Getting exposure on the search engines - Part 1

Wouldn’t it be great if new clients contacted you? In this two part series I’ll show you how to conquer the search engines so prospective clients can find you online. We’ll look at four core areas: choosing your keywords, making the content of your website 'Googlable', fulfilling the needs of browsers, and getting other sites to link to you.

1. How to choose your keywords

By far the best tool for researching keywords is You can pay for access per day, per week, per month or per year. It’s worth taking as much time as you can afford.

Amongst other things, Wordtracker allows you to type in words and presents you with an extensive list of connected keyword phrases with ratings. Ratings are based on the popularity of the keywords compared to the number of other websites competing for them. You’ll find that keyword phrases have better ratings than single keywords.

There are three obvious groups you could focus your keyword searches on:

- your specialist area (graphic design, web design, animated web design, etc)

- the sector you work in (marketing & advertising, publishing, products & packaging, etc)

- the area you cover (Los Angeles, Toronto, London, etc).

Also look for particular search phrases that target browsers might use, such as “Looking for”, “Search”, “Find”, “For hire”, and “Freelancer”.

You can also research keywords by checking the source code of well-ranked competing websites. If certain keywords are working for them there’s a good chance they’ll work for you too.

Make sure your page title contains a relevant keyword phrase. Your page title is the descriptive line that appears when your website appears in a Google search. It's the line browsers rely on to judge the appropriacy of your site.

Try to get keywords into your URLs, e.g. Keywords in URLs contribute considerably towards search engine ranking.

Search engines also use description tags to gauge the relevancy of websites. Your description should be riddled with good keywords.

Search engines no longer rate sites based on meta tags. Instead they look for keywords in the page title, URL, description tag, and the main body of the site.

But it’s a good idea to add meta tags — it’s likely Google use them to compare your site to others linking to you, the benefits of which we’ll discuss later.

3. How to fulfill the needs of browsers

Offer something free. Roughly 75% of prospective clients searching for design-related topics are looking for something free to get a job done—not necessarily to hire you.

You need to lure them towards your freelance offer. Give them something they can use so they remember you. When they really do need a freelance designer they’ve already remembered your URL.

There are a variety of things you can offer.

You can write free tutorials and self-help articles (like “how to brief a designer”, “how to get the most out of your graphic designer”, “What every client needs to know about their designer”). This presents you as a clever and competent designer.

You can offer free photos, graphics, illustrations, or visuals. Anything that your target browsers can download and make use of, and that demonstrates the strengths of your work at the same time.

You can offer free design consultation. You could promise to answer design-related questions within a designated time (e.g. browsers type in a question and submit their email address). Again, this helps to present you as a design expert. It also gives you access to potential clients’ email addresses, a very useful thing to have.

By doing any of the above, you are increasing the different keyword avenues browsers can take to reach your site. So in addition to the keywords on your portfolio pages, you also have pages with keywords such as ‘free tutorial’, ‘free royalty free images’, or ‘instant design advice’. These types of keywords are likely to be searched on a daily basis.

Part 2 to be published shortly.

Shaun Crowley is the author of The Freelance Designer's Self-Marketing Handbook, available for download at

Copyright © 2007 Shaun Crowley


10th April 2007

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