What you will learn
In this search engine optimization guide for coaches, I will detail our process for driving organic visitors to your coaching website, blog, and lead magnets. I will also share for the first time some of the SEO strategies we developed at Studio for Digital Growth to avoid inevitable common mistakes, for example, writing blog posts for your coaching blog that don’t bring any traffic even after waiting for six months or more.
Why you should trust this guide
I have worked as an SEO consultant for over five years, and from helping several coaches, my team and I realized that they face a unique set of challenges. For example, finding clients online requires developing specific business and marketing skills that have little in common with what makes you a good coach.
Making your website and online content work for your business has its unique set of challenges as well. SEO strategies for coaches are dramatically different compared to e-commerce and SMBs; unfortunately, there are not many good SEO resources for coaches on the internet. Moreover, applying the SEO basics to your website doesn’t come without its challenges, and there is often a steep learning curve.
Getting started with SEO for coaches
A coach’s website is their most important tool in the digital marketing world. It is the de facto place where people discover more about you, find your coaching offers, and decide whether to take the next step. But your website can also play another vital role. It can be how potential clients discover your content organically through search engines and engage with your brand. In other words, your website’s true potential is that of a marketing hub for your coaching business. It’s where everything comes together as part of a holistic marketing strategy.
In this guide, we will focus on the first and most essential part: Driving organic visitors to your website and content, using Search Engine Optimization for coaches. Moreover, we will touch on how you can tap into your coaching experience to develop a bespoke content marketing strategy that provide valuable information to people who are interested in becoming your clients.
Before diving deeper into SEO for coaches, I think it’s important to talk about how SEO for coaches is different compared to other online businesses and what the prerequisites are before you start your SEO journey as a coach.
What is SEO for coaches?
SEO for coaches is a way to get your content, podcast, and lead magnets in front of potential coaching clients on Google. Modern SEO is a holistic process that doesn’t only focus on optimizing your website for search engines but also plays a vital role in your content strategy and making your website part of your marketing process.
How is SEO for coaches different compared to other businesses?
SEO for coaches is different compared to SEO for other businesses because most coaches are personal brands and have personal brand websites. In our experience, coaches have distinct marketing objectives (such as promoting a podcast or lead magnets for list building) and selling different product types (masterminds, 1-on-1 coaching, etc.) compared to traditional businesses. Moreover, the website platforms often favored by coaches (e.g., Kajabi) have specific SEO requirements. This makes SEO for coaches unique, similar to how marketing for coaches requires a more specialized approach.
Does SEO work for coaches?
Absolutely! Most coaches we’ve worked with have immensely benefited from SEO. In our experience, SEO for coaches works best when it’s part of a holistic marketing strategy, and the coaches that see the best results are those who create content frequently (podcasts, blog articles, etc.). SEO for coaches is an excellent way to grow your online audience, get qualified website visitors, build your remarketing lists for targeted ads, and best of all, it doesn’t require your active participation (after your content is published on your website and you have an SEO process in place).
Top 3 SEO mistakes coaches do
Before moving on to the more technical aspects of SEO for coaches, there are five pitfalls coaches often fall into. Usually, these aren’t included in SEO guides, but in our experience, they can make all the difference in seeing actual results from your SEO process.
1. Storytelling without a search purpose
This is a common theme among many blogs (not just coaching blogs). What I mean with this term (storytelling without a search purpose) is blog articles that share the coach’s views on various topics but, unfortunately, topics that people usually don’t Google. Often, these articles follow a first-person story format, where the coach shares their journey and learnings.
Articles like “Insights from my 10 Years as a life coach” or “Why imperfections are the key to a better business” can contain many valuable lessons. Still, they won’t be found on Google unless they offer targeted advice to people with specific challenges and questions and are structured around those topics.
The key to overcoming this obstacle is creating content for your coaching business that focuses on the specific challenges of your target audience. I would also recommend abandoning first-person storytelling in favor of an information structure similar to how this blog article is structured and written.
2. Not having an SEO content pipeline
Not having a content pipeline is like not having a meal plan. You will end up eating junk food or, in our case, writing content that’s not part of your SEO strategy. Unless you have a content pipeline filled with valuable topics for your target audience, you will make the abovementioned mistake of creating content without a search purpose.
I think it’s better not to create any content instead of using your time and energy to create content that won’t perform well and stop getting views the moment you stop actively promoting it.
