When I was a new freelance writer, I was anxious to learn how to boost my website’s popularity and catch the attention of new prospects online. I was on the hunt for some SEO tips and tricks — and so I began attending seminars, reading relevant blogs and grilling the experts in my orbit for their advice. I quickly learned that search engine optimization (SEO) — or the art and science of getting your website ranked for specific keyword terms in search engine results — is an essential practice if you want to increase site traffic. Here are five tips on how to leverage strong SEO tactics to benefit your business.
Learn the SEO Basics
According to Hubspot’s latest State of Inbound marketing report, 61 percent of marketers are focused on increasing their SEO and organic search performance. While the SEO landscape is getting somewhat more complex with each passing year, you can start optimizing your content by taking the following core steps:
Create a targeted list of keywords: Start by understanding the keywords for which you want to rank. Here, it’s important to think about how your target audience is searching — and how you want your website to be found. Depending on your profession, relevant (and valuable) keywords may include “freelance technology writer” or “interactive graphic designer.” Often, there are multiple variations of these terms that you should incorporate into your SEO strategy. Need a little help getting your ideas flowing? Try using Google’s Keyword Planner.
Check the fundamentals of your website: Whether you’re building a new website or updating your existing one, there are a few key areas that you should pay attention to when it comes to SEO. This includes your website title, the meta description (the short summaries that appear in search results) and the title of each page. Work in your most important keywords naturally between two and six times on every page — or in every article you produce.
Localize (if it’s important to your strategy): Many freelancers get work based on their location. For example, being a NYC- or LA-based videographer puts you a step ahead for local projects. Mention your location throughout your website to catch local clients looking for skilled professionals in your area of expertise.
Remember That It’s All About Links, Links, Links
Links matter in SEO — and that means it’s essential to get other sites to link to your webpages. It’ll help prove to visitors (and search engines) that your content is valuable. Building links can be an organic process: As you create videos, podcasts and blog posts, people will find them and link to them as sources. Don’t forget to think creatively, too, and write guest posts for other blogs or use social media to promote your content. Over time, links from quality sites will help you rise in the search algorithm ranks.
Focus on Your User Experience
“Before you invest in SEO, make sure that your website is ready to provide a conversionary value to the end audience all the while providing a smooth user experience,” writes Charles Kim on Forbes. “One of the biggest mistakes companies make is investing in SEO before their website is optimized for visitors and sales.” Capturing the value of SEO starts with a website that’s ready to perform once you get boosted to the top of Google results.
Freelance artist Megan shares her own website experience. “Initially, I used a free website creator that was really slow,” she explains. “I found ways to speed it up by removing graphics and streamlining my design. From there, I focused on making sure my navigation was easy-to-follow and each page had a clear purpose so people would stick around to learn more.” Ask yourself what you think your users are trying to accomplish on your website, and focus on streamlining those aspects.
Think About Conversion
“It’s easy to forget the goal of SEO is really increased visibility, and the whole point of visibility is to turn visitors into customers,” says Arun, a freelance conversion expert. Conversion is all about answering one question: When a visitor lands on your website, will they know what to do?
For example, consider a freelance data consultant who offers multiple packages that are explained on a pricing page. Imagine a visitor lands on the page, reads the information and wants to move forward with a purchase. How easy is it to do? A conversion-focused website has prominent buttons to click, allowing the visitor to either purchase online or connect with the freelancer directly.
The specific action you count as a conversion will depend on your own unique goals. It can range from a customer making a purchase to a user signing up for your newsletter. View each page through the eyes of a first-time visitor, and leverage your design, copy and layout to drive them to the most important action for that page.
Get Fresh: Do That Thing You Do
If you’re a writer, designer or other type of content creator, you’ve got a natural advantage when it comes to SEO. Google and other search engines look favorably on sites that regularly publish fresh content. But updating your website frequently can be a challenge, so you’ll have to find a way to do it that fits your strengths and schedule. The most natural choice is a blog, which you can update daily or weekly to keep your website current. Then, you can add in a video page or photo galleries to create visual diversity and keep things fresh and interesting for repeat visitors.
Following tried-and-true SEO tips can help you increase your visibility and grow your business. Spend some time defining your goals and ensuring your site is ready for customers once they arrive on each page, and you’ll be able to start boosting your website toward the top of the search results in no time. Just remember that your SEO strategy should be just one part of your overall marketing initiative.