This post is crazily outdated now. I do intend to update it, but for now I’d be very leery of any of the advice it contains.
Every now and then I forget when I’m talking to other Life Coaches that when I throw terms like SEO, SERP’s, GPR’s, Google Juice and Alexa ranking around like confetti, that they may have no clue what I’m talking about.
In today’s post I want to help you understand the importance of SEO, give you some tips in helping you climb Google, and clear up some common misconceptions that I see perpetuated on message boards.
It’s a very long post so try not to overwhelm yourself and absorb everything in one go.
The post isn’t going anywhere and you can come back at any time in the future.
I’ll also make changes to it as and when Google does,
Let’s Start With The Basics – SEO Made Simple For Life Coaches
So let’s start with the basic acronyms and explain names above.
SEO – Search engine optimization
This is the process where you try and make your site as appealing to Google as possible so that when people are searching for a Life Coach there is an increased chance of them finding you first in the SERP’s (see below).
Myth Busting #1
You may hear people say that SEO is dead and the future is content marketing and there’s a large element of truth to that, but it’s way too simplified.
The whole point of content marketing is to develop material that is so engaging, interesting and useful that people want to share it on Social Media, link to it from their own site and talk about it.
If SEO were dead then the only skill you’d need to succeed in the SERP’s would be to be an awesome writer with some design skills.
Sadly, if you write it they won’t come and forget any other bullshit you hear by people trying to sell you on how easy it is to become a Life Coach.
Unless that is, you know how to market it, and SEO is part of that process.
SERP’s – Search engine ranking pages
These are basically what you see whenever you do a search.
If you type in Life Coach into Google you will get 10 results back (not including advertising) and what you’re looking at is a search engine ranking page.
Myth Busting #2
Google PPC (pay per clip advertising) does not help you with organic results and it’s also very difficult to use successfully.
Some people seem to think that Google gives a gentle helping hand to people who spend money on advertising.
If you buy an ad, you get an ad.
Nothing else – don’t be conned!
GPR – Google Page Rank
The Google toolbar ascribes a rank from 0 to 10 to every page it knows is there. 10 is the best, and amazingly enough Google scores itself a 10!
Seeing as there are only 12 sites in the world that score 10 and the majority are Government owned (both here and in places like India and China) it’s a big deal to be given a 10 and I shouldn’t hold out much hope unless you are thinking of overthrowing the Chinese government.
Google updates its page ranking about twice a year, but in reality there is no set time and when they did the last update in December it had been 10 months since the previous one.
That was important for me because I launched Coach The Life Coach a couple of months after the February update of 2013 and as such I had to wait 8 months to see if Google ranked me and what that rank was.
Fortunately it gave me a GPR2 which is pretty good for a new site (A Daring Adventure has a home page GPR4). Especially one as niched and therefore not as likely to generate massive traffic and inbound links etc as my other site.
Important pedantic note: To see a sites GPR for free you can either install the Google or Alexa toolbar.
However, the GPR you see is not exactly what Google sees. Internally Google breaks ranking down to a much greater degree than just from 0 to 10 (how much greater is uncertain outside the walls of Google).
But for our purposes the toolbar ranking is going to do what we want.
At this stage Alexa doesn’t work with Safari, but does with Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Just type Alexa toolbar and then the browser of your choice in Google.
There is something called Page Authority and Domain Authority that are taking over from GPR as Google looses interest in the latter.
A DA as a Life Coach of over 35 is pretty good.
40 is great.
50 is freakin’ awesome!
If you want to check yours and your competitors download the Moz toolbar.
Alexa takes it a stage further than Google (although not as far as Moz) and ranks sites on their overall popularity using traffic levels.
Every site that Alexa knows is there gets a rank between 1 (which Google recently claimed back from Facebook) and who knows how far down although I have seen sites with a ranking in the 30 millions.
At the time of writing A Daring Adventure has an Alexa ranking of 72,874 which is pretty good, but it has been as high as 56,000 and as low as 120,000 in the last couple of years ago.
Unlike GPR’s, Alexa rankings are fluctuating all the time because Alexa pulls data in daily from people who have the Alexa toolbar installed.
And because Alexa gathers data from the millions of users of its toolbar and then projects that data across the entire Internet, the results are not as accurate as would be ideal.
However, for our purposes, and like the GPR, they are accurate enough because whereas the figure may not be bang on it will give you a good comparison between sites.
An Alexa ranking is site wide so you will see a sites ranking on the bottom of every page if you install Alexa.
Update August 2014: Recent changes to the tool bar (at least in Chrome) have one simple Alexa icon in the top right level with the navigation bar. You then click the icon to see the stats.
However, a GPR is based on each individual page, which is why I will have hundreds of blog posts that have no ranking.
Because of this it’s important to realize that a link from the Huffington Post that may have a GPR0 is not as valuable as getting one from their home page.
However, it doesn’t mean getting a link from the home page of a GPR1 site is better than a Huff Post GPR0 because Google works out an average, so the Huffington Post link is still well worthwhile and considerably more important.
Note: There are paid options that offer access to more accurate stats such as at Moz.com, but at $99 per month you probably need a better reason than idol curiosity to sign up. There are other free tools such as SEMRush that will allow you to do a basic and fairly accurate search for free.
Also called Google Guice, is a term used when describing an incoming hyperlink.
The higher the GPR the more Google Juice it contains and this is very important when implementing a guest posting strategy.
Who Cares What My GPR or Alexa Ranking Is?
Well hopefully you do because both can be important.
Whereas a high GPR on its own is not enough to help you appear higher in the SERP’s, it is one component of many.
One of the metrics that influences Google with GPR is how old the domain is.
The older and more established the domain (presuming it hasn’t gotten into trouble with Google by breaking SEO guidelines, and there is new content and it’s not dormant) the better.
Not great news if you’re brand new, but a factor that you can control, is length of domain moving forward.
If you know you’re going to stick with your domain for a long time, then don’t just buy it on an annual basis using auto renew, snap it up for 5, or better still, 10 years.
Doing this you’re telling Google you’re not just cyber sitting on a domain that you may or may not use, but that you’re serious about developing it.
There are a number of advantages to having a higher GPR and Alexa ranking, some of which may not interest you, and some that may.
Update August 2015: If you don’t have a responsive site i.e. one that adapts to the medium the user is on be that desktop or mobile device you’re screwed. Even having two separate sites is not enough, Google wants responsive sites and will punish you if yours isn’t!
Free Promotional Material
I get sent dozens of free books and product every year to review for A Daring Adventure, simply because of A Daring Adventure’s visibility online and authority with Google.
I can’t remember the last time I approached a publishing company for a review copy of a book and got turned down.
I also get sent access to courses, webinars and all sorts of other things by people wanting to get me to review and then link to them.
If you had an established well-read blog I’d be more than happy to send you a copy of Aligning With Your Core Values to review.
You get the book for free instead of paying $99 and I get an important inbound link and hopefully a good review.
I get a lot of requests from other sites wanting to advertise on my blog and for the most part I turn them down because they risk damaging my sites authority because they’re not relevant.
However, I recently had somebody offer me $200 for dropping 4 links into old blog posts from as long as 4 years ago and another company pay me $260 for 3 links.
As the products were highly relevant to what I was talking about within each post and the site reputable, I took the money and ran!
Er..after I’d spent 5 minutes inserting the links that is!
Important Note: Any affiliate links you use have to be declared under FTC rules.
Dropping an affiliate link in without declaring it, whether that’s on your own website or in Social Media is unethical and illegal. Whenever I link to a book on Amazon in which I could affiliate income I drop (al) after the link.
Oh and by the way, there are NO affiliate links in this post.
Most clients won’t know anything about GPR’s and Alexa ranking, but some will. And if they do, your authority can grant you instant credibility.
This is important to me with Coach the Life Coach because I can point to these things if other Life Coaches have any doubt that I know what I’m talking about.
I’m not helping coaches do anything that I haven’t already done with two different sites and if you have any doubts, call me and we can hop on Skype and I will happily show you my real time stats.
I see other people offering to help coaches with generating traffic and clients and guaranteeing spectacular results.
Yet when I go and take a peek at their stats 9 times out of 10 it’s apparent they cannot even generate traffic to their own site.
Would you hire a mechanic who couldn’t fix his own car?
Important Note: If anybody makes any guarantees to you about getting you on to the first page of Google they are either stupid, dishonest, or both. Nobody can guarantee that. And I do mean nobody (more in a moment on one of many reasons why).
Whereas GPR and Alexa rankings (or more specifically the traffic that the ranking indicates) are important in helping you climb up the SERP’s there are a great many more factors, so let’s take a look at some of those.
Interesting Note: A Daring and Adventure and Coach the Life Coach are only about 60,000 places apart according to Alexa at the time of writing, but that is a massive difference in terms of visitors as ADA gets more than 25 times the traffic volume.
When you look at sites in the millions they probably are getting very low levels of traffic.
Not that that always means much because they may be targeting highly relevant traffic and going for quality over quantity, or just be using their website as an online business card.
Myth Busting #3 – Domain names are not very important anymore
Google have hinted several times that the importance of domain names will be reduced, but it hasn’t happened yet and I for one doubt it ever will.
