If you’ve been in private practice for long, you’ve probably realized that there are some predictable slow times. It’s scary! The first couple of years you’re in private practice you may even wonder if you’ll survive the slow down. What if it doesn’t pick back up? And aren’t people stressed during the holiday season having to travel and visit family? Why aren’t they calling?
I just looked at data for my own private practice. We have two very distinct slow times per year. Those slow times are late May through the month of July and then late November through early January. The specific metrics I was looking at in my own practice include website impressions (times we showed up in a search), clicks (when someone “clicked” on our site from a list of search results), calls and revenue. In addition to my own experience, I’ve spoken to countless other private practice owners. Through these conversations, I’ve learned that, at least in the United States, these slow periods are very common.
The worst part? Those times where fewer people are calling are the same times of year when clients are more likely to cancel appointments or “take a break” from counseling!
So, what do you do during slow periods in private practice?
I think our natural instinct is to cut expenses. The first year I certainly reacted this way. I kind of panicked to be honest. But then, I did some research and learned. I realized that these slow downs were natural, to be expected. I personally started using Profit First to better management my finances.
And now? When a slow period hits, I don’t panic. I can predict when things will pick back up. Instead, I use the slow time to focus on what needs to be done to prepare for the next busy season. It’s the perfect time for updates (SEO or design) to my website. It’s a great time to overhaul the systems in my practice and tweak things so they run more smoothly. I ask myself, what needs to happen so when the next busy season hits my business is ready to grow?
Slow times are perfect for focusing on SEO in private practice!
These slow times are my favorite time of the year to focus on SEO! Why? Because I know that if we can use this time get a private practice website ranking better, that practice has the potential to grow really, really quickly in late January or February (or in late August or September after the Summer slow time).
So, even if your initial response is a bit of a panic, I encourage you to think about how to invest your extra time or even a little money in SEO during slow times. Here are three great places to focus your efforts:
Write and schedule ahead a bunch of blog posts
Private practice owners always tell me they don’t have time to write blog posts. I get it, we’re busy. However, you’re bound to have cancellations in your practice this month. So, use this rare gift of time your clients will give you. Write ahead as many blog posts as you can! They don’t have to be perfect. Just choose topics relevant to your ideal clients, write at least 500 words and go with it! But instead of publishing them all right away, schedule them to publish every other week at the same time.
This way, Google will consistently see you publishing this new content for awhile. Come that busy month of February, it will look like you’re churning out all of this great content that new clients can read while they wait for their initial consult. However, in reality you’ll be busy returning phone calls, attending intake appointments and consulting with the other therapists in your practice!
Earn backlinks for your counseling website
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating that getting backlinks is one of the best things you can do for your counseling website. But this is another time consuming thing. So, use this slower time to focus on getting backlinks. During the holiday season, journalists and others are suddenly very interested in talking about stress. So….use that to your advantage. Write some guest blog posts. Look for new directories or resource lists you can be added to. Act as a source for a couple journalists. Maybe even offer to write a piece for your local paper. If you put a little effort into earning some backlinks during this slow period, it will have a HUGE payoff in terms of SEO. Therefore, it can play an important role in helping you get to the top of Google before everyone suddenly decides to look for a new counselor in just a couple months!
Optimize as many pages of your website as possible!
I typically recommend that you optimize around 3-4 pages per month for Search Engine Optimization. In fact, when people want to optimize more I often remind them that slow and steady wins the race and by optimizing just 3-4 we can tweak our strategy after just a few pages. However…slow times are an exception. Right now, you want to do as much work as possible as quickly as possible so you are ranking well come January.
So, I recommend putting a very strong focus on optimizing right now. In fact, that’s why we scheduled our first ever “Learn SEO in a Weekend” workshop for July 2-5! We wanted to help people optimize a whole bunch of pages (our goal is for participants to optimize 5 in a single weekend!) right before the time when everyone would be looking. Alternatively, you could purchase our “Top of Google” online SEO course right now and put aside time to walk through the course (it’s self paced so you access the modules as you have time) and immediately practice what you learn by optimizing your own page! It takes time, trial and error to practice these concepts. So, slower times of the year are honestly the best time of the year to learn SEO!
Of course, if you really are not interested in optimizing your own website (which I understand – many, many private practice owners fall into this category!), then you can use our Done for You search engine optimization services. In this case, our SEO specialists will do the optimizing for you so you can still take advantage of the slow time. In this case, I highly recommend you still focus on earning backlinks yourself while we’re optimizing your pages!
Fear not: Things will pick up
The truth is that people will always need counseling. So, while things might be slow right now, they won’t stay slow forever. Eventually, your ideal clients will start looking again. And when they do, the first place they turn will probably be Google. So, use this time to stay calm and focus on optimizing your website. Get ready for the busy time that is to come. And take comfort in the knowledge that you are providing an incredibly valuable service that will always be needed.
Interested in working with us to get your counseling website ranking faster?
Our services are meant to help you get your counseling website ranking well on search engines even faster. As a private practice owner myself, I know how valuable our time is. And I also know how short these “slow times” end up being! So if you want to maximize your time, let’s chat about which of our SEO services would be a fit for you. We offer a wide range of services, but they generally fall into two categories: SEO training for DIY practice owners who want a marketing skill they can use for years and “Done for You” optimizing for business owners who know it’s worth the return on investment to outsource on page optimization. Regardless which service you are interested in, you get started with three easy steps: