Episode 17 – Dan Fava

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Clay: Hello and welcome to the Online Counselling Podcast.  I’m Clay Cockrell.  It’s a gorgeous day here in New York.  The sun is shining, about 70 degrees out there, just the perfect day.  I was speaking with my folks back in Kentucky.  Have I mentioned that I grew up n Kentucky?  If not, there’s a bit of info for you, but my dad was saying that it’s raining there.  In moments like that, he always says, “It’s coming your way.  The rain here in Kentucky is going to be in New York tomorrow.” I have to get out there and enjoy the good weather while I can.  I have a few sessions in the park later so I’m excited about that.

I don’t think I’ve talked about that part of my practice.  I guess I’m so focused on the purpose of this podcast I really haven’t talked about my other work.  I guess today, you get two little bits of information about me.  I grew up in Kentucky and now, of course, live here in New York City.  Big change but also I’m the founder of Walk and Talk Therapy.  It started about 12 years ago now.  I walk in Central Park with my clients instead of meeting in an office.  It’s kind of cool, very different.  I think better on my feet sometimes.  It has been great.  I’ve been on Good Morning America, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times.  Most recently, I was on the doctor’s talk show on CBS.

I’m not famous by any means.  Don’t get that idea but it’s really nice to get a little media attention for what you do and I like teaching other therapists how to incorporate walking into their practices.  Go over to walkandtalk.com if you want to learn more.  It’s, of course, completely different than my other life, online counseling, which is very indoors, web based.  So, part of my day, I’m walking through Central Park, the other part, I get to talk with clients in Tokyo or some other exotic place.

Anyway, enough about me, let’s get to the podcast guest.  As many of you know, I generally try to have guests on that are leaders in the field of telemental health, online therapy, online counseling, whatever you want to call it like Roy Huggins, Rob Reinhardt for example who can educate us about the tech side, or Eric Strom who was on the past podcast and he talked about the licensure issues across state lines.  If you haven’t listened to that one, make sure that you check that one out, but sometimes, I like to have other guests on that are not just focused on online counseling but counseling or the business of counseling in general.

I have a section of the website called the Therapist Toolbox and there are several resources there to help you grow your practice not just online people.  Speaking of the website, big announcement, we now have the domain name of onlinecounseling.com spelled with just one L, I mean, there’s an L in online but for counseling, just one L.  All you US based therapist like me who spell counseling with one L you can type in onlinecounseling.com with one L and you will get there.  For all our international listeners who spell counseling with two L you can get there too.  Same site, two different spellings, so big news.

Back to what I was saying, today’s guest is one of those resources I mentioned, not specifically for online counseling but important nonetheless.  He is Daniel Fava who is the founder of createmytherapistwebsite.com and he has a niche as a web developer that he works with therapists to get their custom websites up and running.  He does SEO, marketing, his blog is amazing with all sorts of tips, completely free.  I was drawn to him because I see him all over social media, helping people out with advice and direction on their sites, and I thought he would be a great guest.  I just like his spirit.

Also, like me, he has a great love story that led him to do what he does.  I’ll have to tell you my love story another time, but it’s the reason behind the podcast and everything that I do really, but I’ve talked enough about me today.  Let’s just jump into the interview.  I hope you like it.

Alright and today’s guest is Daniel Fava, and I’m so pleased to have you, of createmytherapistwebsite.com.  Is that correct?

Dan: That’s correct.  Thanks so much for having me, Clay.

Clay: Certainly.  I’m captivated by your story and how you got in this, I guess, arena, this space, but for our listeners, bring them up to speed how you got started doing therapist websites.

Dan: Yeah and I appreciate you checking out my website and just loved hearing that you love my story.  I really appreciate that.  It really includes my wife.  My wife is a huge part of my story and even on my website, on my About Page, I talk a little bit about how I got into therapy websites, but it dates back a little further back.  My wife and I, we both met under these crazy circumstances back in 2009.  We’re both traveling and doing some mission work over in Thailand actually.  We both took some time out of just our careers and just regular everyday work stuff and just to kind of give back.