Google is first and foremost about relevancy. It wants the user to get the most useful and relevant results when he or she searches
If you search under the term Life Coach you will probably see Life Coach dot com on the first page.
A Daring Adventure pretty much brutalizes that site on every metric from traffic and inbound links, to content and social mediate activity. Yet only once for a very brief spell have I managed to claw myself above it.
And for the most part that’s because of the domain name. the A Daring Adventure name sucks from an SEO perspective and I have done ok in spite of it (and because I have had some great help) rather than because of it.
Having a domain lifecoachtim would have been much more useful 10 years ago and made climbing the SERP’s a lot easier.
You absolutely do not have to have a relevant domain to be successful because there are so many other factors. So don’t freak out if you have used your own name or something else entirely unrelated to coaching!
Note: I was told this was incorrect the other day with the business coach in question pointing to sites like Amazon as not having a relevant domain name.
Amazon is a highly recognizable brand with massive authority, millions of inbound links, millions of pages and to compare it to a Life Coaches website is a tad silly.
Oh, and one other thing. Amazon spent millions of dollars and took 6 years before turning a profit. If you can afford that, go for it!
Having A Varied And Natural Link Profile
I was looking at the website of a coach who supposedly helps other Life Coaches grow their business online and noticed that she didn’t have a single outbound link.
We’d been talking about testimonials and I said I always link to clients who give me a testimonial by way of thanking them with the ‘Google Juice’ and also offering added credibility to the testimonial.
She responded by saying she didn’t want to risk anybody clicking away from her site.
Leaving aside the selfishness of that and the lack of confidence in her own content to keep people engaged enough to stay on her site, it’s also very, very short-sighted from an SEO standpoint.
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 kick you in the SERP’s.
Linking out is all part of your link profile. Google wants to see something that looks natural and not contrived.
Yes it’s great to have a GPR8 link to you, but kinda weird if that’s the only inbound link you have.
What are the chances of a site linking to you with such massive authority, but nobody else on the Internet has bothered?
Slim to none.
Google wants to see a mixture of links from GPR0 to as high as you can get. It also wants to see you link out regularly and also link internally.
In most of my posts I’ll have at least one link (sometimes multiple links) that directs to another post I have written or an internal page on my site that I want to draw Google’s attention to.
In some cases it’s to help the reader gain more information on a subject, but more often that not it’s also to help my link profile and show Google the posts I think are the most important.
In 2011 I hired a company to take over my SEO and they did a startling job right out of the gate.
Within 7 or 8 months they had me on the first page of Google for the term ‘Life Coach’ and I was falling over inquiries.
Then I went from page 1 to page 46 literally in a matter of hours.
Google hadn’t just kicked my ass, it had also applied a knee to my testicles as I turned round to see where the buttock pain had come from.
A few months earlier Google had said it was unhappy with so many people using exact anchor text (even though it had previously encouraged this approach) and it wanted to see more natural links such as ‘click here’ ‘Life Coach, Tim Brownson’, ‘A Daring Adventure’ etc
Prior to then when I had adopted a guest posting strategy I’d always asked the host if they could please link back to me under the term ‘Life Coach’ rather than my name.
That in and of itself wasn’t enough to get me hammered because there were less than 100 posts.
But when I found out my SEO guy had generated 11,000 inbound links (most of which were from spammy low authority sites and have since been disavowed) all under the exact anchor text of Life Coach it was soon apparent why Google had come close to de-indexing me.
If I had been de-indexed as every SEO expert I spoke to said was almost certainly the case, I’d probably have had to start from scratch with a new domain name.
That’s how serious it was.
The annoying thing was, I knew the changes were coming, but my SEO guy obviously didn’t. He got fired 17 seconds later and I got a lot more careful who I worked with and started learning more about SEO.
Note: It’s important to say that I have had some excellent help and advice in the past and whereas I do most of my own SEO now, I still turn to Chris Gaskill on a regular basis for help and advice.
Very Important Note: It’s almost as bad to have too many outbound links if you have no inbound ones. If you have a ‘resources’ page, be careful you don’t send all your Google Juice to other sites and get nothing coming back.
Myth Busting #5 – I’m On The First Page Of Google!
When I hit the first page of Google back in 2011 it was fairly easy to check. There was one website in particular called Scroogle that allowed you to check your ranking for any search term you wanted and see exactly where you were.
That’s no longer the case.
These days there is no first page of Google because everybody sees different results as Google attempts to retrieve relevant results for the person who is searching (one of the reasons that makes some less ethical SEO companies claims dumb).
As such your social media contacts and geographic location heavily influence your search results as do other factors such browsing history, which is another reason why when somebody tells you they can get you on the first page they are communicating via their rectal channels.
Also, apart from being no first page per se, there are only 10 spots shown for every search, yet dozens of SEO companies claiming they can acquire one. Do the math.
Note: Even using Chrome with the incognito option selected doesn’t really work.
High Quality (and quantity) Content
Google loves content and it loves new content even more. However, from an SEO perspective not all content is equal.
In algorithm changes with its Penguin update Google aggressively went after link farms (groups of sites that all link to one another) and aggregate sites that were tacitly encouraging people to post low quality posts with low word counts.
The aggregate site in questions previously benefited from more content which helped its authority and as such presumably generated more advertising revenue, whereas the author benefited from the link back to their site.
Google put a stop to that overnight.
Now if you write a post of less than 350 words it’s highly unlikely to appear in the SERP’s. At least not high enough where anybody will find it anyway.
Very broadly speaking, the longer the post the more Google likes it.
Research undertaken by serpIQ suggests that posts of over 2,000 words (this one will be over 5,000) are exponentially more likely to appear higher in the SERP’s.
The research was done in 2012, but Google has not reversed the trend and I recently read that is now considers posts of less than about 600 words as ‘skinny posts’ and gives them less weight in the SERP’s.
Note: If you are a fan of Seth Godin, as I am, then you will know many of Seth’s posts are short and concise. Seth is Seth and not many people can do what he has done, so just accept there are some exceptions to the rules.
I know a lot of Life Coaches who don’t blog and some are successful.
The majority aren’t though.
If most of your marketing is done offline, or you have a huge best-selling book, or a Rolodex full of movers and shakers who can’t wait to hire you, then by all means ignore blogging.
If none of that is true then prick up your ears because this bit is especially for you.
My biggest source of clients is my newsletter, by some considerable margin.
However, my blog is what provides me with over 90% of my newsletter sign ups. Although you can subscribe from my home page the vast majority come from blog posts.
Here are a few things to ponder on.
My post 20 Awesome Celebrity Quotes Worth Sharing that I published on March 17th is edging toward half a million views and I have had two other posts hit the one million mark.
What do you think Google makes of that?
Note: It’s not entirely clear from the image on the left, but that post has been scraped (stolen) by other sites and republished without my consent or any credit. Bastards! 😉
I regularly receive inquiries from people who search under a specific term on Google that is an exact match for a blog post title I have used.
Sometimes it can be a post I wrote as long ago as 5 years or more.
Only very recently when I asked a prospective client how she found me (and by the way, I hope you ask everyone that so you know what is and isn’t working), she replied that she typed in ‘Self Development For Kids’ and voila! There I was.
The reason I use post titles like ‘What Is Life Coaching?’ is because that is what people will often type into Google and I know I can rank fairly high in the SERP’s.
Remember, Google LOVES relevancy and an exact match tells it that’s almost certainly the case.
Every blog post is an opportunity to add content, and as we know by now, Google loves juicy fresh content almost as much as relevancy.
Blogging gives you an opportunity to build internal and outbound links and at the same time (if it’s a good post) potentially generate inbound links from other sites.
I’m not going into the importance of Social Media in this post because it’s way too complex, but your blog can generate Social Media interest that Google also loves and that love is growing in importance on an almost daily basis.
Whereas this isn’t necessarily a direct SEO win, blogging also allows you to position yourself as an expert in what you do and impress potential clients.
And again it’s not an SEO factor, but blogging allows you to clarify your ideas, test theories and build up a community of people.
All this is good, right?
Well of course it is, but equally, you need to know how to set up a blog post properly so that people can find it.
Unless you have a huge audience, it’s really not enough to slap something up there and hope for the best.
Equally, unless you have built up some Google authority it’s unlikely you will see posts shoot to the top of the SERP’s very quickly. That takes time and patience, but it’s worth it.
On the other hand, if the title is unusual, then you can rank for that fairly quickly.
I once wrote a post called ‘We Want More Dobermans, Porn and Life Coaching Case Studies’ (don’t ask) and it was soon ranking very highly, albeit not necessarily for the kind of traffic I was looking to generate.
Myth Busting #6 – Guest Posting Is A Waste Of Time
Matt Cutts from Google did indeed come out and say guest posting is dead. He also then rapidly backtracked and explained that not all guest posting is equal.
What he appears to have meant is spammy guest positing is dead.
If you’re writing a post for an established site with authority it can still help your SEO efforts to have that inbound link.
But bear in mind that like blogging in general, it’s not the only reason to guest post.
Every guest post you have accepted is exposing yourself (in a good way) to an entirely different audience.
I have gained clients directly from guest posts on at least 10 occasions.
A guest posting strategy can be very worthwhile, just avoid offering posts to low authority sites, or sites like E Zine Articles, because it’s doubtful they will offer any value and may hurt you.
And the same goes for accepting guest posts. Do your due diligence and only take them if you know the site you will be linking back to is offering great value.
A Word About WordPress
I’m going to presume you’re using WordPress and you have arranged your own hosting (or maybe your designer has).
In other words you have bought a theme or framework and you are paying a company like Bluehost, Hostgator or one of many others to host it for you.
If you have a free site that is hosted by the company that supplied it you, such as Weebly or Wix (even WordPress can fall into this category or even if you are using WordPress.com as opposed to WordPress.org), then good luck!
Sites like that are a waste of time if you want to use your website as a client attraction tool because you don’t have much control over SEO other than at a superficial level.
They also have other major issues such as you not owning the copyright for your own material and if they go bankrupt or stop trading you could lose everything.
Unless you just want a basic point of contact online, then avoid them like you’d avoid a naked guy running down the street juggling two live squirrels with his hair on fire and screaming “head for the hills the hairless rapid dogs from Uranus are coming”
I Love Toast, But Yoast May Even be Tastier
There is a plug in for WordPress called, ‘Yoast’. If you haven’t got it, get it and install it because it makes on site SEO very easy.
There is another one called All-in-One SEO that’s good, but Yoast has left it behind.
It’s incredibly easy to use, very effective and is a total no brainer.
I’m not going to go into detail on how to use it in this post (if you’re a member there is a video demo I recorded that you can download) because it’s dead easy and I’m sure you can find tutorials easily enough.
Other Things That Can Potentially Hurt Your Position In The SERP’s
Slow load time – Google knows people are impatient and so if your site loads slowly because you have hi res images or and huge files uploaded, it will penalize you.
You can test your site speed here and I’d be aiming to get in the top 20 percentile.
Not Setting Up Permalinks Properly – If you look at the URL of any blog post and it ends with a number and you cannot see the name of the blog post in the title. then you need to go into WordPress and change it.
WordPress defaults to this way of doing things for some bizarre reason. And I say bizarre because the title is so important to Google as that tells it how relevant the post is.
Just click on Settings —-> Permalinks and then you can change from there using the radio buttons.
If I had left my settings the same from day one all those inquiries I received from people searching under specific terms and finding my posts would almost certainly have been lost.
Note: Stating the obvious I know, but a permalink is just a permanent link that will always link to that page.
A bad domain – It’s possible that you have bought a domain that has been previously used and seriously abused.
That can be the reason that seemingly great domains come up for sale again, because Google is punishing them and the previous owner has exhausted its potential.
Broken links – If you have a lot of internal and inbound links that end with the user getting an 404 error message you need to fix them. You can check for broken links here.
Duplicate Content – You cannot republish the same material on your blog with Google hurting you for doing so. If you wrote a killer post a year ago and want to share it again to a larger audience you need to substantially rewrite it.
If your site is new then this probably isn’t a problem, but most sites acquire these over time for any number of reasons. You can check for broken links here.
The same goes for other people’s blogs, do NOT send them material you have already published on a public blog
If your site is new then this probably isn’t a problem, but most sites acquire these over time for any number of reasons.
Not Applying An ‘Alt Tag’ To Images – This actually won’t hurt you, but it will hold you back.
For every image you upload you can add an ‘alt tag’. This is the description that Google pulls into the SERP’s.
If you do a search now for cute kittens you will get the option in Google to then click on images when the search results load.
They are pulled in from the ‘alt tags’ (alt just means alternative because there will be a default title of the image that is pulled from the file name you originally gave the image).
Do not contrive ‘alt tags’. In other words if you use a picture of a Werewolf, do not then ‘alt tag’ it Life Coach. That can hurt you and it’s unfair to the Werewolf.
Not Having Meta Tags
The meta tag is the description of the post that you see under a post title in the search results.
If you don’t add one (and Yoast makes it easy) then Google will default to grabbing the first 156 characters of the post.
On the other hand, if you do add one not only can you boost your SEO by including your keyword or words in it, but you can tell potential readers what the post is about and why it will help them.
Note: You have to include your keyword or words exactly as they are in the ‘focus keyword’ section. In other words if your keyword is ‘Life Coaching Tips’ do not use ‘great tips from a Life Coach’ in the meta description.
And finally….Google Authorship
There was a scetion here, but Google killed it, so forget about it even if you do read older articles advising of its importance.