Productivity

3 SEO Solutions ft. Jessica Tappana

 March 2, 2022

By  Uriah Guilford, MFT

minute read

Hearing the term 'Search Engine Optimization' or SEO spends many therapists and practice owners into a tailspin of anxiety.

Join me for this fascinating discussion with SEO expert Jessica Tappana of Simplified SEO Consulting.

Click to listen now!

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

  • What is SEO? 
  • What are the benefits of SEO?
  • Should you do your SEO yourself or outsource it? 
  • What are some common misconceptions therapists have about SEO?

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

Simplified SEO Consulting
FREE 7-Day SEO Email Course

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Uriah
Hi there! Thanks for joining me on the Productive Therapist Podcast today. I'm beyond excited to talk to my good friend Jessica Tappana. She's a licensed clinical social worker who owns Simplified SEO Consulting. And that's a company that helps therapists and mental health related businesses improve their search engine optimization so they can show up more often in search engine results. She also has her own private pay group therapy practice in Columbia, Missouri, with nine clinicians. Enjoy my conversation with Jessica. Hi, Jessica! Welcome to the show.

Jessica
Hello! Thank you for having me.

Uriah
Yeah, absolutely. It's always so nice to talk to you. I feel like every time you and I talk, whatever the context is, we always learn from each other.

Jessica
Yes, it's so much fun. We can talk about, like, all the businesses stuff and technology stuff, and there's just so many and mental health stuff. There's so many different areas that we can have fun chatting about.

Uriah
We're both kind of nerdy in those arenas, wouldn't you say?

Jessica
Yes, I appreciate usually every time we talk is when I get some new software type of technology I have to go check out. You make my life so much easier. You check them all out and tell me what's worth spending my time on.

Uriah
I am guilty of that. I'll take it. So today we get to talk about one of your favorite topics, which is search engine optimization and specifically how private practice owners can decide on how to approach that, whether it's DIY, outsource or a third option that we're going to talk about that I won't reveal until we get there, right?

Jessica
Yes, I love talking about those. So talk about like we're a little nerdy in a good way. I had so much fun learning SEO myself and getting my website to show up well on search engines. That was really exciting and how I grew my business. And so actually when I started Simplified SEO Consulting, I thought it was going to be all training people to do it themselves because that was so fun for me. And I quickly learned not every therapist shares our enthusiasm for learning new technology based skills. I'm not even that great with technology, but I just loved the puzzle piece of this. And so I quickly learned that for some people, it's just not worth the time and even the money investment of trying to learn themselves. And over the last few years, we've just decided that there are some distinct indicators that someone is better for outsourcing this or learning to do it themselves. And it's been a learning curve with how to help people get the best ROI for their both time and money. When it comes to listings.

Uriah
That's an important sort of self assessment, isn't it? Should I be doing this? Because I remember when I tried to learn how to do Google AdWords, I was like, I'm smart, I'm technologically savvy. I should be good at this. I hated it. So not a good use of my time. Did I ever tell you how I learned what I know about SEO?

Jessica
No, I don't think you did. Or if you did, I've forgotten my feet today.

Uriah
I don't think so. Back in the day, let's go back to 2006. Seven, eight. I was accruing hours and moving towards Licensure. And then I finally got license and I opened my private practice. And I was also working at a group home for teenagers. And at the same time, I decided to take on a third job for some reason because my best friend Ryan owned a digital marketing company, him and his parents. I was like, I can't remember exactly why I took that job, but I did. And I'm so glad I did because it was there that I learned about how to build websites from scratch, basics of SEO and social media marketing and all those kinds of things for like, $13 an hour. But it was the best education.

Jessica
Yeah, but you learned so much. That's awesome. And now as a group practice owner making decisions by your website, you have that knowledge here. Even when you outsource your mortgage consumer.

Uriah
It is for sure. So here's my first question for you. I'm curious to hear from you. What are the common misconceptions that therapists specifically have about SEO? Just understanding what it is and how it works.