3. Your content is not of the right type
This boils down to what Google thinks is the best search result for a particular search query (or keyword). Let’s say, for example, that you Google “SEO for coaches.” At the time of writing this article, this is how the SERP (search results page) looks like in the United States (can be slightly different from country to country):
You might have noticed that all this content is purely informational, and there is no services page about SEO for coaches in the first six search results and Google’s first page in general (you have to take my word for it). This means that Google strongly prefers informational content for this keyword (or search query).
This has profound implications for your coaching business. Say, for example, that you want to be found for “coaching for leaders.” Looking at Google’s first page in the US reveals that they associate this keyword heavily with Dave Stachowiak’s personal brand and podcast. As a result, other leadership coaches might find it difficult to break into Google’s first page for this search query.
This shouldn’t discourage you, though, because we’ve merely scratched the surface of what’s possible to do with SEO! With this leadership coaching SEO example, I wanted to demonstrate that it might be essential to dive deeper into the needs and wants of your target audience and create content that is helpful to them.
For example, people who need leadership coaching might also be looking for information about overcoming micromanagement, managing team or employee relationships, etc., which could be a vital part of a leadership coach’s SEO and website marketing strategy.
A step-by-step guide to SEO for coaches
Traditionally, we organize SEO into three different buckets:
- On-page SEO is about optimizing elements of a webpage for a particular keyword. This helps the page rank higher for that specific search and earn more qualified traffic.
- Off-page SEO happens outside your website, for example, when other websites mention your business and link back to your site.
- Technical SEO is about optimizing your website so that Google can properly access your pages, understand their content, and include them in the search results.
In the sections below, I will share some practical advice for coaches that want to have a go on these SEO areas by themselves.
On-page SEO: How to optimize your coaching website and content
Why your CMS is important
Before we get started, it’s important to note that the degree to that you can optimize a page depends on your content management system (CMS). For example, WordPress, Wix, Kajabi, and Squarespace offer different degrees of flexibility when fine-tuning your website.
Generally, WordPress is the most versatile and the CMS of my choice after trying almost everything in the market today. If you can’t budget a custom-built and designed coaching website powered by WordPress, you should consider it for the future.
On-page SEO guide recommendation
Because my intention with this guide is not to reinvent the wheel, I’d like to refer you to Ahref’s truly excellent on-page optimization guide. It’s simple and packed with actionable advice, most of which you can easily apply using your current website platform.
All the information you will find about optimizing your page titles, internal links, content, images, etc., applies to every website, including your coaching one. In this SEO guide for coaches, I’d like to discuss some of the non-standard strategies you can use as a coach to take your SEO to the next level.
On-page SEO tips for coaches
Optimizing your page titles
While title tag optimization is one of the most crucial on-page SEO aspects, there are instances as a coach where you might want to keep a page “unoptimized.” For example, if you have a lead magnet called “The 3-Step Leadership Skills Assessment,” you might be tempted to optimize the page title using higher volume keywords like “How to Find Your Leadership Skills – Free Assessment.”
In reality though, that’s a terrible idea for the following two reasons:
- Lead magnet landing pages usually suffer from thin content, as the juicy bits sit behind an opt-in form. Google ranks these pages pretty low, mainly when they target relatively competitive keywords.
- It might no longer be clear to Google that your re-titled page is still “The 3-Step Leadership Skills Assessment”. If any people Google it directly, e.g., your podcast listeners, etc., they might not be able to find it or be led to a different page of your website. This is a frustrating user experience.
Optimizing your meta descriptions
While optimizing your meta descriptions, it’s important to remember that:
- The target audience of many coaches often consists of people who feel overwhelmed and need support in certain areas of their personal or professional life. Your meta description is an excellent way to bring an easy-to-digest preview of your content to the search results. For example, you can use checkmarks to introduce structure and outline the benefits of your coaching.
- Meta descriptions are not ranking signals, but if keywords from the user’s search query are included in the meta description, they will appear bolded as a sign of page relevance. So it’s a good practice to have the main keywords you want a page to be found for in its meta description.
Pay extra attention to your headings and information structure
This is a common pitfall of CMSs like Kajabi and Squarespace. Because headings are tied to visual styles, coaches use headings (e.g., heading 1, heading 2, etc.) based on the visible end result, for example, how large they want a text to appear on a page. Unfortunately, this wrecks a page’s information structure, making it difficult for a web crawler to understand what’s important and what a page is about.
The original purpose of headings is to indicate how the text is organized on a page, for example, which sections belong to a more extensive chapter. We recommend always using one Heading 1 (or H1), which should be the same as the page title. Then, use any number of Heading 2 tags to indicate the main thematic categories of your page or article. Each Heading 2 can include any number of Heading 3 tags, Heading 4 tags, etc., that you can use to further break down the information in your page or article. Here’s an example:
Off-page SEO for coaches: How to build your website’s authority
Off-page SEO is all about increasing your website authority as a coach. Every backlink you receive (linked mention from another website) is an endorsement of the quality of your website and content. If you have ever received cold emails from internet strangers asking you to mention their article in your blog post, you have been part of a link-building outreach campaign to increase that person’s website authority.
