Many counsellors, therapists and psychologists have therapy websites that perform poorly, are difficult to navigate and often don’t convert visitors into clients. In this post I’ve written about the most common problems I see with counsellor and therapist websites, so that you can make sure that you’re not falling into any of these common traps.

I have to admit I have a passion for websites- some might call it an addiction. Currently I have 6 websites , including the Australia Counselling directory, and I’m starting work on my 7th, which will be specifically a website with articles, information and services for my coaching clients.

One particular area of interest of mine is creating websites with excellent ‘UI’, otherwise known as User Interface. This is geek language for saying that I care about the experience of the website visitor. I want my websites to be easy to navigate, aesthically pleasing on the eye and compel the visitor to take an action, such as sign up for a newsletter or make an appointment.

I don’t always get it right, and I’m constantly experimenting with little ways that can improve how the website looks and how it performs. I make changes and track the outcomes to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve also taken note of the many websites of other counsellors, psychologists and other healing professionals to see what I like and what I think works.

I’ve noticed that the majority of counsellors’ websites I’ve seen are poorly created and have a number of problems. Here are the most common website mistakes I see:

1. The website has no clear niche

It’s likely you’ve heard about this many times- or maybe not- but we now know that it’s pretty much essential that you define a niche market of clients you work with.

This is simply a target market that you focus your marketing efforts on. Some examples of counselling niches include relationships, families, anxiety and depression, gambling and other addictions or children/adolescents.

I think the big fear of most counsellors is that you think if you choose a niche, and stop marketing yourself as a generalist, then you will  lose lots of clients that may want to work with you.

The opposite is actually true. When you choose a niche, you begin to establish yourself as a percieved authority in your chosen area. This increases the number of people that contact you as there are many prospective clients looking for a specialist just like you. And all your marketing tasks are easier because you can send targeted messages to your niche audience. Make sense?

The funny thing I’ve noticed is you still get enquiries from people outside your niche market as well. This is the phenomena of ‘if your’e an expert in this area, then maybe you also work in this area.’

2. The website copy is about the therapist and not the client

How many times have you seen the headline ‘Welcome to my Website’ and then the therapist goes on to write about all their experience and qualifications?

This is one of the quickest ways to turn off a prospective client. When someone visits your website, it’s very likely they are in pain or distress. They are looking for a solution to their problem and want to know you can connect with their suffering.

The home page of your website is the best opportunity to connect with the visitor. And the best way to do this is with the very skills that you use to be an effective therapist: empathy.

Write in a way where you convey that you understand some of the distress the client is feeling.

This is your best chance to connect with the client and increase your chances of having the person take an action and contact you.

Save all your information about your training and degrees for your ‘About’ page.

3. The website lacks cohesion in design and aesthetics

Another annoyance of mine are websites that have not invested in a clean and pleasing design. One of the quickest ways to repel a prospective client is to have a site that uses mis-matching colours, fonts of differing sizes and colours and too many (sometimes unrelated) images that dominate the page.

A website that looks ‘home-made’ can be spotted a mile away, and this does little to increase your credibility as a professional.

Invest in a website designer that has created visually pleasing websites , for others to help you portray the professional image your business deserves. (If you need a recommendation, check out Nathaniel Richman, who has created many websites for healing professionals.)

4. The website navigation menu is unclear and confusing

Many counselling websites have navigation menus that are hard to find or worse, don’t make sense to the overall structure of the website. This creates what’s called ‘friction’ in marketing- the experience of the website visitor having to think too much or being confused.

Your biggest competition is not the therapist down the street, but rather the browser’s back button.

Research shows that when website visitors are confused or frustrated, they will likely hit the back button and leave your site, unlikely to return.

Make sure you have a navigation menu that clearly shows the important pages of your site and how the visitor can easily get there. Avoid creating any confusion or having the visitor have to think too much about how to access the pages of your website for a client-attracting counselling website.

5. The website has no compelling  call-to-action

This one seems like a no-brainer, but many counsellors and therapists forget to add  a call-to-action.

A call-to-action is a term to describe telling someone what desired action you want them to take on your website. This depends on your marketing goals, but you may want them to sign up for your newsletter, watch a video introduction of you or call you to make an appointment.

Research shows that telling the website visitor what to do next significantly increases your chances that they will take that action.

Check your website and make sure you have clear calls-to-action on each page, so there is no doubt what you want the reader to do.

Are you struggling with creating or developing an effective website that converts visitors into paying clients?

If you’re based in Sydney, consider joining my new coaching group called: Get Past Your Marketing Blocks and Build a Successful Private Practice. We ran this group with great success in 2011 and it will run it again in 2012.

Visit the Sydney Private Practice Success Coaching Group page to find out more and to register.