A creative freelancer's guide to free SEO

If you’re a freelancer with your own website, you’re likely to want two things, writes Andrew Atalla, founder of online marketing agency atom42 .

Firstly, you’ll want to get as much visibility for your site as possible, and secondly, you’ll want to make sure the traffic you get converts into business.

Well, you’ll be glad to know that succeeding in these two areas doesn’t have to cost the world. In fact, the best type of SEO strategy in 2014 is likely to be based on the work you carry out on a daily basis in connection with your service as a freelancer. It’s even possible to come up with an SEO strategy that doesn’t cost you a single penny. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Find out what people are already searching for

Understanding where the demand currently exists for a freelance service such as yours is a sensible place to start in your quest to get your website to the top of online search rankings. Spend some time on Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends. These free tools will show you what people are searching for, meaning you can align your services and the language on your website accordingly. Discovering what potential customers are looking for once they arrive at your site is also important. Put up a search box so you can scrutinise what gets typed into it and why.

2. Keywords still have clout

Once upon a time, SEO marketing was all about cramming your content with keywords and getting as many links as possible. Although such a strategy is less likely to pay off now that Google is older and wiser, keywords still have clout. So consider how relevant a certain term is – perhaps the term that keeps being entered into the search box on your site - and do some lateral thinking. For example, we target the phrase “online marketing agency” in preference to “online marketing.” The former may be less popular as a search term, but it is more likely than the latter to be the term that ends up bringing us business.

3. Ensure your site’s in good working order

Your online shop, even if it is only a small website selling your freelance service, should be tidy inside, just as a trader’s shop should be in the offline world. Keeping it in order with good internal linking will help Google understand which pages are important for you. Spotting and fixing code errors is an important part of this process. Consider using online tools like Microsoft’s IIS Toolkit to help you find these errors.

4. Run Google software to get Google-friendly

Another set of tools which you’ll want to equip yourself with is Google Webmaster Tools. Using GWT you can find out precisely what the search engine sees when it views your site. There are other tracking tools you can use to gauge how well your site is performing and how ‘search-engine friendly’ it is, but GWT is a good starting place as it provides such a broad overview of your site’s inner workings from Google itself, including site speed, 404 errors and broken links.

5. Get some link love

Your network of online professionals, businesses and contacts are a valuable asset waiting to be realised for SEO purposes, as they will often be happy to provide you with a link. Another tip is to sign up for Google Alerts for your business name and variations on it, as well as key terms connected with your freelance services, to keep up-to-date with who’s talking about you, your services and your industry. Ask parties who already mention you to show you some 'link love,' too. Another easy win is to list your site on business directories for your industry.

6. Become the ‘go-to’ freelancer on social media

Simply signing up with social media is not sufficient if you want a sustainable stream of new visitors. Make sure your voice is heard on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other platform which resonates with your audience, with a view to helping search engines, and visitors, realise that for creative service ‘X’ you are the ‘go-to’ freelancer. Google factors in all the signals it can when ranking sites, and the increased online presence you’ll gain from being at the forefront of leading social media platforms could well help position you head and shoulders above your competitors.


15th October 2014

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