by Esther Holloway
20 February 2019
As a freelancer, you’re likely so busy with client work (or chasing client work) that prioritising work on your own brand presence comes last. Like a builder with a half constructed home, often the last thing you feel like doing is working on your own website strategy.
However, you should. Why? Well, we all know that a great website or online portfolio (one that’s properly optimised) will bring us leads without us having to work as hard for them. But to get to that point takes hard work and dedication. There are actually over 200 ways to influence a website’s SEO (search engine optimisation) – and if you don’t know anything about SEO, just hearing that can seem overwhelming! However, by addressing just a few key points, you’re on your way to improving your website’s search ranking (and hopefully grabbing a few potential new clients along the way). Here’s what to pop on your to-do list.
Chances are you’ve heard about keywords and wonder how you can use them effectively on your website to bring in new leads. In an SEO strategy, keywords are phrases that define what your site and your content is about – and the ultimate goal of SEO is to send clear signals to Google about the purpose and value of your website.
One way to do this is by making sure you use the same keywords in your website’s copy as the clients who might be searching for you in Google. So you might want to rank for ‘content writer Kirribilli’ to ensure anyone who plugs those keywords in will see you at the top of the list. Just be aware that overusing keywords will confuse Google. If all pages are peppered with the exact same keywords, Google won’t know how to prioritise your pages for search ranking.
If you already know the keywords you want to rank for, this is easy to course correct. Simply choose a focus keyword (long tail or short tail) for each web page. Make this page the extensive resource for information about one specific topic. Ensure that the pages you are wanting people to visit are using your most popular keywords.
Do you mention your portfolio on your home page? Link the word ‘portfolio’ to your portfolio page. Do you mention that a client should contact you? Link the words ‘contact me’ throughout your site to your website’s contact form page. If you have a blog, get into the habit of creating links within content to other related content on your posts. Linking from one page to another provides a quick gateway to view related information without using the menu to navigate. The user experience is optimised because they are finding the website easy to navigate and informative.
Purely from an SEO perspective, internal links send signals to Google about which pages on the site are most important. In a nutshell, the pages with the most internal links are the pages you are wanting your users to visit. Therefore, these are the pages Google will consider more relevant when considering your site for search results.
If you have a lot of web pages, you can use an online tool to review your internal links. If using a platform like WordPress you can use a free or low cost plug-in which can easily audit your website.
Begin by grouping related topics together and deciding which page is your focus. This should have the most internal links.
Building backlinks is a time consuming aspect of SEO strategy. First you will need to establish which websites are valuable for your site to be associated with. Then you need to approach their site master and get permission to be featured. Other ways include being quoted in a piece or offering to write a guest post for the site’s blog – especially if the site offers to ‘link back’ to you.
If we’re lucky, our content will ‘go viral’ or be published on an excellent website without any of our involvement. However, most of the time, freelancers need to work on building backlinks. Of course, you may already know lots of people in your niche who get a lot of traffic and are open to collaboration – that’s the ideal scenario!
Building backlinks is something that is easier to do over time rather than dedicating a specific amount of time to it. Research quality websites in your industry that you think your clients will also be visiting. Build up a rapport with the site master and find opportunities to publish on their site. Write a blog post for their site, do a vlog together or be included in a review.
Note that not all backlinks are valuable. Some websites are of a poor quality and linking to them may be bad for your SEO strategy. Generally these are websites that have little or no value to a customer. An example might be an online directory – particularly one that you haven’t signed up to.
Also make sure you research any bloggers who offer to link to you. Check their website is secure, the topic of their site relates to yours and their site doesn’t use pop-ups or other spammy techniques.
That old saying – Keep It Simple Stupid (or KISS) – is never so true as when it comes to your sitemap. You only have a matter of seconds to capture a visitor and keep them on your site – and while it may be tempting to keep creating pages for your site thinking you’re adding value and more information, it could be a false economy. Your visitors should be able to easily find their way around your website so that they can complete the actions you’d like them to (ideally, you want to convert that person into a paying customer or new client who fills in your contact form). If your website is riddled with a million different pages or sections all on different topics, that’ll give your users a headache.
Combining your internal link strategy, sitemap and user journey mapping is a good way to get an overview of how your website will be experienced by the customer.
Let me say it again: the more difficult a site is to navigate, the more likely the user will leave. Firstly view your menu items. Is your menu structured with the most important pages at the top level? The least important pages should be child pages of your lower level menu items.
Use an analytics tool to check page visits (like Google Analytics – if you’re using WordPress, there are also heaps of plugins which enable you to view metrics from individual pages and posts directly in your site). You might like to remove some pages all together if visits are low. Some content could might be better as a blog post with internal linking rather than a menu item.
To create brand engagement with visitors to your site, keeping the content fresh is key. Providing new and informative content sends a message to Google that you are serious about your website and you value your customer experience. It can also establish you as an authority in your field, which Google loves!
The homepage and blog pages are good places to make regular changes on your website. Regular blog posts are excellent not only for building your brand and reputation but also for SEO. If you find maintaining a blog page too much work, there are alternatives such as working with guest bloggers, re purposing old posts or writing short but regular posts. Don’t forget that blog posts need to be valuable for the customer, and not just for the sake of SEO!
Generally around 40 percent of site traffic enters via the homepage – so it’s really worth dedicating some time to regularly switching it up. Update it seasonally, featuring new testimonials or offers or updating the images.
SEO is one of those things that takes time and perseverance. It can take months to get your page rank to improve. If you are in a really competitive industry, you’ll need to work harder. Finding a niche and using this as the centrepiece of your SEO strategy will help to differentiate your website.
There are so many online resources and Google freely and openly shares many tools and insights. Making your SEO strategy a part of your regular brand and website maintenance is the best way to stay on top of it.
How does your site rank on Google? Are you a keyword master or are you bamboozled by the mere mention of SEO?