Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | January 7, 2013

Therapists! It’s Time to Get Serious About Mobile Websites

I was looking over my Google Analytics stats last month, and was surprised to see that almost 20% of my clicks in Google AdWords for local searches for a psychotherapist were done on smartphones (mostly iPhone and Android devices). And while Google gets around 70% of all the searches done on desktops and laptops, they get an amazing 96% of all searches on mobile devices. Good lesson in how to dominate a new market!

Anyway, I started wondering what is behind this trend, and what does it mean for marketing our therapy practices?

There seems to be three major trends are influencing the increased searching on smartphones:

1) Our Cell Phone Screens are Getting Larger – the iPhone 5 seemed to play a rare game of catch-up when it stretched to 4.87 inches high. The Android phones (especially those from Samsung, such as the Galaxy S3 and Note) are already well over five inches high and almost half an inch wider than the iPhone. Larger screens mean more information can be seen at one time, without scrolling, so the phone becomes a much more viable alternative to the laptop or desktop computer searches.

2) Faster Inputting of Search Terms – with faster main processors and better operating system software, both Apple and Google have made significant gains in the speed and accuracy of inputting text into the search boxes on mobile devices. Both now also offer very accurate voice input.  Ever since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, people have complained about the virtual keyboard on the screen, but now it’s much less of a limitation than ever before.

3) The Search Results Come Back Very Quickly, and Are More Accurate than Ever – Apple has Siri, who despite its limitations, can respond to many natural language inquiries with fairly accurate search results. Google’s search software, including the highly acclaimed Google Now, is even better, producing very accurate information delivered almost instantly, especially on the newer 4G/LTE networks.

Here are the six most important implications of the increase in mobile searching for marketing your practice online:

1) Be sure your website content displays properly on  all sizes of devices, from smartphones to 7 inch tablets to full-size 10 inch tablets. The good news? Almost all websites look pretty decent on full-size ten inch tablets like the iPad, and most even look okay on the 7 inch tablets like the Nexus 7 or iPad Mini. But most of the searching we’re talking about here is in smartphones, and that’s where many websites don’t display properly – content can be cramped or hard to read without constant zooming in.

How to address this issue? The best way is to hire a programmer who will program your site with what is called ‘responsive design’, so the content reconfigures automatically based on the size of the screen. This way you don’t have to have two different sites to maintain.

Another option is to use a service that makes it easy to create a mobile version of your site, for a fee. One example of this is which will walk you through a step-by-step process to create a mobile version of your current website (they do have a free version, but for unlimited pages and your own domain name, you need to pay $9/month). Google also offers a free mobile website creator (which unfortunately has a terribly confusing user interface), but the Google site is separate and does not integrate with your main website; for details see

2) When you send out email responses to potential therapy client questions, be aware of how your email formats on a smartphone screen, since over 50% of emails are now first read on a smartphone.  It’s a good to have a shorter subject line than you probably are used to writing, since the last words of a long subject line will probably not be visible on a smartphone screen. You also might consider sending plain text emails instead of HTML, since the line width in text is usually always adapted to the display width of the screen.

3) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is different for mobile searching. An average mobile search is shorter than a desktop search – only fifteen characters long. Google of course tries to compensate for this by using ‘predictive search’ – when you type in a few characters, Google will offer suggestions based on the most frequent searches which start with those characters.

For example, someone might search for “individual counseling in new york” on their desktop or laptop, but on their smartphone it might be “counseling ny”.  So you need to know the most common predictive search phrases that are related to your practice specialties and location.  This is easy to test out: search for your practice on a smartphone, and see which predictive phrases Google offers as suggestions.  These suggestions are the ones people are most likely to click on first. Be sure those phrases show up on your site and in your meta tags.

A big bonus to Mobile SEO on smartphones is that your phone number can be clicked on, which places a direct call to your office. This is obviously much better than someone clicking to visit your website, since on average it will usually take over seventy website visits to your site to lead to one office phone call. Again test this out: when your website shows up on a smartphone, can you click on the phone number to start a call? If not learn how to configure the HTML programming code so it does.

4) Google Places Profiles – be sure you have a verified free Google Places profile, because they will frequently show up near the top of a search engine results page. You can create or edit your Google Places profile at

5) Yelp Profile – as part of Apple’s competition (i.e. Steve Jobs’ ‘thermonuclear war’) with Google, the Siri service will first search for businesses on Yelp, not on Google, and many iPhone users choose Siri over Google search. To take advantage of this, you should create a free Yelp business profile at

6) Create a Mobile-only Google AdWords Pay Per Click Campaign – this is the opportunity to get the highest return on investment of any advertising option available to private practitioners today, because it generates direct calls to your office for a few dollars per call. Most of us convert 70% or more of office calls to an initial appointment, so the return on your advertising budget is huge. If you do this, make the “Call” button very large on the first page of your Landing Page.

