10 tips to optimise your freelance website

As a freelancer your main aim is to get new business through the door. While big companies can employ various paid marketing tactics to win new customers, you on the other hand need to think long and hard about the best way to spend your marketing budget and your time. Winning new customers through organic non-paid traffic by optimising your website for search is the way to go.

Here are my 10 tips to optimise your freelance website and win more customers:

1. Make sure your website is accessible to everyone and the pages are working - The first step is ensuring your website is accessible to Googlebot and you haven't blocked important pages using the robots file wrongly. Look at your robots file (if you have one) and test its performance using Google Webmaster. To test for broken pages you can run the search query site: domain (for example site: freelanceuk.com) and click page by page or use the free utility xenulink. The software will verify a lot of internal link types such as normal links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps and many more.

2. Add metadata for each page - To increase your ranking, each page on your site must have relevant metadata based on the keywords you're trying to rank for. To optimise your site for Google, limit the page title to 70 characters, the page description to 140 characters. Keywords don't matter anymore. Once you've added or updated the metadata, use a preview tool to ensure you haven't exceeded the number of characters and that it reads well.

3. Consolidate different versions of your homepage - The page likely to rank the best/highest is your homepage. Some websites have multiple versions of their homepage which will result in poorer performance as your authority will be spread across a few homepage versions. The most common issue is having non www and www versions. To test how many versions of your page exist, use a content duplication checker, such as this one from Virante, and fix the issues found.

4. Add quality content on a regular basis - Search engines and Google especially value good quality content in the shape of articles, advice, forms etc. As a freelancer, you can add quality content to your site to become an authority on a particular subject which will help convert more visitors into customers and help your ranking.

5. Increase the number of backlinks to your website - One of the most important factors in ranking highly is the number of backlinks (other websites pointing to your website.) To check how many links are pointing to your website use Yahoo site explorer and work to increase this number by registering with niche directories, submitting articles, submitting your work to galleries etc as long as you keep it within the search engines guidelines.

6. Host your site locally - To determine which geographical location to show your website on when a user submits a search query i.e. google.co.uk, google.it, Google looks at the location and IP address of your website (amongst others). So if your website is hosted in the USA and your target market is the UK you might be making life harder for yourself. To test where your server is hosted, type it in and if it's hosted away from your market it might cause some difficulties.

7. Optimise your images for Google Image search - Google Image search is growing and provided you do a bit of work, can provide you with high levels of quality traffic. To optimise your images for Google Image search, make sure you use a descriptive file name so bluebird.jpg is better than 9h80.jpg, images are hosted on your site on a folder /images/bluebird.jpg and always use alt text.

8. Add privacy policy or terms and conditions - It is important for the engines to send traffic to reputable websites. Adding privacy information and terms & conditions (when applicable) can help your ranking and it won't cost anything if you use the likes of dmaresponsibility.org's privacy policy generator.

9. Update your whois information - Google is also a domain registrar meaning that they know and look at who owns your website. The logic is that spammers might have no or fake contact details, while you on the other hand should have full transparent ‘whois’ information including phone number, email address, physical address etc. Check your whois records today and update any old or missing information.

10. Link to other relevant sources - Google likes websites in the 'mix of it' which is how the web should work. If your website only has links pointing in (backlinks), you're only on one side of the web and if your website only links out you're on the other side of the web again. By linking to other quality sources and working on your link building you are in the 'mix of it.'

Tips by Ran, an internet marketing manager of Photo Paper Direct, an online retailer of office and inkjet consumables.

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