Google Ads is an extremely effective way to get your practice in front of ideal clients and generate more leads online. The online advertising platform gives you the ability to show targeted ads on Google’s search results.

Also known as a pay-per-click (PPC) platform, you pay Google when a click occurs on one of your ads. Your ads continue to show until your daily ad budget is exhausted.

While search engine optimization (SEO) is another way to gain visibility on Google, it can take 6-12 months to achieve 1st-page rankings that drive traffic to your website.

On the other hand, Google Ads can get your practice showing on Google’s search results shortly after you turn on your ads. It also synergizes well with an SEO strategy.

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Fortunately, you don’t need to be a Google Ads expert or run a marketing agency to make Google Ads work for your practice.

In this article, we cover how to prepare, set up, and manage a Google Ads campaign to successfully advertise your therapy practice in 2023 and beyond.

1. Before Getting Started

You might be feeling excited and ready to jump into setting up and running a Google Adwords campaign. However, having some foundational planning and knowledge in place is a good idea to increase your chance of success.

A Unique Offer for Your Ads

A unique offer increases the chance to make Google Ads work for your practice.

What primary offer do you plan to provide new clients and share in your Google Ads?

Here are some example offers/incentives that can work well with Google Ads:

  • Free consultations
  • Sliding scale or flexible rates
  • No waitlist or immediate availability
  • Insurance options
  • Telehealth available

There’s a ton of competition using Google Ads today, so it’s a good idea to include a unique incentive in your ads to entice potential clients to reach out to you rather than another practice.

Figure Our Average Client Lifetime Value

Also known as customer lifetime value (CLV), this number is extremely important to know so you understand the costs you’re able and willing to incur to run Google Ads at a profit.

For example, if the average client sees you twice a month for a year at a rate of $150 per session, the average client lifetime value for your practice is $3,600.

Now, consider the case where it costs $100 per phone call or form conversion with Google Ads. This cost per conversion sounds expensive. However, as long as you get a new client in 20-30 conversions, the total cost of $2,000-3,000 is still below your CLV of $3,600.

Budget to Test Ads for 2-3 Months

Based on our experience helping hundreds of therapists create Google Ad campaigns, we suggest starting with a budget of $20/day (a monthly budget of about $600/month) and testing for 2-3 months.

While you can get a Google Ads account up and running quickly and have an ad showing the next day, this doesn’t guarantee the campaign will perform well right out of the gate.

Oftentimes, the first month is experimental and you’re gathering data on what works and doesn’t with your initial ads, targeted keywords, and locations. Then, you’ll need some time to make changes based to your ads, targeting, or landing pages based on this data.

For example, let’s say you’re targeting an area with a high level of ad competition where the average cost-per-click (CPC) is $5.00. With a $20/day budget, this equates to 4 clicks per day. As you can see, for this budget and click cost, it will take some time to collect enough data to optimize against, including data for more than one Monday, Tuesday, etc.

Set aside enough budget to invest in data and experimentation in the first 4-6 weeks of running ads. It can take some time to achieve a consistently profitable ad campaign. We’ve seen campaigns struggle in the first month and end up top performers a few months later.

Determine Your Targeting Strategy

Having an initial targeting strategy in mind is important to maximize the success of your Google Ads campaign.

Consider the following aspects to determine an initial targeting strategy:

  • Location – Do you want to show your ads in one city, multiple areas, or an entire state? The larger the area, the more budget you may need to figure out what works.
  • Keywords – What keywords do you plan to target that are closely related to the services you want to promote? With a $20/day budget, consider targeting no more than 10-20 closely related to 1-2 of your core mental health services.
  • Demographics – Google Ads lets you target specific age groups, gender, and income segments. You can adjust these based on your ideal client and campaign data.

We will cover these aspects of targeting in more detail during the setup process below.

2. Preparing Your Website for Ads

Having a helpful, organized, and fast website is crucial for Google Ads success.

