Google Ads is a great way to quickly reach new potential therapy clients in Google Search. This step-by-step guide explains how to get started with Google Ads for therapists & psychologists.

Before getting started, you’ll want to make sure you have a live therapy practice website or landing page to promote that shares helpful info about you, your mental health practice, and your services, and an incentive to reach out to you, such as a free first consultation.

1. Creating a Google Account

To get started with Google Ads for your practice, you’ll first need to create a Google Account. Your Google Account gives you access to many Google products such as sending emails with Gmail and setting up a Google My Business listing for your practice to appear in Google Maps and Google Search. You can choose to create a Google Account for yourself or your business.

Note: You can use a non-Gmail email address to create a Google Account if you prefer. However, if you have an existing Gmail account, then you already have a Google Account.

2. Creating a Google Ads Account

Once logged into your Google Account or Gmail, head over to google.com/ads to create a new Google Ads Account. (If not signed in to your Google Account, you will be prompted to do so.)

The first step is starting a new campaign. You will see an option to select a main advertising goal, which if selected, leads to creating a Smart Campaign (previously AdWords Express). Further down the page is an option to switch to Expert Mode (Google Ads):

Setting Up New Google Ads Campaign for Therapy Practice

About Smart Campaigns

Smart Campaigns are an automated version of Google Ads where Google’s algorithm handles most of the work in an attempt to simplify the advertising process. A Smart Campaign can be useful if you are managing a small practice and short on time.

You don’t need a website to run a local Smart Campaign. Instead, ads are shown on Google properties like your business listing and Google Maps. All you have to provide is your ad budget, location to target, your business category & information, ad copy, and then Google will automatically target keywords deemed relevant to your business.

Should you choose to run a Smart Campaign? While spending less time to achieve results and a return on investment sounds promising, there are downsides to this type of campaign. Based on a study by BrightLocal, 77% of advertisers shared that regular Google Ads campaigns were a lot more effective than Smart Campaigns. (Note: AdWords Express was the previous name for Smart Campaigns).

Google Ads vs. Google AdWords Express (Smart Campaigns)

With Smart Campaigns, you give up a lot of control in fine-tuning settings vital to success in improving results over time. Examples include adjusting bids on specific keywords, targeting niche audiences, control of ad placements, choosing specific keyword targeting settings, preventing irrelevant words from showing your ads, additional campaign insights, and more.

Because of these downsides, we recommend either learning to manage a regular (expert-mode) Google Ads campaign yourself, or outsourcing to an experienced Google Ads agency or marketer. Doing so will be worth it in the long run, for the ability to scale up, while better cutting costs on what doesn’t work based on insights, and being able to fine-tune and improve results over time.

With that in mind, let’s get started on showing you how to set up a full-functionality Google Ads campaign for your practice!

3. Creating a New Google Ad Campaign

Select “Switch to Expert Mode” on the new campaign page shown above. On the next page, you’ll be shown a variety of campaign goal presets. When clicked, these goal presets will filter down to showing Google Ads campaign types that Google considers related to the selected goal.

Selecting Campaign Goal & Campaign Type

Selecting Google Ads Campaign Goal Type

For your therapy practice, we are going to focus on the goal of generating leads. Select “Leads”, and then select the “Search” campaign type.

Selecting Google Ads Campaign Type Settings

Under “Select the ways you’d like to reach your goal”, select Website visits and Phone calls.

Note: You can run Google Ads with either just a website or just a phone number. Examples include 1.) call-only ad formats, and 2.) website-only ad formats. If possible, we recommend having a website page (or landing page) available as well as a phone number to give potential clients multiple ways to reach out to your practice and the potential for ads that take up more real estate in Google’s search results.

Once your website and phone number is filled in, click continue. (You can ignore the “Create Conversion Action” portion for now, to be configured at a later time.)

Selecting Your Campaign’s Settings

The next page is where you will setup the general settings of your Google Ad campaign. This includes selecting the Google network your ads will appear on, the locations to show your ads, your daily ad spend budget, and the type of campaign bid strategy to use, and ad extensions. This might sound overwhelming, but not to worry. We will go through each section now!

General Settings

Google Ads General Campaign Settings

The first portion of Select campaign settings page is the General settings for your campaign. Here, you can change the Campaign name if you desire more description, or use the given default name (you can also change the name and all these campaign settings at a later time.)

Networks

Next, under “Networks”, you will notice the checkboxes for “Include Google search partners” and “Include Google Display Network” are turned on by default. We recommend you disable both of these checkboxes, in order to direct all of your ad budget to Google ads that show in Google’s Search Results, instead of on partner websites.

