If you know nothing about SEO (search engine optimization) then this post, SEO for life coaches, may seem daunting….at first
However, SEO is a lot more straightforward and takes a much more logical, common-sense route than it may sometimes seem.
I’ve literally never been hired by a life coach (and I have worked with over 350) who understood the SEO basics when I first started working with them.
Therefore, you really don’t have to do a lot to elbow your way past the competition.
And if you install the free WordPress plugin, RankMath, that will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
It will also remind you with a progress bar how close you are to publishing the perfect post from an SEO standpoint.
But before we kick things off a heads up that you can use the table of contents to move around.
If for example, you are familiar with Google Analytics and Search Console then you can bypass this section entirely.
Google Analytics & Search Console
if you’re going to succeed in all of this, you absolutely must have either Google Analytics installed or a similar analytics tool.
Similarly, you want access to Google Search Console (previously called Webmaster Tools) because this will allow you to see which keywords you’re ranking for.
Both tools are free so there’s no excuse to ignore them.
I’m not going to dive in-depth on how to use Google Analytics or Google Search Console now.
That would take far too long you don’t need the vast majority of the things it can do.
However, I’m going to give you a very brief bullet point list of what information is available from analytics:
- The number of users (visitors) per day/week/month/year you are attracting
- The number of page views per day/week/month/year you are receiving
- The number of pages the average person is reading
- Average time on site (session length) of each visitor
- Bounce rate (what proportion of people leave the site after visiting only the page they entered on)
- Where about in the world your visitors are coming from
- What is the breakdown between desktop, mobile and tablet visitors for any given time period
- Which social media sites are referring traffic and in what numbers
- What level of traffic individual pages are attracting
- Which are your most popular pages
I’ve only scratched the surface there because analytics can tell you just about anything you need to know about your site and your visitors, short of their so.
Having this kind of information is critical for so many reasons, but here are a few:
- Which social media platforms are working for you in terms of numbers of visitors and time on site?
- What are your conversion rates like for your CTA’s (call to action) and contact page?
- What should you be writing more of if you want to increase traffic and engagement?
- Are people moving about in your site and thus interested in what you have to offer?
- Is your contact and sales page converting?
- Is your content engaging and keeping people on your site? (this is known as sticky content)
- If you have run any guest posts, what traffic did they deliver and what was the quality of that traffic?
If you’re going to succeed with your online marketing, then you have to know what is working and what isn’t.
For example, let’s suppose you are spending an hour a week on LinkedIn.
When you look at your analytics you can see that you only get about 3 visitors per week from that platform, (and even they don’t hang around long).
What do you do?
Well, you can either bail on LinkedIn and save an hour of your time.
Or, you can change your approach because it’s obviously not working.
Similarly, if the posts you write that you think will attract lots of traffic and interest, don’t, then you can try and figure out why.
The real beauty of analytics is that they allow you to do something that’s going to be critical to your success and that is test, test, and test again.
If you’re getting 100 visitors to your contact page per month, but nobody is bothering to get in touch, then you know something is probably wrong with that page.
If you’re getting 1,000 visitors per month to your home page and only a handful of sign-ups, that probably tells you that you need to rethink things.
Maybe your CTA (call to action) is not working.
Or perhaps the copy or images are not very compelling.
As you begin to acquire data, you will start to see patterns and a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Google Search Console is similarly useful because this is where Google will tell you if you have any errors on your site.
Things like broken links or broken redirects that give the user an error message can harm your chances of being found in the SERPS and you need to fix them.
Also, search console can tell you the search terms that people are using to find you and which blog posts/pages they land on and then also, leave from.
What Is SEO (search engine optimization)?
Let’s start with the basics of what SEO is and keep it as simple as possible.
SEO is the process of making your website and specific pages on your website as appealing as possible to search engines like Google, Duck Duck Go and Bing so they send you free traffic.
I highlight free in italics because you do need to invest time and energy into your SEO if it is to be successful, so free is a loose term.
You make search engines (for the sake of brevity I will just use Google from now on, but I mean any search engine) love and rank your content by solving search queries.
If you want the recipe for an apple pie, Google will have indexed a bunch of sites that it knows can meet your needs and will show them to you.
