No Office? No Problem! • Google Business Tips for Online Therapists

Google Business GMB tips for online therapists

Table of Contents

Here’s the problem with having an online therapy practice in a Google world:

  • Google is built to help people find businesses with a local address.
  • Your online therapy practice is based out of your home.
  • You don’t want your home address to be public.
  • You can’t verify a virtual mailbox in Google My Business.
  • You hide your address from Google (and the world).
  • Your practice never shows up in local search results
  • That means fewer new clients and more stress.

DO THIS to Get Your Online Therapy Practice Found on Google

Why can’t therapists use a virtual mailbox for a Google My Business address? How can you appear in local search results if you can’t verify your virtual mailbox address? Is it better to have an unverified address that at least points to a physical location? How can you possibly have a state-wide business if Google’s primary goal is local, zip code-based businesses? These are just some of the questions I get on a regular basis from online therapists.

If you’re like me, you just want a quick answer. None of that standard, “read a ton of text only to discover the author’s recommendation is, ‘it’s up to you.‘” I respect you too much to do that. Instead, I’ll start this article with an outline of exactly what I recommend as a therapist marketing coach. (Keep reading for full details of what it all means and how to do it.)

  1. Verify your home address with Google Business then hide the address. This makes you a Service Area Business. Update your “locations served” to show your desired neighborhoods, cities, or states.
  2. Sign up for a virtual mailbox address in a zip code that matches the demographics of your dream client. Use census data to help your research.
  3. Create profiles with your virtual address on every directory site possible (FourSquare, Yahoo, Bing, MapQuest, Yellowpages, etc).
  4. Create content on your Google My Business Page and on your website that explicitly mentions the virtual address.
  5. Cross your fingers … it’s not an exact science.


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What is Google My Business (GMB)?

Quick answer — Google My Business (GMB) is that little box that comes up on the right-hand side of a Google search that shows you where a business is located, its hours, phone number, website, and reviews.

Google My Business (GMB) helps therapists manage their therapy practice’s online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By setting up a GMB profile, therapists can provide important details about their practice such as the practice name, services offered, operating hours, contact information, and location.

While the service has recently rebranded as “Google Business Profile,” this article will refer to it as GMB or Google My Business. Why? Because rebrands take ages to stick, most people still call it GMB, and I want this article to get found on Google so I’m using the best keywords possible. (Honest enough for ya?!) 🙂


Why Do Therapists Need a Google My Business Profile?

Enhancing Local SEO:

GMB is essential for local search engine optimization (SEO). Having a complete and verified Google My Business profile is a key part of showing up in Google Maps (aka, those first listings you see at the top of a Google search. It also helps you show up for key searches like “therapist near me.”

Engaging with Clients:

Through their GMB profile, therapists can engage directly with clients and the broader community. This includes responding to client reviews, answering questions, and posting updates about their practice, such as new services or changes in hours, which can help build trust and client engagement.

Accessing Insights:

GMB offers valuable analytics that provide insights into how clients (and potential clients) interact with the profile. Therapists can see metrics such as how many calls were made to the practice directly through the listing, the search terms used to find the practice, and how many clients requested directions.

Updating Practice Information:

Therapists can easily update their practice information through GMB to ensure that potential clients always have access to the most current details. This is crucial for maintaining accuracy in contact information, services, and operating hours.

Showcasing the Practice:

Therapists can add photos of their office, credentials, and more. For your dream client, seeing these images can be reassuring and play a significant role in their decision to initiate contact, especially if the therapy setting looks welcoming and professional.


Eddins Counseling Group in Texas is a great example of a well-optimized therapist GMB profile.
Eddins Counseling Group in Texas is a great example of a well-optimized therapist GMB profile.


What is a Service Area Business (SAB) in GMB?

A Service Area Business (SAB) is a type of Google My Business (GMB) listing used by companies that serve customers at their locations rather than at a business’s fixed address. This setup is ideal for online therapists who only provide virtual services.

Having a SAB profile allows practice owners to set their service regions, which can be cities, postal codes, or other geographic areas, without displaying a physical address on their public GMB listing. This feature helps maintain privacy (especially when your office is your home) and focuses on the area served rather than the location of the business, optimizing local SEO and targeting potential clients within those regions.

Important note — your GMB profile must be verified to show up as a service area business (SAB).


Will a SAB Practice Show Up in “Local Pack” Map Search Results?

Quick answer — yes, but probably not in the #1 position.

The Local Pack refers to the maps section of Google’s search results that displays the top three local businesses relevant to a search query, such as “therapists near me” or “anxiety therapy in [City Name].” The only way to get there is to have a verified Google My Business profile.

Google will always prefer in-person businesses with a clear, fixed address, as it adds to the authenticity and reliability perceived by users. That means if a local therapist with an actual in-person office is closer to where the potential client is searching, their profile will show up above yours in the Local Pack.


An example of a Service Area Business GMB ProfileServing California, Texas, and Florida


Why do Therapists Need to Verify a GMB Profile?

Quick answer = to show up in local search results and for SEO.

