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How to Advertise Mental Health Businesses Online

There is a huge difference between marketing and advertising, and the messaging for both is quite different. Advertising is a component of an overall marketing plan and strategy. Many business owners get confused with advertising and marketing, including mental health practitioners.

Knowing the difference between adverting and marketing can put your practice on a pathway to substantial growth. And, knowing the difference allows you to be targeted while keeping your cost to an absolute minimum. Because you’re not into wasting money, it’s very important to know “how to advertise.”

Building Your Practice is the Objective of Advertising

Many mental health practitioners rely heavily on traditional referral sources to build their practice. Referrals equate to new clients. Referrals usually come from colleagues (other mental health practitioners), psychologists, psychiatrists, schools, doctors, local social services, churches, and current and former clients.

There are literally hundreds of potential referral sources, but they all have one thing in common. They know you and your services. In one way or another you became known as a source of therapeutic help, and refer’s shared information about you and your practice.

"In order to cultivate rich channels of referrals you must have engaged in some form of marketing. Meaning, you became “known” to the right people through a strategic plan. Additionally, these refers probably vouched for your credibility and therapeutic value."

To become known you had to have marketed yourself and your practice. Maybe you handed out business cards, joined the local Chamber of Commerce, or offered free mental health screenings at the State Fair. One way or another you got your name out there and built relationships. However, today we are going to skip over “marketing,” and delve right into a subset of marketing, better known as advertising.

Advertising is a paid form of marketing, and it’s generally a “public” in nature, in the form of a broad announcement with a persuasive call to action. Advertising is usually conducted through a common venue like a newspaper, magazine, or radio station. But there’s more. Today we are going to focus a specific type of advertising, that being Internet advertising.

Online Advertising is Very Specific and Targeted

There is a huge difference between online marketing and online advertising as well. The most important difference is the messaging. They are both quite different. With online marketing it’s more of a systematic strategy that involves a mixture of online components all working together through a well orchestrated plan. With online marketing you are attempting to communicate your overall value proposition through your website, blog posts, guest posting, social media, etc. Not so with online advertising. Online advertising is much more surgical and pointed.

Your online marketing message is about branding you and your practice while communicating that you have the solutions that will improve the life of your clients. Your marketing message is telling your story while building a sense of trust (expertise). With advertising, your are encouraging people to set up the next step, right now.

"With advertising there is a sense of urgency. You are attempting to get people to sign up today for their first session to receive mental health services." There is no soft-sell because you are paying for the ad and you don't have money to waste."

There are many ways to promote and advertise mental health services. I believe the most affordable form of advertising is through the Internet. It’s the most effective too. Hopefully, in your marketing plan you created an advertising budget. If you did, I am here to show you where and how to spend your advertising dollars to get the best bang for your buck.

Online advertising is a focused attempt to influence prospective clients by providing a short but persuasive message about your services. Online advertising is the process of attracting new customers through online advertising that allow you to target your audience and reach out people who most likely are looking for your services.

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Getting Started with Google Adwords

Google AdWords is an advertising network for any business wanting to advertise on Google search results. With Google AdWords program is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising system that allows you to set up an ad campaign or several, and only pay when people click on your ad. 

Google Ad campaigns are controlled by key words or key phrases, and geographical location. For example, when someone types into Google, “marriage and family therapists in San Antonio, TX,” a series of advertisements show up at the top of the Google search results page. Most likely, a Marriage & Family Therapist from San Antonio have placed that ad.

Setting up a Google Adwords campaign can be done in a few minutes after completing a few guided steps. Google makes it as easy as possible to get started, and they offer a ton of free support.

"Google wants you to be successful, so don’t be shy if you need help. Google will offer you a great deal of guidance and insights with the goal of helping you to see a healthy return on your investment."

With Google Adwords you get to set your daily budget and maximum cost-per-click. You can turn the ads on and off at will. To begin with you will use a shotgun approach (trial and error), but don’t worry. You can always fine tune your ads. Expect to spend some money at first as you find the sweet spots with your ads.

The best advice I can give you is to think like your prospective client. When you are setting up your ads “be the client.” Think like the client, act like the client, and become the client. First, what would they type into Google search if they were looking for services you offer. Furthermore, when creating your ads, think about what would prompt you to click on your ad? What special message does your ad have that would prompt them to seek more information?