Make sure your website includes dedicated service pages, makes it easy for prospects to reach out, and displays a prominent call to action such as “book free consultation”.

When someone clicks on your Google Ad, you want to make it as smooth as possible for the prospect to load your site, understand your services & experience, see a unique incentive to reach out, and quickly find your contact information.

Website Checklist for Google Ads

Consider this website checklist before creating a Google Ads campaign:

  • Include a clear call to action and contact information in your site header & footer.
  • Provide a phone number and contact form for potential clients to reach out.
  • Have a dedicated page for each service or specialty that you want to promote.
  • Scan each page through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check page speed.
  • Include your primary services in a dropdown in your site’s header menu.
  • Ensure all images on your site are sized appropriately to improve loading speeds.
  • Make it clear what location/s you serve on your homepage and service pages.
  • Include an about page that describes you or your team’s experience & expertise.
  • Showcase reviews on your site pages such as below each page’s body content.

Once you think your website is ready for advertising, it’s time to set up your Google Ads campaign!

3. Setting Up Your Campaign

First, sign into Google Ads at ads.google.com. You will be required to sign into a Google account to gain access.

Upon signing in, select the option “New Google Ads Account”. This should direct you to a “New campaign” page like this:

New Google Ads Campaign Setup for Therapists

For this Google Ads for therapists guide and to make the most out of the setup process for your therapy practice, go ahead and click on “Switch to Expert Mode”.

Practice Name & Website

On the first page of the campaign setup, simply enter your practice name and the page URL you’d like to direct people to after they click your ad. To get started, enter your website’s homepage or a dedicated service page as shown below:

About Your Business - Google Ads Campaign Setup

Note: Linking your Google Ads to dedicated service pages is recommended when targeting specific keywords like “depression therapy” or “couples therapy”.

However, you can effectively start ads pointing to your site’s homepage to target general keywords like “therapist in x location” and “therapist near me” as long as your homepage is engaging, displays an offer, and makes it easy to reach out.

Once you’ve filled in this information, click on the “Next” button. The following page provides optional features related to adding a phone number extension directly in your ads, connecting to a mobile app, or to a YouTube channel for video ads:

Business Info - Google Ads Setup for Therapists

The only option relevant to us on this page when running Google Ads for therapists in Google Search is the “Phone number” option.

If you prefer not to show a phone number in your ads (and you prefer people click your ads and land on a page before seeing a number) you can click on “Skip”. You can always add a phone number extension at a later time in your ad campaign.

Upon clicking on “Skip” or “Next”, you’ll land on the “Campaign goals” section of the Google Ads campaign setup.

Setting Conversion Goals

For therapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals, the primary conversion goals or actions that make the most sense to track for lead generation are “Lead form submissions” and “Lead calls” as shown below:

Campaign Goals for Therapist Google Ads

Google Ads will aim to optimize your campaigns based on the conversion goals you choose.

Once you select these conversion goals, you will see a message about needing to add code to your site to track these events and that you’ll be receiving email instructions once you publish your first campaign.

There are a couple of ways you can track calls and form submissions that occur through your Google Ads. For now, let’s continue to the next step.

We will cover conversion tracking in more detail below, including connecting Google Ads to your Google Analytics account for additional insights.

Choosing Search Campaign

Next, scroll down to the end of the page and click on the “Next” button to move to the “Campaign type” section of the setup.

Since we chose “Lead form submissions” and “Lead calls” in the previous step, a Google Search campaign should already be recommended and selected for you, which is what we’re looking for to get shown in Google’s search results.

Campaign Type for Therapist Google Ads

If you chose not to enter a phone number earlier in the setup, there’s another option to do so again here. Or, you can skip this again and optionally add a call extension to your campaign at a later point in time.

Make sure “Search” is selected and click on the “Next” button to move to the “Bidding” section of the setup.

Choosing Bid Strategy

This section is where you will select the starting bid strategy for your Google Ads campaign.

Based on the conversion goals you selected previously, the bid strategy you see on this page might be set to “Maximize conversions” by default.