Jessica
Yeah. So search engine optimization is anything that you do to try to get your website to the top of Google. So I think one of the misconceptions is that there's like, this magic formula that we're all doing the same thing. Anyone who talks about SEO is doing the same thing. And if you can just learn that thing, you're going to rank really well. In reality, there are over 200 factors that Google decides are considered trying to decide where to rank your website. Three people could tell you they do SEO, and those three people could be working on completely different ranking factors. And I think that's just almost as much of an art as a science, because it's choosing which things we're going to focus on and how to apply them. And there are different techniques, really, for applying each of the concepts. Within that, we actually have a document, the four most common ways to add internal links to a website because there's so many different ways, even that our team uses. And so I think that's part of the common misconception is that there is only one way to do it when there are in fact, many. And another is just this idea that it's so complicated that therapists can't possibly understand. There's some truth to that, but some of it is very technical. But I think that people can quickly become overwhelmed by the language and the terms and get scared away when in fact, it's very possible for us to learn some of the basics and a minimum learn enough to be an informed consumer even if you're going to outsource. And I think that if we can figure out how to do psychotherapy, if we make it through grad school and learn that we can probably learn, pretty much all of us can learn at least the basics for SEO.

Uriah
I like that. So you're kind of saying that two of the misconceptions are that it's super simple and there's just one thing that everybody does. And then on the other side misconception is that it's so complicated that you can't figure it out. That's interesting. It's like two sides of the same coin, right?

Jessica
It is. But a lot of people do tend to kind of fall into one of those.

Uriah
And it seems to me that out of those 200 things that you can do to improve your search engine optimization, the majority of them are not rocket science. It's not the hardest thing, like even building backlinks or all those types of things. If you want to learn it and you're interested, you certainly can. And guess what? Spoiler alert. Jessica and her company can teach you.

Jessica
Absolutely. It's my favorite thing to do is teaching people.

Uriah
Actually, that is fantastic.

Jessica
That's where I invest a lot of my time is with the teaching because it's fun for me. And I think that there are certain people it's really fun for it. And then there are some people that will never, ever find it fun. But even if you don't find it fun, even if you're not excited and you don't want to do this yourself, I think you can still ask enough questions that even if you're going to outsource, you can have people slow down and describe to you what they're doing. We've been surprised how many people come in and they say, yeah, I paid Rafi and we're like, great. So what does that look like? And they're like, I don't know, they had password on my website and they did some stuff and we're like, yeah, okay. That could be a lot of different things. Or my favorite question, I paid for SEO, did they do a good job? And I'm like, well, without knowing what they did, it's hard to know because even if they didn't do the things I would do, that doesn't mean they didn't do a great job. It just means they may have worked on very different ranking factors. I really encourage everybody to just slow down and try to understand some of the basics. Ask people throughout these big terms. But if you can be like, okay, I don't understand that. Let's back up. What's that mean? It is very possible to learn what some of these terms mean.

Uriah
That's great. So let's talk about some of the benefits of doing your own SEO, of learning how to manage it and then do it yourself.

Jessica
So my favorite thing about it is it's a brain break that is very different than seeing clients. Right. So a lot of us as mental health providers, carry a lot of heaviness. I know when I started learning SEO, most of my clients were either had PTSD or were suicidal. That was really what I was doing a lot of. And for me, the brain break of being able to work on a website that's not life or death. I mean, it's growing your business, it's serious stuff. But the brain break, to me is a huge advantage. Another advantage is a lot of us are kind of, I don't know that the word picky has like a negative connotation, but like to know what's going on. And a lot of times we found that the people that ask the most questions, like, everybody should ask some questions, but there are some people that want to know, like, okay, what keywords are we targeting? And exactly why did we choose this one over this one? And if you're interested in that level of detail, you may very well enjoy that. This is something where you can dive in and learn it and figure it out. And it's constantly an area you can grow in and keep up to date with the updates and all of that. And so I think that there's that excitement about it that some people will experience that.

Uriah
Yeah. That makes me think about the reason why I think I really sort of fell in love with practice development and business growth and marketing is that sometimes you can do an action and then see the results of it faster than psychotherapy. Yes, sometimes. Not always, but sometimes you can. And I like that sort of feedback loop. Right.

Jessica
And in a measurable way, with SEO, it's great. I monitor keywords. I use a tool to see how they rank on any given day. And being able to see that in real time, I mean, sometimes we can see that in psychotherapy. Like, if we have a rating scale, if we're using a rating scale, we can see the improvement on that or the symptom reduction on a diary card or whatever. But there's just something really cut and dry about SEO. I can see that I'm ranking better. I can see that there's more website visitors. I can see that I'm getting more calls. I mean, those are numerical things that I think are just incredibly validating and great. And honestly, if I've had a rough day, I still see counseling clients myself. And if I've had a rough day, I do actually get on and look at that data, and it does feel good. I'm like, okay, I'm doing something right today. It's okay.

