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By Sean Armstrong –

The Local Search Association just released several infographics based on 2013 statistics from Search Engine Lands’ annual “Local Media Tracking Study,” and they do much more than simply highlight the fact that consumers are turning more and more to mobile devices when seeking, discovering, or considering local businesses.

Consumers Increasingly Use Mobile Devices(This graphic courtesy of Search Engine Land)

While the consistent rise in the use of mobile devices when searching for and evaluating local businesses is an ever-present theme in today’s marketing landscape, the most interesting details from the study – at least to my mind – are the differences in choice of local media when consumers search for and evaluate different business categories, as shown in the following graphic…

Local Media Sources by Categories(This graphic courtesy of Search Engine Land)

As Wesley Young stated on Search Engine Lands’ blog, “The results demonstrate that consumers rely on a variety of different combinations of local media to inform their local purchasing decisions, depending on the business category they are evaluating.”

I encourage you to read the results of the study using the links above… They are significant.

So what do these trends mean for therapists?

1. If You’re Ignoring Mobile, You’re Losing Potential Clients

In just the past couple of years, consumers’ use of desktop and laptop computers when searching for local products and services has dropped from 80% to 73%, while tablet usage has risen from 6% to 11% and mobile and smartphone usage has increased from 25% to 34%.

Your clients are increasingly searching the internet for local businesses such as your private practice via their smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices, as opposed to their desktop and laptop computers.

As I stated in the “Is Your Website Ready to Go Mobile?” blog post I wrote a few weeks back, by now it should be pretty obvious that you can no longer afford to have a website that doesn’t display or work correctly on desktops, laptops, tablet computers, AND smartphones.

2. People Prefer Mobile-Friendly Websites

Another interesting infographic from the study reveals that 7 in 10 consumers prefer mobile websites over mobile apps when using either a smartphone or tablet.

Preferred Smartphone Platforms(This graphic courtesy of Search Engine Land)

This underscores the importance of making sure your website is mobile-friendly and can be easily accessed and read and smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices.

For more information on creating mobile-friendly websites (including five tools that can help you do so quickly and easily), see “Is Your Website Ready to Go Mobile? Why and How to Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly.”

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3. Make Sure You’re Using the Most Effective Media

I find the study’s most significant data to be the different combinations of media consumers are using to search for and evaluate different business categories.

As the second graphic above shows, the variety of local media used by consumers for each business category can be significant and should not be ignored.

For example, according to the study, people looking for physicians still turn to the print Yellow Pages 38% of the time, while using the online version of the Yellow Pages 21% of the time and using search engines 45% of the time.

While the study didn’t evaluate “mental health” as a separate category (unfortunately, this is almost always the case), the media preferences and percentages are similar when people search for dentists and attorneys.

If we extrapolate the data and assume we’re in the same proverbial ballpark when it comes to people searching for counselors, psychologists, and psychotherapists, then roughly 8% to 9% of prospective mental health consumers are evaluating mental health professionals using ratings and social review sites such as Google+ and Yelp.com. One more reason “Why You Should List Your Practice on Yelp.”

Likewise, while around 5% of your potential clients are using social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ to evaluate mental health professionals, at least 25% of your potential clients are evaluating your practice via your website prior to scheduling an appointment.

4. You Need to Be Tracking Where Your Clients Are Coming From

I have to admit I’m more than a bit surprised by the seemingly high percentage of consumers who are turning to the print Yellow Pages when searching for local professionals. The study included interviews with 8,000 U.S. adults conducted online and by phone. While the large percentages of consumers using the print Yellow Pages could be due to the age, geographic locations, or other demographic variables of the survey participants, it just goes to show that one should never rely on “conventional wisdom” when making marketing decisions. You need to always be testing and tracking your results.

So, don’t cancel those Yellow Pages listings and ads until you’re sure they aren’t paying off! 😉

5. You Need an Integrated Internet and Mobile Marketing Strategy

While overall trends are important, you need to develop an integrated marketing strategy that takes advantage of the most applicable media to reach YOUR potential clients.

Social media may be important for restaurants, florists, clothing retailers, and beauty salons, but as a mental health professional your likely better off focusing your time and energy on online directories, your search engine visibility, ratings and review sites, and your practice’s website, and making sure they’re all connected and delivering a consistent message to your potential clients.

What local media are you using to market your practice? Which have been most effective? Let us know by leaving your comments, feedback, and questions below… We look forward to hearing from you!

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