The Definitive Guide to SEO for Coaches

The Definitive Guide to SEO for Coaches

Guest post by Alistair Gill, SEO Consultant

Let me guess…

You started your business because deep down you have a passion for helping people.  Am I right?

Whether you’re a life coach, business strategist, mentor, consultant or whatever title you give yourself, your business exists because you get a buzz out of helping others meet their goals and follow their dreams.

You didn’t become a coach because you love marketing and sales.  Maybe you enjoy it, maybe you don’t mind it, or perhaps you really don’t like it.  Wherever you fall on that spectrum, the truth is you would rather be helping clients than stuck trying to find new ones.  However, running a profitable coaching business requires a steady influx of clients, so sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and hustle.

The problem is that there is so much (often conflicting) information about the best way to market and sell your services.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Even if you’re a doer and not a procrastinator, it can sometimes feel like keeping on top of marketing is a full time job in itself.  You have blog posts to write, social media posts to schedule, email newsletters to send, ads to run etc.  The list goes on… and on!

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation probably feels like just another item on that list.  Something you know you should be doing, but don’t have the bandwidth to investigate or implement.

That’s why in this “definitive guide” I’m going to lay it all out for you.  I’m going to share my best advice, tips, tools and resources so that you don’t have to figure it all out for yourselves.  I’m an SEO consultant, so I’ve read the books, done the training, attended the workshops etc, so you don’t have to.  More importantly, I’ve tested this on live websites so I know it works.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or consider yourself to be tech savvy, this guide has you covered.

The Definitive Guide to SEO for Coaches

  1. What is SEO?
  2. How To Easily Track Your SEO Efforts
  3. Give Google A Helping Hand
  4. Choosing The Right Focus Keywords
  5. Power Pages
  6. Boost Your SEO With On Page Tweaks
  7. Supercharge Your Traffic
  8. Become A Local Search Superhero

That’s a lot to cover, so I recommend that you bookmark or save this page.  That way you can come back and refer to it again and again and implement each chapter as and when you have the opportunity.


seo-for-coaches-what-is-seo

What is SEO?

If you’re new to SEO, this chapter will get you up to speed.  We’re going to look at what SEO is, and more importantly, why you should care.

We’ll start with this infographic, which explains the origins of SEO in a concise and approachable way:

For a more in-depth look at SEO, this guide is one of the most popular on the internet:

Now that we what SEO is, lets take a look at why you should care about it.

The truth is that only you can decide if SEO is right for you at this point in time.  However the following facts may help you understand why I believe it is:

The majority of traffic is driven by organic search.

“Organic search drives 51% of all visitors to B2B and B2C websites, trumping all other non-organic search channels, including paid search (10%) and social (5%).”

(Source)

That number actually jumps to 73% for business services sites.

Organic search is the only source of long-term, sustainable traffic.

“Most of the traffic sources above are important to driving traffic in month one. The only one that drives long-term, sustainable traffic is organic.”

(Source)

That doesn’t mean other marketing channels don’t work; they just require consistent micro management.

Visitors from organic search are actively searching for your services (or information related to them).

“SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.”

(Source)

Of course not everyone that visits your site from organic search will become a client. However, by the very fact they went to a search engine and typed in a query that returned your site, they have pre-qualified themselves as a potential match.  The statistics support this, showing that SEO visitors have higher conversion rates.

Often it will take more than one interaction with you and your brand before someone is ready to hire you.  Initially they might only be researching their problem, and are therefore not ready to hire you yet.  Each subsequent interaction helps move them through the Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action sales process.  SEO supports this by directing visitors to the most appropriate landing page based on their search intent.

 seo-for-coaches-how-to-easily-track-your-seo-efforts

How To Easily Track Your SEO Efforts

The first step in any SEO campaign is to understand your current position.  You need to know how much traffic organic search is sending to your website.  That way, as you make improvements and publish new content, you can see the impact it has had. This will help you judge what’s working well so you can do more of it!

This tutorial walks you through setting up a Google Analytics account and adding the tracking code to your WordPress website:

If you already have that setup, you can skip this one.  For those of you still with me, I want to reassure those of you who are worried about “adding code” to your site.  You have nothing to worry about.  Simply use Method #2 from the article above to install the code. The MonsterInsights plugin is one of the best available and only requires you to authenticate with your Google Account.  Authentication simply means following the on screen prompts, copying & pasting a line of text they provide and clicking a button.  Easy.