We both ended up working with these foundations that works with women who are coming out of prostitution and sex trafficking, and my wife is really using her therapy skills to try to help women and create these therapy groups and stuff like that.  Those are kind of my first introduction to this whole world and then everything just clicked.  Sparks flew and we fell in love and within a year, we were married.  We came back stateside and then moved to Atlanta.  She’s from Tampa originally.  I’m from New York originally.

We landed in Atlanta as it just sounded like a really cool place to start our life together.  Once we did that, I was kind of like, “Okay, what do we do next?”  I was freelancing for some friends of mine who were still back in New York.  They have started their own marketing agency, so I was doing freelance web design, lots of WordPress development, stuff like that.  My wife began pursuing private practice in Georgia, so starting out in a new state.  Getting her license, it was a tough task.  It was a long year.

Nobody wants to hire you without your license but you need the hours to get your license, so I freelanced for a while.  She did stuff like she taught piano lessons and stuff like that.  It took her about a year and then she finally found a job.  When she got that job, I was like, “Okay, you need a website.  I’ve been building my own websites for like my own portfolio and just for, like I mentioned, my friends back in these agencies and even back before then, I did lots of web work for my church, and so I started WordPress for that.

I was like, “Okay, we have to build you a website.”  I got to work on that, which was a lot of fun to do and basically, I just built her a WordPress website.  It was nothing too fancy, but with my coding skills and design skills, we were able to take the template that we chose and just expand it, and make it really nice.  It was a little slow at first but then when she really started getting clients in, these clients would be like, “I was looking at three or four other therapists, but I went with you because I really liked your website.”

She would hear that time and time again.  I was like, “That’s great.  That’s awesome,” and me being a web designer and developer, I’m very passionate about just good web design and just beautiful user experiences, and nice and clean, and that sort of thing.  I think back in 2010, having that website that was aesthetically pleasing and really simple to use, that really stood out to a lot of people apparently, and then over time, some of wife’s coworkers at the practice that she works with, they would contact me and ask me about if I could build them a website.  I have been working for the last four years in 9-5 at a nonprofit as a user experience manager, so I was really busy with that.

I was kind of struggling with I want to take on these freelance clients and I want to help more therapists create better websites, and so over time, it just took me a while but then it finally clicked.  In this last year, I really just been just passionate about entrepreneurship and how can I use these skills that I have and the gifts that I’ve been given, how can I use them for others and then just kind of have this light bulb moment about a year ago and just decided I could start teaching and helping other therapists create awesome websites.  Now, I’m doing that through my blog and through freelance work and online training courses I’m developing and stuff like that.

Clay: Yeah, there’s so much information on your site, just free information on things that therapists should know.  There’s just a lot of information.  If you’re listening to the podcast, go over there.  You can just sit and get a graduate education on things to think about when putting together a website because I always say, that’s that first, generally, it’s the first interaction that a client has with you.  They need to know your voice.  They need to get to know you and you want to put your personality on that.  Have you found it difficult because I think I’m probably the worst when I try to do a website?  I want the thought to be exact and I want the color to be this.  I do hours of searching on iStock for photos.  Do you get a little bit of that?  What’s that like for you?

Dan: Yeah.  I mean, even with my own website, working on my own website, I could agonize over the About Page, over the information that you’re creating like, “I want to come across as this way or that way,” but at the end of the day, it’s all about you, it’s all about your voice.  You want to be true to who you are so  the people that you’re working with who contact you, they don’t have any surprises.  It’s my goal to craft, the wording on my website, in as much a way that when people get in touch with me, they know that I’m the same person on my website as I am when you talk to me in person.

I think the same goes for anyone in a small business, especially counselors and therapists.  It’s such a personal thing to reach out to somebody with an issue or a situation you’re in that you want to see growth in.  To be able to get this on the website, like you said, it’s for the first interaction, and really get a glimpse of someone’s personality, I think is huge.  I look at a lot of therapist’s websites and some of them are more like the third person and they just sound a little bit more, I don’t know what the word is, but it’s not as like friendly and outgoing.

