On Thursday 23rd July, I spoke at the 14th Design Stuff Cardiff event. My talk gave SEO advice aimed at the design community, covering SEO basics while advising on the SEO tactics that are most suited to designers: e.g. image SEO and link building tactics such as ‘web design by’ links, showcase websites and by finding non-credited images via reverse image search.
At the end of the talk, Dan (DSC’s main organiser) asked the crowd if they’d learnt something new from my talk and virtually the whole room put their hand up, which was great to see. (Just don’t ask me how the book giveaway went…!)
I shared the stage that night with friend and fellow ICEr Warren Fauvel (@WarrenOF), who did an incredible talk about why design is doomed as it becomes more automated, and the ways that designers can adapt accordingly. I recommend watching it, whether you’re a designer, an SEO or if you work in another related creative/tech sector – it’s one of the best talks I’ve ever seen.
This has been my fourth speaking gig in as many months (actually, I’ve done five talks in four months, as I haven’t counted one smaller, more informal talk), with nothing else lined up now in the near future. To be completely honest though, I’m quite thankful to be taking a bit of a break from it, which will give me chance to concentrate on my SEO consultancy business as well as a few other side-projects that I’d like to work on. Stay tuned for some exciting news coming soon…
As bloggers, we often get very fixated and carried away with our blogs: making sure that the content that we produce, the blog’s design, etc. are all absolutely perfect. SEO often enters the mix as well (in a do-it-yourself capacity), but it’s not simply a case of adding the WordPress SEO plugin – which is, admittedly, great – to your blog and thinking that that’s all you need to do on the SEO front…
On the contrary… On the link building (a.k.a. off-site SEO) side of things, the possibilities are endless and the fun never ends. It’s not a quantity game, but the more high quality, relevant and natural links that you get pointing to your website (or your blog, as is the case here), the better that it’ll perform from an SEO standpoint, resulting in a likely increase in visibility from organic search – i.e. when people are Googling content relevant to your blog, they might stand more of a chance of finding it, resulting in more traffic to it. So while you can tinker and tweak your site’s internal workings to improve its on-site SEO, you can also improve its off-site SEO by acquiring inbound links.
But how do you go about getting links? Where do you start?
As an SEO who’s also a keen blogger, here are a few ways of getting links back to your blog that have worked for me:
1) Guest blogging
Although this tactic has lost some of its impact due to people spamming it too much (although it’s not all bad – you can read my views here), there might still be some good opportunities to guest blog on other bloggers’ websites in your niche, so it’s worth looking into. In addition to the link back to your blog, the hosting blogger is likely to promote it via their social media profiles, too.
It’s worked for me. Beyond recently becoming a regular contributor on State Of Digital, I have also written posts for Moz, SEMrush and other industry blogs. In addition to getting some good industry exposure, getting links from such high profile websites to my blog has helped with its SEO.
Going to local blogger meet-ups simply to get to know other local bloggers and to offer advice can be a good way to get links. I’ve seen people get links because someone’s published a write-up of the event and they’ve included links to all the bloggers that they met there. I’ve even been added to a few bloggers’ blogrolls simply due to taking the time to get to know them.
Cardiff Blogs used to be the big player a few years back, but they run less events now than they used to. Despite this, there are a few blogging-related events that seem to crop up every now and again in the South Wales area – so it’s worth keeping an eye out.
In late May I was approached by the team at SEMrush about hosting a webinar, going into more detail about the CR 25 campaign that I ran in January. I’d already given a talk about it at BrightonSEO, but with only 20 minutes available, I left out a lot of useful information surrounding the ‘content blitz’ campaign, where we published 25 blog posts in one month (pretty much one each day during the month). I had toyed with the idea of creating a YouMoz post (and had in fact started to draft one), but when SEMrush approached me about the webinar, I thought that it would be a better way to get across all the info.
The video of the webinar is below, with a transcript below that.
Video Transcript (including slide stills)
Hi, thank you very much for the introduction. I’m Steve Morgan, @steviephil on Twitter, and today I’ll be talking you through a big campaign I ran back in January earlier this year. I actually talked about this campaign at BrightonSEO in April, but I was only given about 20 minutes to talk on-stage and I was only able to talk about a couple of examples of content we did – we had 25 blog posts in one month – and just talk about how much it all cost, so it’s great to have the opportunity… a big thank you to SEMrush for having me. And it’s great to be able to talk about the campaign in more detail and run through more examples than I did when I presented at the conference.
The webinar is split into three sections. I’m going to jump out of the slides a third of the way through and show you real examples of content, because I thought: “why bother showing you slides of examples when I can actually show you the examples on Firefox?” But before that, I’ll talk you through a bit of an introduction to the campaign and how we prepared for it. And then after I’ve shown you examples, I’ll give you some insights into what performed well, what didn’t, what worked well on certain social media networks, and talk you through how much everything cost, which – even though we had 25 posts created and we tried to avoid just having bog-standard, 400-word advice articles – we did lots of varying types of content and we tried to have interactive content as well. We managed to keep the budget very low by sourcing guest blog posts, by using free or cheap WordPress plugins – things like that really. I’ll tell you more as we go along.