The move to mobile is accelerating every month. If you can take advantage of this trend, you will have a great advantage over others who wait. Today’s texting teens are tomorrow’s clients.

If you want help in implementing any of these ideas, give us a call at 800 940 0185 or email us.


Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | November 18, 2012

The Truth About Using Facebook to Generate Referrals to Your Practice

Many marketing professionals look at the over 1 billion worldwide users on Facebook and say you must have a strong presence there to have a successful practice. It’s common for such consultants to discuss the different ways you can use Facebook: your profile; a Business Page; advertising and frequent posts. You can do a free search on Google and learn how to get more ‘Likes’ and ‘Fans’ and the referrals should come. As a Psychologist who has experimented with anything and everything Facebook has to offer a private practitioner, I totally disagree with this common advice. I test everything I possibly can online to generate referrals to my therapy practice, and my conclusions is that you can waste a great deal of time and money on Facebook and have very little to show for it. In this post I’ll discuss why this is so, and review one aspect of marketing on Facebook that I have found that does work well to generate referrals from Facebook.

Yes, Facebook has a billion users, and it also has the longest time per visit of any website (about 20 minutes). But monetizing those eyeballs is not easy, since few people go on Facebook with a primary purpose of seeking information. People go to search engines to find information, and but they go to Facebook to socialize, play games, look at pictures and videos their friends have posted, and comment on those posts. So then the only way you can successfully promote your practice on Facebook is to return to the old 20th century model of ‘Interruption Marketing’, where you do what the major TV networks, newspapers and magazines of that era did: you interrupt people’s attention from what they are focusing on to read about your  service. But we’re in the 21st century, where the prevailing advertising model is ‘Permission Marketing’ (see Seth Godin’s brilliant 1999 book by the same name). As consumers we now choose what we want to see and hear. We give people, businesses and networks permission to tell us about their wares – and get annoyed or angry when this permission is violated. And on a rapidly-updating newsfeed such as Facebook, a post about your practice will usually elicit far less interest and attention than the photos from a friends’ vacation or the video of your friend’s new cat.

While every practitioner should have a free Business Page on Facebook (see, gathering Fans for your page or getting people to Like your posts is almost always a complete waste of time. Becoming a ‘fan’ of a Psychotherapist page or liking one of their posts is really a very superficial action that implies a very low level of engagement with your work (aside: what DOES imply more engagement is when someone gives you their email address; building an email list is a very smart practice-building activity).

The one unique advantage that Facebook has over the search engines is in the area of pay-per-click advertising. Unlike Google, who is forced by their business model to let everyone – all ages, all genders, all backgrounds – play the search game, Facebook has an precise way to segment who sees your ads. Thanks to the remarkable amount of personal data Facebook users put on their profiles, Facebook can offer the most highly targeted advertising in the history of business. Pick your target market very precisely – by age; gender; education level; city of residence; marital status; number of and age of children; or personal interests or hobbies – and Facebook can get your message out only to that specific niche of people. Specialize in working with children between the ages of 6-9? Want more referrals from women between the ages of 33-65 with a college degree who live only in six very affluent zip codes? Work with premarital couples? Have a new workshop for affluent Baby Boomer retirees struggling to find meaning? No problem – no one else but those people will ever see your ad. Combine that with an emotionally engaging photo and a problem-oriented headline (i.e. “Panic Attacks?” or “Still Arguing?” or “Problem Teenager?”) and you have a great chance of interrupting focus from the social activities to your services.

One important note: when people click on your ad, Facebook gives you the choice of having the person visit your Facebook Business Page or leave Facebook and go to a specific page on your website. Get them off of Facebook to your website! There are far too many distractions on Facebook that reduce the chances of anyone looking at your page for more than a few seconds..

In summary, approach Facebook with caution and experiment with pay per click ads – but only if you have a very specific, targeted niche. For all others, create a Business page, update it when necessary, and enjoy the social aspects of Facebook. Just don’t expect it to fill up your practice.

If you’d like help in creating a successful Facebook pay per click campaign, learn more HERE about how we can help you with that.

Time. Money. Most of us in private practice say we don’t have enough of either one. But some recent experiences of mine suggest there’s something else even more scarce and precious that is profoundly affecting our lives – and how we promote our practices.