Don’t be afraid of using Google AdWords, but be prepared to go through a learning curve. It will seem overwhelming and complicated at first, but many mental health practitioners just like you have become Google Adwords masters. There are a few key things you need to know and understand to get started, and as you learn you can venture out into the advanced features when you are ready.

To get started with Google Adwords, click here.

Yahoo and Bing Online Advertising PPC - YBN

Like Google, Yahoo and Bing offers an ingenious collection of advertising tools for mental health practitioners wanting to advertise online in their local area. Yahoo and Bing Ads are similar to Google Adwords, except that their audience and market reach is much smaller than Google’s.

Several years back Yahoo and Bing merged to become YBN - Yahoo Bing Network. This past spring Yahoo and Bing renogiated their partnersehip, but for your purpose right now the details of the new agreement are not important. The important thing is that YBN is popular for businesses with smaller ad budgets, such as mental health specialists.

"Like Google, Bing allows for you to advertise through two different networks, Bing Search Network and Bing Content Network. On the surface there is not a lot of difference between the search giant Google, and the YBN ad platform."

Google AdWords is the leading pay-per-click online advertising platform, bar none. Google supposedly owns two-thirds of all search business, and claim they deliver more impressions, higher click through rates, and better results when compared to Yahoo - Bing. On the face of it, Google seems to be the better of the two.

However, it is also true that many mental health professionals have found great success using YBN ads. The truth is that Yahoo-Bing costs 50% to 70% less than Google. That is a significant cost difference.

To me, the Google vs Yahoo-Bing debate is like comparing Outback to Applebee’s. Both are restaurants, and both have their advantages and loyal customers. One costs more, and one has better food (depending upon who you talk to). In the end, I guess it depends upon your taste and your success.

If you listen to the YBN faithful, you’ll hear that they have found a great deal and they are happy with their results comparative to the cost. The good news is that the competition for the top ad spots on the Yahoo Bing Network will costs you less, and therefore the rates you pay for each click is very affordable for businesses with small budgets.

"Yahoo touts that their data insights and technology is cutting edge. The real question boils down to whether or not the YBN online advertising platform will generate new clients for your practice. I believe that YBN delivers a great product for the price."

What’s more, Yahoo Bing Network will work with you to help you find the right mix ads that promises to drive real results. They have no problem offering professional support for businesses that buy less than $500 per month. Google will give you the same attention, but only if you spend $250,000 per month. YBN is in a heated competition with Google Adwords, so their customer service is first rate.

The bottomline is that the promise of real results for you means more new clients. If you can make Yahoo-Bing work, then you’ve hit a home run.

Get started with Yahoo Gemeni Advertising, click here.

Get started with Bing Advertising, click here.

Social Media Advertising for Mental Health Practitioners

Social Media advertising is an amazing option for mental health practices and programs looking to grow their business. The top social media advertising platforms for the mental and behavioral health world is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Each of these three social media platforms come with their own strengths and weaknesses, but each one requires that you have engaging high-quality content or it’s a waste of time and money. Having high-quality content is the key to using social media to promote and advertise your mental health services - Period.

For many mental health practices social media has become the cornerstone of their marketing strategy. Meaning, these practices have committed to publishing a consistent flow of high-quality content through their blog or website. Then, using Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn (or all three) these practitioners amplify their blog posts to folks who find them valuable or helpful. This technique is the fastest and cheapest way of building an audience of faithful and loyal followers who become advocates and influencers for your practice (referral sources).

"Some mental health professionals claim that social media marketing is the most powerful advertising tool on the planet. That claim migth be a little over the top, but I can report that any business using social media advertising can directly reach their targetted audience anytime and anyplace." 

What does it take to be successful through social media advertising? I have 5 incredible "must do" tips for mental health practitioners and programs using social media advertising. 