If you want car insurance, Google knows where those sites are and (for the most part) which ones are the better ones.
And if you want to hire a life coach Google knows hundreds of sites that offer coaching services.
But Google cannot know all this information without help from the owner or administrators of each site.
It’s utterly futile just slapping a website up there with the expectation that that is enough for people to find it and then hire you – it isn’t.
SEO is an ongoing dynamic process that involves your regular input.
It’s possible to set up a site so it has almost no chance of ranking from the get-go, but you cannot set it up so it will definitely rank from the get-go.
You need to optimize it and that is what this post will look at.
One final word before we dive in.
There’s absolutely no need to try and optimize every post you write for Google.
I probably only bother seriously with about half of my posts, but you may even want to lower that to a third.
You may want to use headlines that are occasionally abstract and/or intriguing that are tough to get to rank for anything meaningful.
Or, you may want to write self-promotional posts for coaching or courses you run that are almost impossible to rank for.
Or, perhaps you want to address a personal story or talk about a topical issue.
Pick your battles wisely and when you do go for a keyword, do it well.
SEO for Life Coaches
First, the bad news
SEO is a very fast-moving and rapidly changing environment.
According to industry leader, Moz, there were 11 updates to Google’s algorithm in 2020 alone.
That’s a frightening amount of changes for professional SEOs (search engine optimizers) who have to keep on top of things.
But the good news is that the vast majority of those changes don’t need to impact you. Or what you do to get found.
Professional SEOs are usually working in highly competitive industries, or in very tight niche markets where the room for error is tiny.
They need to understand the tiny algorithm changes that Google make because it can be the difference in being 5th on page one to the top of page two.
Being on page two is almost worthless for 99% of businesses, including yours.
In traditional terms, it’s like boldfacing your company name in Yellow Pages and thinking that it can compete with a full-page color ad.
As the old joke goes:
Q. Where is the best place to hide a dead body?
A. On the second place of Google
Think about it.
When was the last time you clicked past page one?
Google has got so good at understanding search intent and delivering the necessary results that it rarely leaves the user having to click on the second page.
As such, professional SEOs need to understand the vast majority of the 200+ ranking factors that Google incorporates into its algorithm.
The vast majority of Google’s updates do not impact you as a coach and what you do.
There are occasional changes that do require you to act. But they are the exception, not the rule.
In any case, if you’re subscribed to my newsletter I will share those changes with you as and when they happen as well as a lot more exclusive info I don’t post on my blog.
If you’re not subscribed, then you can do so by scrolling to the top of this page.
I am going to list the most important elements that you have immediate control of when trying to rank in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages).
Other that is, than possibly the most important ranking factor.
And the most important ranking factor that can hide a multitude of SEO sins, is how many quality relevant websites are linking to you.
In other words, how many backlinks you have.
We all know that Wikipedia is not the most reliable source of information on the internet.
Yet it’s the first result you will see for literally millions of search queries.
Wikipedia achieves that because it has hundreds of millions of other websites linking to it.
Every time somebody links to Wikipedia (or you for that matter) they are saying to Google, ‘Look, I really trust this website because I’m willing to send my traffic to it’.
That builds trust and authority with Google and that helps your rankings.
This is why links can have so much value if they are relevant and of high quality.
Note: Links from blog comments, forums, and most social media sites usually do not have the same value. In fact, they often have none whatsoever because they are what is known as <nofollow> links that Google ignores.
However, without buying links (which is against Google’s rules), an outreach that involves contacting sites to ask for a link, or a (highly recommended) guest posting campaign, link building is out of your control.
Except that is, by writing quality content for your blog that people will want to link to from their site because of the value it adds to their readers.
But worry not, because it’s very possible to succeed at SEO in the coaching industry without a host of inbound links.
And in any case, the links will come organically if you do a good job.
As we go forward, try to think of everything logically and in a hierarchal fashion because it will start to make practical sense.
If at any stage you get overwhelmed, bookmark this page, back out, and come back later.
It’s fine to read it all in one go, but you probably cannot absorb it all in one go.
Be patient and be committed.
I would imagine less than 20% of the people who start this post will read it all.
And of that 20%, I doubt 10% will implement the advice systematically even though I can categorically assure anybody that it works.