It all started two weeks ago when I was speaking with a couple in their 40s, who said they felt more like ‘roommates’ than a close, married couple. They described their nightly routine: 1) turn on the TV; 2) sit on different sides of the sofa, each with an iPhone and an iPad in their laps; 3) play games, go on Facebook, check email, post on Twitter, send texts, and look up info about the actors in the shows while ‘watching’ TV. “When do you talk to each other?” I asked, which elicited a strange, puzzled look from both of them. “What do you mean? We talk while we’re watching TV!”

This reminded me of the disconcerting answer I have gotten at every couples’ workshop I have led in the past ten years. I have asked hundreds of couples this question: “How often do you talk to each other at home, other than problem-solving, without the TV or cell phone or computer on?” The answer: 98% say “never” and 2% say “very rarely”. Splitting attention between devices clearly seems to be preferable to conversation with our partner.

I then thought of a friend who complained that whenever he and his wife went on vacation with another couple, they would do something fun, sit down for a meal, and then the other couple and his wife would spend most of the meal uploading comments and pictures of whatever they just did to Facebook instead of talking about it, and then texting other friends who were not on Facebook. He felt isolated and left out. For these people, the virtualization of the past experience is more important than the experience itself.

And lastly, I recalled watching my teenage daughter and five friends having lunch at a local restaurant. While chatting with the owner, I noticed all six girls staring at their cell phone screens, texting. I was struck by the speed of their actions – they were easily processing four or five texts every minute. The texting was interrupted with genuine emotional responses – giggles, sighs, exasperated grimaces, delight – but each response was fleeting, quickly replaced by the next reaction.

This doesn’t happen at work or when making decisions/solving problems at home. It’s in our free time, when we can choose what to do, when many people seem to prefer this incessant multitasking – focusing attention on something for less than a minute (and often just seconds), before switching to the next item. We can send & read a tweet or a status update on Facebook in that time. We can watch or hear a Breaking News headline. We can relay a comment or two to our partners. But our eyes and ears are always moving, darting, divided, looking for the next piece of information or stimulation. The information on the screen and in our environment has to constantly change to keep our attention. And if it doesn’t, we change the channel, click to another site, download a new app or pick up another device.  The staggering number of choices that our technology offers us has created a sort of cultural ADD.

So it strikes me that the most precious resource in our lives today is ATTENTION. With what little spare time we may have, we allocate it into smaller and smaller bits. To make matters worse, a recent study said the average consumer is bombarded with an average of 3000 commercial messages every day. Everyone and everything is vying for our limited attention. So adding to this cultural ADD is the necessary skill we develop to deal with this onslaught: we constantly filter information, and discard most of it instantly when it doesn’t meet our criteria for meaning. We delete, discard and avoid far more than we attend.

This obviously has profound effects for our personal relationships, but what does this have to do with private practice?  Everything. In marketing our practices, how do we break through this clutter, this filtering process, this information overload – when people’s attention is so brief and diluted, and the default setting in our brains is to instantly delete or ignore most information? How can we craft a message of any depth – that’s not superficial – that gets through the filter? How can we convey any shred of our years of training and experience – in a minute? And given these very real constraints, what medium works best to get eyes AND ears in sync for more than a minute?

Uncommon Practices
800 940 0185

In April, 2010 Apple Launched the Ipad.
How they did it – and how they promote all of their products –
reveals some important lessons for marketing a private practice:

Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | September 17, 2009

The Silent Field Trip Bus Ride

A friend recently had an eerie experience. While chaperoning 72 students for a high school field trip to a museum, he got on the bus expecting a rowdy 45 minute ride, remembering his days of kids yelling, singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and throwing things at each other while on field trip bus rides. Instead, the entire bus was silent. He was sitting in the front and was sure something had happened to frighten the kids.

rowdybusHe abruptly turned around and saw 48 students with white wires hanging from their ears, and 24 students intently, rapidly moving their thumbs, their gaze focused on their laps. Welcome to the 21st century field trip bus ride.

These are your future clients. How do you think they are going to find you?

Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | July 30, 2009

How to Find Top Keywords for Your Area of Specialization

The amount of really valuable free resources on the Internet continues to grow in an amazing way!

Case in point – success with Google AdWords – or any pay per click service – depends on potential clients being able to find your ad. And that depends on your having the correct keywords in your keyword list. It used to be – way back in 2008 – that you had to pay $300 a year or more to get accurate data on which keywords people were searching for in your area of specialization. Now the same data can be found for no charge online.