Uriah
It's like a switch. Yeah. It's like a brain switch. That's good. So lots of benefits for people doing their own SEO. Are there any downsides for learning it the best that you can and trying to implement that? What could go wrong?

Jessica
Yeah. Another positive I guess is often a lower budget. But I will give the caveat that a lot of people don't invest enough in learning it enough either time or money. It does take some of some resources of some sort to learn it, plus the time investment. And so the downside can be, I guess if you don't do it well or you're in a really competitive area, it can actually cost you money because it takes you longer to implement it yourself, especially if you are really busy. It can take you a really long time. Some of our training programs build in accountability where we're asking you questions just to help keep people on track and we're assigning homework and asking about it in our twelve week program so that people have that accountability because it can get to the back burner. Okay. So you intend to learn this, you intend to do it and then you get caught up answering phone calls and attending a networking event and you've turned away so many clients that now you're taking on more clients than you wanted to or you're so desperate for clients that you're out having to do other, more immediate marketing techniques. And so it just keeps falling to the wayside. I think that's a huge thing that we get people who really intended to have every intention of it certainly had the ability to learn to do their own SEO and it just was hard to learn. And so that's a big thing. Both the time, the time it takes to learn it and just that being able to prioritize it when there's a lot of other things you as a business owner have to do that makes so much sense.

Uriah
For some reason. I got the picture of like a homeowner myself remodeling my own bathroom. And it's like, yeah, I can learn everything that needs to happen to remodel my bathroom. But if I start it and I'd like rip out the toilet and just leave it and don't go back to it and finish the job, it's not going to be great versus hiring a professional that is going to be more efficient and probably more effective. Yeah. So what are the benefits of outsourcing it?

Jessica
Some of it can be the time. I will say I've actually had training clients that have gotten their website ranking maybe even faster than I would have because they just devoted so much time to it. I've had people have run with it like hours every day into it so they can. But in most cases we're going to get ranking faster because we know the process. You can learn to write a great meta description, but we've written thousands of them and can write it better the first time. And then we have a process where we tweak it and we actually have multiple people that look at it. One of the benefits is just that somebody else may be much more efficient and they may be able to do more of the technical things that are going to be not impossible, but more challenging for you to learn. So that's a definite advantage. Another advantage is it can happen faster, it can happen more efficiently, but also the mental capacity of not having to worry about it, just being able to check in on a regular basis with somebody versus having to do all of the optimizing yourself. For a lot of people, I think that that's a huge part of what they're paying for when they outsource is just to know it's being done so they can focus on the parts of the business that they do best. Whether that's hiring new employees and training them or seeing clients to one on one or whatever it is that they're more passionate about. It frees up the space to focus on that when you outsource.

Uriah
Sure. And unless a therapist is capable and interested and willing to invest the time, the best use of their time likely is generating new referrals and seeing clients as far as, like, dollars per hour, like return on investment. So that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I love outsourcing SEO, to be honest. And for the longest time, even though I learned it from my friend's company, I did minimal SEO for the first five or more years of my solo practice and my strategy that it wasn't necessarily thought out, but essentially content marketing was my main focus. I was just blogging like a madman.

Jessica
Me too.

Uriah
And then what happened by accident? I was like working for below minimum wage for myself there. But on accident, I had several posts that kind of took off and got a lot of interest in traffic. And I think, tell me if I'm getting this right. But essentially it was because of long tail keywords, and I just happened to tap into things that people were already searching for. I have a post to this day that gets like 5000 visits a month without doing anything.

Jessica
Yeah, a lot.

Uriah
You want to know what it is?

Jessica
Yes. I'm dying. What is it?

Uriah
So if I remember the title correctly, what to Do When You Find Out Your Son Is Smoking Pot.

Jessica
Oh my goodness.

Uriah
Right. Yeah. That gets Googled.

