Whether or not online practices can have a Google My Business listing is quite a controversial subject right now. Many of our clients have attempted it, only to have their listing removed when Google realizes they don’t actually have a physical location. We know Google’s guidelines on the matter are ambiguous, and we realize online-only therapists have been successful using workarounds to get a listing. But, we don’t advise it for private practices that are fully one hundred percent online. Today, I want to explain why we don’t advise this and what you can to get to boost your SEO without having a listing.
First Things First: What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free tool that allows businesses to promote their services, share their location and hours, and share important details such as holiday and COVID hours with Google users. Establishing a Google My Business account if you have a physical presence does help your SEO. It tells Google where you’re located. Want to learn more about Google My Business? Check out Jasmine’s recent article on the subject.
That Said…Google Technically States That It Does Not Grant Google My Business Listing to Online-Only Businesses
Having a Google My Business listing is appealing. After all, it’s free and relatively easy to set up, but there’s a catch. Per Google, it is not available to online-only businesses. In fact, their Google My Business guidelines which can be found here states:
“In order to qualify for a Business Profile on Google, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.”
I’ll admit, I had to read and reread this statement several times to try and understand what that means for an online-only therapy practice. But what I landed on is in-person contact excludes online-only appointments.
Hiding the Location of Your Business
Some people have found a workaround by using their home address then choosing specific service areas and then hiding the official address. By the book, this is only supposed to be an option for people who travel to meet their clients in-person. Google says that service-area businesses can’t have a virtual office unless “your business location should be staffed by your team and able to receive customers during its stated hours.” So…this is a fuzzy line. By the book, if you’re not meeting clients at all we can’t recommend you do this because we always recommend closely following Google’s rules. But we also know some practices have had success doing this (listing services and hiding the address).
Using a P.O Box or Virtual Mailbox as a GMB Address
Now, some online practices have tried to find a workaround by using a P.O. Box or mail service.Google’s guidelines say you need: “Use a precise, accurate address and/or service area to describe your business location. P.O. boxes or mailboxes located at remote locations are not acceptable.” Therefore, if you use a P.O. box as an address your request for a listing will be declined. We have heard of some practices having success with a virtual mailbox. However, again if Google realizes your practice is virtual they may remove your listing and require you to show “proof” that the address listed is indeed a physical address for your business.
Having a Location You Could See Clients
Another workaround some of our clients have used is to have a place where they *could* see counseling clients. They may rent a co-working space at the lowest possible plan. Mail can be delivered to them (and in many cases then forwarded onto their home address) and they would have the option of meeting clients for an in person session occasionally.
To us, this seems like the option that most closely follows Google’s guidelines to the letter. But it’s also more expensive than the other options.
What Happens If You Use a Workaround and Google Realizes You’re Virtual…
Again, we realize that Google is quite ambiguous and their guidelines can certainly be interpreted in many different ways. And we know that many practices have been successful at least for a period of time. So, we don’t blame you if you try.
However, we also know from other’s experiences, that Google can remove listings if they realize a practice is online only. Or, if they suspect you’re not being honest, we’ve been told they will ask you to video chat or provide photos of your physical location for verification. Remember, Google is king. Theoretically, they do have the power to tank your SEO if they notice you aren’t following their guidelines, and we don’t really have any control over that. Anecdotally, we’ve heard clients who have had significant drops in calls when their GMG profile was suspended due to concerns about them being online.
So, per Jessica, our founder, we recommend being honest and following the guidelines to a ‘T.’ In fact, we don’t have a GMB profile for Simplified! Why? Because we’re a virtual business. Sometimes our staff meet in person at Jessica’s office so we could theoretically list that as an address. But the truth is, we very rarely see clients in person (when someone’s coming through town and looks us up, when we meet at conferences, etc) so we simply can’t have a GMB profile and be 100% following Google’s guidelines. Essentially, it boils down to Jessica decided it wasn’t worth taking a chance with our own SEO to create a GMB listing given that we don’t routinely see clients in person.
Can I Rank Well on Google Without Google My Business?
Now, I realize you may now be wondering, what can I possibly do to counteract not being able to get a Google My Business listing? You want your ideal clients to find you on Google, but you don’t have a physical location. I get it. Let me assure you it’s one hundred percent possible to rank well on Google and get clients without a listing. After all, Simplified SEO Consulting is an online-only business and we rank well and reached our ideal clients. So let me take a minute and give you some simple tips to get your online practice ranking on Google.
Tips for Boosting Your SEO as an Online Therapy Practice:
1. Lean into the fact that you’re an online-only private practice.
I put this first because I would argue that it’s the most important thing you can do. Let Google know where you offer online therapy services. Here are some tips for ways you can do that:
- Add a mission statement to your home page. For example: Providing high-quality online therapy in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois.
- Reference locations you serve in your alt text, photo titles, and meta description.
2. Have an online therapy service page for every state you’re licensed in.
To get ranking in every state you’re licensed and accepting clients in, you need to have an online therapy in __ (insert your state) service page. Furthermore, it’s necessary to reference specific location indicators in those states. For example, if you offer online therapy in Missouri, you might say something like, “perhaps you live in Booneville, Rocheport, or Kingdom City, and there are few therapists in your town specializing in the mental health issue you’re having. This is a great time to reach out to an online therapist for support as we can see clients throughout the state of Missouri.”
Ready for SEO 2.0? If you live in an SEO competitive state such as New York, Florida, Texas, Colorado, or California. Consider making an online therapy service page targeting the major cities in addition to the state as a whole. For example, if you’re located in Texas, you may want to have an online therapy in Dallas page and an online therapy in Houston page in addition to an online therapy in Texas page.
3. Create a service page for the online therapy services you offer.
This helps clients who are looking for specific services like anxiety treatment, depression treatment, and trauma treatment find you on Google. Build up these pages just like you would an in-person service page. Explain the effectiveness of online therapy to treat these concerns. Also, reiterate the benefits of online therapy.
Ready to learn more about getting your online-only private practice to the top of Google?
If you’re ready to learn more about getting to the top of Google, we’d love to help you. We offer a variety of options to assist you in your SEO journey. First, we encourage you to sign up for our free 7-day email series to get started. Then, set up a free consultation with a Simplified SEO specialist to determine what SEO service is right for you. Are you the DIY type? Check out our online SEO classes, taught by Jessica, our founder and SEO guru.
Want to Work On Your Website’s SEO?
We believe in the power of SEO and how it can transform your business and attract your ideal clients. We would love to share our knowledge with you and help you rank better on Google! Follow these simple steps to begin optimizing your online therapy website:
- Make an appointment for a free 15-minute consultation with a member of the Simplified SEO Consulting team
- Learn more about our SEO packages, DIY SEO options, and online SEO classes,
- Start optimizing your webpage and watch your site rank better on Google!
Other Relevant Blog Posts:
- SEO for Virtual Psychotherapy Practices
- Tips for Improving SEO for Telehealth Services
- Optimizing a Google My Business Listing
Services offered by Simplified SEO Consulting
The Simplified SEO Consulting team is passionate about providing SEO services for helping professionals and therapists. Our comprehensive SEO services are included in our Done for You SEO Service packages. Also, we offer alumni packages and al la carte SEO services. Our SEO staff provides several SEO training opportunities. including our “Top of Google” online course and 12 weeks of online video training. We also offer an SEO Strategy package to learn more about SEO and what you can do to rank better on search engines.
About the Author:
Cory Moss is a Simplified SEO specialist based in the Kansas City metro area. She specializes in working on readability for therapist websites. She really enjoys helping her clients get to the top of Google and attract their ideal clients.