From Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing: Chapter 36: Online Strategies. Read all excerpts from the book here
Chapter 36: Online Strategies
My website—paullima.com—is extremely important to me. It brings me several new prospects per month. Not all of the companies that contact me through my website become clients, but then not all companies that I send promotional material to become clients either.
Many of my repeat clients found me first through my website; if not for the Web, I can’t imagine how I would have met them otherwise. It’s just too difficult to reach every potential client, no matter how much time you spend marketing your services.
Websites do not have to be as complex as my site is. At the same time, they can be even more extensive. My business has evolved over time and my website has evolved with it. In fact, I am always looking for ways to streamline and simplify my site, and I try to keep my home page uncluttered and easy to navigate.
Your website can be simple and effective. The point is to get a website up with information about you and your services and a few writing samples before you start any major marketing endeavours.
Do you need a website to work as a freelance writer? No, you don’t. Having a website can, however, boost your credibility and extend your marketing effort. Unless you have all the business you can handle and are making the kind of money you want to make, I can think of no reason for passing on getting your website online.
As you create your website, you should optimize it for search engines so that it ranks as high as possible when potential customers search for writers using various search engines. However, you can also pay for ads on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! that show up when potential customers conduct a searches for freelance writers. The ads contain three or four lines of promotional copy (that you write) and are linked to your home page or a specific promotional page, known as a landing page, on your website.
Online strategy summary
Here is a summary of the online strategies you can use to promote your freelance writing business:
- Write, design, and build your website, or contract out the construction of your site
- Optimize your website for search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and so on)
- Submit your website to search engines
- Investigate ads on Google (www.google.com/adsense); set up a Google AdSense campaign; set your Google ad budget; write your Google ad copy
- Based on sectors you want to target, look for websites on which you can advertise and look for e-newsletters in which you can run ads
- Create an e-newsletter of interest to companies in your target sector; promote it on your website and blog and through social media
- Investigate social media such as Facebook (primarily used for personal interaction, but can be used for business), LinkedIn (set up a profile and connect with others), and Twitter (find me at https://twitter.com/PaulWriterLima); also, if you have Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, investigate ads on those sites
- Set up a blog; you can use WordPress blog software to set up a static website and blog; talk to others who have websites and blogs and pick the application that will work best for you, or contract out the construction of your blog
- Create and upload YouTube promotional video trailers; insert links to the video trailers in your website and blog and promote on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter
Caveat: You can spend a great deal of time trying to raise your business profile using social media. Don’t spend all your marketing time on social media. Create a social media presence but use the conventional marketing tools outlined in this book too. They are important—especially if you are just getting started in this business. I am not saying new media does not work; I am saying shoot multiple marketing arrows, including new media, and monitor results so you can spend time and money on the arrows that work best for you.
Chunk website construction
While you want to monitor the time you spend on social media, you really want to get your website online.
As with Rome, most websites take more than a day to build. So, you can’t simply pick a day and put “write and build website” in your marketing plan. I suggest you break the process down into chunks, or manageable tasks, and slot the various tasks into your calendar. To help you schedule the creation of your website in your marketing plan, allow me to do some website chunking for you.
Register website domain and find host
You can register your website and find a host online through www.paullima.com/domain or you can allow the person who will build your site (if you are contracting out the task; see “hire a website designer”) do it for you. If you register it yourself, the person who builds your site can either work with the domain and host you have selected or move your domain registration to the company that will be hosting your website.
Determine your website sections
Most websites are composed of several sections or pages. At minimum, I suggest you include the following pages: Home, About, Contact, Writing Services, Writing Samples. You can also add Testimonials or include testimonials on your services or samples page.
Write each of the above sections
You’re a writer. You should be able to write your website copy. Keep your copy concise and focused. Ensure it reflects what you can do and for whom you can do it.
Hire a website designer
If you can’t design your website, hire a designers. Here are the steps you should take when hiring a website designer:
1. Source several designers; get at least three quotes
2. Check references.
3. Ensure your designer is familiar with basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.
4. Negotiate price. You should be able to get a simple site online for anywhere from $500 to $1,500 (unless you want high-end graphics, flash, and animation), plus the cost of hosting ($100 to $200 per year).
5. Negotiate deadlines. Deadlines should include the dates on which you will review design ideas, select final design, test your site online, and go live.
Now that the construction of your website is chunked into manageable tasks, schedule the creation of your website in your marketing plan. And, presto, you have five more marketing tasks scheduled for completion. Again, if you do not schedule these tasks, you might not complete them.
Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the rank of website in search results when people search for the type of information, goods, and/or services you offer.
How to fully optimize your site goes beyond the scope of this chapter. However, anyone with a website should be aware of basic SEO. (If you want more information on SEO, consider Do You Know Where Your Website Ranks? How to Optimize Your Website for the Best Possible Search Engine Results – www.paullima.com/books.)
Search engines are the starting point for most Web surfers. Almost 80 percent of the Canadian Internet population conducts at least one search each month. More than 75 percent of the online U.S. population use search engines. To show up in search engine results, a website must be submitted to the search engine or found and indexed by search engine robots (bots). It can take anywhere from several days to several months to index a website.
To rank high in search results, your site must be optimized for relevant search terms. And when it comes to search engine results, rank matters. Traffic drops significantly by rank. According to the Atlas Institute, an advertising-technology provider, the first site listed in search engine results receives three times the hits of the fifth site; the first 10 sites (generally the first page of results) are visited 78 percent more often than sites listed eleventh to thirtieth.
