Succeeding as a freelancer isn’t just about perfecting your craft (though that undoubtedly helps!). These days, it also depends on making sure you have a strong digital presence. If your website, blog and other online calling cards rank high in Google, you’ll improve the flow of interesting projects that come your way. High visibility can also translate to better pay if you do any blogging for which your earnings are based on traffic.
Hiring a search engine optimization consultant can be expensive, but fortunately there’s a lot you can do on your own or with minimal help. Here are 9 tips from Evan Bailyn, CEO of search engine optimization and social media marketing firm First Page Sage and author of Outsmarting Google and Outsmarting Social Media, on how to make sure your sites come up high in a natural search on Google.
1. Study what plays well. The best way to learn how to do any type of digital publishing better–whether it’s running a website where you showcase your work or publishing a blog–is by analyzing the work of those who are doing it well. Say you’re a blogger. Study the blogs in your niche that have made it to the top of Google to see what they have in common. Do they use similar types of headlines? Do they cover topics in a particular way? What do they look like?
2. Make it fun. Creating a compelling website or blog requires a balancing act. On one hand, you’ve got to provide great quality content. “If you don’t post something that shows real effort and research, people won’t be interested,” he says. At the same time, you’ve got to grab readers’ attention. “People love articles that have numbers of tips, rankings, superlatives and celebrities,” he says. “If you don’t know those things you’re not going to enjoy the fruits that many other people enjoy.” For ideas on what people want to read, check out the “most shared articles on Facebook,” he suggests. “If you write about 10 ways to recycle household items, most people will ignore it,” he says. “But if you write about the 10 most expensive celebrity divorces, people won’t ignore that.”
3. Stay focused. “Consistency of content has become more important to Google in the last year,” says Bailyn.
4. Publish five times a week. One determining factor in whether Google classifies a site as a “resource,” rather than a purely commercial site, is how frequently you update it. “If you publish five articles a week, that’s enough to be classified as a resource,” he says. That’ll help your page rank.
5. Think visually. “Clear, crisp pictures are a very important part of anything you’re going to publish on your site or your blog,” says Bailyn. The right image can improve traffic ten-fold, he says.
6. Opt for high arousal words in your display copy and headlines. “Sex,” as you might have guessed, is one of them, but you don’t have to publish soft porn to tap into know-how he’s gathered from thousands of tests on Facebook. Other words that make people click are: eat, handsome, easy, diamond, ecstasy, engaged, confident, excellence, snuggle, cuddle and success. (A psychologist could have some fun with this list, no doubt).
7. Avoid words that bore people. Low arousal words include museum, lazy, seat, failure, rejected, pillow, statue, prairie, table, square. It’s best to keep them out of your headlines, Bailyn says.
8. Get your tech team to perfect your meta title. That’s the wording that appears on the tab above your browser when you click on your site. Bailyn says this is the most important text on your site in determining where it ranks in Google. (If you want the site to appear in a Google search when your name is typed into Google, your name should be added to the meta page title, he says).
9. Get social. Very recently, Google began analyzing how your social media connections including Google+ are interacting with your site as it calculates your page rank, according to Bailyn. So, if you have large networks on sites like Facebook, let your friends know about your online publishing. If your content is as compelling as he advises, they’ll keep coming back.