Having an unverified GMB listing means you will never show up in maps — and your likelihood of showing up anywhere in Google for that local search goes way down. Furthermore, you can never manage or respond to reviews, update business information, or utilize the insights and analytics provided by GMB.

While this may not seem like a huge issue if you are an online-only therapy practice, it still matters. Having an unverified GMB profile makes Google think less of you. That means you may not ever show up for keywords that you want, like “therapist in [my state].”


Does GMB Remember Your Verified Address if You Hide It?

Quick answer — there’s no solid proof … but, probably yes.

After verifying your address on Google My Business, you have a chance to hide it from public visibility. However, there is uncertainty in the SEO community as to whether that address is “forgotten” by Google or if it stays in their behind-the-scenes database.

There is no direct evidence or detailed information from Google confirming that the hidden address is used for internal processes such as cross-checks with other map listings or for enhancing SEO. Once an address is hidden in an SAB listing, it no longer appears anywhere in the GMB account settings visible to the user, leading to uncertainty about its ongoing use or storage by Google.

After talking with numerous other SEO professionals — the consensus is that whether Google remembers your address or not, it’s still best to have a verified listing. This is true even if you have a different address appearing on your website and across all other directory sites.


How can therapists verify a google business with a virtual mailbox

Virtual Mailboxes and Virtual Offices

Virtual offices and mailboxes are increasingly popular solutions for therapists who require a business address without the need for physical office space. This arrangement is particularly useful for maintaining a professional image while keeping your personal addresses private.


What’s the Difference Between a Virtual Mailbox and a Virtual Office?

While both services provide a professional address and help maintain privacy, a virtual office includes physical office benefits and broader business services (phone, fax, meeting rooms, receptionist, etc), making it suitable for those needing occasional physical space.

A virtual mailbox is more focused on mail handling and is ideal for those who operate entirely online. Most therapists will want a virtual mailbox, as a virtual office (or coworking space) will not offer the privacy your clients (and HIPAA) demand.


Can You Verify a Virtual Office or Virtual Mailbox in GMB?

Quick answer — not usually

This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a therapist marketing coach. In an effort to get a good answer, I have called dozens of virtual offices and virtual mailboxes around the country. None of them are willing to do the video for you … and only a small percentage of virtual offices are even willing to let you do it yourself at their location.

One big reason that this is so tough is that most virtual offices and mailbox services are located in shared buildings without distinct signage or operational space dedicated to a single business. If you were to go into a virtual office, it would be like going into a UPS Store, post office, or FedEx office. I don’t know if a human or a Google AI bot is looking at the video, … but, it’s a safe bet they can sniff out your virtual address a mile away!


Choosing the Best Virtual Mailbox Address for Your Therapy Practice

Selecting the right virtual mailbox address for a therapy practice involves careful consideration of several key factors to ensure it aligns with your professional and marketing goals:

Proximity for GMB Consistency

If you aim to maintain consistency between your Service Area Business GMB profile and your virtual mailbox, choose a virtual mailbox address that is close to the address used for GMB verification. This helps in maintaining coherence in your local SEO efforts and enhances the credibility of your business location.

Strategic Location Selection

Consider the subconscious implications of your business address. Selecting an address in a city or zip code that reflects the professional image you wish to project can influence potential clients’ perception positively.

Start by accessing U.S. Census Bureau data or similar statistical resources to analyze the demographics of different zip codes.

For instance, a marriage counselor would benefit from choosing a zip code with a higher percentage of married couples, as this would naturally align with the target clientele. Similarly, a therapist focusing on family counseling might look for areas with a higher number of families with children.

It’s also important to consider the average income levels within the zip code to ensure potential clients can afford private pay rates if that’s the practice model. Moreover, the size of the population in the zip code can indicate the potential market size. A larger population may provide a broader client base, but also possibly more competition. In contrast, a smaller, more affluent population might offer fewer but higher-value clients.

Here are two great resources for finding out the demographics and income levels of different zip codes:

Competition in the Area

Opt for a zip code with lower competition among therapy practices. A location with fewer competing therapists can offer more visibility and potentially higher client acquisition rates due to reduced local competition.

Compatibility with Practice Needs

The selected virtual mailbox service should align with the therapy practice’s specific needs, including mail management options like forwarding, digital scanning, and privacy features. Ensuring that the provider handles sensitive information securely is crucial for maintaining client confidentiality.


What Are the Best Virtual Mailbox Companies?

After calling dozens of virtual mailbox companies and speaking with myriad therapists about their choice, my recommendations are as follows:


Virtual mailboxes for therapists
Google knows you can’t run a therapy practice from a virtual mailbox


SEO Best Practices For Statewide Online Therapy

Google struggles to effectively rank (or even understand) statewide online therapy businesses. The same is true for multi-state practices. This is because Google’s algorithm wants to connect users with nearby services (aka, those with a physical address). As a result, Service Area Businesses (SABs) without a specific, visible address receive lower visibility in search results.

While there is no magic formula, here are a few steps you can take to help Google understand that your -practice serves an entire state … even if you only have one Google Business listing.