Whether you call yourself a freelancer, a solo/independent consultant, a solopreneur or maybe even something else entirely, one of the biggest challenges that we face as one-person bands is the ability to balance our workloads effectively – in particular by keeping the sales pipeline filling up while we’re busy working on other projects.
And I can speak about this from recent personal experience…
I have a confession to make…
I dropped the ball on the sales front earlier this year. After a busy Q4 in 2014 (resulting in December being my most successful month income-wise to date at the time) and a very busy January running CR 25 single-handedly, followed by two large one-off projects in Feb-Mar (which both overran), I was simply too busy to fit sales into the mix.
Then in April: quiet. Well… I had enough to keep me going, but things were a lot quieter than I was used to. It was my quietest period since my first three months in business (way back in the summer of 2013) and therefore in over 18 months. Yikes.
Things have picked up rather nicely since then, but I wanted to take the time to blog about some of the ways that I went about drumming up new business during that quiet spell. And while working on this list of sales tactics for freelancers, I just kept adding more and more ideas to it and ended up with 20 different ways…! For the record though, you might not see some tactics that you’re expecting to see… For example, I don’t condone cold-calling, door-to-door sales or any other type of ‘interruptive’ marketing like that, so that won’t be in the list below. I’m also not keen on freelancer marketplace websites (e.g. PeoplePerHour) – I’m not saying that they don’t work, they’re just not for me, and I’m sure that there are other freelancers who feel the same way.
…So what else can you do?
A slight disclaimer: some of these are probably really obvious, but if fellow freelancers (SEO or otherwise) browse the list, see 2 or 3 points and think to themselves: “damn, why didn’t I think of that?” then that’ll do for me…!
First things first…
1) Remove any “I’m not available” type messages from your blog/website
If you’re in a position to network and drive leads and enquiries your way, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to put people off with a message on your site that says “I’m unavailable at the moment” or “I’m unavailable until [future date]”… It’s all well and good to have this on the site when you are full-up capacity-wise, but be sure to remove it when you aren’t and when you’re actively seeking work. While this might seem really obvious, it’s crucial that you make sure to remember to remove the message everywhere and anywhere it’s featured: is it on your Contact page / your Hire Me page / site-wide? For me, it was on this very blog’s Hire Me page and my freelance site‘s Contact page, but it could be disasterous if I only remembered to remove it off one of the pages and not the other – so be sure to remember to do it…!
As an aside… Some people swear off using these type of messages entirely, which is fair enough (after all, what if a dream enquirer sees it and it puts them off from enquiring?), but @ChrisLDyson of Triple SEO raised a good point that it usually still brings in the more serious enquiries while putting off the “can I just get a quote?” types. Besides, they might not read it anyway and just get in touch regardless.
Right, got that sorted? Good. Onto the next one…
Leveraging existing business relationships
2) Touch base with old clients
If you work with clients directly and you’ve already done work for somebody – maybe on a one-off basis – and you left things on good terms, then it makes sense to touch base and catch up on their current situation. Maybe they’re in need of more of your assistance?
I did some one-off consulting for two companies in the past year and decided to email them asking how things were going. Both of them said that my timing was perfect, that they’d be keen to reconvene things – and I’ve already been to see one of them (the other one is still keen but they’re going to leave it another month or two). Nice and easy.
Obviously this only really works in certain circumstances – for example, if you stopped working with a client because their budget ran out/got cut, or they’ve gone ahead with another supplier, or they’ve brought the service in-house instead, then you may want to give those ones a miss. But think back to all your old clients and get in touch with those who loved what you did for them and might need more of the same.
3) Touch base with your main referral partners (e.g. agencies)
Who usually passes you work? In my case, as an SEO, I get a fair bit of work from web design agencies and PR agencies. Similar to the point above, get in touch with those that you’ve worked with before and find out if any of their clients currently need help with anything.
Yesterday evening I spoke at Social Shorts Cymru, an event run by CIPR Wales (the Chartered Institute of Public Relations) that was held at Golley Slater’s Cardiff office. You can see CIPR Wales’ past and future events here.
The full talk title was: PRs make damn good link builders – Integrating SEO into PR campaigns. I explained that PRs have the ability to create campaigns that boost their clients’ SEO efforts as well as helping them to get brand mentions in the press and across the Web. Creating certain types of campaigns may increase the chances of getting links, but given the press’ reluctance to link out, there are certain ways that you go about it.
Here are the slides, which I’ve uploaded onto Speaker Deck instead of SlideShare, as the latter destroyed the formatting of the slide deck’s text for some reason. (Please note: As you can’t click on the links in the below slide deck, here’s a link to the deck as a PDF, where the hyperlinks – such as the list of ‘Handy tools’ near the end – will work.)
I have a few more speaking and webinar gigs in the pipeline, which I’m looking forward to – you can see some confirmed talks on my Speaking page. If you’d like me to speak at your event then please get in touch!