Now that you have Google Analytics setup, this 3-minute video tutorial will show you how to use it to monitor your SEO efforts:

As you make SEO improvements to a piece of content, Google Analytics will allow you to track exactly how may visits landed on that page from organic search.  You can even compare to the previous time period to see the improvement.

seo-for-coaches-give-google-a-helping-hand

Give Google A Helping Hand

This chapter is going to guide you through the basic steps you need to take to ensure the search engines can find your website and display your pages in their search results.  If you don’t get this stage right, it won’t matter how good your content is, how well you optimise your meta-data, or how well you promote it, your pages won’t rank.

To start with, I recommend you download and follow the steps in this free ebook:

Inside you’ll discover:

  • The free tool you can use to crawl your website like a search engine.
  • What to do about pages that don’t show up in Google results.
  • How to avoid unwanted pages showing in the search results (e.g. email opt-in downloads).
  • How to easily find your problem pages and any links to them.
  • Why you need a sitemap and how to submit one.
  • How to check which pages Google has indexed.

I’ve included step-by-step instructions and annotated screenshots to make it as easy to follow as possible.

Now that Google knows your site exists and has a sitemap to find it’s way around your pages, it will send Googlebot to crawl your site.  Once this is done your pages get added to Google’s database which is often called the “index”.

Googlebot will periodically crawl your site again, to detect changes and find links to other pages.  The more popular your site becomes, the more frequently it will get crawled.

Your website will be allocated a crawl budget which determines how long Googlebot spends crawling your site.  It works like any other budget.  When you run out, no more pages will be crawled, so it’s important to keep your website clean and optimised.  That means fixing broken links, as detailed in the ebook.  The last thing you want to do is waste your crawl budget on pages that don’t exist.

Another thing to take care of here is page speed.  The faster your pages load, the more of them Googlebot can crawl.  Not only that, having a faster website will offer a better user experience for the people who visit so they are less likely to bounce.

The following case study explains how to speed up WordPress:

Now your website is blazing fast, the other thing you should make sure is that it’s mobile-friendly.  You could actually use Google Analytics to check how many of your visitors viewed your site on a mobile device compared to tablets and desktops.  Doing so will give you the incentive to make sure your site looks great on mobile.  You should also know that Google favours sites that are mobile friendly.  Need I say more?  These posts have the details you need:

Still with me?  Cool.

That’s the most technical part of the process covered. Phew!  In the next section we’ll move onto keyword research.

seo-for-coaches-choosing-the-right-focus-keywords

Choosing The Right Focus Keywords

We know that SEO is about trying to increase your traffic by appearing on the first page of the search results.  In order to do that you need to decide which keywords you want to focus on.  You can’t rank for ALL the search terms, and you shouldn’t want to either.  Instead, think about the terms that your potential clients are searching for.  What are they typing into Google?  Those are the search results you should be targeting.

Before we go on, I should clarify a couple of quick points:

  1. I use keyword, focus keyword, search term and search query interchangeably.  They all mean the same thing.
  2. The term keyword does not imply one actual word.  It can also be a phrase.  It’s the text someone enters into Google’s search box, however many words that might be.

Once you have selected your focus keywords, we’re going to optimise your content around them.  This includes using them in specific places on your page, but more on that later.

First we need to be strategic about how we select keywords.  That means getting some data about volume and difficulty.

Search volume is simply the number of people who search for that keyword in a given month.  Obviously the more people who search for it, the better.  There is no point ranking on the first page for terms nobody is interested in, right?  However, with higher search volume comes higher competition.  That’s where the second metric, difficulty comes into play.

Keyword difficulty is a measure that assesses how difficult it would be to outrank the pages that already show on the first page of the search results.  Generally the higher this number is, the harder it would be to break onto the first page.

So you need to pick keywords in the sweet spot between high volume and lower difficulty.

This is arguably the most important stage of any SEO campaign.  So the last thing you should be doing is leaving this to chance.  If you’re not sure, don’t guess what your focus keywords should be!  Use the following resources instead.

