Many of the marketing techniques described on this blog are active, rather than passive. In other words, they require that we do something – pick up the phone to make cold calls, hit the social networking circuit, attend business mixers, that sort of thing.
Not surprisingly, these things take a lot of time. And they get short shrift when we get busy with paying clients. Nothing like having marketing that works. But it sure would be nice to have marketing that doesn’t require so much work.
Enter search engine optimization (SEO). Call it marketing that gets business to come to you, even when you’re sleeping. I’ve been in this fortunate position, and I’ll elaborate on it later in this article.
In the meantime, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your search engine positioning. Be forewarned, this can turn into a time- and life-sucking project. I hope you don’t get so tunneled into SEO that you forget to interact with The Real World. Keep SEO in perspective, okay?
The first decision you should make is what you want to rank well on. It may not be what people are searching for. Google has a couple of tools that can aid your quest for the perfect keywords:
- AdWords Keyword Tool shows the previous month’s search volumes. And, if you’re interested in purchasing some AdWords, it will also show the number of advertisers bidding on each keyword.
- Search-based Keyword Tool looks at your site and matches the content with words that Google searchers are using. While some of the terms it finds will seem far-fetched, you’ll probably see one or two that would be worth weaving into your copy.
If you’ve already built your site, you can see how people have found it with Google Analytics. This is a wonderful traffic analysis tool – and it’s free. But prepare to be surprised. The keywords you’ve carefully worked into your site may not be on your visitors’ minds.
What do you do about this? Well, you can get all huffy and remove that wonderful photo that you took five years ago. You know, the one that really doesn’t relate to the primary purpose of your site. But, gosh, that photo made for a great blog post. And your site visitors like it so much that it’s the most searched-for thing on your website.
Instead of squashing that off-topic photo with your delete key, why not offer visitors a chance to purchase prints and licensing rights? You could make this happen with PhotoShelter or RedBubble. And then you can thank your website visitors for showing you an opportunity that you’d overlooked.
Now, back to the purpose of your site. I imagine that you built it to promote your freelance business. So, make sure that your desired keywords are in:
- Page title tags
- Page headlines and subheads
- Copy on the page. Be sure to get the keyword(s) into your first paragraph.
- Words that are boldfaced within your copy.
- Captions for photos and other images
- Filenames of pages and images
- Link anchor text. Don’t just tell them to “click here.” You’re more creative than that. Besides, your keywords are just waiting for something to do.
- Page navigation breadcrumbs. Not only are they helpful to your visitors, breadcrumbs help search engine robots travel through your site.
- Description meta tags. Google uses the content of this tag in its search results. Use your page copy to create a 60-character summary of its content.
- Keyword meta tags. Due to widespread abuse by spammers, this tag doesn’t carry the clout that it once did. But pick the 10 best keywords on each page. Those are your keyword metas.
- Site map. Use an HTML version on your site and create an XML version for Google. And be sure to add a link to your HTML site map from your “404 Not Found” page. This will help lost humans (and search engines) get back on track.
- Blog. Google and other search engines like frequently updated sites. And, every time you add a blog post, you’ve updated your site. And, do your blog and your site link to each other? Make sure they do!
The search engines give greater weight to sites that have a lot of other sites linking to them. So, get busy with your link-building campaign. Focus your efforts on high-traffic, reputable sites.
Tip: If you’re a Web designer, ask your clients if you can add a link to your site from theirs. Some will say yes, but not all. I once had a client tell me that her investor wouldn’t allow such a thing.
A Top Search Engine Ranking Isn’t Enough
Back at the beginning of this article, I alluded to my success in getting business to come to me – even while I slept. Nothing like waking up and seeing the sales that have already come in.
Here’s the rest of the story:
In late 2002, I published an e-book on marketing one’s business with postcards. To promote it, I built a website that grew to more than 100 pages. Many of those pages were Web versions of my e-mail newsletter, which focused on postcard marketing. This got Google’s attention, and I had a number one ranking for several years.
I worked with an SEO expert who did everything he could to keep my site highly ranked. But even this wasn’t enough. By the end of 2004, I noticed that my sales were slipping, and I tried quite a few things to get them back to the lofty heights of 2002 and 2003.
That was how I learned that having a top search engine ranking isn’t enough. You need to have people searching for what you’re offering.
For a while, they were looking for postcard marketing information. And then they weren’t. Alas, my postcard marketing e-book had a product life cycle, just like any other product.