#1. Engage: Social media is "social," and that means an investment requirement of time, engergy, and heart. You have to love your fans, friends, and followers or they won't love you. That means you must be willing to engage. Engagment is liking, commenting, and sharing posts from other people (influencers and fans). You also must be available and happy to respond when people engage with you. It's about making and building relationships. Also, don't be afraid to engage people through SMS on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

#2. Listen: In order to make connections of any kind you must be knowledgable and filled with understanding. Meaning, if you are going to have something valuable to say you need to know what people need to hear. You also need to know what the industry is saying. What are the experts saying? What are the trends in the industry? What are your prospective clients saying? What are their pain points, what kind of help are they looking for, and what struggles or obstacles are they facing? What are people saying about you? Research the industry, research your competitors, and put your ear on the rail to find out what the current buzz is all about. Educate yourself.

Relationships are a two-way street. Listening to what others are saying and understanding why they are saying it will help you to determine how to respond. Be aware and know what you are talking about. So, listen and pay attention. Ask questions and listen for the response. You can find out more about the conversations that are going on by tapping into social media. Look at what is trending. Look at what is popular. Tune in with an empathetic ear.

#3. Video: Go for gold, and use video in your posts. Video rocks! People love video. This means you need to learn to make videos. Youtube and Google+ are cheap ways to make great videos. It's not about the quality of the video, it's about the quaility of the content. Meaning, you don't have to hire a video production company and set up in a studio to make a high-quality video. If you have to, invest a couple of thousand dollars and create a video advertisement to be used on your website, embedded in your blog posts, or sent out through social media. However, you don't have to go the commercial route. With practice and a little bit of time, you can create home-brewed videos with great success.

#4. Produce: Produce content that peole want and like. In order to become an influencer through social media you need to be seen as a valued source. Be willing to share the best stuff on the Internet on your social media channels. The biggest mistake mental health practitioners make is sharing only their own content. Don't be boring. Share the best info you can find. Find the latest research and share it. Share trending news when it pertains to your audience. Share funny and humerous posts you find from your personal social media feeds. Maybe you share your own blog posts or your home-brewed videos once or twice per week. I recommen ad that you make at least two good posts per day, so you need to get connnected to some great sources so that you are able to share interesting posts - posts that will resonant with your audience.

#5. Specialty: Know yourself, your audience, your message and then build your brand. Your brand will be a combination of your beliefs, values, principles, and attitudes. Be authentic. Find a style that you feel comfortable with and be real. Stay within your boundaries. Meaning, have some depth, but stay true to your brand message. Color between the line most of the time. Occassionally, you can be controversial or provocative, but don't over do it.  Make your self welcomed and don't annoy people. Have fun, but be serious when appropriate. 

Facebook Advertising is #1 for Mental Health Practitioners and Programs

Facebook an affordable online advertising platform for small businesses. I believe Facebook is also the best option for mental and behavioral health businesses, especially for those on tight budgets.

When it comes to mental or behavioral health practices and programs, Facebook Ads are nothing less than amazing. Why do I make this claim? First, Facebook advertising is ridiculously cheap, especially for businesses wanting to target their local audience.

"Facebook ad system allows advertisers to create custom audiences and then hyper-target their ad to a narrowly defined group of people who are looking for mental health services."

Secondly, Facebook advertisers can choose to target audiences by their “interest” and “location.” What’s more, advertisers can retarget those who have already liked their page, as well as their friends. Facebook allows for advertisers to find new prospects by creating “lookalike audiences”. Meaning, once the advertiser has created a custom audience that works, with a click of the mouse Facebook will create an identical audience, thus expanding your audience.

Additionally, Facebook advertisers can retarget an audience who have visited their website or blog in the last 90 days. This feature alone is worth the time and money to use Facebook. Essentially, Facebook allows advertisers to build custom audiences and then retarget these folks without spending a great deal of money.

Facebook Ad Manager is Easy to Master

Facebook has a cool Ad Manager dashboard for advertisers. Through the Ad Manager advertisers can create and edit ads, set the budget and then determine the audience, launch their ad, and then track the ad’s performance. The Ad Manager also sports a billing summary.

I believe that Facebook offers incredible opportunities for mental health practitioners wanting to target a specific audience, especially as it relates to geographic regions (local people). This means that you can target an audience within 10, 15, 20, or 25 mile radius surrounding your practice or program.

You can also target certain demographic audiences who share specific interests. For example, as a Facebook advertiser you can target women between the ages of 24 and 42 who have liked Dr Phil’s Facebook Page. You can add interests such as “parents” or “parenting”, “Disneyland”, and “soccer moms.” Your options for defining your audience is endless.

