Building Your Private Practice Website: The D.I.Y. Guide
You know what's amazing?
That we live in a period in history where someone with no background in website design or coding can build a great looking DIY private practice website in a short period of time.
For us as clinicians, a website is essential.
A colleague once told me, “Melvin, a website is your online business card.”
According to this Forbes article, every business should have a website b/c it helps with things like credibility, brand recognition, and actually generating clients for our practices and businesses.
But it can be intimidating if you've never created a website before.
And it usually brings up more questions than answers.
“What do I name my private practice website?”
“Who do I host my website with? (or better yet, what's a host??)”
“How do I create an appealing website without spending thousands of dollars?”
I know the thought of creating a website on your own can be scary.
So I thought I'd create this step by step tutorial to help get your website up and running while avoiding the mistakes that I've made since launching this site back in 2015.
The Essential Parts Of A Website
So, before we get started, I wanted to share a few terms and explain them in easy to understand language.
This is just a fancy word for the name of your website. Mine is sellingthecouch.com and my private practice one is melvinvarghesephd.com.
Website Theme, Child Theme, or WordPress Theme
These are different “templates” to make your website visually attractive and Google- friendly.
Hosting Service or Website Host
The company that stores your website so that it can “live” online.
A website creation tool that allows you to put content (e.g., blog posts, photo of you and your office, etc) on your website. I recommend either WordPress or Squarespace. I prefer WordPress b/c companies usually create/update WordPress plugins more readily. For example, the podcast player that I use on my podcast page is only available on WordPress.
I've broken this tutorial into 4 parts.
In Part 1, we'll learn how to pick an awesome name for your private practice website.
In Part 2, we'll select a website hosting service and install WordPress.
In Part 3, we'll install a website theme.
And in Part 4, we'll create an About page for your website.
Let's start with some factors to consider in selecting naming your website.
Part I: Website Naming Tips
Easy To Spell
.com Is Available
- Short. We forget longer names. Also, shorter names are easier to place on business cards and other marketing material.
- Easy To Spell. Hard spellings confuse website visitors. Keep it simple. The average reader is at an 8th grade level.
- Memorable. Try to create a website name that conjures an image in a visitor's mind. That being said, if you imagine having a small, solo practice like I do, it's okay to have your name followed by “.com”
- “.com” for website is available. “.com” is the most popular ending for a website. If you live outside of the U.S., it's best to secure the .com for your name as well as the “.X” for the country you live in (e.g., Canada's is .ca).
Avoid Hyphens, Symbols, And Numbers
Avoid Copyrighted Phrases
Catchy and Brandable
- Avoid hyphens, symbols, and numbers. Other characters besides letters may lead visitors to type in the wrong website name (e.g., typing “at” when you meant “@”). This will also send traffic to other similarly-named websites besides your own.
- Keyword Friendly. Keywords are what others search for to find a website (e.g., counseling in Philly for example). Having a keyword like “therapy” or “counseling” in your website name does not give the SEO boost like it once did but can send a “relevancy signals” to search engines like Google. But you'll likely confuse visitors if you expand your career into other arenas (e.g., doing assessments, trainings, corporate speaking, courses, books, consulting, etc.), which is why I'm not a huge fan of having those words in a website name. Just a word of advice from personal experience, but don't obsess too much about this as the content on your website is much more important. For example, Selling The Couch has no keywords in it and neither does my private practice website.
- Avoid using copyrighted names in your website name. For example, if you're trained in a certain theoretical orientation, it's not smart to include it in your website name. Copyright.gov is a great place to check.
- Catchy and Brandable. Select a name that you can branch out from. Also, there's evidence that “Brand signals” are more and more of an important factor in search engine rankings.
Naming Your WebsiteA Simple (But Powerful) Exercise
At this point, I encourage you grab a beverage, take out 10 note cards or post it notes, and your phone.
Set a timer for 10 minutes, and without judgement, write down 10 short, easy to spell words that speak to your soul.
Try to have some of these words be keywords that you want to rank for in future searches (again, this is nice but not essential).
Spend some time combining these into 2-3 word phrases and see what you can come up with. Bust A Name is a cool website that speeds this process up.
You can also use a website like Hover to instantly see if the “.com” of a website name is available.
Feel free to use conjunctions (e.g., and, the, etc.) to connect the words (Here's a list of some more).
Business coaches (and my friends) Kelly Higdon and Miranda Palmer from ZynnyMe, says that thinking small and not planning for future growth is a common mistake new practitioners make.
So ask yourself a question as you're completing this website naming exercise.
Where do I envision my career, my life, and my practice/business in 5 or 10 years?
Now I know that we're not fortune-tellers (wouldn't that be awesome?? =P), but asking this question can help you filter some names for your website.
Here's what I mean:
Do you envision being the face of your business? If so, it may make sense to have your name as your website name. This is what I did.
Do you envision being a solo practitioner that only wants to do counseling? If so, it may be okay to include your name and the word “counseling” in your website name.
Will you add clinicians to your practice later and/or sell your practice? If so, it makes more sense to have a general website name.