Keywords are key
Before you optimize a website, you need to define your keywords and phrases—words and phrases prospective customers might enter into search engines when looking for the services (or products) that you sell. Once you have defined those keywords, you should use them in well-written copy on your website because search engines send out bots to read site content. The search engines use the content, and other factors, when determining site relevancy to search terms. The more relevant your site, the higher it ranks.
To optimize your site for the best possible search engine results, do the following:
1. Use a consistent, text-based navigation menu that incorporates your keywords.
2. Include keyword tags (alt tags) with all graphics. Every image on a website has a name, such as imagename.gif. These image names mean nothing to the bots. When you add an alt tag to your image, you are adding readable content that the bots can use.
3. Combine keywords with Flash or other non-text objects. The bots cannot read Flash animation pages, so include keyword text on Flash-based website pages, or avoid Flash all together.
4. Build a text site map, one page that includes links to every other page on your site. Link to your site map from your home page so the bots can find the site map.
5. Write your meta tags using keywords. Meta tags are embedded in HTML code on websites. Three basic tags are particularly meaningful: title, description, and content. Only the title tag is seen by visitors. Title displays the name of your website pages in Web browsers. You can change the page title to reflect the products, services, or information on each page. You can also change the description and content meta tags. However, unless each page of your site changes dramatically, you will most likely use one set of description and content meta tags.
6. Use keywords in all your site content. Every descriptive paragraph on your site should include keywords or phrases. Make sure hotlinks include keywords too. Instead of using “Click here for information on our services” use wording that includes your keywords, such as “Information on copywriting writing services” or a simple link, such as, “Web content writing services.”
7. Beg, borrow, and barter reciprocal links. When determining page rank, most search engines look at link popularity, or the number of links that point to your site from other sites. For instance, Google’s PageRank system determines the value of pages and sites using links from Site A to Site B as a vote for Site B by Site A. Google and other search engines see links to a site as a validation of the site. The greater the validation, the higher a site shows up in search engine results (as long as it is also well-optimized for keywords). So, if you can get non-competitive sites, especially if they are industry-related, linking to your site, you can improve your search engine results.
8. Submit your site to search engines. The bots may find your site if you have links to it, but you should not sit back and wait. Instead, visit the major search engines and find out how to submit your website.
a. Google: Go to www.google.com/addurl.html
b. Yahoo!: Go to: www.search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html.
c. Bing: Go to www.bing.com/docs/submit.aspx
d. Submit your site to the Open Directory Project; once your site is listed, it can be picked up by bots from other search engines. To submit your site, visit http://dmoz.org, click on suggest URL and follow the guidelines. You will have to pick a category for your site and provide a title and description.
Blogging can also boost your SEO quotient.
If your blog content is focused on delivering information pertaining to the kind of business writing you do and the sectors that you are targeting, then it will contain many of your keywords. Also, if others like what they read on your blog, they will link to your blog posts, creating links to your website. Both your blog content and links to your blog will help SEO. Make sure your blog looks professional and links back to the primary pages on your website, such as to Home, About, Services, and Contact.
As mentioned previously, blog software like WordPress can be used to create both a static website and a blog. The blog can be set up with links to your permanent pages, such as About, Services, Contact. The page with your blog posts can be your home page, but more likely you will have a permanent home page that links to your blog. If it sounds complex, don’t sweat the details. Find someone who can set up your website and/or blog. Although you don’t have as much website design flexibility if you choose to go this route, you can have a professional-looking website/blog in a short time and at a fairly affordable price.
If you use the search term “Google Ads” in the Google search engine, the results will include over 20 million links. It costs nothing to have a Web page indexed in the Google search engine.
If I had information on my website about Google Ads and my site was ranked one million links down in the search results, or even 50 links down, visitors would never find me. If I were selling the secrets of how to effectively use Google AdWords to make money, I would not make any money.
There is something you can do to combat a low search engine rank for your website. You can display an ad on Google (or other search engines). On Google, ads appear to the right of the free links and look like this:
Google Ads Secrets
Be up and running in Just 29 Minutes
Fast Results Guaranteed, Risk-Free
This particular ad is listed number one (search results may vary) when someone uses the search term “Google Ads”.
The Google AdWords pay per click (PPC) advertising program is popular, in part, because you don’t pay until someone clicks on your ad. You create the ad (within line count and character count limitations), choose keywords so Google can match your ads to search terms, and pay only when someone clicks on the ad. You also set the per-click fee you are willing to pay and control your budget—how much you will spend per day and month.
The AdWords character (letters, symbols, spaces) limitations are strict. You cannot go over character count when you create your headline and two lines of ad text and your display URL. Here are the maximum character counts:
• Headline: 25 characters.
• Line 1: 35 characters
• Line 2: 35 characters
• Display URL: 35 characters
Your destination URL (the code behind the display URL hotlink that takes user to your Web landing page) can be up to 1,024 characters and Google has an online system to help you create your ad within the allotted character count.
Because your ad’s rank (how high it appears on the search results page) compared to other ads is a combination of the price per click you are willing to pay and how popular your ad is (how often it is clicked on), your copy must be written to motivate clicks!
If each click or view brought you more business than the cost of the click, you would not care how much you had to pay per click. However, clicks often bring tire kickers—visitors who are browsing, but not buying—so you want to be able to set a ceiling on what you pay, monitor results (Google has budgeting and reporting tools), and make marketing decisions based on results.
From Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing. Read all excerpts from the book here. Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing is based on The Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments and Business of Freelance Writing: How to Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines.