The Six-Step Guide to Google Ads for Therapists
Congrats! You’ve finally done it! After considerable time and effort, your therapy practice has a stunning new website of which you can be proud. One that truly showcases your expertise, your brand, and your services.
You’re ready to shout from the rafters and reap the benefits of your freshly minted piece of cyberspace real estate. But how?
It takes time for search engines to “index” — to register — your website. In essence, to learn that your site exists. The engines need additional time to get an algorithmic feel for your new creation. They need to decide that your site is reputable, safe, and full of value before they rank — or recommend — you. This is understandable as their business model hinges on directly answering searchers’ questions with results.
But waiting for organic search engine rankings can be frustrating, especially if you’re eager to get your practice noticed now and explode your growth.
That’s where Google Ads comes in.
Google’s Economic Impact believes businesses earn $2 for every $1 they spend on ads. Using ads, then, can be empowering and lucrative for therapy practices.
As the fastest way to get your website to the top of a search results page, Google Ads can be an invaluable tool for promoting your practice to your ideal clients. Like all powerful tools, you must learn to wield them well.
So, let’s explore Google Ads. The advantages and disadvantages of using this platform. Then we’ll guide you through setting up a profitable campaign.
What are Google Ads?
Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising platform that allows companies like your therapy practice to advertise directly to potential clients.
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Pay-per-click is as it sounds: you pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
For example, say you run a Denver-based face-to-face practice that works with children experiencing mental illness. You can show an ad that shows when someone searches for the keyword “Denver Children’s Therapist.” Users who click on your ad will be taken directly to your website’s page. In this example, you may have set up the ad to direct to your Children’s Therapy page.
When someone clicks, you pay Google a fee.
When one of those people clicks on your ad, you will then pay Google a small fee to have that person taken directly to your Children’s Therapy specialty page of your website.
What’s even better is you can tell Google how much these “clicks” are worth to you so that you can control your spending and ensure you’re still turning a profit.
When set up correctly, Google Ads can be extremely powerful because it gives you the opportunity to show an advertisement directly to your ideal client.
The advantages of Google Ads
There are many practice-building advantages to using Google Ads. Here are our top 5:
- Reach your ideal clients. Google Ads allows you to connect with a highly targeted audience: your ideal client. For example, you can include keywords, locations, languages, and devices when targeting your advertisement.
- Get rapid results. Google Ads can deliver results in a matter of days or weeks. This makes it an excellent option for businesses — including therapy practices — that want to drive website traffic and secure bookings or leads quickly.
- Cost-effective (in theory). Google Ads operates on a pay-per-click model, which, as we’ve said, means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. You can control your advertising budget, set a maximum daily spend, and work to bring a healthy return on investment by choosing the correct ad settings.
- Increased visibility. When you have a new or non-highly ranking site, Google Ads allows you to jump the queue and position your ads near or at the top of search results pages. This increases your visibility, making it easier for potential clients to find you.
- Measurable results. (Most) good marketing is measurable. Google Ads provides detailed analytics and reporting, allowing you to track campaign performance and make informed decisions about your advertising efforts and offers. Measurability makes it easy to see what’s working and not so you can refine it for better results.
The disadvantages of Google Ads
Unsurprisingly, there are potential disadvantages too. You must set your campaign up correctly to avoid common pitfalls, pitfalls that can lead to ineffective and expensive (think money pit) results. Here are our top 5:
- Poorly targeted ads. You configure your ads to show for searches that are not 100% relevant to your services (i.e., “massage therapy” or “physical therapy”)
- Badly defined ads. For example, you might write ads to display for searches relevant to your expertise, but that draws in the wrong people. If you’re offering a paid service — which I assume you are — don’t advertise “free therapy” (unless it’s a nuanced and considered part of your overall marketing strategy)
- Inappropriate cost settings. In short, you set your bids either too high (so you’re paying more than you should) or too low (so your ads don’t get shown)
- A poor website. You need a professional, targeted site that oozes expert presence and contains engaging and specific content, including your services. If you don’t, you need more time to prepare for Google Ads. All your puzzle pieces should fit before you commit money to advertising.
- Cost. Google Ads operates on a bidding system. This means you must compete with other businesses for ad space and keywords. Competition can drive up the cost of advertising and eat into your budget.
So, how can you embrace the advantages and avoid the pitfalls to set yourself up for Google Ads success? Follow our 6-step process as outlined below.
Step 1: Plan for Success
Before jumping in and spending money, your first step is to plan your campaign.
Lay your goals and expectations out on a piece of paper, a laptop, or a tablet – it doesn’t matter what you use here as long as you define your aims.
