In Psychotherapy and Counseling, Competition is Steeper Than Ever

In Psychotherapy and Counseling, Competition is Steeper Than Ever

In Psychotherapy and Counseling, Competition is Steeper Than Ever 2400 1601 Great Leap Studios

The other day I was contacted by a therapist that was struggling to get new patients via their website. Referrals had helped them survive for years, but – according to all the therapists I’ve spoken with – new clients are down in 2023 from layoff and recession fears, and so this counselor was noting that referrals were not coming in often enough to make up for the clients that had finished their sessions.

One of the challenges they had was that the previous website and marketing company they worked with – a company that works exclusively with psychotherapists – actually told them NOT to do SEO. They advised that SEO would not have any value, and was no longer necessary in today’s internet world. They were obviously wrong. But it also meant something that was a bit of a downer for the therapist – that, because they never started any content writing or SEO strategy, it was going to take a long time for them to see results.

Average Time to See Major Changes in Therapist SEO

I work with a lot of therapists. I have a degree in psychology, graduate level experience, and have worked in mental health content writing and marketing for over 14 years. What I have found is that it takes an average of 6 months to see any major improvements in therapy SEO. This is up from the 2 to 3 months it took in ~2015/2016 or so, when I could get someone on the front page of Google within a month or two for some medium-competitive keyword.

It’s slow. There are no shortcuts. Unless someone is interviewed by a major newspaper or featured on a major website, SEO is going to take time. There is some good news – once you’re receiving hits, they are very unlikely to start decreasing any time soon. Some of the clients I worked with years ago are still receiving front page hits for content we did back then. But the process is slower.

There are many reasons for this. One is that Google itself just doesn’t crawl or list new pages as quickly or as often as it did before. In addition, websites are rewarded for time. If a site has been online for 12 years, they are given more credit than one that has only been around for a few. If they have also been marketing during that time, beating them becomes considerably more difficult, as they have years of marketing ahead of you. Backlinks, which are the hardest SEO tactic to perform without cheating, are also now harder to come by as there are fewer blogs and websites willing to post your link for free.

In my experience, Google’s spam filter is also designed to distrust any new site until it has been online for a while. Given how quickly spam sites were popping up and then closing, taking advantage of Google’s algorithm, this strikes me as an intentional change to limit the effects of SEO for a few months.

Now, to be fair, if I create a page on a niche topic – for example, a page on panic disorder targeting a small suburb – it can still be on page one fairly quickly just because there is very limited competition. But if you are a therapist looking to market your practice, or if you’re a counseling center hoping to get enough work for your team, the time to start SEO is yesterday. It is a process, and the sooner you begin, the more successful you will be.