I wanted to share with you the top 2 free keyword tools:

Google Keyword Tool

SEO Book Keyword Tool

With each of these, you can just type in a keyword such as anxiety, or couple counseling, or teen problems, and get the exact number of times that keyword was searched for in the past month. But even better, you get the related keywords. img-keywords

For example, if you research the keyword phrase ‘couple counseling’, you learn that it was searched for 18,100 times last month in the US. That’s a pretty high search count. But you also learn that simple added an s to couples – for ‘couples counseling’ – increases the number of searches to 49,500, over twice as much! Then you find that ‘marriage counseling’ was searched for 368,000 times, way higher than any form of ‘couples counseling’.

This data is invaluable for creating a successful pay per click campaign (and for search engine optimization on your website as well). And it’s also why you should be wary of the services now being promoted to sell you just one keyword for a flat rate per month. It’s very difficult to succeed in pay per click adverting with only one keyword (most people get 1 new client in their office for every 70-80 clicks, and you typically won’t get that many using only 1 keyword).

Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | April 22, 2009

Why Blogging is a Waste of Time for Private Practitioners

This may sound odd coming from a blogger, but in my experience health care providers in private practice will not get much of a result from blogging, in terms of increased referrals. I’ve known several people who’ve done very useful, informative blogs with frequent posts, but have gotten very little traffic from them and even fewer (if any) referrals.  psychologist, counselor, massage, chiropractor, therapist

The reasons for this are fourfold:

  • blogs work best when posting strong opinions, and many health care providers (especially psychotherapists) don’t want to reveal too much about their personal positions on issues that may affect treatment
  • unlike politics, news and technology blogs, healthcare blogs don’t tend to have enough ongoing, compelling information to get lots of people to subscribe to RSS feeds
  • most healthcare providers don’t have the time, money or expertise to promote their blog enough to drive significant traffic
  • blogs (and micro-blogging superstar Twitter) work best as a B to B (Business to Business) medium, not B to C (Business to Consumer).

Obviously there have been some healthcare blogs that have been very successful (see Dr. Joseph Merkola’s blog for example), but this type of blog is not focused on one provider’s practice, but rather on a range of related products, services and information.

Healthcare needs – especially those that can be treat outpatient – tend to be focused in time, and once the presenting problem or issue is resolved or treated, people are unlikely to revisit a blog or website unless there is a related range of services that continue to appeal to the person. People’s time and attention spans are just too limited to stay interested in a provider’s thoughts once a problem has receded into their past.

Better strategy? Build a list (SEO, PPC ads, Social Media) so you can, with permission, contact your list consistently over time with useful information that they care about.

Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | March 31, 2009

If Only I did One More Training…

I just got back from the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, where I presented on Creating Effective Websites. One of the traps I see private practitioners falling into is twofold:

1) I don’t know enough/I should know more about the techniques/theories that are hot in my field now


2) If I just did one more training within one of these hot specialty areas, then I would get all the clients I need. uncommon practices marketing private practice

This is a fallacy for several reasons. First of all, most people who have been in any field for at least five years know a lot more than they think. While you should always update your technical skills, competency is rarely the biggest problem in creating a successful practice. Secondly, if you don’t know how to market your services, the greatest training in the world still won’t get you more clients.

Ten years ago I took a terrific training on how to deliver a certain type of psycho-educational workshop. There were 18 people in my training. I kept in touch with the trainers and the people who were trained. After six months, I had done 2 workshops that brought in a profit after expenses of $4400. Not a great result, but one that more than paid for the training almost immediately (since then the same workshop has brought in over $75,000 in profit, as well as leading to numerous referrals for other services). Of the 18 people in my training, 16 had not put on one workshop in six months, and probably never will. 1 person did put on a workshop that brought in 3 clients for a total of $630.

Now the training was excellent, and we were put on a national website that we thought would get us a lot of referrals. It didn’t. When everyone got back home, they were excited but didn’t have the first clue where to start. Where do I get participants for the workshop? Where do I hold it? How much do I charge? How do I know how big a room to reserve if I don’t know how many will show up?

So don’t fall for this trap. Yes there are many superb clinical trainings available today, and your skill as a practitioner would definitely improve if you took some of the trainings (and unfortunately, some trainings are setup more to pad the trainers’ bank account than add to your skill base). But don’t confuse an increase in technical skill with an increase in referrals. Technical expertise is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success.

Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | March 20, 2009

Understanding Lifetime Value of a Referral

I had helped someone develop a Google AdWords campaign recently. In dismay, he told me he was thinking of ending the campaign, because in the past two months, it had cost him $300 a month for a total of $600. “And how many referrals did you get from the ads?” I asked. “Oh, I got 13” he said quietly. “Thirteen?” I fairly screamed.  “Yes, thirteen. What’s your point?”money1

I paused for effect, knowing what I was about to reveal. “What’s your average fee per session?” I asked. “$135” he said. “What is the average length of treatment before termination?” I asked. He said 8 to 12 sessions. I said, “Ok, let’s be REAL conservative and say it was only six. Multiply 6 x $135 and the average value of every referral you get is $810. Mutiply that by 13 and let’s see if that $600 was worth it.”

