How to Do Keyword Research for Your Private Practice Website
If you’re reading this, you probably already know how important keyword research is for the success of your website’s content, search engine optimization (SEO), and/or marketing strategy. You’re probably just here to learn how you to do it better.
If so, click here to skip straight to the good stuff!
But, just in case you are new to the concept, let’s start out with a quick definition of what a keyword is.
A keyword is:
- A word (or phrase) that identifies what people are searching for on Google
- A word (or phrase) that describes a page on your website
Ideally, the keywords that identify what people are searching for on Google are the same ones used to describe a page on your website.
The main goal here is to bridge the gap between your content and your ideal client, and help them find your website from their Google search.
But how do you know what the best keywords are to use on your private practice’s website?
The answer = keyword research.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What Keyword Research Is
- Why Keyword Research Is Important
- How to Do Keyword Research
- Step 1: Brainstorm Relevant Terms
- Step 2: Create a Seed List of Initial Terms
- Step 3: Expand Your List with Keyword Research Tools
- Step 4: Refine Your List with Competitive Research
- Where to Go from Here
Looking for more super-charged marketing tips?
Sign up for our eCourse, 8 Unconventional Ways
to Market Your Private Practice!
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of finding the words (or phrases) people are using in online searches that best describe your practice.
When done correctly, keyword research yields an extensive list of keywords you want your website to rank for on a search engine results page.
Why Is Keyword Research Important?
Proper keyword research is important because it will clarify which terms your ideal clients are using.
At Brighter Vision, we frequently speak with therapists who use one term to describe their service, such as “The Gottman Method”, while their ideal client is using a different term, such as “Couples Counseling” in their online searches.
As a result, new potential customers aren’t able to find that therapist’s website, because of a simple mismatch in terminology.
Keyword research can impact every other SEO-related task you perform, including on-page SEO, content writing, paid ad campaigns and all other marketing efforts.
As an added bonus, it also helps you gain a better understanding of the mind of your ideal client. That’s because effective keyword research gives you incredible insight into what your potential clients are actually searching for online and the exact queries they’re using – rather than just what you think they are.
So, if you really think about it, keyword research is just modern-day market research.
How to Do Keyword Research
In our opinion, there are 4 steps to any good keyword research strategy.
First, you start out with a simple brainstorming session where you answer a few questions about yourself, your practice, and your clients. Next, you make a seed list of all the keywords you want to be found for. Then you use a couple of tools to expand that list and finally, refine that list with competitive research.
This article takes you through each of these steps in much more detail. Let’s dive right in!
Step 1: Brainstorm Relevant Terms
This initial step is where you come up with a starter list of topics that your ideal client is interested in. Don’t overthink it!
Ask yourself simple questions like:
- “What is my practice’s mission?”
- “What promises do I make on my website?”
- “What are my specialties?”
- “Who is my ideal client?”
- “What are they struggling with?”
Need help finding your Ideal Client?
Get the guidance you’re looking for with our Ideal Client Quiz.
This may seem like a step that you can easily skip to save yourself some time but, trust us, don’t skip this step!
A lot of people really struggle at answering these questions when they first sit down with them. But, in order to be able to create an effective keyword list, you have to figure out what makes your practice stand out from others in your area. Furthermore, you have to know what kind of audience you’re going to target.
Keep in mind that, in this phase, you’re not yet creating a list of specific keywords. You’re simply answering questions in paragraph form – or, at least, in sentence form – to skim through for keywords in the next step.
The more you write here the better, so don’t skimp on the details!
Once you’ve answered these questions and figured out what makes your practice stand out, you’ll be ready to move on to the next step: creating a seed list of initial keywords.
Step 2: Create a Seed List of Initial Terms
The next step is to skim through all of that content you’ve written up from step 1 and make a seed list of all the key terms you find.
A seed list is your initial set of your most basic keyword ideas.
Don’t try to overcomplicate things at this time – just use the most generic terms that naturally pop into your head. These are very likely what your potential clients are using in their searches.
For someone who focuses on helping couples, for example, some topics that come to mind would be things like:
- Couples Counseling
- Relationship Therapy
- Pre-Marital Counseling
Note: These topics are not necessarily all going to end up being keywords. They’re broad terms that you’ll ultimately use to drill down your list to specific keywords.
The goal here is to come up with a list of at least 10-20 terms that will serve as your base line for more in-depth research.
Create an Excel spreadsheet and add these terms and phrases to it as you’re coming up with your seed list, grouping them into categories like Overall Brand, Specialties, Ideal Client.
You want this list to be thorough in terms of capturing all the services your practice provides and the ways you can help your ideal client, but you don’t need to be exhaustive in coming up with synonyms. That will happen in the next step 🙂
Step 3: Expand Your List with Keyword Research Tools
Now it’s time to expand your seed list. Open up your favorite keyword research tool and start typing in your seed terms to really start building up your true keyword list with related search terms.
“Hold up!” – I can already hear you say – “What should my favorite keyword research tool be?”
The truth is, there isn’t one tool that is the “be-all and end-all” for keyword research. It’s all going to boil down to your own personal preferences.
But, with that being said, here are our favorites.
Tool #1: Google Suggest & “Searches related to” (free)The first place we go for our own keyword research is straight to the heart of it all – a regular ol’ Google search.
You’ve probably noticed before, when doing online searches of your own, that Google will begin to make suggestions to finish your query as soon as you’ve typed your first one or two words into their search box.
Go ahead and type one of your “Seed Terms” into a Google search box and take note of all the suggestions that appear.
These suggested queries are great to add to the “Related Terms” column of your spreadsheet because if Google is suggesting them, you KNOW that lots of people are searching for them.