A good starting point is to create a list of seed keywords.  I really like the following tool for this purpose:

It lets you create a scenario that you can share with your audience, email list and social circles.  You can even ask friends and family to help.  The tool explains the scenario to them and asks them to respond with what they would search for in that scenario.  Once the results are collated you get fantastic insight into your audience’s natural language and their thought process when using search engines.

The only tip I would give you is to be careful how you phrase the scenario.  Try to avoid leading the witness.  If you simply ask “what would you search for if you wanted to hire a life coach?”, you’ll get loads of responses that all say “hire a life coach” or “best life coach”.  Instead you could try “what would you search for if you knew you needed my services but didn’t know my name/brand?”.  A little bit of thought at this stage will pay dividends on the quality of responses you receive.

Now the point of this initial research is to develop a list of seed keywords. These can then be used to generate synonyms and related keywords that you may not have thought of yourself.

While the Seed Keywords tool is great, it doesn’t give you any volume or difficulty data.  So the next step is to expand the seed keyword list and gather difficulty data.  Ahrefs is a good tool for this purpose:

Ahrefs is a paid tool, and unless you use it a lot, it’s quite pricey.  However, there is nothing to stop you from signing up for a trial or even one month’s subscription to do all your keyword research for the next year!

Finally, if you want a more thorough, end-to-end tutorial on performing keyword research, I highly recommend you check out this:

The process Nick lays out in the above post is the one I use myself.

Once you have a focus keyword (or keywords) to target, you’re ready for the next chapter.

seo-for-coaches-power-pages

Power Pages

The short version of this section is: write a piece of content about your focus keyword.  That’s it!

Obviously, it’s a bit more involved than that if you really want to improve your SEO.

You’ve probably seen all of the advice online about how “you need to publish great content”.  In fact so many people are pushing that advice, it’s become a cliche.

The truth is, to succeed with SEO, you need to publish THE BEST content.  That’s right, you’ve got to earn your place on the first page of Google and if you don’t, there will be plenty of others who will gladly take your place.  Sorry, I don’t make the rules!

What do I mean by the best content though?  Brian Dean explains it best:

You need to create content that is significantly better than anything else out there on your topic.  That means no more mediocre, 500 word blog posts every week please.

One way you can make your content better is to make it more thorough.  People love details.  The more you can add, the more value a reader will get from the post.  The more value they get, the more likely they are to share and link to your post, and links, as we’ll discuss later, are what makes your content rank well in the search engines.

Now if creating more thorough, long form content means you have to publish less frequently, so be it.  The rule here is quality over quantity:

“85% of content published is less than 1,000 words long. However, long form content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter form content. Either people ignore the data or it is simply too hard for them to write quality long form content.”

(Source)

Another way to create link-worthy content is to use a proven content framework or “Power Page”.  It’s no secret that certain types of content get more shares and links than others.  This guide explains some of the most popular power page frameworks:

So before you create your content, have a think about whether you can use one of these proven templates to help you create the best piece of content for your chosen keyword.

Once your content is created, make sure to check out the next section before you publish it.

seo-for-coaches-boost-your-seo-with-on-page-tweaks

Boost your SEO with On Page Tweaks

Before you hit publish on that amazing power page you’ve been working on, there are some tweaks you can make to help boost it’s organic visibility.  I’m talking about classic on-page SEO.  This is the primary function of tools like the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin.  The idea is to include your focus keyword in specific areas of the page to indicate to Google what your page is about and what it should rank for.

This is not the same as keyword stuffing.  I am not advising you to enter a long list of comma separated keywords.  That just doesn’t work.  Google is so much smarter than that.

Instead, watch this tutorial on how to optimise your on-page SEO:

As Nat explained it the video, you want to make sure your keyword is used in your title, URL and meta description.  Together, these 3 elements are often called a search snippet, because they are what show up in the search results.

Optimising your search snippet isn’t some kind of trick that will make Google suddenly rank you higher.  It’s about increasing your chances of someone actually clicking on your result instead of the others that Google returns.  After all, what is the point in being on page 1 of Google if nobody clicks on your result?