Through experience managing Google Ad campaigns for therapy and psychology practices as part Psych Client Accelerator, our digital marketing program for therapists & psychologists, we have never found including these channels worth it due to the cost and lack of leads. For now, with the current state of these channels and ads in Google Search performing so well, your budget is better spent showing your ads more often in Google Search.

Campaign Dates & Ad Schedule

Once you’ve set your Campaign name and disabled the checkboxes under Networks, in the next section you have the option to add campaign start and end dates, campaign URL options, Dynamic Search Ads settings, and an ad schedule.

You can ignore campaign URL options and Dynamic Search Ads settings. (We won’t need to use campaign URL options to create tracking templates as will be using automatic tag tracking instead, described later on. Dynamic Search Ads are also unnecessary to start, which are a type of ad format where headlines and keywords are automatically generated by Google based on your website’s content, which can be hit or miss to start, especially when starting with a smaller website/landing page, or a small budget under $500/month.)

Start & End Dates

Unless you absolutely need to stop running ads on a specific date, we recommend ignoring the start and end dates setting, and just pausing the ads when needed later on. It’s best to allocate an ad budget that gives you room to test Google Ads for at least 1-3 months without having to stop and start the ads often (so Google is able to learn and gather data in a consistent manner behind-the-scenes for improved performance later).

For example, with a lower campaign budget of under $500/month it can take a month to gain enough ad and keyword data to make decisions (like pausing or updating an ad’s copy, or keyword targeting) with a high chance of improving campaign performance in the next month.

Ad Schedule

In the Ad schedule section, select your desired schedule you’d like to run ads based on your business hours and availability.

Location Targeting

This next section after Ad Schedule is where you will set the location you want to show your in.

Google Ads Location Targeting Settings

Before we add a location, select the two blue circle settings shown above. That is, under Target, we want to select, “Presence: People in or regularly in your target locations” and under Exclude “Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your excluded locations.” These settings will make sure your ads are shown to the most relevant people in your location.

Next, as a local private practice, you’ll want to select “Enter another location”. Once clicked, the “Advanced search” link will appear as shown in the screenshot above. Click on this link to open a pop-up box (shown below) where you can select your desired town, city, or even zip codes or a radius around a specific address.

To select a location, begin typing it out, and then select “Target” to add the location to your list. You can add multiple locations to your final list if you prefer. If you have a local address and are seeing potential therapy clients in person, we recommend choosing “Radius” targeting and typing in your address and selecting a miles number around your address to target, such as 10-20 miles. However, if you offer teletherapy services, feel free to target by location instead of radius, or a mix of both. The example below shows a 20 mile radius setting around San Jose.

Setting Up Google Ad Location Targeting for Therapy Practice
Setting Up Google Ad Location Radius Targeting for Therapy Practice

Once you’re finished adding you target location to show your ads, click the Save button to return back to the “Select campaign settings” page.

Audiences

To simplify setup we will be focusing on choosing keywords to show your ads, so we can ignore the remaining “Audiences” section shown in the Location Targeting screenshot above. Audiences can be added in later if it makes sense to your practice (such as targeting people who are in a relationship if you provide purely relationship or couples therapy; however “couples therapy” can also be a keyword you choose to satisfy this type of targeting).

Budget & Bidding Settings

We are in the last stretch of campaign settings, and some of these we will skip for later. After this, you will be all set to choose some keywords and create your first ad!

Budget

First, add your desired Budget you want to spend each day. We recommend thinking monthly first and dividing down to each day, so a monthly budget of $500 would be (500/30.4 for the average number of days in a month) about $16.44 a day. If you set an ad schedule in the earlier step to skip some days such as weekends, you may want to try increasing your daily spend a bit.(Keep in mind, Google may over or underspend on any given day but spend should average out based on the average number of days in a month – see description in screenshot below.)

Setting up Budget & Bidding for Therapy Practice

Bidding

The next section is where you will select the starting bid strategy for your campaign. Google Ads provides a number of bidding strategies to test depending on a campaign’s goals.

Since we are looking to generate leads for your practice (where a lead will be considered a conversion to Google Ads), we will end up using a conversion-based bidding strategy. However, to get started (and since we did not setup conversion tracking yet), we stick to the default setting of focusing on Clicks, as shown above.

The rest of the settings including Ad rotation (this is set to the appropriate setting of “Optimize: Prefer best performing ads”) and Ad extensions (we will get to these after creating an ad) can be left as-is for now. Select Save and Continue!