Facebook advertisers have several choices for “type” of ads. You can boost a post, or promote an ad. Both the “boost” and the “promote” options will put your business or practice in front of a custom audience of your choice. The differences between the boosted article and promoted post is slight. Boosting takes more work, while Promoting is more organized in regard of choosing the audience.

"Choosing which type of Facebook Ad is right for you, boosted or promoted, takes trail and error, and some practice."

I have found that I can get more for my money by taking the extra time to boost specific posts to a custom audience, especially if I am boosting an article or blog post I have written. But I have colleagues who prefer promoting ads through Facebook, claiming their ROI is better. The good news is that Facebook advertising for local businesses is very cheap, so you can experiment, learn, and develop your own effective protocol without spending an arm and a leg.

Think About Your Audience - Their Needs, Wants, and Desires

When deciding to boost or promote Facebook posts, think about your audience and what they want or need. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and ask yourself, “what would click on if a boosted or promoted post showed up in your Facebook stream?” Before creating your ad, think about your message. What is it that will prompt someone to click on your post to read it? Be creative, and try all kinds of messages. Once you have found a few that work, stick with that concept for future ads.

"I always recommend that you strive to gather email addresses or other contact info through Facebook Advertising. Taking the extra step to build an email list is critical to your marketing success. By doing so you create a two-for-one scenario."

I have had tremendous success building email lists through Facebook. I send out a weekly newsletter to people on my email list. My newsletter has my top posts of the week. The folks who have opt-in to receive my weekly newsletters tend to become loyal followers of my Facebook page, but more importantly, loyal followers of my blog posts. A percentage of these folks become my clients.

The Mystery of Facebook Advertising

Facebook uses mysterious algorithms and it always seems to change. They keep tight lips on how they push out your ad to an audience. Therefore, some say that Facebook is hard to figure out. It’s true that it can be difficult to figure out Facebook. However, to increase your post reach, and increase your engagement you need to be consistent and overtime you will figure it out. In other words, you must stay on top of your Facebook Page.

"It takes me about 10 hours per week to create, promote, and track my Facebook ads. But I think it is worth the time and effort. For those on a limited budget Facebook is the perfect advertising option."

The bottomline is that through Facebook you can hyper-target your posts to your perfect audience for a fraction of the cost of Google or YBN ads. Plus, Facebook provides a great deal of customer support, far better than Google. If you are willing to read, Facebook does a great job helping their customers learn to use their ad system effectively. Additionally, there are plenty of Facebook advertising masters on the Internet willing to share their secrets.

Using Twitter for Advertising Your Behavioral Health Program

Like Facebook, Twitter has a self-serve advertising platform that allows advertisers to target people based on their known interests. Interests are listed by categories, which are determined by Twitter. Additionally, like Google, Twitter Advertisers are able to target prospective clients based on keywords and key terms. Keywords and key terms determined by hashtags (#) that Twitter users use when Tweeting a post. The combination of targeting interests and key words can be a powerful advantage for Twitter advertisers.

"What are Twitter hashtags? A hashtag is a word or term with # symbol placed in front. Hashtags are used by Twitter users, and Twitter indexes the hashtagged keywords or topics so that people can find and follow topics they are interested in." 

Additionally, Twitter advertisers are able to target prospective clients in other ways that are different from Facebook and Google. Why is targeting important? Targeting theoretically lowers advertising costs while improving your reach to the right audience. Therefore, advertisers can theoretically gain more clients at lower costs by targetting their audience with percision. However, it takes “Twitter skill” to realize this advantage.

For example, Twitter allows advertisers to target the audience of Twitter influencers. What is a Twitter influencer? It is someone, or a business, who has a lot of loyal Twitter followers. If you can find a few Twitter influencers in your market and location it is possible for you to target their followers. Finding an influencers is easy, but it takes experience and learned skill to tap into their set of followers.

"Even though Twitter allows advertisers to target users through keywords and hashtags, targeting by specific interests is hard. The selection of interests is limited and very broad. Where as Facebook allows advertisers to hone in on specific interests, Twitter does not."