Google My Business (GMB) Optimization:

  • Update Service Areas: Regularly update your GMB profile to include all significant towns and cities where you aim to attract clients.
  • Incorporate Local Keywords: Use local keywords in your business description and posts. For example, phrases like “depression treatment in [City Name]” or “child counseling across [State Name]” should be strategically placed.
  • Content Updates: Keep the GMB profile active with regular posts about services, events, or promotions relevant to various locations within the state. They don’t even have to be related to your practice.

Website Optimization:

  • Local Content Integration: Use town, city, and landmark names in every page of your website content to enhance local SEO and relevance.
  • Dedicated Location Pages: Create dedicated pages on your therapist website for any specific cities or regions you want to serve. These pages should talk about therapy and serve as a “visitor’s guide” for the location, offering local insider knowledge, business recommendations, maps, and weather reports.


How to Verify Your Therapy Practice on Google My Business

Gone are the days when you just had to get a postcard to verify your therapy practice. Google caught on to the large number of people using virtual offices or other “unauthorized” addresses. Nowadays, Google requires you to make a video of your location from your smartphone.

Whether you want to format your GMB verification video for online therapy or in-office therapy, Google wants to know three things:

  1. Is your business located where you say it’s located?
  2. Do you actually work there?
  3. Do you have “ownership” of your address?

How to Create a Online Therapy GMB Verification Video

For this, we assume that your location is your home and that as soon as you are verified, you will change your profile to a Service Area Business profile so your home doesn’t appear on Google Maps.

1. Location Verification:

Begin by capturing the environment outside your home that can link to your business location on Google Maps. This might include the street name seen on a nearby sign, or identifiable landmarks or businesses in your vicinity.

Ensure that any visible business signage or the address on your home is included in a continuous video without cuts. This could be a sign by your door or a window showing your practice’s name and address.

2. Business Operations:

Display areas of your home used specifically for the therapy practice. This should include any professional setup like a dedicated therapy space, therapeutic tools, and client materials. Ensure these elements appear professional and distinct from the typical home setting.

3. Proof of Management:

Demonstrate access and control over the business area, such as unlocking the door to your home office. This confirms your operational and managerial presence at the location.


In-Person Therapy GMB Verification Video Guidelines

If you have a physical office, it’s far easier to get verified by Google. Plus, you don’t need to worry about becoming a service area business (unless you are trying to offer statewide or multi-state online therapy services).

1. Location Verification:

Start the video by showing external features of the building where your office is located, such as the building sign, street signs, or neighboring businesses.

If your practice doesn’t have external signage, film interior signage within the building, such as in the lobby or at the entryway to your office floor. This helps confirm the location within a larger office building.

2. Business Operations:

Showcase elements of your office that reflect its use as a therapy practice. This can include the reception area, therapy rooms, and any professional signs or branded materials like flyers and business cards within the office setting.

3. Proof of Management:

Provide evidence of your control over the office space by unlocking and entering the main office door. This act validates your claim of managing and operating the therapy practice at the specified location.



Summing it Up: 5 Steps to Win at Google My Business for Online Therapists

To effectively navigate the challenges of an online-only therapy practice in a Google-centric world, the key is to strategically blend Google compliance with creative workarounds that meet the unique needs of SEO for therapists.

I know this was a super dense article. To sum it all up into five easy(ish) action steps, here’s a concise roadmap for you:

1. Verify Your Home Address

Start by verifying your home address with Google Business and then convert your profile to a Service Area Business (SAB). This step allows you to manage your profile actively, hide your home address for privacy, and specify the broader areas you serve.

2. Choose a Suitable Virtual Mailbox

Select a virtual mailbox in a zip code that aligns with your target demographics, using census data to guide your choice. This address should match the areas you want to attract clients from and have the economic and demographic characteristics that fit your ideal client profile.

3. Create Consistent Online Profiles

Use your virtual mailbox address to create consistent profiles across all major online directories (FourSquare, Yahoo, Bing, MapQuest, Yellowpages, etc). I have a list of 100+ such sites that I use as a part of my comprehensive integrative marketing management package. This consistency helps in strengthening your SEO and broadening your online presence.

4. Engage Actively on GMB and Your Website

Regularly update your GMB profile and website with content that reflects your services and includes mentions of the virtual address and other local landmarks or relevant local information. This helps in local SEO and enhances your visibility to potential clients searching for therapy services in those areas.

5. Stay Proactive and Adapt

SEO and digital marketing are not exact sciences but require ongoing attention and adaptation to changing algorithms and market conditions. Keep yourself informed, monitor your online presence, and be ready to make necessary adjustments to your strategy. If you need help with any of this, feel free to ask me anything.


Got Questions?

Ask me anything about this article … or, reach out to see how I can help you get a steady, predictable stream of therapy clients you love with less effort and stress.

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About the Author:

Greg Goodman

As a therapist business coach, web designer, copywriter, and marketing expert, Greg has been helping mental health professionals get a steady stream of clients they love since 2006.

In his career, Greg has helped everyone from associates to established solo partners, group practices, and beyond. He even had a 6-year stint as the head of a large mental health clinic in San Francisco where he kept 43 caseloads full.

In addition to his work helping therapists, Greg is a passionate photographic storyteller, traveler, husband, father, and human being dedicated to personal growth and making the world a better place.

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