There was a long silence at the other end of the line. 13 x $810 = $10,530.  So for every dollar he spent on AdWords, he made over $17! That’s a phenomenal result, better than most people get with pay per click ads.

“Gee, Joe, I was about to cancel the account!” he sheepishly recounted.  I couldn’t resist and told him my recommendation: Increase your monthly budget!!! He said he couldn’t do that yet, but would keep tracking the results.

* * * * *

This illustrates a fundamental problem for many healthcare providers. Any amount of money seems like too much to spend. So calculate your Lifetime Value of a Referral, and carefully track the results of  your marketing efforts. You just might be very surprised…

Posted by: Joe Bavonese, PhD | March 16, 2009

The 8 Most Important Factors in Creating a Successful Practice

During the current economic crisis, many private practitioners are having a difficult time filling up their caseloads. Others who have wanted to start a private practice may feel fearful at their prospects for success, given the current state of the economy. In this article I will illustrate the eight most important factors in creating a successful practice, whether you’re just starting out or trying to grow an existing practice.

1. Specialize – having a specialty always works better than trying to be a generalist. You need to create a “brand”, a perception in the eyes of the community that you are an expert in one area. We’d be very suspicious of a medical doctor who claimed to be an expert in surgery, internal medicine, urology and neurology. Yet we see advertisements for counselors who claim to treat 10-15 different presenting problems. The fear is that if you specialize, you’ll lose other referrals, but the reality is just the opposite: the most successful clinicians are the ones with a specialty.

2. Study Business and Marketing – being a great clinician is a necessary but not sufficient condition for private practice success. In fact, a mediocre clinician with great marketing skills will always outperform a great clinician with poor marketing skills. Whether we like it or not, we are small business owners, and subject to the same market forces as any other small business in our community. Why do 80% of small businesses fail within five years? Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth says it’s because being good at delivering a technical service doesn’t mean you know anything about running a business. They are entirely different skill sets, and we’re not born knowing how to do either one. By studying Business and Marketing, I was able to grow my half-time practice to a group practice with nine therapists.

3. Set Specific, Measureable Practice Goals – many therapists say “I want more clients”, rather than setting specific goals. Specific, measureable goals enable you to develop specific plans to reach your goals, and to track how you’re doing. “I want 5 new clients a month, and 25 per week on my caseload” is an example of a specific, measureable practice goal.

4. Create an Online Presence – in the 21st century, it’s very difficult to succeed without having an online presence that can be found in a local search. Over 80% of people seeking professional services start looking online, and if you do not have an online presence, you will miss out on all of these referrals. Many successful practices are now getting 50-80% of their referrals from online sources. A website is the cornerstone of creating a successful online presence (my article in the March/April 2009 Psychotherapy Networker outlines the most essential steps for creating a successful website).

5. Create a Plan to Generate Referrals – it’s mere wishful thinking to set a goal if you have no plan to reach it. The use of Business and Marketing Plans can serve as a valuable guide in delineating the specific steps necessary to reach your practice goals. If you want 5 new referrals a month, you need to make a plan to specify exactly what you are doing to generate those referrals. Advertisements? Online profiles? Past clients? Other clinicians? How exactly do you plan to promote your practice, and how many referrals will come from each source?

6. Take Small, Calculated Risks – every successful private practitioner is someone who has tried something new, and failed numerous times! The only insurance in private practice is to generate referrals from a diverse set of sources, and it’s only by trying new things that you discover which ones will work in your community and your area of specialization. So do small, inexpensive tests of different referral-generation strategies; expand the ones that work and discard the rest.

7. Carefully Track Your Results – it’s only when you know exactly how your efforts are working – or not working – that you can continuously revise and improve your plans for your business. If you spend money on an advertisement, for example, record exactly how much you spent and how much income the ad generated. Keep track of every referral – where they came from and how they heard about you.

8. Get Support – private practice can be a lonely endeavor if you don’t make the effort to reach out and connect with others. In addition to professional organizations locally, you can also have regular lunch meetings with other colleagues in private practice. There are also numerous online groups and forums that offer the opportunity to share private practice success strategies.

Private practice can be an extremely rewarding career choice if one learns how to do it successfully. I know many clinicians all over the US will full practices who have utilized these eight steps to success.

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