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Unread July 2nd, 2009, 10:28 AM
William Reid William Reid is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 105
Default Re: Tennis, I mean, Life Coaching Anyone?

Dark Ages? Moi? I'll have you know that I ditched my old rotary phone for touch-tone over a year ago.

The nerve of these young whippersnappers.

The kinds of Internet list I recommend avoiding are often those that contact you by email promising you'll get referrals. Unlike professional association pages or personal websites, (a) the people looking for clinicians or other professional rarely go to them; (b) your name is lost in the crowd, often findable only if the person enters the specific key words you supplied (and if they're common key words, like "family therapy," you are once again lost in the crowd); and (c) the URL (web address) is not very memorable for potential clients (e.g., www.professionaldirectory.com/personalservices/counselors/MarySmithChicago4128.html").

I agree that the (usually free) listings often available on local and regional professional association websites are cost-effective and don't detract from credibility. You benefit from the publicity and good image of the association, and astute potential clients often go there either to find a professional or to learn about those services. If I were a consumer, I'd prefer sites that limit listings to members of a reputable association.

Having one's own website is a fine idea, of course. There are lots of sources for advice on naming, domain names, style, and content. Here's a little from me: (1) Don't get glitzy. (2) Don't plagiarize or misrepresent anything. (3) Don't believe anyone (especially in an email) who says he/she can enhance your search engine visibility. (There are some basic principles to follow, but a new site will be poorly visible to general searchers for a long time.) (4) Make your site text-intense rather than highly visual (photos, videos, etc.). (5) Learn about and use excellent key words in both the text and (especially) metatags. (6) Choose your URL, including domain name wisely. Get your own domain name if feasible; make it simple and memorable. In my view, a Web address with something like "AOL.com" or "Austin.rr.com" screams "amateur" and "temporary" (even when it's not). Be sure to renew your domain name every year, so you don't lose it. You can pay for many years in advance; I recommend it. (7) Be stable. That is, before you put your address & contact info on the Web, be sure you'll have the same address, phone, etc., for a long time (the same applies to business cards and letterhead). You'd be amazed at the number of people who try to find you months or years after they get the contact info; make it easy for them. (8) Make [u]everything[u] easy for the potential client. (9) Don't offer individual advice or services [u]on[u] the website unless you fully understand the liabilities and potential pitfalls of doing so. (10) Update the site often, and let the reader know it's updated. (Search engines demote websites that remain static for months.) (11) Track the amount and kind of traffic to your site using free or inexpensive tracking programs (usually free from your website host).

My forensic psychiatry website, which is decidedly uninteresting from a visual standpoint, has been unusually successful in both visits and referrals, in part because it follows many basic website principles, in part because it has been on the Web and the content frequently updated for over 10 years (Dark Ages, indeed!), and in part because I try very hard to do good work for the people who find me through it. Only a couple of the over-300 pages is related to "marketing" (the "Qualifications" section), and even that is pretty low-key. About half of my new forensic clients (generally attorneys and courts) find me first on the Web, and it is second only repeat clients (including word of mouth from past clients) in overall referrals. I treat it as an educational site, kind of fun and part of whatever reputation I may have. I'm no Web maven, but it gets well over 10,000 individual visits per month (about 50,000 "hits"), mostly (I assume) from people unrelated to any referral possibility (many from students, trainees, & other professionals simply looking for information).

Conversely, my music website (gotta put in a plug here -- www.fewersorrowsmusic.com) is completely separate from my professional one and neither website mentions the other aspect of my life (readers are herewith sworn to secrecy about the connection). It is less than a year old and does not follow a lot of the basic search engine visibility rules, and got only about 100 visitors/month until one of my songs went sort of mini-viral a month ago and increased the visits to 2-3000/month and weekly downloads to over 1000. (Note for those readers who have a personal website separate from their professional identity: I strongly suggest that you be aware of the impression your personal website will leave on potential or current clients who may find it. More than one therapist/psychiatrist has really hurt his/her reputation with a distasteful and/or unprofessional personal site. Don't confuse your ego [or freedom of speech] with professionalism.)

More than I meant to write. Sorry.
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