As most freelancers will say, freelancing requires you to continually strike a balance between spending time working on existing projects and working to secure more work to avoid the dreaded quiet period. And when your current projects end, it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day trying to secure new clients.
That’s where good search engine optimization (SEO) can help. If you can build the volume of organic traffic your website or online presence gets from Google, you’ll be generating leads while you’re working on your current projects. New potential clients will be learning all about what you can offer without you having to directly engage them.
SEO, though, takes time and application. It’s not a quick-fix, but it is worth doing and worth doing well. We’re going to offer some tips that will help you on your way. First, though, let’s get into precisely why SEO is important enough to devote your already precious time to.
The reason why you should pay attention to SEO is pretty simple, really. SEO helps you get your website seen by more people. Search engines, Google of course being the most popular, apply intelligent algorithms to decide where your website will be placed in search results.
The breadth of factors that these algorithms take into account is breathtaking. The sophistication of Google’s algorithms, in particular, has grown exponentially in recent years. All in an attempt to ensure that searchers are pointed to the most relevant sites for their search terms. If such a term happens to be related to the freelance services you offer, you want one of those sites to be yours.
The internet is so saturated with material that it’s a constant battle to be heard above the noise. So in order to have the best chance at being seen, you need to optimize your search engine results.
Think about it this way; when was the last time you headed to page two of a Google search? Or even the last time you scrolled down on a search engine results page (SERP)? Can’t remember? That’s because you probably never do it. The top results on page one of the SERPS are what get by far the most attention.
You need to get your site into one of those positions for as many relevant search terms as you. That’s how to get the traffic that can convert into leads and then into clients. You can only get there through smart SEO. That’s why it’s so important to you and your freelance business.
There are plenty of companies out there who provide SEO services, but here are five tips to get you started on your own.
It may sound obvious, but one of the best things you can do for your search results is to start your own website, and here’s why:
You may think that any freelancer worth their salt has already got this covered, but you could be surprised. Today, there are lots of freelancing platforms and portals out there. They’re great for helping you get work, and some freelancers may rely entirely upon them.
However, if you also want to generate leads from organic web traffic, you simply must build your own online presence. Even if it’s just through a simple tool like WordPress—a platform that, by the way, has lots of SEO-specific plugins.
There are also tons of workflow management tools out there to help you get started, but the most important thing to remember here is that you must constantly optimize your writing on the site. A continual flow of high-quality, useful content is one of the most crucial elements of a strong SEO strategy.
Starting your own website on which to post your work, blog posts, and anything else you feel will benefit searchers can really help you achieve in the field of SEO. Independent writers can decide how best to optimize their writing according to their own wishes without being beholden to higher-ups or a corporate agenda.
One other thing you can do before you launch your own website is to compile your own SEO report. This is a great way to decide how you’re going to optimize your writing, and because you’ll be running a completely independent platform, your report can be uniquely personalized to your goals for your website.
OK, so you’ve started to set up your website. What now?
SEO doesn’t just include your written content. It includes everything about your site. By optimizing every element on and aspect of your pages, you can be sure that it’ll be as high up in the search results as possible.
But how to do this?
The first thing you could do is to get a custom domain. This means that your website—not any of the content on it, the platform itself—will be optimized.
Let’s take an example from a different business sector. Say you’re selling video conferencing tools (popular in this day and age, we know). See if you can spot the difference between these URLs:
Which one do you think is more likely to be searched?
Links, both backlinks and the internal variety, are also crucial to your SEO efforts. You need to make sure that your internal links make your site easy to navigate. That means any visitors can find what they need easily and also that Google can crawl and understand your site just as easily. That makes it more likely for you to be ranked more highly on the search engine.
Backlinks from relevant and high authority websites to your pages, meanwhile, are super-important to Google. The more of these you can get, the better your site will rank. When you’re starting out on your SEO journey, think about whether current clients may link to your site. Or, consider offering to write guest posts for relevant blogs in exchange for backlinks.
A smart way to optimize your search results is to gather customer data. What are people searching for? How can you tailor your content to that?
One way to do this is by setting up surveys or using social media to carry out polls. It’s important to think about the demographic you’re aiming for here—elderly folk aren’t usually up for a Twitter poll, and young people aren’t going to fill out a form from a newspaper or magazine.
However, once you’ve got some answers, you can start filtering them and doing some simple analysis. What do people want to see online? How can your services help them? What’s your target audience?
When you can decipher what it is people actually want to read, it becomes much easier to gain a larger audience.
This leads us on to the next tip:
This should really be tip #3.5, but we won’t tell if you don’t.
Gathering customer data is not only useful for figuring out what people want to read. It’s also incredibly handy for figuring out what they need. Using customer data in SEO is therefore said to enhance sales, and it’s not hard to see why.
“Problem queries” on Google tend to garner much less competition than other search terms. If you write problem-solving content, therefore, you can bet on being much higher up in the results.
For example, searches that start with “How to-” and “How do I-” will usually be far less competitive than searches that just state a term or a phrase. Use these to your advantage, and fill in any gaps in the market with lovely search-optimized content.
Remember, you want to cater to what people need. Make them realize how invaluable your services are!
As any SaaS SEO guide will tell you, keywords are the #1 way to reach a larger audience. What they don’t often tell you, however, is what you have to pay attention to when deciding which keywords to target.
For example, many people don’t know that including all your keywords is only half the battle. Google really doesn’t like duplicate content, so if it catches you using a lot of the same keywords as another company to compete for readership, or even using the same keywords over and over again, you run the risk of being catapulted straight to the bottom of the search results.
It’s understandable—after all, plagiarism and bots are both huge problems in the online world—but it certainly doesn’t make your life any easier.
However, there’s a nifty way around this issue. Google’s algorithm is programmed to catch synonymic phrases as well as keywords, so to avoid making your writing too similar to someone else’s, or repeating yourself a million times, you can use synonyms and your content will still be optimized.
For example, if a keyword of yours is, say: “best business communication tools”. Some alternatives could be “best tools for business communication,” “great coworking communication tools,” and so forth.
This technique even has a fancy name—Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). How cool is that?
What you need to remember in a nutshell, is that your website is for prospective visitors and Google. Not one or the other. Make sure that what you write is useful to those visitors, as well as being keyword optimized. Luckily, Google’s algorithms are smart enough these days to reward high-quality, useful content about a keyword, rather than just assessing how often a keyword gets mentioned.
SEO can be tricky, especially for freelancers trying to get ahead in an incredibly competitive world. But these tips should get you well on your way to having a large, stable readership, who are happy with the content you produce and feel that it genuinely helps them or solves a problem.