That gives you the opportunity to separate yourself from your more laid-back competition.
The Starting Point – Your Focus Keyword
A keyword is not necessarily one word although once you get above two it tends to be referred to as a longtail keyword, or keyphrase.
For example, life coach is a keyword, whereas life coach New York is a longtail keyword.
If you search the term “life coach” being careful to use apostrophes to limit the search to that term only, you get 25.t million results.
If you search for “life coach New York” using the same methodology that drops the available results to 160,000.
In other words, life coach New York is exponentially easier to rank for.
99.99% of coaches are going to have to aim for longtail keywords because normal keywords are far too competitive.
I did rank on the first page of Google for the keyword life coach a couple of times around 2011 and the immediate spike in inquiries let me know each time.
However, the work involved in achieving that was astronomical and there was nothing like the competition for that keyword a decade ago than there is now.
I highly doubt I could do that now, even if I wanted to.
How Do You Find Longtails?
There are plenty of excellent pro-tools to help you do this such as Moz, SEMRush and possibly the best, Ahrefs.
Indeed, I used Ahrefs for a while, but at $99 per month, it’s probably not cost-effective for you if you’re only using it for your own site and some keyword research every now and then.
But worry not, there are free alternatives, the first of which is your own common sense.
Ask yourself these two questions:
What do my prospective clients want?
What questions are they typing into Google?
Let me use myself to give you an example of how that has revealed up an obvious idea for a keyword for myself.
Q. What do my prospective clients want?
A. They want more coaching clients.
Q. What questions are they typing into Google?
A. How do I get more coaching clients?
Longtail keyword I chose to target: get coaching clients
The post I wrote to go for it: ’10 Free Ways To Get Coaching Clients’
My current Google rank for that keyword – #2.
Now take a deep breath because it’s a gift that can keep on giving.
That post ranks for multiple keywords (some at #1) that are similar to the focus keyword.
A decade or more ago SEO’s would aim posts at one keyword and one only.
They would then use that keyword over and over in the post to the exclusion of natural language – this was known as keyword stuffing.
But Google is a lot smarter now and it understands that how do I get coaching clients? is a similar user intent to how do I get free coaching clients? or even get me coaching clients
This allows you to not only focus on your keyword but semantically similar terms too.
And in turn, it permits you to write more naturally which is easier to do, and also improves the UX (user experience) which Google likes.
If you are indeed in New York and want to rank for the term New York life coach, you can sprinkle the post aimed at that term with other references like The Big Apple or The Empire State.
You can also get more granular by mentioning the borough you live in like Manhattan, or even the area within that borough, like SoHo if you’re loaded.
And they do want to be similar and/or relevant terms, don’t go aiming to rank for totally different longtails in the same post.
By the way, 10 Free Ways To Get Coaching Clients not only ranks for the second two terms as well as 20 or more, but it has snagged the featured snippet for them – see below.
To understand what to write about it’s important to get inside the head of your prospective clients.
The ideal way to do this is to spend time figuring out your client’s avatar.
Not only what do they want but:
- What don’t they want?
- What are their fears?
- What are the hopes and dreams?
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What makes them come alive?
All those questions – presuming you can answer them, and you should be able to – will provide clues for blog posts and keywords.
To begin with, coming up with ideas should be relatively easy, but if not, there are other options to stimulate the creative process.
1. Use People Also Ask
Let’s imagine I’m struggling to think of keyword ideas for a blog post.
I type how do I get more coaching clients into Google and then I scroll down a little and there is the PAA (people also ask) box.
In the box are a bunch of ideas for blog post titles because we know that Google is seeing these searches.
2. Use Related Searches
And it gets more awesome because if you then scroll all the way to the bottom you see searches related to how do I get more coaching clients.
And voila, there is a bunch of different options.
3. Use Quora and Reddit
If you search Quora and Reddit for the term life coach (or whatever your niche is) you will find a bunch of activity.
Look to see what questions are coming up again and again and/or get lots of responses.
They could potentially be blog post titles.
You can then even share your blog post in an answer and link back.
4. Use Social Media
If you have a group you will know that can be a treasure chest of ideas.
Every time somebody posts a question in the Coach the Life Coach Facebook Group it’s a potential blog post title.