Setting Up an Ad Group

Now’s the time to create your first ad group and set of keywords you want to show your ads for in your selected location. For the purpose of this Google Ads setup guide, we will stick to one ad group and set of keywords.

About Ad Groups

An ad group contains a set of related keywords and one or more ads to show for these keywords. As recommended by Google, you’ll want to try to focus all the ads and keywords in an ad group on one theme, such as one product or service. An example could be having an ad group that contains “therapist”, “therapist in x location”, and “therapist near me” keywords that people might search for, and creating 1-3 ads max for the ad group (which we will get to shortly), while another ad group could be “couples therapy” keywords and ads.

Choosing Keywords

We’ve added some example therapy keywords you might like to target below. You can also get keyword ideas by either entering your website URL or entering a keyword or phrase where it says “Enter products or services”. Then when you select Update Keywords, a list of keyword ideas will fill up the box. For this ad group example, we are sticking to targeting therapist and therapy services keywords.

Setting up Google Ad Group Keywords for Therapy Practice

About Keyword Match Types

Before moving on to creating your first ad, it’s important to understand the concept of keyword match types and how they affect targeting. The image below from Google’s page about keyword match types does a great job of showing the differences in the three primary match types – broad, phrase, and exact match.

Google Ad Keyword Match Types

A keyword is considered a broad match keyword by default when no quotations or brackets have been added. This is used for broad targeting. For example, a broad match version of the keyword therapy may show your ad for a keyword Google considers related, such as mental health. Broad match can be useful for gaining additional keyword ideas and opportunities as you’re running ads, however, broad match can result in higher costs and fewer leads due to the broad targeting.

For new or smaller budget ad campaigns, we recommend testing no more than one or two broad match keywords at a time, and mostly using phrase match and exact match keywords to better control targeting and costs (as shown in the keywords list in the screenshot above).

Once you’ve added your initial set of keywords, select Save and Continue.

Creating an Ad

On the next page, you will be prompted to create a “Responsive search ad”. This is a more recent format than the Standard search ad format, where you load up a single ad with up to 15 headlines and 4 ad description lines, and Google tests different headling and description combinations for you.

For getting started with an ad budget of $500/month or less, we recommend sticking to testing a couple of standard text ads at a time instead. In our experience, well-optimized standard ads will outperform responsive search ads. It is also hard to tell what exact combination of headlines and descriptions results in a lead/conversion when you use responsive search ads, making it difficult to fine-tune what works (which is easier with standard text ads). However, if you’d like, you can always create a responsive search ad at a later time.

Creating a Text Ad

To change to standard text ad format, click on the blue “Switch back to text ads” link displayed near the top of the below screenshot.

Creating a Responsive Search Ad for Therapy Practice

A standard text ad consists of adding your website URL (such as your homepage), 3 potential headlines, the display path (how your website URL is displayed in the ad), and 2 ad descriptions. Note: Google may still decide to shorten or omit some of your ad text or the third headline.

Below is a Google text ad template for a therapy practice you can use to get started. Just swap in your location and information such as your services or years of experience to differentiate.

Creating a Google Ad for Therapy Practice

Once finished adding your website URL, ad headlines, and descriptions, you can either select “Done and Create Next Ad” to test between 2 or 3 ads in your ad group or select “Done” and then “Save and Continue” to move on to confirm your payment information.

Confirm Payment Info

The payment info page is pretty straightforward. Select your time zone, account type (if you’re going to manage your campaign as an individual or business for tax purposes), and your card information.

Googe Ads Payment Info Section

After selecting Submit, there are just a few more steps before launching your first Google Ad!

Launching Your Google Ad Campaign

Now that you’ve created your first ad group, you’re almost set to turn your ad/s on!

Here’s an example view of a Psych Client Accelerator therapy practice campaign. You should see your campaign and ad group you just created displayed in the left-hand sidebar. Take a minute to click around and explore the options. The light-gray left-hand sidebar includes options related to your campaign or ad group selected in the dark-gray left-hand sidebar.

You will likely spend most of your time in the “> Ads & extensions” and “> Keywords” sections in the light-gray left-hand sidebar, which are the main sections where you can add, edit, and pause/remove ads and keywords.

Understanding Options Before Launching Your Ads

We will avoid going through all the nitty-gritty capabilities of Google Ads in this guide since there’s quite a bit you can do and different strategies involved. While you can go ahead and start running your ad/s now by selecting “Enabled” above “Overview” in the screenshot above, let’s run through a few more things before turning on your first ad for potentially better results. This includes adding some ad extensions, understanding the “Search Terms” report, explaining negative keywords, and sharing options to track your lead conversions.