When using this bid strategy for your campaign, the Google Ads system will do its best to figure out how to get you the most conversions for your budget over time.

However, a popular bid strategy to start with is to use click-focused bidding instead of conversions until your ad campaign has generated a couple of genuine conversions.

Once conversions have occurred, you can change to “maximize conversions” bidding in your campaign settings to aim for squeezing more conversions out of your budget.

Click on “Change bid strategy” as shown below to select “Clicks” in the dropdown list that appears:

Bidding Settings for Google Ads Campaign

With click bidding, you can optionally set a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid limit. Setting a bid limit can be used to prevent Google Ads from allowing a very expensive click to occur. For therapists, we suggest a bid limit of $4 or $5.

At Therapy Flow, we have tested starting new Google Ad campaigns for therapists using “Maximize conversions” bidding and have seen success with this as well. This could be due to Google Ads having a growing amount of “first-party” data at their disposal to better predict what kind of ad targeting has a higher chance of leading to a conversion.

Consider experimenting with both bid strategies, such as using maximize clicks bidding for the first 1 or 2 weeks and then, even if no conversions have occurred, changing over to maximize conversions bidding.

If you choose to start with conversions bidding, don’t worry about setting a target cost per action until your campaign is generating conversions on a regular basis.

Campaign Settings

Once you’ve selected your bidding strategy, click on the “Next” button to head to the Campaign network settings:

Google Ads Campaign Settings

To start, toggle off “Include Google search partners” and “Include Google Display Network”. These are likely turned on by default. While these networks increase your reach, based on our experience, we suggest directing your ad budget to Google Search ads, which is the highest quality location for getting new clients.

While these other display ad-oriented networks have the potential to lead to a conversion, it’s much more infrequent and less targeted than the search network. Consider testing these networks after generating regular conversions through Google Search results.

Location Settings

Next, scroll down to the Locations section of the page and click on “Location options” to reveal additional targeting settings as shown below.

Under “Target”, select “Presence: People in or regularly in your targeted locations”. Then, under “Exclude”, select “Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your excluded locations.”

These settings will help ensure the people seeing your therapy ads are actually in the locations where you’re showing your ads.

Location Settings in Google Ads

Once these location options are in place, click on “Enter another location” to choose a more specific area to show your ads.

If you offer telehealth, you can try targeting the state your practice is in. Or, you can target nearby cities, and zip codes, or set a radius around a location. Then, when you create your first ad, make sure the ad mentions the area you’re targeting.

For this Google Ads guide, you can ignore “Audience segments” below the “Languages” section. This has to do with narrowing targeting even further than keywords, location, and general user demographics like age & gender, which tends to overly restrict the reach of your ad campaign.

Ad Schedule

Further down the page under “More settings”, you can choose to adjust the Ad schedule. For maximum data and if you don’t mind generating leads during off-hours, consider leaving it as is to start. You can adjust the ad schedule at any time.

4. Selecting Keywords

We’re almost through the setup! You are now ready to add the keywords you want to target and show your ads for!

Keyword Match Types

Before starting to add keywords though, let’s learn a bit about the concept of keyword match types.

In Google Ads, the keyword match types are:

  • Broad Match (Loosest Targeting) – Ads may show on searches that are related to your keyword. To add a broad match keyword, simply make sure there is no punctuation around the word or phrase.
  • Phrase Match (Narrower Targeting) – Ads may show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. To add a phrase match keyword, wrap quotes around the word or phrase like this – “keyword phrase”
  • Exact Match (Strictest Targeting) – Ads may show on searches that are the same meaning as your keyword. To add an exact match keyword, add brackets around the word or phrase like this – [keyword phrase]
Keyword Match Types in Google Ads

When starting a fresh campaign without much data, we recommend starting with a set of 10-20 phrase match keywords.

Once you start getting conversions through some of these keywords is a good time to gradually test adding in a broad match keyword or additional phrase match keywords to widen the ad targeting.