If you don’t have a group of your own, lurk in other groups (without self-promoting) where your ideal client is hanging out.
What are they saying and asking?
What comments and posts generate the most interaction?
Blog Post Title
The first thing Google looks at is the domain name, but as I will come, a killer domain name is more of a nice to have than an important ranking factor.
So don’t worry if your domain doesn’t explain what you do because Amazon doesn’t sell rain forests, Apple aren’t purveyors of fine fruit and I didn’t sell bungee jumping or white-water rafting trips with A Daring Adventure.
After the domain Google turns its attention to the post title and the URL/permalink, so let’s look at the tile first.
Your title is crucial not just from an SEO perspective, but from a getting people to read perspective too.
Advertising genius, David Ogilvy, once said (and I’m paraphrasing) that he put 80% of his time into the headline because if that didn’t compel people to read then everything else was superfluous.
Well over half a century later and that is just as relevant for the internet as it was for printed media.
Maybe even more so.
Your title has to grab people’s attention, pique their interest and then get them to act by clicking on it or scrolling down.
From an SEO perspective, your title must contain your focus keyword and in the same order without adding words in between.
My focus longtail for 10 Free Ways To Get Coaching Clients was get coaching clients, so that ticks that particular box.
Permalinks and URLs
Every time you publish a new post it is ascribed a permalink, also known as the page URL.
This is what you see when you look in your browser navigation bar and is unique for every single page on the internet.
As the name would suggest, the permalink is permanent as far as search engines are concerned and it should not be edited after the page has been published.
If you don’t do anything when you publish a blog post WordPress will use the title of the blog post as the permalink.
This can cause problems for SEO if your blog post contains a date or year because it will age your post as newer material tends to be given priority.
More on this in my next post when I explain how I grabbed the #1 spot on Google for Life Coaching 2021 in under 48-hours using the date method.
Not crafting your URL means you miss a huge SEO opportunity to get Google to focus where you want it to.
If I had let WordPress do its thing my URL would have looked like this:
Instead, I edited it down and it looked like this:
Not only is the edited version more appealing to Google but it also keeps the URL short and easy to read when it is returned in search results.
Note: You may hear the term slug used in this context. That is the element of the URL that comes after .com, so in the above example, get-coaching-clients is the slug.
The Subheading or H2 Tag
By now you have got Google salivating at the chops because it’s looked at your title and your URL and thinks it may have something worth sharing with its users.
It starts to read your post and is quietly impressed.
However, it wants to see some subheadings to make things more descriptive, break up walls of text and allow people to scan.
Your title is by default an <h1> tag.
The H merely stands for Header and the 1 tells Google that this sucker is numero uno in the header tag department.
In other words, the <h1> tag tells Google, please look at this first.
As you can imagine if <h1> is the most important, then <h2> must come next.
It’s not always possible to use <h2> tags, especially in short posts of under 400/500 words because they look contrived and are not really needed.
However, when you are writing cornerstone in-depth content that you want to rank, they are worth implementing.
As with the title and the URL, you want wherever possible for the subheading to contain the focus keyword with no words in between.
Using my own post again I made the first subheading:
In all honesty, there is an element of awkwardness to that because it was the first item in a list post it would have probably looked more natural to have just been:
1. Public Speaking
In this situation though the need/desire to get the focus keyword in the subheading trumped that.
There is a drop off from <h2> tags to <h3> and all the way down to <h6> and as a rule of thumb each tag will be slightly smaller in terms of seeing text on the page.
Once you have your <h2> in place I’d not worry too much about the rest unless they make the post easier to read/follow.
The Image and Alt Text
Every blog post needs a featured image.
This is the one that you will see at the top of the post and also on the blog home page.
Also, an additional image, or images, is highly desirable for blog posts longer than 750 words or thereabouts.
Firstly, they have some SEO value as Google indexes images.
Secondly, they make the user experience (UX) more pleasurable.
Imagine this post with zero images, it would be almost impossible to read.
A better UX will keep people on your page/site longer and that will help with SEO also because time on site is a ranking factor.
However, it isn’t just a question of slapping an image up there, you have to tag it properly.
The file name (title) you gave the image (what it is called on your computer before you upload it) is by default the title of the image that WordPress will use if you don’t edit it.