Such tactics are widely documented, and if you’d like to learn more about off-page SEO strategies, I’d refer you to one of the many guides out there that seems to include almost everything, including:
- Broken link outreach
- Promotion of linkable assets
- Unlinked brand mentions
- Guest blogging
In my opinion, the problem with these off-page SEO tactics (if you are a coaching business owner and not a Digital PR expert) is that:
- They are very resource intensive. Doing SEO research, compiling lists of prospects, and mass-emailing people, are time-consuming strategies, and it’s challenging to get them right when getting started. They also require software subscriptions, such as an SEO suite and email marketing software.
- They require a lot of experience to get them right. Knowing how to distinguish good outreach targets and personalizing your outreach involves a lot of experience. Acquiring this specialized expertise can take a long time, and it’s probably not something you want to invest your time in as a coach and business owner.
Off-page SEO strategies for coaches that I can recommend
There are, though, highly effective off-page SEO strategies for coaches that you can execute as part of your weekly marketing process. We have helped coaches put these evergreen processes in place with great results. Let’s dive in:
- Off-page SEO that focuses on your podcast promotion. Chances are that you have some direct business competitors or indirect competitors with a podcast. An indirect competitor is a business that offers a different solution (in this case, a podcast) to the same target audience as your coaching business.
Start by making a list of your competitors, and then with a bit of Googling, put together a list of websites that mention their podcasts. You might also want to Google the best podcasts in your niche, e.g., “Best Wellness Podcasts,” and make a list of websites with such blog posts. Then try to find the authors’ email, social media, or Linkedin profile and reach out to them. Explain why they might want to list your podcast and what your unique value is.
- Guest blogging outreach targeting competitors. This strategy is similar to the above, but instead of targeting your competitor’s podcast, you target the brand mentions of your direct competitors. Use Google to find websites that mention your competitors’ businesses, and then reach out to be included.
- Audience research-driven outreach. This strategy utilizes intelligence from audience research tools to understand what websites, podcasts, and social media account your target audience engages with. Having this information, you can create bespoke ways to engage your audience using these media. For example, you can consider a sponsored article to a blog your audience reads or reaching out to a specific podcast host to discuss a guest appearance.
Technical SEO: Ensuring your coaching website is accessible by search engines
This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of SEO. Google won’t rank a page if they cannot effectively crawl your website to discover your pages and understand the information there. The CMS (content management system) you choose will play an important role here. Generally, few things can go wrong if you use WordPress as an out-of-the-box solution. More things can go wrong if you use Kajabi, for example.
Technical SEO is a big topic, so if you’d like to learn more, I can recommend this guide from Ahrefs. As a coach, I understand that technical SEO may be out of your comfort zone. This is one of those areas where working with an expert can make a big difference.
Top technical SEO tips for your coaching website
In this section, I will try to steer clear of advanced topics such as optimized web crawling, HTTPS, or even Google pagespeed. Instead, I would like to focus on a few technical SEO mistakes I often see in coaching websites and that you can quickly improve yourself.
1. Make sure your mobile and desktop versions are the same
Most websites on Google are indexed based on their mobile version. We call this “mobile-first indexing.” The mobile version of your website will determine how it is ranked in the search results. If your CMS allows you to edit mobile and desktop versions separately, e.g., WordPress or Kajabi, you may have different mobile and desktop versions of your site. Make sure they are the same in terms of content, design, and functionality.
2. Make sure that all your links contain URLs in lowercase
This is one of the most common mistakes I see on coaching websites. Because web addresses are case-sensitive, keeping URLs in your links lowercase is essential. Otherwise, links with capital letters can easily lead to duplicate pages or broken links, depending on the inner workings of your CMS. This frequent mistake can be fixed by simply changing the address case from uppercase to lowercase.
Why I offer you this advice for free
We provide these materials on our website, Studio for Digital Growth, free of charge because contrary to almost everyone else nowadays, we are not interested in selling a low-value/low-impact course to thousands of coaches.
Instead, our business model focuses on high-quality do-it-for-you website marketing services, typically for 6-figure coaches and above. If you have a defined marketing budget and want to invest in your marketing, I’d love to invite you on a discovery call and discuss our process.
SEO for coaches with the Be Seen! framework
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