Choosing Keywords

Choosing the right keywords for your private practice and mental health services is vital for an effective campaign.

When it comes to Google Ads for therapists, here are some keywords that tend to work well for therapy ads (an example for a therapy practice in California):

  • “therapist”
  • “therapy services”
  • “therapist in california”
  • “therapist near me”
  • “psychotherapist”
  • “mental health therapy”
  • “mental health services”
  • “couples counseling”
  • “counseling in california”
  • “counseling near me”
  • “online therapy”

You can also optionally add a link to your therapy practice’s site or enter some service keywords to get keyword suggestions:

Google Ads Keywords for Therapists

A free keyword research tool that is useful for finding keyword ideas, search volumes, and cost stats is the Google Ads Keyword Planner.

This is a valuable tool for getting insight into keyword demand (estimates on how often a keyword is searched each month) and cost-per-click estimates in your target area.

The keyword research tool is built directly into Google Ads, so you can access it from the menu at the top of the Google Ads dashboard.

Once you’ve added your starting list of keywords, it’s finally time to get that ad created!

5. Creating An Effective Ad

To get started with creating your Google Ad, click on the “Ads” section below the previous keywords section.

The following page to edit your ad should look similar to this image:

Creating Google Ad for Therapy Practice

About Ad Assets

A Google ad is made up of the following assets:

  • Final URL – A link to the page that you want people to land on after clicking your ad.
  • Display Path – An optional path you can show as part of the page link (final URL).
  • Headlines – Create up to 15 ad headlines. Your ad will show 2 or 3 headlines at once.
  • Descriptions – Create up to 4 ad descriptions that share details about your practice, the service you’re promoting, and a unique offer.
  • Sitelink Extensions – Optionally display a list of links (with optional link descriptions) that can show below your ad’s main description fields. Multiple pages are required.
  • Callout Extensions – Optionally show a phone number below your ad descriptions.
  • Other Ad Extensions – Additional extension formats including image, featured snippet, and form lead extensions.

We recommend filling out the full 15 headlines and 4 descriptions to test a variety of combinations from the start.

For ad copy ideas, consider searching up one of your target keywords on Google and checking out the competing ads.

Note: Once your ad is turned on and eligible to run, Google will test different combinations of ad assets and attempt to show the best combination over time.

About Ad Groups

Also, test 2-3 ads max per ad group. An ad group is a set of closely-related ads and keywords. The ad and keywords you choose during setup are within their own ad group. You can optionally create more ad groups once you’ve published your campaign.

For example, with Google Ads for therapists, you might consider creating a second ad group with a unique ad, set of keywords, and landing page focused on “anxiety therapy”.

After you’ve filled out your ad headlines and descriptions, and have added the optional extensions you’d like to test, click on “Done” and then the “Next” button to head over to the campaign budget section.

Setting Daily Budget

To set your budget, select “Set custom budget” and enter your preferred daily budget in the provided field. As suggested near the beginning of this guide, we recommend starting with an ad spend of at least $20/day.

On budget spending: For the month, you won’t pay more than your daily budget times the average number of days in a month. Some days you might spend less than your daily budget, and on others, you might spend up to twice as much.

Review Your Campaign

Once you’ve set your daily budget, click “Next” to head to your campaign review page. If everything looks good, based on the settings you’ve chosen throughout this Google Ads guide, click on “Next” to set up billing and you’re good to go!

6. Ongoing Optimization

You’ve now published your campaign! What’s next? Ongoing optimization! In the perfect world, your ads would convert right away and continue to perform until you stop.

However, due to factors like changes in competition, costs per click, search demand, and seasonality, it’s necessary to check performance and optimize your campaign over time.

Dashboard Overview

Once you’ve reviewed your campaign and setup your billing information, you’ll be directed to the Google Ads dashboard, which should look something like this:

Google Ads Dashboard

The left-hand most sidebar makes it easy to select the Google Ads campaign you’re working on, including the option to select a specific ad group within the campaign.