That was one thing that we did with my wife’s website was just really try to be like instead of just like, “contact me,” we tried to use like “what do you want to discuss?  What do you want to talk about?  What can I help you with?” Like really conversational stuff like that and because that’s her personality and that’s not everybody’s personality.  It really worked for her.

Clay: I imagine that you really spend a lot of time getting to know your client.  Sam Jones comes and he wants a website.  You’re going to spend some time getting to know him, his voice, his niche and what he’s approaching.  How much time does that take for you and then what’s the time frame for the development of a typical site?

Dan: Well, I just got to be fully honest with you.  For a year, I’ve kind of been working on a blog and working on that information stuff.  I’m in the process right now of searching for those first one on one clients.  I have done lots of consultation work and stuff like that, and just helping people through email and stuff like that.  I’m in the process of searching for that first client, but I have done many phone consultations.  I offer Skype consultations, but we do this a lot and this is something that when I do talk to potential clients that we do spend a lot of time upfront, like I want to hear about their business, I want to hear their goals especially the target audience that they want to work with, their ideal clients and that sort of thing.

It’s super important because if you want to really help a specific population but the words that you use and sort of the way that you present yourself is something that’s a little antagonistic to that population, it’s not going to work.  Definitely, it’s super important and something that I enjoy because I enjoy learning about people and learning about what their goals are for their practice, and then how can we then take those goals and their personality, and then sort of craft, design, and the wording and the calls to action around those things.  It’s just as important as the design and the development because it’s really the message of the whole website.

Clay: Now, there are other web developers out there for therapists and it seems like their business model is a monthly payment.  They design the site but then the therapist makes a payment and then they get unlimited tech support.  There are a lot of good things about that.  I get the sense that yours, the business model is a little different in that it’s very customized and it’s not going to be a monthly ongoing relationship, right?

Dan: Right, right.  It’s more customized and I’m really passionate about– my whole blog is about empowering therapists to really create their own website, but I understand that some people may not have the tech know how or just not feel comfortable with that so they may want to hire someone, but I still try to empower them.  When I build a WordPress website, a typical project if it’s fully custom down to designing a couple variations of a home page to kind of set the look and feel, and then moving into the actual development.  That probably takes about a month, but then after that, I make myself available through email for email support and I definitely don’t want to just give someone a website and then just leave them.  “Here, figure out how to use WordPress.”

Clay: Good luck.

Dan: Part of my custom design package includes one on one video training where I can share my screen and then walk them through WordPress.  If the therapist has never seen WordPress then obviously, they are going to need a little bit of training there but I’m very passionate about logging and content marketing, and things like that.  It’s really important that I empower someone to use their website to make changes on their own and that will save them money in the long run.  While custom design might be an upfront cost, in the long run, being able to do it yourself can save you thousands over the years.

Clay: Oh yeah, absolutely.  Now, you’re a big WordPress fan.

Dan: Yes.

Clay: Tell me a little bit about it because I keep hearing so much about WordPress.  My site that was developed is based from the WordPress model.  It really is the leader in the industry, right?

Dan: Yes, yes.  I forget the actual numbers but I believe the last stat that I read, I think it’s like 25% of the internet is built on WordPress.

Clay: Whoah, 25% of the internet?

Dan: Yeah, 25% of all websites on the internet, I think, was the last stat that I read.  I was researching it for a blog not too long ago.  I forget exactly where it was, but yeah, it’s millions of websites use WordPress.  Basically what it is is it’s a framework and it’s what’s called open source meaning that people can add plug ins to it.  You’ve got professional developers and designers creating themes, creating plug ins that do different things, like if you want to have social sharing on your website, there are tons of professionals that have developed these special social sharing plug ins and stuff like that, plug ins for SEO.

The WordPress framework itself is free that’s why it can definitely save you money in the long run and also, what I really like the most about it is that you can really grow with it.  You can find a professionally developed design theme that’s beautiful and you can customize it to your heart’s content usually and then down the line in three years, if that theme you’ve kind of outgrown.  Your style is a little different, then you can purchase another theme or find somebody else to develop a new theme, but all your content, all your blog, all your pages, they are still there but then a new theme can wrap around that.

