Search engine optimization (SEO) has a horrible reputation. For years, SEO companies scammed clients with big promises of boosting their search engine rankings, only to fall short or fail altogether.
Even now, information on this subject continues to be confusing, contradictory and misleading. Which leads website owners to do silly things that won’t move the needle — or will actually hurt their rankings in some cases.
But that hasn’t stopped businesses and freelance professionals from obsessing over their SEO.
Writers often ask me how they can improve their rankings on Google. We had Heather Lloyd Martin on this show a few years ago to talk about SEO. She gave us some great advice.
This time, however, I wanted to get a different perspective and talk to someone who doesn’t do SEO for a living. Someone who had successfully optimized his/her own website with some simple tweaks — and gotten some impressive results.
I found that person in Matt Olpinski. Matt is a freelance UX designer based in New York. He does a lot of website development work and has an impressive list of clients. And in this interview, he explains how he’s been able to boost his search engine rankings like crazy with some simple adjustments.
Let me share some of his own results, because this is something we didn’t get into during the interview:
- He ranks #2 on Google for searches like “freelance ux designer” or “freelance ux designer New York.”
- He’s never paid for advertising or marketing to get an SEO boost—ever.
- 88% of his traffic in the last five years has been organic and direct.
- 82% of his visitors are brand new each year.
- He had 63,000 unique page views and 32,000 unique visitors on his site in 2018 alone.
Bottom line: The simple things he’s done have worked. And the best part is that these are things any of us could do on our own, even if we don’t have a lot of technical knowledge.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
Tell us about yourself and the work you do
Matt Olpinski is a web designer and developer. He’s been freelancing fulltime for nearly four years. He freelanced part-time for seven years before that.
He’s done work for all kinds of businesses, from startups to global brands.
You’re a big believer in attracting clients (as opposed to going after clients). How come?
The number one question Matt gets is “How can I find more clients?” But that’s the wrong question. You should be asking “How can I make it easier for clients to find me?”
You can’t rely on cold lead generation alone to build your business. You also need clients to come to you. But this won’t happen overnight. So the earlier you start, the better.
How important is it to have a website? Is this something that freelance writers can do without in some circumstances?
A website is one of the more important things you can have. In recent years, platforms like WordPress, Squarespace and WIX have made it easier than ever. You don’t have to hire a developer, designer or agency. You can do it yourself.
Clients won’t care if you have a custom site or if you’re using a template. What they care about is the content and whether you can help them.
How important is it to optimize your website? Can this still have an impact?
The topic of SEO has become polluted by businesses that claim they can get you on the first page of Google if you pay them enough. So now when people hear SEO, they think it’s just marketing hype.
You can and should optimize for SEO. It’s not as difficult as you think. With some basic adjustments, you can get your website in front of more people.
In recent years, Google has downplayed the importance of keywords in rankings. This helps, rather than hurts, most people.
What factors affect our SEO and page rankings today?
1. The page title. This is the title you see in your browser tab. It’s what shows up in Google results.
2. Page headings. This is the H1 heading that’s visible on the web page.
3. Page descriptions. The meta description. This should be unique for each page.
4. URL or slugs. This is often the entire title of the blog post with lots of dashes. Try to shorten it to the most important words.
5. Page links. Links between your own pages and other relevant pages, internal and external.
6. Fresh content. Google will recrawl your website when you add or rewrite content.
7. Proper HTML code. Having valid, well-structured HTML makes it easier for Google to index your site.
8. Domain age. An older domain helps your ranking. It’s another reason to get your site up sooner than later
What should we put in our page titles?
When clients search for freelancers, they often search for three things:
- The task (e.g. copywriting, web design)
- The location (usually a city)
- The type of person (e.g. agency, freelancer, company)
So it’s often something like: “Freelance copywriter New York.”
Put this in your page title (in addition to the page name).
For example, Matt includes on all his pages: “Matt Olpinksi | UI + UX Designer | New York.”
So the title of Matt’s services page is “Services | Matt Olpinski |UI + UX Designer | New York.”
You might also want to include your target market.
If I’ve overhauled my website or changed my domain name, what can I do to get Google’s attention faster?
When you make these kinds of changes, you risk lose your ranking. If you can keep some page slugs in place or redirect them, that can help.
But don’t let this prevent you from making changes to your site. If you’re getting more specific in your targeting and your domain name and content is better, then those are good changes to make.
And even if you end up getting less traffic, that traffic might be more relevant.
Tell us about your ebook on this topic
Matt has a handful of resources on his site for freelancers.
He also has a 50-page PDF booklet that goes into all these things in more detail with lots of actionable advice.
It’s called The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Clients from Your Website and is available for sale on his website.
By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:
1. Grab a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.
It’s called “The 3 Magic Levers: How to Get Your Writing Business Off the Ground and Land Your First Paying Client.” — Click Here
2. Download a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.
You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here
3. Join our “Get Better Clients Academy”
You’ll get a personalized action plan based on where you are today in your business. Plus all the tools, scripts, checklists, cheat sheets and templates you’ll need to escape feast-or-famine … grow your income … and land clients who love and respect you. — Click Here
4. Get your website DONE!
If you’ve been struggling to get your website done … or if you’re not happy with what you’ve got today… let my team and me build you a beautiful website for your writing business. We’ll do all the hard work! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org … put “WEBSITE” in the subject line … and I’ll reply with the details.