Jessica
I'm sure there are so many interesting ones. And I find that that happens all the time. We just happen upon these long tail keywords that we had no idea people were actually searching for. We have a few of those too. We have one. Something along the lines of Should I tell my therapist I'm suicidal? That one of my team members wrote when she first came on and it's one of my best ranking pages on the website. And honestly, I've hardly touched it for SEO, but it happened to be a long tail keyword that people are actually searching for. And so that particular blog post and probably yours as well, people are finding from all over, not just in our local area. And so it's great that it gets a ton of visitors, it gets a ton of visibility. And then we try to take advantage of it by having some links to some other similar blog posts like, hey, if you like this one, you might also like this one to try to encourage those visitors that we just happened to almost accidentally get. We want to encourage them to stay on the site to show Google even more like a lot of really relevant content type of thing.

Uriah
Yes. Even better when it's not an accident and it's an actual strategy or just take an accident and turn it into a strategy. There you go. I like that even better. So what's option number three that we didn't mention before for handling SEO?

Jessica
Option number three is the hybrid. And we're seeing more and more people do this where they actually have someone on their team that they pay to have that person trained. And so some people, it's a spouse, their spouse wants to help out with the business. And here you can do this other people. It's a VA that's doing some other things. Other times we have a couple of times just have a clinician in a practice who wanted to earn some extra money and was interested in learning this. Those are all options too, where you can have somebody in house trained. And we've done many of those trainings. That's fun. It has the advantage of sometimes it saves some money over completely outsourcing it, especially if you plan to grow the caution. I'd say really two cautions here. One is it needs to be someone that's going to stick with you. And to be honest, anyone, there's a chance that you're going to invest this money in training them and they're going to get good and then they're going to leave and take all their knowledge with them.

Uriah
Right.

Jessica
So actually we recommend that you record their training. So if you ever have to replace them, you can send that on to the next person. But then the second caution is you have to trust this person enough to allow them to make changes right under the hood of your website.

Uriah
Yeah, yeah.

Jessica
And that's a really tough one for a lot of people. I've written all these beautiful blog posts. I did the content marketing thing and wrote some blog posts. And now my spouse or my DA or my somebody is going to come in and touch that wording and they're doing things that are going to help you get even more leverage out of that blog post. But that's a huge thing, especially when the person you're training is not a therapist that you have to feel like they have enough knowledge that you can give them some freedom to do the things that they need to do to really get your website ranking well. And some of it's technical stuff, that's not a big deal. And you don't really need that same level of trust. But certainly anything where they're touching or writing any sort of copy on your website, anything happened with words, you have to have a level of trust there.

Uriah
That is true. That is true. Good point. So that's outsource, but in house, essentially. Or it could be a virtual assistant. Yeah, I like that. And one of my virtual assistants went through your course just recently and really loved it and learned a ton. And I'm using her new skills to improve the SEO for our Productive Therapist business directory. She's coming along.

Jessica
Great feedback. It was great.

Uriah
Yeah. She was super excited to go through your material and really loved it. So I highly recommend that if you're listening to this, we'll put links in the show notes, of course, to all of Jessica's resources. Good stuff. Quick question. I know that you work with a lot of therapists around the country, I think internationally too. Or just us.

Jessica
Yeah, we get some international right now, we're limited by the fact that we're all English speaking, but we do sometimes get some international English clients. And it's funny, when we work with someone from London, we have like a list of we developed this list of words that any time we're working with someone in England, if we're working with.

Uriah
Is that right?

Jessica
Yeah, because it is different and we can easily mess that up when we're writing a meta description.

Uriah
Oh, my goodness.

Jessica
But yeah, we enjoy the challenge of working with people from other English speaking countries as well when we get the chance.

Uriah
This is a random question, but have you watched Ted Lasso?

Jessica
No. Everybody keeps saying I need to. Are you going to add to that?

Uriah
Make your own decision. But the reason why I bring that up is because he's an American coach that goes to England, he's a football coach that goes to coach soccer in England. And so many times he has all kinds of sayings that they don't understand over there and they say things that he doesn't understand. It's just hilarious.

Jessica
Luckily.

Uriah
So funny.

Jessica
The first couple of international clients we had, luckily we were super honest. Like, oh my gosh, we've never worked on a site in your area. And we've had a couple of different ones who have just been super patient with us and we're a little extra about asking for feedback. Okay, I changed this paragraph around. Can you give me some feedback? And we had it, especially those first couple that were really great about giving us feedback. And we're certainly not offended when we accidentally mess up and use a phrase that doesn't make sense. Or whatever.

Uriah
I love it. I love it. That's great. So here's a question that I'm asking everybody that I interview on the podcast this year. Some version of this question and just share the first thing that comes to your mind. It doesn't have to be super thought out. So what do wildly successful therapists share in common?