The following sidebar starting with “Overview” includes the sections where you’ll make most optimizations to your campaign and analyze data. This includes adjustments to your ads, keywords, audience targeting, locations, ad schedule, and device targeting.

We suggest quickly clicking through each option in this sidebar to get a better idea of the type of information included in each section.

Generally, you’ll spend most of your time under the following sections:

  • Ads & Assets – Add, edit, remove, or duplicate ads and check their stats over time.
  • Keywords – Review the keywords you’re targeting, add/remove terms, and check stats.
  • Keywords -> Negative Keywords – Prevent your ad from showing for specific terms.
  • Keywords -> Search Terms – View the exact search phrases that have shown your ads.
  • Audiences – Target or exclude specific demographic segments (age, gender, income).
  • Settings – Campaign-level settings (networks, locations, budget, bidding strategy).
  • Locations – View ad performance based on location and add or exclude locations.
  • Ad Schedule – View ad performance based on time period and adjust as needed.
  • Devices – Show your ads for mobile phones, tablets, and/or computers.

Search Terms Report

As your ads are running, check the “Search Terms” report on a regular basis to see the actual terms searched by people who either see or click on your ad:

Search Terms Report - Google Ads for Therapists

Sometimes, these terms vary quite a bit from the actual terms you chose to target under “Keywords”, especially if you chose to target broad match keywords.

To see which of your targeted keywords triggered which actual search terms shown in the report, click on “Columns” in the top-right of the table and then select Attributes, toggle on the “Keyword” option, and click on “Apply”.

Modify Columns in Search Terms Report

Turning this attribute on will show a new “Keyword” column in the Search Terms report. This makes it easy to compare actual Google searches with the keywords you’re targeting.

You might find some keywords you’re targeting, especially broad matches, lead to many irrelevant searches in the report.

If you see this, consider changing the keyword to phrase or match under Keywords -> Search keywords in the sidebar, or adding the irrelevant terms as negative keywords.

Negative Keywords

If the terms aren’t relevant to your practice or services, consider adding them under “Negative Keywords” in the left-hand sidebar to prevent your ad from showing for these terms in the future. This will help improve your ad targeting over time.

When adding negative keywords, it’s important to know that you can use keyword match types (similar to broad, phrase, or exact match keyword targeting earlier in the setup).

Most of the time, you can simply add one-word negative keywords. For example, if you find a phrase under the search terms report that’s irrelevant to your business such as “accepting Medicaid”, you could add two separate negative keywords (accepting and Medicaid) to prevent all future searches that use either word from showing your ads.

However, you can also wrap two or more words in quotes to prevent your ad from showing for searches that include the exact phrase “accepting Medicaid”.

Examples of common negative keywords to add for mental health therapists include “physical therapy” and “massage therapy”.

Consider adding competitor names as well so your ads primarily show for more targeted keywords with a higher chance of leading to a conversion.

You can add up to 5,000 negative keywords per list and create up to 20 negative keyword lists in your Google Ad account.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is vital to successful Google Ads for therapists. Without tracking conversions, you’re shooting in the dark and potentially paying more for fewer results.

Having conversion tracking in place (such as for phone calls and form fills) allows you to see which ads, keywords, locations, demographics, times of day, and devices lead to a conversion, so you can improve your campaign performance based on this data.

In addition, when using a smart bidding strategy like Maximize conversions, Google uses your conversion data to attempt to automatically improve your campaign’s performance.

To set up or ensure you have conversion actions in place, select “Tools and settings” in the Google Ads header menu and click on “Conversions” as shown in this image:

Google Ads Conversions in Tools & Settings Menu

Upon clicking on “Conversions”, you’ll land on the “Summary” page. This is where you can start the process of creating new conversion actions, editing, or removing existing actions.

Conversion Actions - Google Ads for Therapists

In the context of Google Ads for therapists, the main types of conversions to track include:

  • Phone calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads
  • Calls to a phone number on your website or landing page
  • Submissions through a form on your website or landing page

You will need to create a separate “Conversion action” in Google Ads for each of these, and the process is a bit different for each.