Ask yourself questions to place you firmly on the right track:
- What specialty service will I advertise?
- Who is my (exact) target audience?
- What’s the average lifetime value (LTV) of one new client?
- How much can I afford to pay to acquire one new client?
Answering these questions will help minimize risk and maximize the chance you will create a successful advertising campaign.
Note: Average lifetime value is a critical metric that many therapists gloss over. The LTV represents a client’s average dollar spent on products or services during their “lifetime” with a business. The average LTV is calculated by multiplying the average purchase value (say, one consultation) by the number of purchases a client makes over the breadth of their time as a client (say, the total number of consultations). It may sound very sales-like, but this figure helps determine how much you can spend to acquire and retain a client. It’s essential information.
Step 2: Get Your Website Ready
Because your ads will send people to your site, a website is a must. However, owning a professional authority website with well-written specialty service and other content pages is more important than having any old website.
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That said, one of the most common mistakes therapists make is sending their ad traffic to their website’s home page. Don’t do this!
Imagine yourself as the searcher. You jump online with a specific challenge: to find relief from social anxiety because it’s negatively affecting your work performance. You see an ad directly addressing this problem and click on it. You land on a page. Which will be most impactful:
- A home page that provides a practice overview and some information about services, or
- A page with the headline and downloadable PDF, “From Fear to Confidence: A Guide to Overcoming Social Anxiety in Your Career.”
The second, right?
When a potential client performs a search engine hunt, they want a specific answer, a solution. They’ll take up the first best offer they see.
So, you must ensure visitors land on a persuasive page that provides targeted, practical value.
You pay for each click with Google Ads, so make them count. Sending visitors to strategically optimized pages is a great way to do this.
Pro Tip: Use videos on landing pages – i.e., specialty service pages – as this increases conversions by up to 86%.
Step 3 – Create a Google Ads Campaign
You’ll need to sign up for a free Google account to start running Google Ads.
It’s wise to link your Google Ads account to the other Google accounts you have set up for your practice, such as Google Analytics 4, Google Business Profile, or G Suite. Integration allows you to access data from these accounts within your Google Ads account, making it easier to track the success of your ad campaigns, gain deeper insights, and improve the effectiveness of your advertising by making data-driven decisions to grow your practice.
In particular, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) benefits Google Ads by providing more advanced tracking and analysis capabilities for ad campaigns. With GA4, you can get a comprehensive view of the customer journey, including cross-device and cross-channel behavior, which allows for better targeting and optimization of your ad spend.
GA4 also provides enhanced machine learning capabilities that help identify high-performing campaigns and audience segments, empowering you to make data-driven decisions to achieve better investment returns. GA4 integrates with Google’s measurement partners, allowing for even greater insights and optimization opportunities.
If you don’t have an existing Google account for your practice, sign up for one here.
Once you’re signed in, it’s time to create your first ad campaign. Google Ads has two different advertising networks: Search and Display.
I recommend advertising solely on the Search network (shown on search engine results pages) rather than the Display network (shown alongside other websites such as Amazon, YouTube, some blogs, and even in email inboxes). While passive advertising tactics may work well for e-commerce businesses, the chance of having someone click on your therapy ad while casually browsing the Internet is low.
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Search engines are the best place to advertise because you can reach people precisely when they’re looking for therapy. When someone searches Google for “couples counseling,” they are showing what’s called “search intent.” They (likely) have an underlying motivation, goal, or need they want to address.
However, someone who comes across your couples counseling ad while browsing another website may be interested in something other than it. They have no “intent” to find your offer.
With this in mind, let’s walk through how to create a Google Ads campaign on the Search network.
1. From your main dashboard, click the Campaigns tab on the left side of your screen. Then click the large blue plus button to create a new campaign.
2. Choose your object. Select Website traffic (you may opt for different types of campaigns for other goals).
3. Select Search Network for your campaign type.
4. Select Create conversion action to start tracking website traffic as conversions.
5. Once you’ve opted to track your website as website conversions, you need to install the tracking code. They will send the details to your email.
6. You’ll next see the Bidding page and the question: what do you want to focus on?
Select conversions, then press next.
7. Next is Campaign settings.
Untick “Include Google search partners.” Then scroll down.
8. Under Locations, tick the right location. Click Enter another location.
Enter the location you’re targeting. This will likely be in the 6 – 10 miles around your practice. For this example, let’s choose The Woodlands, Texas, United States.
Set the language correctly.
Now it’s time for the meat and potatoes, Keywords and Ads.
