The 6-Step Guide to Google Ads for Therapists
Well, here you are. You’ve just spent the last few weeks working with an amazing development team to build the perfect website for your practice and you couldn’t be happier with how it ended up. You want everyone to see how great it is.
Even more important, you want people in your area to find your website when they’re searching online for the services you provide. After all, what good is a great website if nobody ever sees it?
One of the most frustrating things about a new website is that it takes time for search engines to find it, understand it, and start recommending it in what are referred to as their organic search results.
While organic search engine optimization is really powerful when it starts working, what if you don’t have time to wait?
If it’s in your budget, paying for Google Ads is the #1 fastest way to get your website to the top of a search results page.
In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of using Google Ads then we’ll walk you through the 6 steps you need to take to prepare, set up, and manage a profitable Google Ads campaign.
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How Does Google Ads Work?
Google Ads, formerly Google AdWords, is Google’s advertising platform that runs on a “pay per click” system. It enables companies, including private practices just like yours, to advertise directly to potential clients.
For example, say you’re located in Denver and you specialize in working with children. Through Google Ads, you can show an ad for your practice at the exact moment someone searches for the keyword “Denver Children’s Therapist” at the top of a search engine results page.
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.
A 2019 study showed businesses made an average of $2 in income for every $1 they spent on Google Ads.
However, a Google Ads campaign setup incorrectly can quickly turn into a money pit. For example, here are a few common examples of scenarios where Google Ads tends to be less effective in getting new clients:
- You have your ads show for searches that are not 100% relevant to your services (i.e. “massage therapy” or “physical therapy”)
- You have your ads show for searches that are relevant service-wise, but where the searcher is not wanting to pay for your services (i.e. “free therapy”)
- You set your bids either too high (so you’re paying way more than you should) or too low (so your ads never even get shown)
- You don’t have a website yet, or it doesn’t have enough of the right content on the service you’re advertising
So how do you ensure you avoid the pitfalls and set yourself up for Google Ads success? Follow our 6-step process as outlined below.
Step 1 – Plan for Success
Your first step, before jumping in and spending money, is to plan your campaign.
Lay out all of your goals and expectations on a piece of paper, a laptop, a tablet – it doesn’t matter what you use here, just as long as you do it.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help get you on the right track:
- Which specialty service(s) am I going to advertise?
- Who is my target audience?
- What’s the average lifetime value of one new client?
- How much am I willing to pay to acquire one new client?
Answering these questions ahead of time will help minimize risk and maximize your chances of creating a successful advertising campaign.
Step 2 – Get Your Website Ready
Because your ads are going to be sending people to your website, a website is definitely a must. More important than just having a website, though, is having a website with well-written specialty service pages.
One of the most common mistakes therapists make is sending their ad traffic to their website’s home page.
The reason you shouldn’t do this is because even though your home page gives a good general overview of your practice and your services, it’s not going to be nearly as helpful for someone looking for an answer to a specific question as one of your specialty service pages would be.
When a potential client is searching Google for help with an issue, they are going to click on the first website they think can provide a solution. Because of this, you need make sure you’re sending visitors to a page that will fully explain how you can help with their issue and then provide them the information they need to contact you.
You pay for each click with Google Ads, so it’s important them count. Sending visitors to the right pages is a great way to ensure you are doing this.
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Step 3 – Create a Google Ads Campaign
To start running Google Ads, you’ll need to sign up for a free Google account.
It’s smart to link your Google Ads account to any other Google accounts you may already have set up for your practice, such as Google Analytics, Google My Business, or G Suite.
If you don’t have an existing Google account for your practice, you can sign up for a new 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.
To keep it simple, we recommend advertising on the Search network (shown on search engines results pages) rather than the Display network (shown alongside other websites such as Amazon, YouTube, some blogs, and even your own email inbox). While passive advertising tactics may work well for e-commerce businesses, the chances of someone clicking on your counseling ad while casually browsing the Internet are pretty low.
Generally speaking, search engines are going to be the best place for therapists to advertise, because you can reach people right when they’re looking for therapy. Someone who searches Google for “couples counseling” is definitely interested in couples counseling. However, someone who randomly scrolls past your couples counseling ad while browsing another website may not be interested in the slightest.
So, we’re going to walk you through creating 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. Select “Search Network” for your campaign type.
3. Select “Website traffic” as your goal and when prompted enter the full URL for your private practice’s website.
4. Now it’s time to name your campaign. Try to be as descriptive as possible here so, if you decide to run multiple campaigns at the same time in the future, you will be able to easily tell which one is which. For example, don’t just name your campaign “Therapy Services”. Instead, use something like “EMDR Therapy for Trauma”.
5. Next, even though we already chose to advertise on the Search network a few steps back, Google by default has checked both search and display here again. Sneaky Google… We’ve already established that you don’t want to waste your money running ads on the display network so go ahead and uncheck this box. Google will pop up a warning saying, “Don’t miss the opportunity to reach more people” but that’s only because they want more of your money, so just ignore it.
6. Select the United States radio button to begin defining your location. Then click the empty line with the magnifying glass to specify the city where your practice is located.
7. Select the language(s) you provide your services in, and that your website supports. For example, if you provide counseling services for both English- and Spanish-speaking clients but your website only has an English version, stick with only using English for your ads as well.
