Creating a successful counselling practice can take many years. You have completed your counselling qualifications and worked in an agency for several years. Now, you want more independence in your work. You have written your website and done some initial marketing. However few (if any) clients are coming into your offices. What can you do about this?

One option for all counsellors is to use Google Adwords. In this article I give an overview of Google Adwords and some thoughts on the effective use of it for counsellors.

What Is Google Adwords?

Google Adwords is Google’s main advertising product. This product allows advertisers to be found for certain “keywords” (or terms) that people search for. For example, if I am looking for a counsellor that specializes in depression in Auckland, I may enter the term “Depression Counsellor Auckland” into Google’s search box. Pressing “Enter” the first four results that show up are ads for counsellors (or counselling institutions). Each of these counsellors (or institutions) has instructed Google to place their ad highly for this term. Each of them is also willing to pay (usually around $3 to $4) if someone clicks on their ad. Each click takes the potential client to the counsellor’s website-where they may choose to contact the counsellor.

Google AdwordsWhat Are The Advantages of Google Adwords?

The main advantage of Google Adwords is that it provides an easy way for clients to find a counsellor’s website. For most search terms research has shown that roughly 40% of people will click on ads that show for these terms. Of the remaining 60% of people, roughly:

  • 35% will click on the top “organic search result”
  • 70% will click on one of the top 5 search results
  • less than 5% of people will look beyond the first page for additional results.

Here the term “organic search result” refers to search results that are not ads-ie search results that Google has ordered and found relevant.

What this means is that unless your website ranks organically in the top 5 search results for a particular term, it is unlikely that potential clients will ever see your website (unless you are using Google Adwords). This is true regardless of the quality of your website-you may spend many hours and thousands of dollars creating the perfect website, but unless people see it, what is the point?

What Are The Disadvantages of Google Adwords?

While Google Adwords is a powerful way of helping clients find your website, it has significant downsides as well. Becky De Grosser, of, describes Google Adwords as being like a “very fast car”. Drive it well, she says, and you can get places fast (i.e. grow your private practice quickly). If you don’t know how to drive it, she says, you can get hurt-spending a lot of money with little return.

How Do I Set Up Google Adwords?

If you are wanting to grow your counselling practice fast, then Google Adwords is probably the best option for doing so. There are many online guides for setting up Google Adwords (for example, simply Google “how to set up Google Adwords”). If you are setting up Google Adwords yourself, I recommend that you inform yourself fully before you start. Time spent at the beginning can certainly save money later! Google also has a useful helpline around Google Adwords-after setting up my account for example, I have been contacted 4 or 5 times by Google representatives helping me optimize my campaign. While this support is generally useful, one has to be mindful that Google has an agenda in giving this advice!

As an alternative to setting up Google Adwords yourself, you can pay a company to do this for you. If you do this be careful of companies that overcharge for their services. As an example, I was recently contacted by an Albany based Adwords company that offered to set up Google Adwords for my counselling practice. They wanted to charge about $4000 every six months for doing this-when it costs me less than $1500 to do it myself. Needless to say I turned them down!

Is Google Adwords Worth It?

When set up well, Google Adwords is a highly effective means to bring new clients to your counselling practice. There are certain things to keep in mind when setting up your Google Adwords account. These include:

  • Think carefully about the terms you want to advertise for.
  • Think carefully about the terms you do not want to advertise for-as each click costs money! For example, a depression counsellor probably does not want people clicking on their ad for terms such as “cyclones” (which are a form of low pressure weather systems known as “depressions”). There are ways of avoiding this!
  • Consider targeting your ads geographically. Unless they offer online services a depression counsellor in Auckland is unlikely to want their ads showing in Wellington or Christchurch.
  • Think carefully about wording of your ad. Changing the title or subtitle of an ad can make a huge difference to whether people click on it or not.
  • Always test new ads. Google provides a simple way to test ads against each other so you can continually modify and improve your advertising. This can improve what is known as your “Click Through Rate” and “Quality Score”, bringing you more clients at a cheaper cost. If your Google Adwords company does not test ads against each other, change the company!
  • Be careful which page on your website you send potential clients to via your ad. Changing this page (known as your “Landing Page”) can make huge differences to the effectiveness of your advertising campaign. Usually it is best to not send clients to your home page.
  • Monitor your “conversion” cost. This is a measure of the cost spent in advertising for each client that contacts you to make an appointment. As a general example, this year I have spent around $50 in Google Ads for every new client that contacts me. If I am able to engage that client and see him or her for several sessions, it should be easy to see that Google Adwords is an effective way to build a private practice.

Questions? If you have any questions on this article or any other topic relating to online marketing or website design I would be happy to answer them-either directly to you or in a future blog. Please submit any questions to me via the comments section below or via my Contact page.