Becoming a successful freelance designer starts with creating high quality artwork, but being visible is key to meeting new clients, expanding your network and engaging with your community. There are numerous ways to stay visible, but some of the most effective methods include social media, trade shows/ events and SEO.
You have probably heard of SEO, which is short for Search Engine Optimization, but if you are anything like me, you have no clue how to use SEO to bring visibility to your business.
Is SEO just luck? Is it a scam? The entire topic baffled me until I started working with SEO expert Liz Lockard. Working with Liz was a game changer for my business. Not only did she help to greatly improve our SEO, but she also brought a sense of direction to our content creation and marketing efforts.
Liz was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about SEO in today’s interview which you can read below.
What is SEO and why is it important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization but really it’s just the art of getting found by more of the right people on sites like Google.
One of the things I love about helping clients develop SEO strategies that attract more of their ideal clients is that once SEO is in motion, it’s *way* less time and *way* less money than other marketing activities can take.
What are the greatest benefits of SEO and what are some of the challenges one might encounter?
I think the BIGGEST benefit to having a solid SEO strategy in place is that it consistently attracts more of the right people to your site – which means more prospects & customers – which in turns means (and this is my favorite) – more time FOR YOU to spend doing what you’d much rather be doing. Whether that’s more time on the craft of your business or more time away from your business.
One of the challenges with SEO is that it can be overwhelming to someone who’s not a techie and who might be just starting out with the concept. A lot of people make SEO out to be this big complicated thing – which it can easily be turned it to – but it doesn’t have to be. I think the challenge for a lot of small to single-person businesses is to know exactly what to focus on and what’s important and what’s not.
How much does SEO cost and are the costs one-time or recurring? If I were to budget this in monthly or annually what do I need to take into account?
The cost of SEO comes down to time mostly. Once you have an SEO strategy in place (which maybe you’ve developed on your own because you took a solid course or maybe you’ve paid someone to help you do this for you), it’s just a matter of who will be doing the implementing. A lot of the day-to-day bits of SEO come down to things like making sure you have the right words in the right places on a new blog post or product listing and then doing some emailing around building links to your site.
Once your strategy is in place, this could be 5-10 hours a month. You could do this yourself or you could have a tech-friendly assistant do this for you (the same person who could upload content to your website for you).
How long does it usually take to see results from SEO? How will I be able to tell if it’s working?
This one is hard but I’ll do my best 🙂
You’ll be able to tell if it’s working if you’re seeing more traffic coming to your site from an analytics tool like Google Analytics (which is free).
As for how long… this really depends on how new to SEO you are. Have you had anyone look at your site before from an SEO perspective? Have you done any SEO at all in the past? If you’re really new… you can usually start to see results within 3 months or so. If you’re not, it might be more like 6-12 months.
A frustratingly vague answer I know – but here’s a few reasons why:
- your competitors could be really active in SEO
- Google could make an update to its formula that favors your competitors
- you could be slacking on actually taking consistent action based on your strategy
…All of this is why I help clients come up with “forever” SEO strategies that are based on their ideal clients. Everything we focus on is based on SEO actions that aren’t chasing some Google loophole or trend. Solid strategy + consistent action will get you results no matter what. The Google + competition factors will control by how much.
I can’t promise specific results but I can share what’s possible – a recent SEO client of mine was able to more than double her traffic from about 35,000 monthly visits to over 75,000 visits in 3 months of our work together. Another client who took my Your SEO Roadmap saw about a 32% bump in just a month after taking the course. But again – nothing is guaranteed and it is largely dependent on what you put into it. I’ve also had clients see no results but that’s because they weren’t able to implement anything.
If my competition is utilizing SEO as well, how can I make my website stand out?
I looooove this topic!
So the one huge thing you have going for you is you & your competition may have different ideal clients. Any worthwhile SEO strategy is based on what your ideal clients are saying about the problems you solve. So standing out by focusing on your ideal client’s language is one way.
Another way is to take a look at the search results for a particular phrase you’re trying to get traffic for. Look at all those blue headlines in the results. Are they all the same? Here’s where you can stand out — come up with a more exciting, or at least different, headline that still includes your target phrase. That blue text is usually pulled from what’s called a “title tag” on your site – if you don’t have specific SEO settings available on your website, it’s usually the same as wherever you enter your title or headline of the page.
That’s one of the big secrets to dominating search results without being in the #1 slot (shhh don’t tell anyone ;))
Is it possible to take part in SEO without having to pay for ‘clicks’?
So one thing that gets confusing for a lot of people is the whole pay-Google-for-traffic thing and is that SEO or is that not.
The paying-Google-for-traffic thing is actually called Google Adwords. This is unrelated to SEO except for that the fact that they like to insert themselves about the “natural” search results.
Ads at the top of the search results = paid Google Adwords ads.
Search listings below the ads = unpaid SEO results.
The thing linking them is that they both might be going after the same target phrase. But you absolutely do not *have* to do Google Adwords – I only ever suggest it to clients who are looking to increase traffic by a certain deadline (like seasonal businesses) while waiting for the snowball effect of the SEO work we’re doing to come into play.
Doesn’t my website, for example, Squarespace, take care of SEO for me?
There are 3 important pieces to any SEO strategy:
- Keyword stuff (aka what words you’re using where on your site)
- Tech stuff (can Google see all your pages, are you confusing Google with seemingly duplicate content and more techie things to appease the Google robot)
- Offsite stuff
Your website platform (like Squarespace) can do nothing to help you with #1 and #3 << those are both up to you.
The part that your website platform has a part to play in is #2. And mileage does vary on each platform’s ability to take care of this out-of-the-box. Squarespace in particular is pretty good. WordPress.org is even better. But you don’t have to wait to have the perfect tech pieces in place before getting started with SEO. The only thing that REALLY matters is that you have your website name. So instead of yourwebsite.squarespace.com or yourwebsite.wordpress.com or yourwebsite.blogspot.com you have what’s called a self-hosted domain name of yourwebsite.com.
But hey – if you’re curious about how your specific platform will fare in the tech part of SEO, feel free to attend a free training I’m doing on SEO and ask me live! I’d be happy to give you some personal feedback.
What words of advice or encouragement can you provide for designers who have investigated SEO in the past but found it too complicated?
Ohhhh man. I’ve spoken with so many people in your shoes. My advice would be to take your eyes off the tech stuff – that piece is what I think gets most people’s SEO headaches going. Keep it simple. Find out what your clients are saying about the topics you want to write about and make sure that content has those words in it. Find out what sites your clients are hanging out on and see if you can find a way to get featured on that site. Then maybe hire someone to fix the tech stuff for you (usually not something you have to think about more than once unless you go through a redesign).
Thanks to Michelle and the PatternObserver team for having me on the blog today! 🙂