Writing an effective website is a key marketing activity for any counsellor. Well written websites:
• portray yourself as a professional counsellor
• help show clients your personality
• focus on the client’s problems, needs or wants
• give the benefits of counselling for a client
• answer the question: Why should a client choose you as a counsellor?
In this article I include tips for helping write 5 pages that almost every counselling website should have.
1) The “Home” Page
The homepage of a website is usually the first page that clients see. As such it is often the most important (and hard to write!) page on any website. Homepages can convey almost anything to a reader-often leaving counsellors with the dilemma of what to include on these pages. Should they:
• include beautiful, attractive images to attract clients?
• write a welcome message describing who they are?
• focus on the services they offer and how clients benefit from them?
• describe the issues a client may be experiencing and how counselling may help?
While the possibilities are almost endless, there are guidelines that apply to most homepages. Whilst these are not set in stone, they are worth keeping in mind when writing (or rewriting) your homepage. They are:
- Attract your clients attention early!
Most people scan websites quickly when searching for any product or service. They only stop when a website immediately grabs their attention. The simplest way to do this is to use a large and engaging headline on your homepage. A relationship counsellor may use a headline such as “Do you and your partner regularly yell, argue or fight?”. A depression counsellor may choose a headline such as “If you are feeling down right now, I can help”. Both of these headlines focus on an experience the client may be having. Headlines are so important that some copywriters say that for every website page you should think of 10-15 possible headlines. You can then test these on friends, family and colleagues to see which headline resonates with the most people.
- Include a prominent “Call to Action” on your homepage.
A call to action is an instruction to the reader about what to do next. For example, counselling websites may include calls to action such as:
• “Book a Counselling Session Now”,
• “Contact Me” or
• “Subscribe to my Email List”.
Whatever call to action you choose, it should be easy for clients to find it on your homepage. For this reason it is best to repeat your call to action in several places on your website.
- Convey to potential clients that you understand the problems they are facing-and that you can help them!
As simple as this sounds many counsellors do this poorly. Some counsellors, for example, use their homepages to describe themselves or their counselling practice-often in length. One way to think about this is that a person viewing your website for the first time is not that different to meeting someone for a first date. If you start this date talking only about yourself and what you do the other person is likely to be put off. However, if you show interest in the other person they are more likely to show interest in you in response. This principle also applies to websites!
2) The “About” Page
In most websites the second most visited page (after the homepage) is the “About” page. After reading a homepage many people for example, click on the counsellors About page to see if they relate to the counsellor or not.
To write a good “About” page, it is important to dive deeply into the mindset of the clients that you are trying to attract. Think about what clients are trying to find out by viewing your “About” page? While peoples individual reasons may differ, clients are generally trying to judge:
a) Do you seem like a person that they can relate to?, and
b) Are you likely to be able to help them?
It is important to address both issues on your About page. Some ways of doing this include:
a) Do you seem like a person that they can relate to?
To address this, self-disclosure and a photo of yourself is useful! On the “About” page on my counseling website, for example, I include a description of myself and my professional background. However, I also write about my hobbies and interests. This gives clients information about me that they can connect with. Many clients have said to me that they have chosen to see me as they can relate to these interests-giving them a sense that I will be able to relate to them.
b) Are you likely to be able to help them?
As well as relating to you it is important that clients have a sense that you can help them. Again, on my About page I describe how long I have been in practice, how many clients I have seen and state what issues I specialize in. This gives clients the sense that I can help them if they are experiencing these issues.
3) Speciality Pages
At least one page on every counselling website should describe which areas the counsellor specialises in. Counsellors with more than one speciality should include at least one page for each speciality. There are two main reasons for this. They are:
a) When seeking help, clients are likely to choose a counsellor that is an expert in the issue that they are experiencing. For example, consider a client who is looking for a relationship counsellor. Imagine they come across two websites. The first counsellor states that she is experienced in relationship counselling, describes how relationship counselling can help couples and how she conducts a typical relationship counselling session. The second counsellor describes only in passing working with couples, but also writes about issues such as working with depression or anxiety. Which counsellor is the client more likely to choose? In most cases, the answer will be the first counsellor.
b) Speciality pages help Google to understand what your website is about. If these page are well-written Google is more likely to rank the page highly. This helps clients find the page when searching for counsellors. Many people suggest page lengths of around 1,000-1,500 words (or more) to maximize the chance of a website page ranking highly in Google.
4) A Blog
I have written previously about blogs. Well-written blogs have many of the same advantages as speciality pages. They both convey your expertise to readers as well as encouraging Google to rank your website highly. In fact, for counsellors who are trying to boost their website ranking in Google, often the first question I ask them is “Do you have a blog?”. If they do not, they are often competing in Google with counselling websites that do. These websites have more content than the counsellor without a blog. This is a significant disadvantage when it comes to Google ranking your website highly.
5) A Contact Page
A “Contact” page is usually the way clients make contact with counsellors. For this reason it is important Contact pages are written well. In particular, contact pages should be simple-not having distractions such as unnecessary text, quotes, images or links to other pages. Many people also recommend using a specific contact form on your Contact page-rather than giving a phone number or email address. This reduces the chance that clients will change their minds or forget to contact you.
Questions? If you have any questions on this article or any other topic relating to online marketing or website design I would be happy to answer them-either directly to you or in a future column. Please submit any questions to me via the comments below or via my website, address below.