Clay: You just give it that different look.

Dan: Right.

Clay: I’ve got people who and for a different theater that I run and we did Wix, I believe, just because it was easier, but I’m hearing that WordPress for SEO for social media, it really is the leader in the industry.

Dan: Yes, yes, definitely.  It provides the most flexibility and the most popular plug in for SEO is Yoast SEO.  That’s the largest online marketers.  They are looking that plug in and it’s free.  There’s usually really robust free versions of these plug ins, but then you can pay a service and then get the sort of like the full potential of the plug ins, but I found in the most case, the free ones work fantastically.

Clay: I use Yoast and I love that it tells me how good my SEO is getting with the little stop lights, the red, yellow, and green.  I’m like, “Okay, I can change this.  I’m getting a yellow and I’m going to get up to that green.”  It’s kind of fun to use.  I never thought that SEO would be fun.  It kind of becomes fun.  It’s teaching me.

Dan: It’s like a puzzle to figure out.  “Okay, I need to add a keyword in my URL.  I forgot to do that,” stuff like that, and it will show you exactly where you’re at and so how to optimize it.

Clay: Tell me a little bit about SEO because I get a sense that it’s not just website design for you.  It’s content marketing.  It’s social media.  It’s SEO.  What do you bring to the table?

Dan: I think it’s a little bit of all those things.  Web design is sort of my forte and then starting this blog to sort of share my skills and just what I’ve learned about web design, I’m also learning then how to market this blog and how to reach therapists and how to do SEO well.  That’s sort of plays well into the services that I can offer people because I’m learning, I’m growing, and I’m seeing great things happen through blogging and content marketing.  I just kind of like, it’s like a cycle.  I learn this stuff and then I just want to share it with my audience the different tools that I’m using and different things that I’m learning.  I can consult on all those things because I’m learning those things and I’m growing in them myself.

Clay: It’s interrelated because when I first started, I got this gorgeous website.  It was beautiful.  Nobody ever saw it because the guy never did anything with SEO.  It was on the bottom of the bottom.  I was still proud of it, but then I thought, “It needs to be a tool.  It needs to get my voice out there.”  It’s such an important part of it.

Dan: Right.

Clay: What are some things that therapists get tripped up on maybe that you see them coming to you?  Where do we get stopped?

Dan: One thing that I’ve noticed a lot of, when I consult with people, I take a look at their websites.  One specific thing that I’m learning is sort of one thing that’s has become central to my messages as far as like SEO and developing a website is to really think about the person that you’re trying to reach with your website, your ideal client that you want to call you.  What I’ve seen in a lot of therapists’ websites that get in touch with me for consultations is it’s not completely clear who they work with.

It’s more “check out my private practice” that sort of thing, but putting yourself in the shoes of someone, say, they are going through a divorce and they need to find a therapist who would walk that road with them, they probably don’t care too much about your practice specifically or even about you.  They want to know, “Can you help me?”  Sort of designing and copyrighting kind of go hand and in hand there is you want to be clear and very quickly who you help and what you help them to achieve.

I’m passionate about queen design and just getting that message out there as quick as possible.  “This is who I help and this is what I help them to achieve.”  Another way to do that that also plays into SEO is making sure that you have specific pages dedicated to the services that you offer because if somebody is searching for a specific type of counseling or specific issue, chances are that they will probably be Googling something like “grief counseling in Atlanta, Georgia.”

Having a page that’s specifically dedicated to how you work with people through grief, divorce, or whatever the topic is shows Google and also shows the person that you’re trying to help that you know what you’re talking about, you can help them with their situation.  I’ve had people email me and says, “I took your advice and I’ve seen my rank go up.”  I’m like, “That’s awesome.”  It really does work.  It makes sense just to be there for the people you’re trying to help and for that ideal client that you want.

Clay: Absolutely.  You’re talking to someone with your website and you’re talking to someone in pain, in need.  You want to be able to meet them at that moment, just as they are picking up the phone.  Something I learned this last weekend, I don’t know why I didn’t notice before, that SEO will define that search engine optimization.  It’s how Googl ranks sites.  Google doesn’t rank necessarily your site.  It looks page by page.  You have a whole site.  Links and structure and all that is important, but each page needs to have a really, a targeted keyword.  It needs to be optimized.  Google didn’t look at all the site.  They look at page by page.

