Most freelancers I know don’t consider SEO as a way to land new clients. The majority think it’s too hard or don’t care at all. Although social media is great for making connections with your audience, SEO is still better at gaining quality traffic to your website.
One of the many forms of SEO is called on-page SEO, which essentially involves keyword optimization and link building in strategic parts of your web page content. The four main areas involved are page titles, headings, valuable content and metadata. But don’t worry, these SEO tips are not as hard as you think.
Here’s some basic SEO tips for freelancers that are easy to understand and follow:
Choose keywords to start your research.
Before you go changing up your website, you need to know the keywords and keyword phrases that you’ll use to optimize your page. Understanding how people search for your business and industry is essential to SEO and attracting traffic. Sounds like common sense, but many people try to skip this step – don’t!
Make some time and start using keyword research tools like the Google Keyword Adwords Tool and gather a list of five or six keywords that you can use to begin your research. A perfect keyword is one that has lots of searches (high popularity) and very few people actively trying to rank for it (low competition.)
Here is an example using Google’s Keyword Planner to research keyword phrases for “professional logo design” .
Not sure how to go about your research? Don’t just wing it! These are the tools you’ll be using to structure your website, so you’ll want to track your findings. Check out this post on Copyblogger on a 3-step process for painless keyword research for a more in-depth look into finding your perfect set of keywords.
Write content that ranks on Google.
Now that you’ve got your keywords and phrases prioritized, how are you going to integrate them into the page? Sure, you can try cramming them in wherever they may fit, but this is a bad strategy. Look at the big picture – what are you trying to communicate with this page overall?
Learn how to reel them in.
While considering the structure and purpose of your web page, think about your user and their experience as a first-time viewer, even before they land on your website. The first thing that a user will see is a link and brief description of your website showing up in their search results.
Here’s an image of the first page of Google when I search “freelance graphic designer portland”. Notice how some links are more enticing than others based on the titles and descriptions?
Even in this introductory context, the URL is significant. It is a key indicator to your user that this result, your website, is relevant to their search. Yes, they will double check the link, because the internet is full of scammers. Prove that you’re not one of them!
Once they’ve read your description (we’ll talk about titles and metadata below) and clicked the link, they’re on your site. This is not the endgame. You have to make yet another good impression immediately, or you’ll get a high bounce rate. What a bounce rate can mean for your SEO strategy is your audience is only spending enough time on your website to get bored and reject you. So make sure to create content that is relevant and easy to skim once users get to your landing page.
Why are keywords important here? Although you’ve got your users attention, Google only ranks pages that are directly relevant to your users’ keywords. So, make sure that your layout is organized, easily digestible, and that your keywords are immediately visible. When Google crawls your web page it should see your relevant keywords 3-6 times in your copy and also be present at least once in the first sentence.
Don’t overstuff your content with keywords.
Now your user is ready to hang out on your website for a while because you’ve caught their interest and – you guessed it – they’re still making sure you’re legit.
When you try to place keywords so many times and in so many ways that it stops sounding natural, chances are you are practicing keyword stuffing. This not only looks tacky, but search engines will bury you if they see this practice. So while using different extensions of your keywords is good (ex: web design, web designer, web designs, web designing), using them more than once in one paragraph will probably start to sound unnatural and a little awkward.
Here’s a real example of someone who is too lazy to write proper optimized copy for a natural search ranking:
“If you’re a plus size girl and want a plus size prom dress, we have a lot of plus size prom dresses. We have blue plus size prom dresses, black plus size prom dresses, yellow plus size prom dresses, green plus size prom dresses, white plus size prom dresses, aqua plus size prom dresses, mint green plus size prom dresses and many more plus size prom dresses for plus size girls. This particular plus size prom dress is sleeveless and has a pretty sash in the back.”
As crazy as this example is, I see similar styles of writing like this everyday! So, don’t overstuff your keywords because Google will hate you and your users will never stay on your website.
The real takeaway here is that your visitors are looking for value on your website, so don’t give them fluff. Get straight to the point and clearly dictate what the page is about. A good measure to use for proper keyword density is about 2-3 phrases for a 500 word page.