8. Next, Google will ask you to set your bids. Let’s talk a little bit about how bidding works with Google.
Essentially, Google Ads works like an auction. If you and your competitor both want to show up for a certain search phrase (or keyword), Google will look at how much each of you are willing to pay per click, and gives priority to the one who is willing to pay more.
Your basic bidding strategy should be to bid just high enough that you spend your full budget, but not so high that you’re spending anything more. To let Google take care of managing this for you, select the Maximize clicks option.
Then, to make sure you’re getting the most clicks within your ad’s daily budget, it’s also a good idea to set a maximum cost per click (CPC). Otherwise you may end up paying way too much for only a couple of clicks per day. A good place to start is around a $3 Maximum CPC bid limit.
9. Next you will let Google know your budget. Google Ads run on a daily budget so to find this, simply divide your total 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.
10. Finally, if you want, you’re given the option to set up ad extensions.
This step is optional, but if you’re interested in learning more about ad extensions, here’s a helpful guide: The Complete Guide to AdWords Ad Extensions
Once you’re done, click the blue Save and Continue button at the bottom of the page. Way to go! You’ve made your first Google Ads campaign.
For more help, you can also check out Google’s introductory video on how to create a campaign here:
Step 4 – Pick the Right Keywords
This may seem simple enough but do you really know the best keywords to use in your Google Ads? I mean, really?
For example, you may think that “cognitive behavioral therapy” is the perfect keyword for your Google Ad. But, how many people do you think are actually typing that into a Google search box? Just because it’s the name of the exact service you’re advertising, does not mean it’s the best keyword to use for that ad.
There’s a famous quote in from Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
In other words, focus on the problem – not the solution. Most people aren’t going to a Google search looking for more information on a particular solution to their problem. They’re likely going to Google with a problem that they need help solving.
By using keywords in your ads that describe how a person might benefit from something like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, your ads will perform much better.
Proper keyword research is crucial to the success of your advertising. For more information on how to do this correctly, check out this article: How to Do Keyword Research for Your Private Practice Website
Step 5 – Create an Ad Group
So you’ve chosen the keywords you’re going to use. But, before you can begin showing ads, you’ll need to create a new ad group for each of your keywords and then write ads for each of those ad groups.
Here’s an example of the overall hierarchy for Google Ads:
An ad group is basically a way to organize your ads into categories based on their focus keywords. This helps you know which keywords to include in your ads.
Here’s the basic strategy to making a successful ad group:
1. Start out by creating an ad group and naming it after one of your keywords.
2. In the space below, add that same exact keyword phrase, making sure to include a plus sign in front of each word (+like +this). The plus sign signifies what is called a modified broad match, which means that Google will only show your ads to people who search for all the words in your keyword. This will help limit the amount of irrelevant searches your ad will be shown for, which will help you save money in the long run.
3. Next try to come up with a few synonyms for your keyword. For example, if your focus keyword is “Depression Therapist” you could also use keywords like “Depression Counselor” and “Depression Treatment” within that same ad group.
4. Once you’ve finished listing your focus keywords for that ad group, click save and continue. You will then be able to move on to writing your first ad.
Step 6 – Write Compelling Ads
Remember that these keywords are the trigger for your ad to be shown in Google’s search results, so you want to make sure they’re also included in the text for your ad. For example, if you’re creating an ad with “depression therapy” as your keyword, you’ll definitely want to mention depression therapy in your ad’s text.
There are 6 parts to a Google Ad:
- Headline 1
- Headline 2
- Headline 3 *optional*
- Display URL (also referred to as a “Path”)
- Description 1
- Description 2 *optional*
If you’d like more information about what to write for each of these, you can read more about them here.
Keep in mind that each of these parts has a limited number of characters, so you’ll need to be succinct in how you write your ads.
Also keep in mind that headline 3 and description 2 were recently added, and Google isn’t yet showing them for some searches so it’s okay to skip those for now.
Finally, remember that you want your ad to relate 100% to the focus keyword you used for this ad group.
In this example, we’re going to write an ad about a “depression therapist”
For the above ad, we formatted everything according to these Google best practices:
- The focus keyword – “depression therapy” – is included multiple times throughout the ad.
- The final URL took people to a specific specialty service page which talked about depression.
- We included a call to action (CTA) – “call me today” – within one of the descriptions.
- We also highlighted a unique offering – “free phone consultations” – within one of the headlines.
- We wrote our ad text in complete sentences, which makes the ad look more professional.
Your own ad may look similar to the one above or very different but, either way, you want to make sure you follow these best practices whenever you’re writing your own.
For more information on how to write a compelling ad, check out this post: How to Write a Better Paid Ad for Your Practice
Bonus Step – Set up Conversion Tracking
The last step to getting started with Google Ads is to track which of your keywords or ads are driving the most conversions.
You can do this by setting up conversion tracking in Google Ads. Here’s a link that will walk you through how to do this:
Then, be sure to send your “Global site tag” code to our support team via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – to have it added to your website.
From there, keep an eye on how your ads are performing. If one ad is costing you a lot more money than others and not getting you nearly as much traffic as you’d like, stop running it.
All of this will likely make so much more sense once you’ve begun working your way through these steps. So what are you waiting for? Get to work and get yourself more clients!
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