Dan: Right, exactly.  I’ve got some blog posts that ranked on Google.  If you just type in “therapy websites,” I’m not on the first page, at least not the last time I checked, but for certain keywords, some of my blog posts might be whereas my home page may not be.  It’s all about the topic that you’re discussing on each page and those can act completely differently in search engine rankings.

Clay: What are some tips maybe that you might have for somebody that’s listening that they need to incorporate into their website other than what you’ve already given?  You’ve already give quite a bit.

Dan: That’s definitely one of my biggest tips is having specific pages.  I just really encourage people to blog because it’s really, what we’re seeing lately is that content marketing, like consistently putting out new content and helpful content is what Google looks for.  It looks for, providing the right answers to the questions that people have, the most relevant answers.  One personal thing I learned a couple of years ago is I had a portfolio website, I just had some of my web design stuff on there and I wasn’t really checking on the Google Analytics and there was like nothing there.

I decided I was just going to start blogging and then sharing my blog post on social media.  I started doing that and then you could see just slowly over time that the paid views rose and more visitors showed up.  If you really want to drive traffic, it’s creating consistent content, putting it out there, and I think what blogging also does is it helps showcase your expertise and shows your personality a little bit more.  If someone maybe isn’t sold by your home page or your about page, then maybe they start looking through your blog posts and see that that person really knows what they are talking about and they really like just the way they speak on their blog, all those things sort of showcase who you are to potential clients.

Clay: How abou this, I went to a conference this last weekend.  It was an interesting question from one of the therapists that came up.  It was, “I’m giving away all this for free.  Why would somebody pay for me to have a session with me when I’ve already given the top five tips to fight depression or the three ways to overcome anxiety?”  This resistance to give things away for free, this value, it adds value to your website so that people are getting something out of it.  Well, if they are getting something out of it, why?  I know the answer.  You tell me what is your reaction to that.

Dan: Yeah.  I struggled with that a little bit too when I first started seriously blogging and I have those conversations with my wife, like, “You’re giving away all these resources.  Who is going to pay you for service?”  I don’t know, there’s just something about generosity.  Obviously, I wouldn’t give away completely free consultations.  You wouldn’t give away free therapy.  I mean, that’s not ethical, but you wouldn’t give that away for free but you give enough to show people that you have confidence in your expertise.  You have things to share and things that people can learn and I think that that generosity attracts people who want to go deeper, who want to learn more, whether it’s my services or therapy services.  It gives people enough of a glimpse.  “Wow, their content is free.  I can’t imagine what I’m going to get if they paid me.”

Clay: Exactly.

Dan: That’s kind of how I try to think about it is sharing.  These resources are going to help people.  I love seeing people improve their websites.  Like I said before, people email me like, “Oh, that tip worked about creating my own service pages.”  That’s so cool.  That’s so exciting that somebody saw results from something that I recommended and that’s also how people then hear about you.  Generosity just tends to come back and I’m just a firm believer in that.

Clay: Absolutely.  I think that there’s nothing that’s going to substitute face to face counseling.  There’s no way that I can boil down what I do into the top 5 tips of fighting depression or whatever that is going to be.  That might help someone, but if you’re really wanting to work in counseling, there’s no way I’m going to be able to give that away for free and having confidence in the value of what you bring to the table.

Dan: Exactly.

Clay: What about video?  What do you think about having video on your website, intro videos?  Is this something that you encourage?

Dan: Video is something that is actually new to me and it’s something that I don’t have much experience with.  I think it’s a great idea and I think we’re seeing video becoming really important.  We have Facebook Live, Periscope, and all these things that people are starting to do.  Video is increasingly becoming important and it’s also becoming something that people are used to and starting to expect.  I think it’s a great way again to showcase your personality and let somebody know what it’s like to speak to you because sometimes, you might have a client who is anxious about that first session and then they see a video and they hear how you speak and kind of see your office and stuff like that.  They can really envision sitting with you and I think it’s a great idea.  It can be like an introduction on your website or on your about page, and maybe even some videos on.  If you have Facebook page for your practice, I think it’s a great idea because there’s just something about seeing people’s body language and that sort of thing.