It is my recommendation you use Twitter only if you already know how to use Twitter (personal account). If you are new to Twitter I would not suggest you start advertising through them. Twitter is trying to become a better advertising platform, and they are making progress. But until they figure out how to expand the categories of “interests”, I wouldn’t bother using Twitter.

LinkedIn Interesting Advertising Platform - The Professional's Social Network

LinkedIn is a social media platform design for businesses and business people. It’s the professional’s social network. LinkedIn members are able to connect with communities based on their professional experience. LinkedIn is not exactly “social,” but it is a place where professionals can connect.

The good news is that LinkedIn’s advertising platform lets you reach highly targeted groups of professionals with your custom marketing message. If your practice specializes in providing mental health services to professionals, such as corporate executives, LinkedIn might work for you. The only drawback is that LinkedIn is not easy to learn, and it is costly compared to Facebook and Twitter.

If you are looking to reach a very relevant professional audience then it is worth the time and effort to at least join LinkedIn as a member. Join, add your profile, find people you know who are already LinkedIn members, and engage. Once you feel comfortable using LinkedIn, then give their advertising platform a try.

"Your success on LinkedIn all depends upon your particular client-base. If you serve a lot of professional people, LinkedIn might be your best social media adverting platform."

Basic membership for LinkedIn is free, and a paid upgrade is available to those who are serious about using LinkedIn for business purposes. For example, many people use LinkedIn to find employees or to land a good job. All LinkedIn members get a profile page. The profile is developed by adding employment and professional experience, as well as education. Additionally, members are able to add professional groups and associations they belong to.

The LinkedIn news feed is much like Facebook. But instead of “followers” or “friends,” members are referred to as “connections.” Unlike Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn requires connections to have a pre-existing relationship. However, LinkedIn advertisers can promote their posts and advertisement to all connections.

There are two types of LinkedIn ads, sponsored updates and text ads. Both of these options are designed to send people to your website or blog posts. Sponsored Updates are based on high-quality content, and the Text Ads are more of a traditional ad like you would find in Google Adwords. Typically, Text Ads lead visitors to a well designed landing or squeeze page made for sales conversions.

I have found that both options work well, as long as you know what you are doing and you have a very specific audience you are trying to reach. LinkedIn also allows you set and manage an advertising budget and they provide incredible analytics. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is not known for the customer service. You might need to find someone you know that can help you figure it out.

One of the most important element of success using LinkedIn advertising is your title and imagery. This is true with all social media advertising, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Your headline is everything. It is your message that compels people to investigate. Your image also is very important. A powerful picture is worth a thousand words.

If you’re looking to target a strictly professional audience, LinkedIn Ads is an advertising platform you should give a try. To get started with LinkedIn Ads, click here.

Other Online Advertising Nuggets

If you have a larger practice or program consider hiring digital marketing team. A qualified digital marketing firm can help you develop and launch a well-defined marketing plan that involves search engine optimization, online advertising, email marketing, and tools that will save you time and improve your quality.

A digital marketing agency can assist your business in creating a powerful online presence through advertising. If most cases, a marketing firm can save you enough money to pay for their professional services. Consulting companies can also help you with branding, website design, and lead generation and management.

"Buy an ad placements on online directories, such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, BBB, or websites like Many people online directories to find listings for businesses in their area. Online listings are low-cost, and they add to your credibility."

Set up a listing for your business in search engine local directories. Make sure you get indexed by Google and Bing, both offer a free listing for local businesses. To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business.

To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business. Yahoo charges for local listings, but you get listed on a lot more than Yahoo if you buy their service. The service, called Yahoo Localworks, costs $29.99 a month and lists you in 50 directories including Yahoo Local, Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, Mapquest and more.

Therapy Insider Partners with Mental and Behavioral Health Businesses

Therapy Insider is uniquely positioned to help mental health practitioners and programs cultivate new streams of referrals through native advertising and social media marketing. For more information, click here.

"Therapy Insider provides professional behavioral health businesses with the tools and acumen to leverage high-quality content as a strategy to build enhanced referral systems."

By providing professionals with advertising, “best practices”, “how-to guides”, “realtime analysis”, and “curated content” Therapy Insider makes it easier for practitioners and programs to achieve cost-effective results through native advertising.

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