As mental health professionals, one of the first things we most likely learned as graduate students was our code of ethics. You may have been taught all the ways you can be sued and how to avoid offending clients. At least that is how I felt in my professional ethics class. Everything we do as professionals require us to aspire to certain standards as well as follow state laws and regulations. Once we have our codes ingrained in us, we may move on with our lives putting them into our practice, daily life, and so on.
Have you ever considered how your code of ethics impacts your practice, marketing, writing, and treatment methods? Whether you realize it or not our morals and values impact every aspect of our lives. Including our professional book of codes. So how do we promote optimizing for ethical SEO?
How does your ethics code impact your SEO?
As you may have found out as business owners, marketing is a key part of your growth. In order to reach out to your ideal people, you must understand the different ways you can increase your stream of clientele. Something you may not have been taught as a student. At times, when you’re looking into ads, SEO, copywriting, and so on, you may notice some shady practices. In fact, some of these just downright go against our practices as mental health professionals. So how do you begin to keep in mind our codes and reach out to your people?
Reviews Reviews Reviews?
One big NO, as professionals is asking for reviews. I’m sure we are all aware of this whether you’re a coach, social worker, MFT, or counselor, we do not ask for reviews. In all of our codes, we know that confidentiality is important. Even though we see mental health as a positive some people are not ok with the negative stigma that follows it. We cannot ask someone to disclose that you’re their therapist because it violates so many boundaries. Not only that, no matter what theoretical orientation you use as a professional, the therapeutic relationship does have some sort of authority in it. You’re seen as the expert, even if we believe the client is the expert. Therefore, there is an unfair power dynamic present when asking for reviews.
On the other hand, one thing that cannot easily be avoided is when a client willingly leaves a review on your site, Google my business, yelp, or whatever stream you may be on. This isn’t unethical. It wasn’t coerced and it happens from time to time. Take it with a grain of salt and move forward because it does help your SEO.
How do you get reviews to help your SEO in an ethical way?
In order to build ethical reviews, it’s important to network and maintain connections. Receiving reviews from colleagues and mentors is a great way to build credibility. These people know you and your work. They are wonderful for references and help you seem credible from a Google standpoint. So reach out to a few people that can get a good review from and return the favor. We talk a bit more about this in another post I wrote recently about SEO & Google My Business.
Accurately Portray Your Service and Expertise
This may be an obvious one, but it’s necessary for us as professionals to accurately portray ourselves in our field. We are not healers, we do not have a cure for your mental health, and we need to make sure we are providing services we have the skills, training, and expertise in. In the social worker’s code, this is under 4.06 C in the section of Misrepresentation. For Marriage and family therapists, this is under standards of advertising with 9.1 to 9.8. For counselors, this is listed under section C of the ACA code. This means that we need to practice within our competence and we have obligations for advertising such as not selling products to clients, recruiting them, or asking for statements(reviews).
Where do we draw the line?
We need to draw the line as professionals and know when we are about to cross a line. We have authority in our field and we need to exercise it appropriately. Therefore advertising ourselves as experts in certain modalities, or topics, when we do not have the training, is unethical. From an SEO standpoint, when you market yourself as an EMDR therapist but you don’t have the expertise, you’re leading people into a false sense of security. The keywords you rank for drive in the people looking for specific treatments and approaches. People trust us therefore on our websites we need to make sure that we are promoting what we can do and receiving training in areas we want to work on, in the future. We are advocates for those who are struggling, so we must not create websites that inaccurately portray our skills.
Meta Descriptions for Ethical SEO
One way we can avoid making false claims as professionals is by making sure you’re honest from the first point of contact. This may be your meta descriptions. Make sure your meta descriptions accurately reflect what’s on the page. You want people to see you as being transparent and honest. While you want to write a meta description that will encourage people to “click” on your website, it’s important that it’s accurate enough that they aren’t surprised by what they find when they get there. Make sure you’re not setting people up for failure by enticing them with false information only to have them disappointed. Not only does this affect your reputation, but it can leave a bad impression on the mental health field as a whole. We want people to have a healthy idea of what professionals do, not bad taste.