Ad Extensions

Let’s briefly talk about ad extensions you can use to enhance your Google Search ads. Ad extensions can help expand your Google ads in the search results, showing people more information and reasons to click on your ad.

You can add new extensions at the campaign level of your account and at the ad group level. (select your campaign or ad group in the dark-gray left sidebar -> then select “Ads & extensions” in the light-gray left sidebar) This provides you with the flexibility to test different ad extensions and variations for different ad groups or if you have multiple ad campaigns.

In this guide, we’ll briefly go over four primary ad extensions worth testing with your ads.

Call Extension

When a call extension is created, your ad has a chance to be extended with an additional section that displays your phone number. This extension gives you more potential opportunities for prospects to reach out by calling the number instead of clicking your ad (a prospect also has the option to click to call on mobile devices when the ad extension is showing). You can also use a call tracking number for phone call conversion tracking.

Callout Extension

Callout extensions give you the ability to include additional text in your ads so you can show more detailed information about your practice, experience, and services. These extensions are a great way to highlight what’s unique about your therapy practice. Examples might include free consultations, flexible plans, reduced rates, x years experience, and guarantees. Here’s a huge list of Google Ad callout extension examples for ideas!

Sitelink Extension

Sitelink extensions add more links to your ads, to take people to specific pages on your site. Each sitelink extension gives you the ability to create a title (which is used as a link in your ad to a page you choose) and 2 lines of description text. An example sitelink could be a title such as “Therapy Services”, providing a brief description about your services, and linking to your site’s Services page. Other common uses are creating sitelink extensions for your About and Contact pages. Sitelink extensions enable you to add more occurrences of your practice’s incentives, such as offering a free consultation, in the sitelink descriptions.

You’ll need to create at least 2 sitelink extensions (for desktop) and at least 1 sitelink extension (for mobile) for the sitelinks to appear in your ad.

Structured Snippet Extension

The structured snippet extension is a way to show a header and a related list of values. Available headers include amenities, brands, courses, destinations, and more. The primary header choice that makes sense for a therapy practice would be the “Service catalog” header. Once you choose “Service catalog”, you then list each of your services as the values. Then, your ads have a chance to show an additional snippet sharing your services alongside your other ad copy and potential ad extensions.

These are four of the primary ad extensions we recommended adding to your ad campaign.

Once you have an ad or two ready to go and have created your ad extensions, you’re pretty much all set and safe to start running your initial ads! A couple more things to keep in mind are understanding the search terms report after your ads have started receiving clicks, adding in what is called “negative keywords” based on the search terms report, and tracking conversions.

Search Terms Report

The search terms report (under “Search terms” in the light-gray lefthand sidebar) will show you the actual incoming search terms (or keywords) that people used to see and click on your ads. As your ads start running for a few days onward, you’ll want to regularly check in on this search terms report to make sure incoming keywords are relevant and aligned to your ads.

The incoming search terms should be mostly relevant if you created a list of keywords to target earlier on (discussed earlier in this guide) that are set as phrase and exact match keywords. However, the more broad match keywords in your ad group, the higher the chance of irrelevant search terms slipping through and showing your ads.

If you notice any words that are not relevant (such as if you provide a certain mental health therapy but “dance therapy” comes through, you’ll want to add the word “dance” as a negative keyword (also in the light-gray left-hand sidebar above the search terms report). Negative keywords are words that you’d like Google to prevent showing your ads for. A growing list of negative keywords will ensure your ads are as targeted as possible and that your ad budget is spent on the most relevant keywords.

The remaining aspect of running Google ads we did not yet cover is creating and tracking conversion actions. For now, you can learn more about setting up conversion tracking here, to track phone calls on your ads or website, and form submits on your website.

Google Ads for Therapists & Psychologists

We hope you found this guide on starting Google Ads for your therapy or psychology practice helpful. While we tried to simplify the process down to creating one ad and ensuring you are aware of the main features of a standard Google Ad search campaign, there is still quite a bit to understand. If you have questions about running Google Ads for therapists or psychologists, feel free to reach out to us through the form on our home page for more information!

If you’re interested in outsourcing your ad management to experienced mental health digital marketers, we provide done-for-you Google Ads management as part of our Psych Client Accelerator Program, a digital marketing program for therapists & psychologists.

Related Posts About Digital Marketing for Therapists:

We are currently offering a new Pay-Per-Show option (only pay when a prospect or client shows up to a session). No minimum contract. This is the easiest way to grow your case load. Contact us today for a free no-obligation strategy session with one of our success coaches!