Do you plan on branching out from traditional psychotherapy into speaking, writing, podcasting, coaching, consulting, courses, etc.? If so, it's better to create a name that's easy to translate into multiple arenas; personally, this is how I would lean as it gives you the most flexibility for future growth.
Do you plan on moving to another city or state or plan to offer coaching/consulting services beyond a geographic area? If so, it doesn't make sense to include the city where you practice in your website name.
I know that this is a lot of information to consider. If you need to, take a few days and come back to this guide.
I've also found something as simple as taking a walk or taking a hot shower (this is actually how I came up with “Selling The Couch”) does wonders for coming up with a website name.
Most importantly, don't get too stressed out about coming up the perfect website name.
Your website name is only one part of building a successful presence online.
And, remember:A short, easy to spell, brandable, and available in .com website name will take you far. Click To Tweet
Part II: Selecting A Website Host and Installing WordPress
Now that we have a website name selected, let's get it registered and your website set up.
But first, I have a confession to make.
I didn't pick the right website host when I initially launched the Selling The Couch blog.
I mean, it was fine for the first few months (I actually picked one of the more popular hosting companies).
But then, the issues starting coming.
The STC blog was fast to load one day and slow as molasses the next (sorry..the Texan in me just came out =p).
Then in mid 2015, the STC blog crashed 5 times in a 2-week span.
When I called customer service, they couldn't explain what happened and couldn't give me a time frame on when the website would be back up.
I felt terrible.
I wanted you to be able to access the STC blog 24-7.
It just didn't feel right to continue with my previous hosting service and to continue to recommend them to you.
So in late 2015, I stepped into high gear to find a new website hosting service using the hard lessons I'd learned as a guide.
Based on my experience, I came up with 9 criteria in selecting the right website hosting service.
9 Factors To Consider In Finding Your Website Host
Recommended By Everyday Users And Website Experts
24-7 Award Winning Customer Service
1-Click WordPress Install + Trusted By WordPress
WordPress allows us to put content on our websites. It's the industry standard and trusted by over 75 million websites. I also wanted a host that's actually officially recommended by WordPress.
At Least 10 Years Old
Hosts At Least 1 Million Websites
Website host can handle lots of websites without compromising speed and quality for any one website. A large number like this also means people trust them and they're in it for the long haul.
No Pressure Sales Tactics
Visitors will access our websites 24-7. Imagine what a down website communicates to those we serve. That being said, any website has the chance to go down. So I'm looking for a host that has a team that gets right on it
Website security Is A Priority
Site Ground: The Website Host I Selected(And Why You Should Consider Them As Well)
24-7 Award Winning Customer Service
1-Click WordPress Install
With Site Ground, you simply click a button to install WordPress on your computer. No need to code or download anything. They're also officially recommended by WordPress (as well as several of my webdesigner friends).
At Least 10 Years Old
Site Ground also has an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau. As of this writing, there were 13 complaints filed within the past 3 years but all were resolved based on what I read.
Hosts At Least 1 Million Websites
Site Ground hosts over 2 million websites. I was a bit worried whether so many websites would lead to my websites becoming slower, but I haven't found that to be the case.
No Pressure Sales Tactics
Website Security Is A Priority
Some Resources To Gather First
We'll need 3 things to get your private practice website up and running:
The name of your private practice website (a.k.a. your “domain name”)
30 minutes of uninterrupted time
Setting Up Your Private Practice Website: Step by Step
Step 1a: Visit Hover.com and register your website name.
I like to register my website name Hover b/c it makes management much easier (plus, their customer service is awesome!).
We can then tell SiteGround that our website is registered at Hover but we want to host it at SiteGround (if this sounds confusing, don't worry, it's super easy).
Plus, though I don't anticipate this, registering our name on a separate site like Hover makes it easier to go to a new hosting service if something happens with SiteGround.
I made this mistake with my previous host where I registered both my website and did hosting with them.
When I decided to discontinue, they tried to charge me to keep my website/domain name there and even went so far as to charge me.
In short, it was a nightmare to get my domain name back.
Step 1b: Visit Site Ground and look for and click on a section that says “Managed WordPress Hosting.” (It should be at the very top or available through the menu).
Go with the StartUp plan as it's perfect if you only have a private practice website.
If you have multiple websites, go with the Grow Big plan.
You can always upgrade or downgrade later so don't worry.
When you press the corresponding button, you'll be taken to a screen to create a username and password (be sure to write both down as we'll need them later).
On this screen, enter the name of your private practice website and then press the corresponding button to proceed (Site Ground includes free domain registration)
Note from Melvin: You may want to keep your domain name separate from your website hosting service. This makes it easier to transfer your website information if you ever decide to leave Site Ground and go to another website host (I don't envision doing this but just to be on the safe side).
If you choose to go this route, I recommend first registering your website name through Hover and then selecting the “I already have a domain” option in Step 2.
If that seems too complicated, call Site Ground at 1.800.828.9231 and/or Hover customer service.
Site Ground offers discount pricing on their plans for up to 3 years.
If you can afford it, I highly recommend signing up for 3 years as it'll save you quite a bit of money.