It’s not clear how much importance Google ascribes to image titles, but there is no harm in using your keyword.
The alt text (often known as the alt tag) is known to be important though and you have to add this manually.
Alt stands for alternative and this is the name that Google indexes the image under.
In other words, if you do a Google search for images, it finds them by searching the billions of alt text descriptions.
Possibly more importantly though is that the alt text is how visually impaired people know what an image is.
It is also what Google displays if images on your site or in the reader’s browser aren’t loading correctly.
It is great if you can get your keyword in the alt text, but don’t contrive it.
Having a picture of a donkey and adding the alt text Mindset Coach Orlando may get you a Google slap, or it may not.
But it’s certainly not useful having visitors thinking they may need to bring a bag of carrots to their first session.
Page Speed (how long does your site take to load)
People are in a hurry and the faster the internet moves the more impatient we get when it slows down.
Google knows that.
As such, if you have a site that has been slowed to a crawl because of large hi-res images, video files, too many plugins, or simply because it’s an old theme, you may get punished.
But even if Google doesn’t punish you, your visitors might when they get fed up of waiting for a page to load and hit the back button.
If you want to check your website speed you can use the free Google tool here.
Just remember that mobile speed is possibly more important now than desktop speed as more browsing is done on mobile devices.
If your site is struggling like an unfit slug carrying its shopping home up a steep hill, get professional help.
You Must Be on HTTPS not HTTP
Even though a truly astonishing amount of sites that should know better still are, you can no longer afford to be on HTTP.
Google has been pushing people toward HTTPS (the S stand for secure) for some considerable time.
They stepped it up a notch in July 2018 when they launched the new version of the Chrome browser that tells people in the navigation bar that your site isn’t secure if you’re not on HTTPS.
The reality is, that if the site isn’t taking payments or personal details then the danger is minimal.
But the average person using Google doesn’t know that, they just see ‘not secure’ and are highly likely to bail out.
And if that isn’t bad enough when you have worked hard to generate traffic, Google will also punish you in the search results.
You can probably hire somebody for under $100 to transfer your site to HTTPS if it isn’t already on it, so do it.
Possibly the easiest way to give your important (cornerstone) blog posts a boost, is to tell Google how important they are.
And you do that by linking to them from other pages and posts, especially ones that have similar or relevant content.
This post is going to be my cornerstone post on SEO for life coaches.
As such, I intend to go back through older posts where I mention SEO, or domain names, or anything Google-related and add a link to this page.
Some links will be dropped in a relevant sentence where I touch on SEO and others may be more overt and tell the reader to click a link to go deeper on the topic.
And you don’t need to do this just for blog posts, you can do it for pages that are important to you too.
If I mention working with me, I will always link to the Work with Tim page.
Speaking of which, did you know I was doing a special offer on coaching until the end of February? You do now.
Internal links are almost always overlooked by coaches and yet they can offer a great return for very little work when it comes to your search engine optimization.
It’s a similar, if not quite as beneficial, story for linking externally to other sites.
It’s called the World Wide WEB for a reason. It cannot function without people linking to one another and sharing.
Therefore, if Google thinks you are trying to keep all the goodies for yourself, it’s going to penalize you.
You should have at least one outbound link in every blog post and a few more if they improve the UX .
However, unlike internal links where it’s highly unlikely you will use too many, you can link out too much on a page and dilute the page authority.
It’s unclear how many are too many, but you will be fine with single figures providing they have some relevance and deepen the experience for the reader.
The Meta Description
The meta description is the description of the post that you see directly under a post title in the SERPs.
It’s also called a snippet and if it is the first result at the top of a page (just under the ads) and in a box with more information it is then called the featured snippet.
If you don’t add one (and free SEO plugin Rank Math makes that easy) then Google will default to grabbing the first 150-160 characters of the post and they may not be relevant.
Their value in terms of SEO is limited as Google doesn’t always recognize them, but they are important for the end-user because that is what people see in the SERP’s.
For example, the meta description for my post A Marketing Mistake Too Many Coaches Make is:
Marketing mistakes are very common for life coaches and here is a major one that many coaches make and can be easily avoided if you know what you’re doing.
