To get started online you need a website and a blog. Why? Your website, with a blog as a part of your site, is your “online office” and where you will send anyone and everyone who wants to learn more about you, your work and your programs. Once you have a website, you will never need another brochure. You will simply send people to your website to get all the information they need.
A blog is where you will write posts (like this one) to give people useful information that can improve their understanding of their mental health. The blog posts position you as a knowledgeable expert and provide fresh content to your site on a regular basis, which is a must for search engine optimization. Static websites don’t get found by search engines. Blogs that are updated regularly get found much more often.
What you need
A website name and URL: You need to purchase your website URL (i.e. http://bizsavvytherapist.com is this blog’s URL). I typically don’t recommend using your name because who’s searching for your practice by your name? No one, I say. HOwever, you should buy your name as a url, just to have it. Try to think of a name that reflects your specialty and maybe your location (unless you want to do lots of online work and sales). I use www.GoDaddy.com to buy my URLs.
A blog platform: You want to use WordPress.org. (NOT WordPress.com). WordPress.org is the top of the line blog platform that allows you to customize a site and sell services and products on it. (WordPress.com does not allow commercial sales on its site). If you have a site on another platform, plan to move it over to WordPress as soon as you can. I had to do this for 2 sites and it has been worth all the effort.
A hosting service: WordPress is free, but you have to pay to host it. The good news is hosting is cheap! Check out HostGator.com for hosting packages. Don’t worry if you have no idea what you’re doing over there (I still don’t get the whole hosting thing..). Their customer support is kind, patient and responsive. Ask questions!
A website design: Unless you are a web designer in your spare time (or have a friend or relative who is), don’t design your own site. You may think you are neat-o for figuring out how to get a picture and text on your blog, but if it looks like an amateur threw it together, guess what the guests to your site will think of you? Your website will be the first impression people have of you and your business. Make it a good one.
I have had all of my sites professionally designed. And, yes, it costs some money up front. Every business has start-up costs. And you wouldn’t hand paint a sign to put in front of your office door, so don’t do the same with your online office.
Johnny B. Truant can put together a site for you for a very reasonable cost. (Check out his “Awesome Website” offerings.)
This site was designed by James Chartrand and her team at Men with Pens Click here to view more details. She’s more expensive, but awesome to work with and gives a lot of extra customer support.
Must haves on the blog
You can have a lot of bells and whistles on a blog. For me, I like a simple, clean look that is easy to navigate and allows people to easily find what they need.
You must have:
- Home page
- Services page
- About You page
- Contact page with phone and email options
- A picture of you
You can add:
Buttons to link to your social media
Options for people to “like” your post on Facebook or Tweet the link to Twitter (I use Tweetmeme for this).
What you should never, ever have
Don’t use a random picture of trees, a beach, waterfalls or a scene completely unrelated to your practice. I have no idea why therapists feel the need to use pictures of water dropping off green leaves on their websites. If a picture says a thousand words, what the heck does that mast head say about your business? Answer: NOTHING! Get a well designed banner with the name of your practice, a logo, a picture of your office door, people, you. Just don’t use random pictures. It makes no sense to brand a business that way.
A blog on someone else’s template. I know there are several services out there that will design and host your blog on a template that they say is designed especially for therapists. While this is a great idea in theory, the truth is your website ends up looking like everybody else’s so you lose any uniqueness and branding. In general, we therapists like to blend in, the problem with this is if you blend in you don’t stand out (stay with me here) and only businesses that stand out attract clients. Target doesn’t have a bulls eye as a logo by accident. Have a blog designed just for you. You’re worth it and in the long run the price is about the same.
Advertisements. Never, ever, ever, ever have advertisements for anyone else on your blog and this is especially true for Google Adwords. It makes your website look cheap.
Finally, if you want to learn more about all things WordPress, my colleague Wendy Cholbi is offering a program called “WordPress Swimming Lessons” that might be just the thing you need to get started. Click here to visit Wendy Cholbi for more information on her programs.
And there you have it! Your template for an amazing online presence. Get started pulling this all together, if you’re not online already. Tomorrow I’ll outline how to start marketing via email.