Think of it like an advert for your page.  You have 3 elements (title, URL, meta description) with which to convince a searcher to click on your result.  So you’d better make it good.  By using your keyword in these elements you increase the relevance of your search snippet to their query.  Google even emphasises keyword matches in bold.

For more guidance on improving your organic click-through rates, check out this great infographic:

Once you’ve got the green light from Yoast you can hit publish.  Then you’re ready for the next section.

seo-for-coaches-supercharge-your-traffic

Supercharge Your Traffic

Okay.  You’ve made sure Google can crawl your website.  You’ve built an awesome power page focused on a keyword with decent search volume and low-medium difficulty.  You’ve optimised the search snippet to increase click-through rate.  You’re all set…right?

Not quite…

Despite all the talk online about how “SEO is dead” and link-building is a shady “black hat” tactic, the truth is that links matter.  Like REALLY matter.

How do we know that?  Well every year or so, some rather smart folks conduct a ranking factor study.  This means they analyse all of the different possible ranking factors and correlate them to Google’s search results.  Using this method they can learn all sorts of clever insights.  Time and time again we see that link metrics show the best correlation to high Google rankings.  Sure there are plenty of other things that also matter, but the more links you have from high-quality, relevant domains, the better.

The high-quality bit is important.  A handful of contextual links from well respected, authoritative sites will do far more for your SEO than thousands of links from thin web 2.0 blog sites created to game the system.  Remember, Google is smart!

So in order to get that new piece of content onto the first page of the search results, you’re going to need some links.  They don’t just build themselves you know.  You’ve got to earn them:

For every hour you spend creating content, you should be spending 4 promoting it.  Getting it in front of influencers who can share it with their audience:

You have to set this in motion.  Nobody will do it for you.  However the good news is that once your content does get on the first page, it starts to build momentum on it’s own.  More people will see it, which means more people will share it and link to it.  In turn those new links help cement your position on the first page and even help you climb higher.  This self-fulfilling effect is why we saw earlier that organic search its the only source of sustainable, long-term traffic.

So how do you promote your content and build links?  There are thousands of tutorials online, many of which could land you a penalty if you’re not careful.  Suffice to say, if a link building tactic feels spammy, or if it sounds too good to be true, you’re probably best to ignore it.  The safest and most effective approach that’s working now is influencer outreach:

Obviously this is something you can outsource.  However if someone is going to be conducting outreach on your behalf, make sure they’re portraying you in the best way possible.  This guide will help:

If you’ve followed all the other steps up to this point, and your power page still isn’t on page one, focus on building more high-quality links from new domains.

seo-for-coaches-become-a-local-search-superhero

Become a Local Search Superhero

If you offer your coaching services within your local area, then this last section is a bonus just for you!

Everything we’ve covered so far is still important, but there are some extra things you can do to boost your local SEO visibility.  In the last section we looked at the importance of links for promoting your content.  Well local search has it’s own form of link currency called citations.

A citation or “NAP” is simply an instance of your business Name, Address and Phone number somewhere on the internet.  It doesn’t even have to link to your website.  Citations work a bit like links though.  By that I mean that the more citations you have on high-quality, relevant sites the more likely you are to rank in the local search results.

For a more in-depth explanation of the nuances specific to local SEO, check out this guide:

Also, Whitespark produced this great resource which allows you to find the best citation sources for your industry and for your area:

Summary

Wow! That was intense.  Congrats on making it this far.  I’ve covered a lot in this guide, but then it wouldn’t be very definitive if I didn’t now would it.

The key thing I’ve done is to lay out an SEO strategy that you can use to grow traffic to your coaching business.  It’s not something you’ll be able to implement overnight.  Start with just one section and chip away at it, bit by bit.  I promise if you follow the steps and take action you’ll build a steady stream of organic traffic to your site.


seo-for-coaches-alistair-gill

Alistair Gill is a freelance SEO consultant who helps small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their traffic and increase their online presence.

After a successful career in engineering project management at a top Fortune 50 company, Alistair is no stranger to using data and technology to help his clients improve their business.

He specialises in Search Engine Optimisation to get clients in front of people who are actively looking for what they offer. He also uses thorough web analytics to helps clients know what’s working.

Say hi on Twitter or Facebook.

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