Jessica
The ability to confidently make decisions even if they're imperfect.

Uriah
Make confident, if imperfect, decisions. Excellent.

Jessica
Hard, right? And it feels like we have to make decisions all the time in line with our values. I know our mastermind group has helped me with some of those big decisions to make one in line with my values. But at some point you have to make the decision and you have to go with it. If you get caught and not being able to make the decision, then it's going to be really hard to grow your business.

Uriah
Totally agree. Those decisions are often hard because they might involve things you don't know, like maybe SEO, and they also involve some level of risk and it's hard to step into that. Yeah, that's great. I love it. I love that. That came so quick, too.

Jessica
It feels like there's constant decision making. I was talking to somebody earlier today about making decisions based on values and based on priorities and time. And I'm like, yeah, it feels like that's a constant thing as a business owner that we're always doing, making one decision or another. Do I outsource this? Do I do it internally? Do I hire again? Do I attend a new training? Every now and then we have to put me on, like, breaks. I'm not allowed to learn any new treatment. I learn all these great things and come back and then just run the budget.

Uriah
You have like a budget. Do you have a budget for that? Because that probably would be a good way to train budget.

Jessica
Yeah. But the problem is that there are some good free trainings that I find every now and then.

Uriah
You can overload on free.

Jessica
Yeah. Or reduced rate or the biggest thing is my time. It's like if I'm going to learn something new, I have to have time to implement it. And I think actually that applies to SEO as well. You can learn it. Do you have the time to do it and you have the time to do it long term. And whether it's learning a new treatment modality or it's learning a new business skill, if I don't have time to implement it, then I try not to go spend the time to go learn it.

Uriah
That's good advice. I'll tell you, one of my favorite filters for decision making, specifically around training and content and information, is the question, is this just in time or just in case, am I signing up for this SEO course or fill in the blank because I might need it someday down the road? Or am I learning this now because I'm going to implement it next week. And that's like if you learn it and then implement it close together, you're going to get better results if you learn about it now and then implement it in six months. Yeah, not so great.

Jessica
That makes a lot of sense. I think that's a good one.

Uriah
Definitely. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing what you did. I know we could talk for hours about all the things, but I'm curious where people can go to find out more about you and your services and just get knowledgeable.

Jessica
Absolutely. SimplifiedSeoConsulting.com is our URL, and from there you can learn about our different options, whether you want to do it yourself or outsource. And we also have a free seven day email series on there where people can go and get a couple of tips real quick in their inbox each day. We try to keep those fairly quick. Maybe not as efficient as you are, but I try to be and people can get a feel or do I like this? Is this something that excites me? Do I have time to actually follow through on it before making that decision?

Uriah
That's fantastic. Good stuff. So I have to tell you real quick before we sign off, I'm outsourcing the creation of my new practice website for the first time. I've always built my own and I finally was like, you know what? I just need somebody else to do this. And so I'm having Justin and Kim from Practitioner build my site. And so I asked Justin the other day, I said, So what do you do on the SEO side of things? Not expecting a lot from web designers in general. And he literally said, we have Jessica's List from Simplified and we do a number of things from there. And we basically set it up so that if you want to go get full SEO services from her, you're good to go. I was like, done.

Jessica
They are awesome. They are just wonderful. And we've worked with them on a couple of sites and one of my team members was just telling me recently how wonderfully responsive they've been and how much she's enjoyed interacting with them. So good choice. I love their work and likewise their sites that they make are wonderful.

Uriah
I think I've reached my limit in terms of the quality that I'm able to produce and I want to just step it up a bit. So outsourcing is the way to go. Well, thank you again.

Jessica
And sometimes it's just a matter of you can do it, but does this right this minute, does it make sense for you? I actually outsource a lot of my private practices SEO to my Simplified team these days because I get busy and obviously I absolutely have the skill. I just don't always have the time. So sometimes it is easier. I just sent an email today asking if they could ask me who on the team Danica could assign to write me a new service page that I need because I don't even have time to do this.

Uriah
Perfect. I love it. You are a productive therapist, Jessica goal. That's great. That's great. All right, well, thanks so much and I'll talk to you soon.

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Uriah Guilford, MFT


Uriah is a group practice owner and the creator of Productive Therapist. He is a technology nerd, a minimalist travel packer, a rock drummer and business development enthusiast.

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