the best consultant’. Even if a potential customer has never heard of Pickembadly, they reason, they might still turn up in a search for ‘consultant’!
However, since Google returns roughly 30 million pages containing the word ‘consultant’ and roughly 12 million for ‘find a consultant’, it seems unlikely that Pickembadly will ever see much business as a result of choosing keywords like these.
An Example of Choosing Keywords Cleverly
The first two examples above have described choosing keywords which are easy to compete for, but too obscure to attract much attention; as well as choosing keywords which attract a great deal of attention but suffer from tremendous competition.
A better alternative is to start thinking like your customer, as described at the very beginning of this section!
Let’s suppose our hypothetical proprietors of Pickembadly Consulting Services really sit down and put on their thinking caps… They ask themselves who their customers are, and what their customers might actually be thinking about when searching for a place like Pickembadly. They reflect on the fact that their customers are mainly professional gardeners who specialize in restoring ornamental gardens that have been damaged by indiscriminate flower pickers. (OK, I know the example is mildly zany, but bear with me — it’s all in good fun!) The services of Pickembadly are mainly geared toward helping these professional gardeners manage their timelines, quickly locate the tools and the replacement flower plants they need, and generally meet the deadlines set by their garden-owning clients.
So, rather than focusing on a name (‘Pickembadly’), or a general area (‘consulting’), they decide to focus on the different ways a gardener-in-need might try to find help getting gardening tools and flower plants on a tight time schedule. They come up with possibilities like ‘gardening tools fast’, or ‘help restoring gardens’, or ‘flowers fast’, or even ‘garden restoration project management’. Now they’re getting somewhere!
Unfortunately, they still don’t really know how likely one of their potential customers really would be to search on phrases like these. They’ve only done the first part of the job — an important part, to be sure — but they haven’t yet checked whether the keywords they imagine might be popular with web users really are popular.
An Example of Choosing Keywords Both Cleverly and Empirically: A Comfortable Keyword Niche
So what’s missing from this last example above? The Pickembadly proprietors have carefully thought through their business offering, and considered what their customers might really be looking for when they search out their services. They’ve chosen keywords which reflect their understanding of their customers, their business, and the former might find the latter.
What more could they do?
The answer is that to make any kind of serious attempt at improving search engine positioning through effective keyword choice, the proprietors of Pickembadly have to get both creative and empirical: they need some real data to tell them how people really search for information or products or services on the web, rather than how they imagine they might search for them.
In This Section
- Therapists In Practice
- Building a Website: Options for the Mental Health Practitioner
- Considering Entering Private Practice?
- Internet Marketing
- Introduction to Marketing Basics
- Market Intelligence Tools
- Security and Confidentiality
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by