That’s fairly descriptive and the person looking at the search results knows exactly what the post is all about and whether it’s for them or not.
However, if I hadn’t handwritten a meta description, the results in the SERPs would have looked like this:
Seth Godin has penned a dozen or more best-sellers (most of which I have read), has a blog that’s followed by tens of thousands of people and given a seminal Ted Talk on getting ideas to spread. In short, he is probably…
That doesn’t really tell the person a fat lot other than maybe I’m writing about Seth Godin, when in essence, I wasn’t.
So I edited the meta description to read something that made a lot more sense and was relevant to the content.
As per your title, URL and <h2> tag, you should try and include your keyword exactly as they are in the ‘focus keyword’ section.
EMDs (Exact Domain Names)
Even though Google has undoubtedly reduced the importance of exact match domains (EMD’s) they can still be useful.
If you have hotels.com or insurance.com, then they will be easier to get to rank which is why they sold for $11m and $36m respectively.
It’s why Russel Brunson paid $600,000 for Mastermind.com and promptly gave it as a gift to Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi.
Because let’s face it, with a combined wealth of over half a billion dollars, the guys were struggling to come up with the cash themselves.
Also, EMD’s usually have the advantage of being easier to remember.
Coolmasterminds.com on the other hand is not an EXACT match for anything other than cool masterminds (whatever they are) so it won’t give you a leg up in ranking for masterminds.
However, that has not always been the case which is why I bought CoachTheLifeCoach.com.
And I’m guessing this’s why some coaches go to extraordinary lengths to contrive a domain name when they (you) are now far better just using your name.
Using your name will not help you rank for any coaching term, but it will help you rank for your own name which can be important.
Similarly, if you pivot and change your coaching direction/emphasis, it won’t box you in.
What Else Does Google Like?
Obviously, I cannot go into every ranking factor and I have touched on the ones that are easy to keep on top of and offer a great return for the time you spend. But Google also likes:
- A table of contents – There are a load of plugins that will allow you to insert a ToC like the one at the start of this post and they will help your SEO. I use this free one.
- Authority – New sites have little to no authority. But as you create more content your authority will increase. And as your authority increases each post will get easier to rank.
- Established Domains – If you can buy your domain for at least 5 years and send the message you are serious and not buying domains to sell on.
- Bullet points or numbered lists – A bit like this one
- It likes the keyword at the start of the article – Which is the only reason I added it because it’s not needed for any other reason.
What Does Google Dislike?
We have looked at what Google likes, but there are things that it doesn’t like or is ambivalent about.
Some of these things are just flip sides of what it likes, but it has other pet peeves that you should avoid such as:
- Keyword stuffing – you can over-optimize a page and one way is to use the keyword too many times. Keep it natural.
- Content decay – This is the term used to describe posts as they get older and newer material will start taking over. I will explain how to overcome this in my next post.
- Duplicate content – Once a post has been published don’t use it again unless you do a significant rewrite.
- Keyword tags – You will probably see the option to add tags to a new post in WordPress – Google ignores them
- Volume of content – Google no longer cares about the volume of content you produce, it’s tripping over the stuff. It wants quality content.
As I have mentioned, there are in the region of 200 ranking factors that Google uses.
Nobody outside of Google knows the exact amount or the rating/weight that Google ascribes to each one.
They don’t share that information because it would lead to people gaming the system rather than trying to supply quality information.
Experienced search engine optimizers figure these things out by analyzing data when things change and trying to reverse engineer the process.
It is an art rather than an exact science.
Here are some of the SEO blogs I read, podcasts I listen to and YouTube channels watch.
You can read them, or just follow my newsletter and I’ll distill anything I think you need to know about.
I will also return to this post and update it from time to time as and when things change.
Backlinko – Brains Dean’s site that does infrequent but super in-depth posts on SEO
Ahrefs – The blog posts are good, but it’s their YouTube channel that really shines, although much of their advice requires you be using their software.
Authority Hacker – This podcast covers a range of topics and is really aimed at affiliate marketers, but their SEO advice is solid and I like the two guys delivering it a lot.
Got Any Questions?
I have thrown a lot of information at you and it will undoubtedly have some questions, or areas you’re unsure of.
If that is the case please ask away in the comments and I will do my best to help you.