Then, once you’ve taken note of Google’s suggestions, click the search button and scroll to the bottom of your first page of results. There you will see a “Searches related to” section and, just like with Google Suggest, these are additional keyword ideas that come straight from Google.
Again, there’s no guesswork as to whether or not these keywords are popular. By listing them in this section, Google is literally telling you, “Tons of people search for these related keywords.”
Tool #2: Google Keyword Planner (free)
Once you’ve had enough of that cycle, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to find even more related terms and phrases to develop a more complete list of possible keywords.
Start out by selecting the “Find new keywords” option and entering one of your seed terms. Then Google will generate a list or related keywords, along with a lot more information about each of those terms – we’ll get more into that data later on.
From this expanded list, check the box next to any keywords you think are relevant to your practice. Once you’ve chosen all of the additional relevant terms, click “Download Keyword Ideas” in the upper right corner to save this list to a new Excel spreadsheet.
Tool #3: Ubersuggest (free)
Ubersuggest is another keyword research tool that is so amazing we still can’t believe it’s free!
Just as you did with the Google Keyword Planner, start out by giving it one of your seed terms, and you’ll get hundreds of keyword suggestions. And, to make things even easier, they also generate a list of keywords for you based on what is working for your competitors. You’ve got to try this one out.
Tool #4: SEMrush (paid)
If you ever choose to invest in a paid keyword research tool, we would recommend SEMrush.
Why? Because it’s a HUGE time saver.
How? Rather than simply inputting search terms and getting a list of relevant keywords, this tool will actually show you the exact keywords that a website is already ranking for.
This means, you can enter your biggest competitor’s website into SEMrush and steal all of their keywords – saving you TONS of time.
Step 4: Refine Your List with Competitive Research
Once you have a good-sized keyword list, it’s time to start working on narrowing it back down and really zero in on the best keywords.
With these same tools, you can eliminate keywords that will be less effective or too difficult to rank for. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to this particular step – just try to hone in on the keywords that you’ll have the best chance of ranking for and that best describe your practice.
This last step will be the most helpful in the long run as you’re working to implement these keywords into your content, SEO, and online marketing practices.
First and foremost, your final keyword list should only contain terms that are 100% relevant to your practice and the services you provide as they’re described on your website.
If you’re questioning whether a keyword on your list is relevant to your own website, start out with a manual Google search for it. Open up a few links on the first page of your search results and look through them to compare those pages to your own site. Are those pages similar to yours?
If there’s any question as to whether the keyword is relevant, let it go and move on to another one that is. That’s the whole point of this last step – weeding out the keywords that won’t be worth the effort, for one reason or another.
If your website is relatively new – or doesn’t have a ton of links pointing to it yet from other websites that Google already knows and trusts – it’s probably best to start out by targeting low competition terms.
Then, as your site builds authority with Google, you can begin to target more competitive keywords.
It seems simple enough. You want to choose keywords that have a good amount of people searching for it, right? After all, the more people are searching for a keyword, the more traffic you’re likely to get from it.
But the question is, what IS a good search volume for a keyword?
The short answer is, it depends.
The long answer is, search volumes vary substantially from one industry and one keyword to another. So, the majority of keyword articles out there may tell you one number to aim for, it’s more important to know what a good number is for your niche.
For example, a long tail keyword in the nutrition niche (i.e. “best gluten free bread recipes”) gets approximately 1,600 searches per month:
At the same time, a long tail keyword in the mental health provider industry (i.e. “couples counseling denver”) only gets about 590 searches per month:
That’s why it’s so important to determine what your high and low volume numbers are for your niche and even for your own practice location. Then, choose keywords based on that “norm.”
So, in a nutshell, what we’re trying to say here is don’t compare your the search volume of your keywords to someone else’s. Compare them to the others in your own list and weed things down from there.
Long Tail Keywords (Usually) Have Less Competition
Generally speaking, there are 2 types of keywords:
Short tail keywords are short phrases – usually no more than 2-3 words long – that tend to have a much higher search volume, thus much more competition. Examples of short tail keywords are keywords like “Counseling” or “Therapist”. Because the people searching for these terms are a bit all over the map, these types of keywords generally don’t convert very well.
For example, someone searching for “Counseling” may be looking for Career Counseling, Couples Counseling, Addiction Counseling, or even just a definition of the word.
Long tail keywords, on the other hand, are complete phrases – at least 4+ word-long phrases – that are usually much more specific. Because these terms have a much lower search volume they don’t have nearly as much competition, which makes them much easier to rank well for.
For example, you’re much more likely to rank well for the long tail keyword “Pre Marital Counselor in Denver, CO” than you are for the short tail keyword “Couples Counselor”.
If your website is relatively new, or if you just want to focus on keywords with less competition, you’ll want to target long tail keywords.
Where Do We Go from Here?
That’s pretty much it. Sure, it’s a bit of a prolonged process but it’s definitely worth it in the long run.
A question we get a lot towards the end of this process is, “How many keywords should I end up with?”
Truth is, there’s no ‘magic number’ we can give you. But what we can say is that you’ll want to have a pretty substantial list by the end. Even smaller private practices will probably end up with a list of at least 100-200 keywords if they spend enough time going through all of the we’ve steps outlined above.
From here, you’ll want to start using these keywords within your website’s content, SEO strategy, and any current – or future! – marketing initiatives.
For more information on how and where to use these keywords, check out this article: How to Write the Best Content for Your Private Practice Website.
Plus, to get even more amped-up SEO tips, be sure to take our free eCourse exclusively for Brighter Vision customers: The SEO Playbook.