Step 4 – Pick the Right Keywords
- Select the pencil icon to name your ad. Make it specific and pertinent. Next, decide on and add your keywords. You must pick the right keywords to succeed!
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If you’re new to this game, keywords are the words or phrases people enter into the search bar to find relevant information on the Internet.
This may seem simple enough, but do you know the best keywords for your Google Ads? I mean, really know?
For example, you may think “cognitive behavioral therapy” is the perfect keyword for your Google Ad. But what you need to speak to is what laypeople are searching for, not professional colleagues.
There’s a famous quote from Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” Or, more succinctly, “Sell the hole, not the drill.”
In other words, you should focus on the problem — not the solution. Most people don’t search Google seeking a particular solution to their problem. They have a problem they need help to solve. The problem — and its pain points — form the best keywords to target.
By using problem-focused keywords, your ads will perform much better.
For example, you might use keywords like “depression therapist,” “help with my anxiety,” or “marriage counseling Savannah” depending on your niche, location, and focus.
- Once you’ve completed your keyword research, add your phrases under enter keywords.
Tip: Correct keyword research is crucial for the success (or failure) of your advertising. Discover the ins and outs of this process in How to Do Keyword Research for Your Private Practice Website.
- Next, enter the Ad details: the content you’ve created to attract and convert.
- Enter the URL to which someone will be directed when they click on your ad under Final URL.
- Enter your Display Path. Google Ads platform explains how succinctly:
To create your display URL, Google Ads will combine the domain (for example, “www.google.com” in www.google.com/nonprofits) from your final URL and the path text (for example, “nonprofits” in www.google.com/nonprofits). The Display URL gives potential customers a clear idea of the web page that they’ll reach once they’ve clicked your ad, so your path text should describe your ad’s landing page.
- Next, it’s time for you to add your headlines! (Like a book title, write headlines that will entice a viewer to click.)
You are required to enter at least three headline versions. The variation helps you work out which headline is most effective. If you’re stuck for ideas, hit View Ideas.
- Next, enter two to four Descriptions. These can have a maximum of 90 characters each. They will appear below the display URL.
- Scroll down the page. On the left, you’ll see other options you can try if you wish. Hit the question mark icon beside each to find out more information.
- As you build your ad, watch it take shape under Preview near the center of the screen.
- Once finished, hit next.
Tip: Writing Google Ads is a unique skill that can explode your practice growth, but it’s well worth mastering. Done well, it can change everything! So, read the instructional guide, How to Write a Better Paid Ad for Your Practice. I highly recommend it!
Step 5 – Set Your Budget
Now it’s time to set your Budget.
Set your budget. Google Ads operates on a daily budget, averaged over a month. Setting a budget ensures that your daily spending stays within the allotted amount.
So, with the daily and monthly figures in mind, divide your monthly budget by 30 (the approximate number of days in a month). For example, if you want to spend $300 per month on Google Ads, your daily budget would be $10.00.
- After you’ve set your budget, hit Next.
You’ll see the headline on the following page: Your campaign is almost ready to publish.
- Scroll down the page and ensure you’re happy with the ad or ads you’ve set up. Here, click on Bidding.
Leave “what do you want to focus on?” set for conversions.
If you’d like, click to “Set a target cost per action (optional)” and then enter your preferred bid.
Google Ads work like an auction. Suppose you and your competitor wish to appear for a particular keyword. Google will prioritize the bidder willing to pay more. Your basic bidding strategy should be to bid high enough to attract sufficient clicks but not so high that you’re spending more than you need to.
- When finished, click the blue Save and Continue button at the bottom of the page. Way to go! You’ve made your first Google Ads campaign.
Step 6 – Tweak and Improve
The secret to good marketing — including Google Ads — is to start. Then look at the data, tweak your approach, and retry and reassess. This is a continual process, not a set-and-forget once-off step. Gradually, you’ll improve your outcomes, learn what works for your ideal clients, and practice. But, the Internet can be a fickle place. Continuing to refine your ads is sensible and profitable.
So, ask yourself questions like:
- How are my ads performing?
- How do they compare?
- What keywords are attracting the most clicks?
- Are there similar keywords I could add?
- What’s not working?
If an ad costs you a lot more money than another or it’s drawing less traffic than you’d like, stop running it. If one ad is getting exceptional results, gradually increase your daily budget.
Either way, keep an eye on your results and your progress. Always be bold and make appropriate changes.
This will make more sense once you begin working on your Google Ads. With practice, you’ll become more confident and find the process easier. If you need help, come back here or visit Google’s instructional page here.
Don’t wait any longer! Take action and reach out to potential clients searching for your services right now! They’re already out there, seeking your help!
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