I also know that there are a lot of expenses in starting a private practice so feel free to select the 12 month option if that makes more sense now.
I recommend keeping “Domain Privacy” on as this will keep your name and the address you provided private.
One of the subtle, but cool features of Site Ground, is the “Data Center” option that you see in the screen shot.
Basically, Site Ground has data storage centers in different parts of the world and will pick the server that's closest to your geographic locations.
This means that you get faster speeds and a stable connection.
You'll get 2 emails from Site Ground soon after you complete your purchase.
The first email is a receipt (be sure to print/save this for tax purposes as it's likely a write-off).
The second email contains your username and a button to Login to the Customer Area.
Click the button in the email, and enter your username and password (this was the password we wrote down earlier; but don't worry if you forgot it, you can reset through a link on the email).
We'll install WordPress through the Customer Service Area.
After you log in, you'll want to go to the “My Accounts” tab at the very top and then hit a tiny red button called “Go to CPanel.”
When you press the CPanel button, you'll be taken to a page. You want to look for a section called “Autoinstallers” (or some variation of that).
We're looking for the WordPress icon (remember, WordPress is what's going to add information to our websites).
You'll be taken to a page to install WordPress when you click the WordPress icon.
Make sure the “Install” section is selected and simply select the name of your private practice website from the drop down menu (you'll have to scroll down the page to find it).
You can also set your username and password to log into WordPress on this page.
Be sure to write both of these down as this is how you'll edit your website in the future.
It'll take several minutes to install WordPress (now's a great time for a beverage and a virtual pat on the back from me to you =)).
You'll get an email with a link to login to WordPress.
It looks like this: [Your Website Name].com/wp-admin
Click or type in the link into your web browser, enter the username and password (remember, this the username and password from Step 6 ), and you're officially logged in! Congrats =)
Part III: Installing A Website Theme
And you may be wondering how many websites looks visually amazing.
Many of them have a “theme” installed or were custom designed.
WordPress comes with several free themes that you can install if money is super tight.
The issue with free themes is that they don't always get updated, which leaves your website vulnerable from a security standpoint.
Instead, I highly recommend getting a premium theme.
I selected the Divi Theme from Elegant Themes.
I picked Elegant Themes because they're trusted by over 300,000 websites and have a thriving 10,000 person Facebook community of users, developers, and designers that you can join to get support 24-7 (check the Files section of the group for a list of developers/designers). Here's a link to my designer as well.
I picked Divi because it allows anyone to create an amazing website using their “drag and drop” templates (I actually created this blog post using Divi).
In other words, Divi comes up with pre-made templates that you can just put information into or you can create custom layouts. Divi is mobile responsive and was awarded the Sucuri Safe Theme Award after an intensive security audit.
Here's a quick video of the Divi Theme from the folks at Elegant Themes (prepare to be blown away! =p).
Even thought it's a bit more upfront, I highly recommend getting the Lifetime Access plan from Elegant Themes, which allows you to put Divi or any of other 86 designs and plugins on unlimited websites (remember, it's likely a tax write-off as long as it's being used for your business).
Bonus tip, as of this writing, you can get 10% off the Lifetime Access plan by signing up for the Elegant Themes email list (look on the bottom right when you get to the Elegant Themes website).
Now you probably won't have 86 websites =p, but the real value is that you get lifetime access to any plugin's that Elegant Themes makes.
I really like their Monarch plugin, which is the social media sharing buttons you see on this page and the Bloom plugin, which allows you to put email sign up forms on your website with the click of a few buttons.
If finances are tight, check out the Developer plan as this plan gives you access to email forms and social media sharing buttons in addition to Divi for one year.
I know that installing a theme can feel intimidating so I created a video to show you what to do =).
Part IV: Creating An About Page
Go you! =)
In this final video, I'll show you how to create an About Page (the About page will likely end up as one of the most visited pages on your private practice website) and some other cool stuff.
Melvin's Favorite WordPress Plugins
If you're a current or aspiring mental health private practitioner and need feedback on your website, feel free to join over 1,000 colleagues in the Selling The Couch Facebook Community.
Once you're done installing everything, here's a fantastic Intro To Divi video tutorial from the folks at WordPress Examples.
[smart_track_player url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/sellingthecouch/STC–KAT_LOVE–Final_output–JAY.mp3″ title=”Tips for Building an Awesome Website” artist=”Melvin Varghese with Kat Love” image=”http://sellingthecouch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/rsz_stc_logo_300_x_300_for_ide3_editor1.jpg” social=”true” social_twitter=”true” social_facebook=”true” social_gplus=”true” ][smart_track_player url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/sellingthecouch/STC-Nicole_Bonsol-edited.mp3″ title=”Create an Amazing About Page” artist=”Melvin Varghese with Nicole Bonsol” social=”true” social_twitter=”true” social_facebook=”true” social_gplus=”true” ]Finally, if you think this tutorial would help a colleague, please consider sharing it on Twitter below or through the social media links on this page (many thanks =)).
Check out this DIY Guide To Building Your Private Practice Website! #therapists #counseling Click To TweetThanks again for taking the time to read this tutorial, and I'll see you next time. =)