Clay: The more they get to know you, the better

Dan: Right.

Clay: This is the Online Counselling Podcast, right, part of that and I’ve listed you as a great resource in our tool box.  I think there’s value in doing this podcast, just those therapists out there that are looking to redo their websites, but do you have any knowledge?  Are therapists coming to you and saying, “I want to bring this to my practice.  I want to do counseling through webcam,” what’s your experience with that?

Dan: I don’t have too much.  I had a consultation with someone who said that online counseling was the main focus of their practice.  I mean, that was just one hour consultation, but as far as web design and freelancing with a client that’s focused online, I haven’t had that experience yet, but I’m sure I will probably soon.  It definitely seems to be pretty popular and something that my wife is doing more of.

Clay: Is she?

Dan: Yup.

Clay: Okay, good.  We’re big cheerleaders for online counseling around here.

Dan: She just had one session today.

Clay: Good.  What are some must haves because there are therapists out there that have their calendar on their website?  Here’s your availability, book right here.  There are therapists that do the free gift, “Here’s a free ebook and sign up for my mailing list.”  What are some must haves you think that this will distinguish you from your competitors?

Dan: That’s a good question.  I think I’m really big on making it simple for someone to get in touch with you.  If someone needs to really search for your phone number or your email, and another thing too, giving them that option.  Some people might want to fill out the form on your contact page.  Other people might just want to email you.  Other people might just want to call you.  Giving them that option and making it clear, you could include it in the footer on every single page.

If someone is reading a blog post and maybe that’s the fifth blog post that they’ve read and like, “You know what, I need to get in touch with this person,” and then right on the footer of that page is your contact information, making it very simple for someone to get in touch with you.  Another thing, I’m pretty big on the About page.  I think that that is a really huge asset to any website and especially using that About page like we discussed earlier to speak to a real person and to speak to where people are at and so that ideal client that you want in your office and not just telling your story while that is important, but starting with the people that you help, why you help them, sort of your philosophy and how you practice, and then going into the more of the details about your life and your credentials, and that sort of thing.

Clay: Right, that’s important, but speaking to where they are.

Dan: Right and as far as technology goes, as everything becomes more and more mobile, responsive design, it is extremely important that it’s also a Google ranking factor and for those who don’t know, responsive is when you go from a desktop to an iPad, to a mobile, the website still functions well and everything is easy to read and easy to function.

Clay: Right.  You get ding for that now with Google that if you’re not responsive, if you’re on a mobile device, it doesn’t look well, it’s not responsive, you get a little ding in your ranking.

Dan: Yeah.  You get penalized for that.  That’s actually one of the reasons why we just redesigned my wife’s website a few months back because her original one was all before mobile and then all the stuff came out.  I said, “We need to move you to something that’s responsive and especially if I’m going to be teaching this to people.  You’re part of my story.  I need you to look good.”

Clay: Exactly.  That’s a great way of putting it.  Alright, good.  Well, any final thoughts?

Dan: I’m excited.  It seems like there’s really a lot of great people out there in this community who are helping therapists with online marketing and web design.  It has just been really awesome to meet people through my website like yourself, like just having people email me and then find that there’s a lot of great Facebook groups out there and there’s definitely a thriving community of therapists who are learning online marketing and then also therapists and other marketers who are teaching online marketing to therapists like myself.  I’m just happy to be a part of it and I kind of feel like I’ve found something that I can do for a while and it’s my goal to go full time with this in the near future.  I’m just really excited to help people.

Clay: Great.  Well Daniel, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.  I wish you the best.  I’m hoping that we’re maybe going to send some people your way.  I’m going to put Daniel’s web address in the show notes.  It’s createmytherapistwebsite.com, right?

Dan: That’s it.

Clay: Alright.  Everyone, go check out his blog and have a great day.  Thank you, Daniel.

Dan: Thanks, Clay.