Conversion Action #1 – Calls from Ad Extension

The easiest conversion action to set up is for phone calls from ads using extensions. For this, simply click on “New conversion action”, select the “Phone calls” box, choose “Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads”, and click “Continue”.

Next, you’ll land on a page to adjust some quick settings for the conversion action. Here, you add a conversion name such as “Call from ad extension”, enter an optional value for the conversion action, keep the “Count” setting as is, and set a preferred “Call length”. Leave the “Data-driven” attribution model setting as is and click “Create and continue”.

Conversion Action #2 – Calls from Website

The setup for the next conversion action to have in place is a bit more involved.

How you set up phone call conversion tracking depends on if you use an existing call tracking system or want to try out dynamically-generated Google forwarding numbers.

Using Google forwarding numbers is the most straightforward method.

To set this up click “New conversion action”, select the “Phone calls” box, choose “Calls to a phone number on your website”, and click on “Continue”.

From here, like the previous conversion action, you enter in details about the conversion. The difference here is that you will have to add a “Destination number” and a “Display” number. These may or may not be different depending on your existing call setup.

Upon clicking on “Create and continue” you’ll be provided with instructions, including a Google tag and Phone snippet code to add to your website.

See Google’s official docs about tracking calls to a phone number on a website here.

Conversion Action #3 – Form Submissions

Tracking form submissions involves adding a snippet of code to a “thank you” or destination page users land on after filling out a form.

After selecting “New conversion action”, choose the “Website” box, enter the URL for your website, and click on “Scan”. On the following page, scroll down to the bottom and select “Add a conversion action manually”.

Another page will pop up to select a category for the conversion action (in this case select “Submit lead form”) and to enter a name, optional value, and count for the conversion.

When you click on “Done”, the conversion is added to the previous page, and you can click on “Save and continue”. From here, Google Ads will inform you that you need to add tags for this conversion action.

This can be done with a Google-provided code snippet or by using Google Tag Manager. The simplest and most straightforward method is to use the Google-provided tag.

To get the tag, you just have to click on “See event snippet”. Then, ensure “Page load” is selected and copy the code snippet, which should look similar to this image:

Google Ads Conversion Event Snippet Example

Finally, paste the code snippet between the <head></head> tags of your form’s thank you page, or whichever page a user redirects to after submitting a form message to complete the form tracking setup.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Google Ads Work for Therapists?

Yes! With Google continuing to be the most used search engine, Google Ads is one of the most effective ways to get in front and acquire ideal therapy clients when they search for keywords related to your practice and services in your target location.

Is Google Ads Worth It?

Google Ads is definitely worth investing in for practices small and large.

The ad platform provides not only client acquisition opportunities, but valuable consumer insights that you can use to improve your ad targeting and other marketing efforts such as SEO and social media marketing.

Is Google Ads Free to Use?

The Google Ads software itself is free to use until you run ads that generate clicks. Then, you are charged based on the cost of clicks on your ads.

Some practices also pay a Google Ads specialist or agency to manage their ad campaigns for them, which often requires an ongoing management fee on top of the ad budget.

Final Thoughts: Google Ads for Therapists

Whether you are a solo practitioner or manage a group practice, Google Ads is a powerful advertising network to consider investing in as part of your online marketing strategy.

Google Ads offers therapists a channel to get in front of ideal clients, collect valuable data to support SEO and other marketing activities, and ultimately grow their practice.

Want Help With Google Ads for Your Practice?

At Therapy Flow, we coach and support hundreds of practice owners with their marketing and sales efforts, including Google Ads, Facebook Ads, SEO, operations, and sales.

We help private practice owners go from zero to full caseload or scale to 6-7 figures.

See How Therapy Flow Works to Grow Your Private Practice

To learn more about Therapy Flow Programs, book a free consultation here.

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