For every draft you write, read it out loud to yourself or to a friend. You’ll hear any awkward phrases immediately.
Optimize your metadata to earn clicks.
Good meta titles and descriptions can mean the difference between a viewer clicking through to view your content or overlooking your site completely. These tags can help browsers understand what your content is about and give visitors valuable insight into your website content.
The title tag can be found in the <head> of your HTML code and looks like this:
Place keyword optimized title here
Here’s what your meta title looks like in your Google search results.
Search engines will find a title to display with their results, but only at a length of 70 characters – so keep things short and sweet. Write SEO friendly meta titles by placing your most optimized keyword in the beginning of title. Keep it mind it doesn’t have to be a complete sentence either. For example, using “Custom Logo Design | Letter Shoppe” instead of “ Get a custom logo design. | Letter Shoppe” is much more effective.
Get out of the habit of using your navigation title as your meta title. Having your title be “About | Letter Shoppe” doesn’t help convince the user to click your on your content, not to mention it’s a missed opportunity for better SEO. Create unique title tags for each page on your site and stay clear of using the same title tag for every page. Something I just learned recently is to use an ampersand instead of the word “and” so Google can separate your search terms.
In your site’s HTML code, the meta description tag will appear this way:
<meta name=”description” content-“This is what a meta description looks like in HTML.”>
Here’s what your meta description looks like in your Google search results.
Writing optimized Metadata is another powerful SEO tool. This is the description of your page that will be displayed below the title in search results. Make sure you tailor a description specifically to this purpose so that your result looks professional and matches your content.
Avoid using the same keyword more than once and keep your meta description between 150 and 160 characters in length or your message will get cut off with a …
If you have no description, the search engine will automatically pull text from your site, which is a missed opportunity to better optimize your content and connect with your user.
Use descriptive headings on every page.
Using page headings correctly is extremely important because they instantaneously tell your searcher whether or not they are in the right place. As part of your keyword research, you should have prioritized your list of keywords by most effective – your top-tier results should go into headings.
H1 and H2 headings, are the most important to SEO and should encourage your visitor to continue reading your content. You should have only one H1 per page and use heading structure to not only organize your SEO but also to visually guide your user so they can easily scan the page.
If your business operates within a region, you should have a “geo-tag” in one of your H2 headings. This places one of your keywords next to your location similarly to how a user would search for it – for example, “Logo Design in Portland, Oregon”.
Use Outbound Links to improve your credibility.
Your visitor is going to doubt you at first, so you need to let them know that your content is valuable. Sometimes that means acting as a resource to others – you know where to find good industry news and information. Outbound links will create opportunities to build relationships with others in your industry, and they can also add to your credibility.
If you can, place links conversationally within your text and with relevant keywords as the anchor text. Don’t use words like “click here” or “learn more,” or your visitor will immediately doubt you.
If you build some solid relationships with others in your industry, they may just return the favor – if they think you’re credible enough. Using external links the right way will help you get more visitors, which will actually help your status in search engines. One measure of credibility to Google and other engines is your site traffic, which is why linking can be so valuable.
Images need some SEO love too.
Think SEO is all about the text? Content includes more than just copywriting! If you’re in an industry with opportunity for visual content, use it. Believe it or not, Google can actually recognize text within an image using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Hand lettering just got a little cooler, didn’t it?
Images break up your page and make it flow more easily for readers. When you include an image, make sure that all of the text involved caters to your SEO goals. Optimize your images for better search results by giving the image a good title, caption and ALT text. Even the file name counts!
Ensure your images don’t ruin your page load times, and make your images as small as possible. Never let your browser resize your image for you – save your picture at the desired size, and then upload a nice image at 72dpi. For those of you without Photoshop, you can use Picnik and Image Optimizer to resize your images without any loss of quality.
Start your searchability!
SEO may sound intimidating, but with these steps you can make great strides to your searchability in Google and getting new client inquires in your inbox. As always, if you have any questions about this article feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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