Why do we not pay for SEO backlinking?
As mental health professionals, we want to be as ethical as possible. Even if we do not understand the behind the veil of Google’s rules, we need to make sure we are adhering to them. Our codes are not laws, but we aspire to uphold them because we believe that they keep us safe and most importantly protect our clients. With Google, buying backlinks is against their rules. It’s just part of their system. If you buy backlinks you’re essentially cheating Google’s system, and being dishonest to the algorithm. This is what is called “black hat SEO” It’s like you’re trying to get one over on Google’s. This is dishonest to Google and you will get penalized if and when you’re caught. Why does this matter?
We want to be honest as professionals in all aspects of our business. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s Google’s rules and we need to honor that. If you do buy backlinks, note that when you’re caught Google will drop your rankings and potentially remove you from search results entirely. That means clients are not finding you cannot help them.
Language matters for ethical search engine optimization
Lastly, I do want to address this because it’s in all of our codes to portray ourselves accurately. We are not to state that we can have cures and can solve other people’s problems. While we want to write copy that is relatable and real, we do not just tell people what they want to hear just to get them in the door. We need to be careful what claims we make on our website. People can be easily susceptible to false claims. Let’s not be a part of the problem. Honor your codes and consider is this a direct violation of my ethics or am I about to cross the line?
Closing message for Ethical SEO
SEO is very important to professionals, especially those of us who don’t want to be salesy and are unfamiliar with where to begin. However, with all marketing efforts, we have to consider if what we are doing is ethical and right. SEO can help you build your practice, but it needs to be built on truth and what you’re skilled in. Make sure as you create a copy that you’re putting your solid expertise on the page and leaving out the works in progress until you truly feel ready to add more niches, or treatment modalities. If you receive advice that makes you wonder if something is right, ask colleagues, SEO specialists, or mentors who can give you unbiased advice. Follow your better judgment and keep your ideal client in mind.
Remember the general principle we all follow which is to do no harm. Even if inserting a bit of falsehood into sites may seem to hurt no one. This could one day come back to bite us. Compare your marketing strategy to your code and see if you’re nearing any gray lines. Happy optimizing and I look forward to seeing you help your ideal clients with ethical SEO strategies soon!
Begin SEO Services at Simplified SEO Consulting
We strive as professionals to make sure we are acting ethically and that we are giving you ethical advice. Our specialists want you to thrive and reach your people. We are advocates for the profession and know the positive impacts you make on those around you. That is why we are here to help you make ethical decisions and we advise you to consult multiple people. If you’re looking to begin SEO work, Simplified SEO Consulting offers DFY packages, courses, and training options. Our skilled team of SEO experts are here to walk you through this process and help you make ethical decisions. If you have questions we are here to help. To get started follow these three steps to begin ranking better on Google.
- Schedule an appointment for a free 30-minute consultation with our Client Success Specialist.
- Learn more about our skilled specialists today!
- Start optimizing your website with ethical SEO in mind!
Other Services offered by Simplified SEO Consulting
Simplified SEO consulting offers a wide range of services that can help you begin working with your people. We offer Done for You SEO Service packages, online courses, and SEO training opportunities. Our most popular course includes our “Top of Google” online course and we have 12 week of intensive SEO for those who want to learn with a guide. For those looking for a more specialized package, we also offer an SEO strategy package. To get started, schedule a consultation with our Client Success Specialist today!
About the Author:
Jasmine Jaquess is currently working towards her Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Northwestern University. She has been doing SEO with Simplified for the last few months. Currently, she serves as the Client Success Specialist in new client consultation with Simplified SEO Consulting and is an SEO specialist. She specializes in platforms such as Squarespace and Wix but has learned to love WordPress sites as well. She really enjoys hearing the clients’ goals for their businesses and helping them achieve them.