If you’ve tried exploring online job offers, you might have come across the acronym “SEO” a couple of times. You may find lots of employers looking for a freelance SEO specialist. But just what is SEO, and how important is it in the digital business realm? And can you make money from SEO and break into the market as a freelancer?
Below is everything you need to know about SEO and how to pursue this line of work as a freelancer.
What is SEO and How Does it Work?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of upgrading your website to increase its visibility to online users. Try looking up a product or service on a search engine like Google or Bing. You’re likely to click on the first results that it pulls up. Being in the first results means that your website, ad, or platform has good visibility. And people clicking on it will increase its traffic and keep it on top of the search results. So if you want to become a freelance SEO Specialist, you must first understand how it works.
Imagine search engines like Google as someone that has read every existing information on the web. It knows about your query and can rank each result according to how well it answers it. Its internal algorithm implements a complex system of analyzing several factors to determine which one to show you first. In this case, using SEO to improve your content will convince the algorithm that your website can answer the user’s query. And because of this, you will be placed on top of the search results. It will guarantee that the user will click on your page first.
There are two types of SEO: white hat and black hat. White Hat SEO refers to techniques and strategies that abide by search engine rules and achieve more value and relevance among consumers. Meanwhile, Black Hat SEO uses techniques that attempt to fool search engines. Using this strategy is sure to put websites at risk of being penalized. Or worse, be removed from the search results index.
Why is SEO Important?
As a freelance SEO Specialist, you must know the importance of SEO. There are millions of ways to be heard in the online market. Strategic digital marketing determines the relevance of your online presence. In this case, SEO is a fundamental part of the digital marketing ecosystem. It’s because it targets the primary source of website traffic: search results. There’s no other way to say that excellent visibility and a high ranking in search results will get the most of your website’s potential customers.
When monitoring online traffic, it’s just as important to look at the traffic contributed by search engines as paid advertising and social media presence. The majority of website traffic is achieved through organic search results. It is more credible than paid advertisements, garnering a lot more online traffic and taking up digital real estate. Look at it this way: SEO pushes content creators to make high-quality content. And by using the right keyword, they get their content to rank higher. Once they do that, the traffic will snowball over time. This sounds better and more cost-effective than continuous funding of paid advertisements.
Can You Make Money From SEO?
Like anything in the modern world, SEO can be monetized, provided that you’re offering it as a service to help clients optimize their content and gain more customers. SEO is not that difficult to learn, especially if you’re committed to specializing in it. Before you start on your journey to becoming an SEO expert, look at what SEO specialists do in the industry.
Don’t think of SEO as paid search ads, where you pay to get higher search rankings. Instead, SEO means putting the work the organic way: SEO specialists know how to optimize content quality, do keyword research, and improve site architecture.
Optimizing the website and increasing traffic is all about upping the quality along with the quantity– and no one can do it better than a professional SEO specialist. They first understand online trends and what people search about the most online, and the type of content they want to consume. Once they’ve got that down, the next thing is knowing how to deliver it in a way that search engine bots can find and understand.
Whether they work within an agency or as freelance professionals, SEO specialists work with a wide variety of people in different industries. While there are no official certifications, required degrees, and no established professional standard in SEO, reputable companies and education bodies can host seminars that offer SEO certification. It all comes down to how much knowledge and experience you have in the industry.
How Do You Become A Freelance SEO Specialist?
Why freelance? For starters, you have complete control of your rates and income and more freedom in handling your workload. You know best how to divide your hours within the day. Having control of your work hours is guaranteed to achieve a better work-life balance. That alone sounds better than the traditional nine to five.
Here’s how to start your freelance SEO career.
1. Get the basics down
You wouldn’t be going seriously into an SEO career without having the fundamental skills of SEO specialization. If you’re starting from square one, you both have to develop hard and soft skills. Hard skills mean understanding website and search engine behavior, which require solid coding and web design experience. In contrast, soft skills SEO specialization requires an analytical mind trained in data gathering, measuring, and investigation.
2. Familiarize yourself with SEO concepts
If you have a solid tech and design background and are still venturing into the SEO industry, there are concepts that every specialist should know by heart. SEO has its language and techniques that influence consequences beyond its direct reach.
Here are the foundational concepts you need to understand to build a successful SEO campaign:
Search engine spiders and crawler
Each search engine has its version of bots constantly scouring the internet and analyzing websites to build their index. The ranking of results depends on their algorithm and which factors they prioritize. Some look at title tags, keyword tags, heading tags, and hyperlinks.
Optimization is all about finding the right keywords, where to place them, and how often they should be used. Keywords are the most common words that online users enter on search engines. Specialists should know just the right ones that are common enough to place it in a general vicinity and specific enough to narrow it down to the website. Start with seed keywords, and then go from there. For example, the keyword “pizza” will pull up a load of search results that can have nothing to do with what the user wants to look up. “Pizza chains in Brooklyn,” however, will have enough competition and will more likely pull up websites that immediately deliver to the user’s queries.
Links make the internet so convenient. You don’t have to keep going to the search engine every time you need something, especially if the site you’re on can link to another within seconds. Think of links as recommendations– other sites linking to yours improve your chances of being placed in a higher ranking.
On-site analysis refers to everything that you as a specialist can control: photos, sitemaps, metadata, and page titles. The off-site analysis relates to things you can’t control directly, such as links from other sites. For on-site analysis, you need to have enough knowledge and experience with website building to develop an optimized and user-friendly experience.
The SEO industry comes with a lot of competition. If you want to stay afloat and become a successful freelance SEO specialist, it’s imperative to note trends and observe your competitors’ performances. Doing so will help you and your client gauge the level of competency of your competitors’ SEO strategies. Having a competitor analysis will also help you spot some opportunities, especially with keyword research.
3. Know the tools that can help you
SEO can be tedious work, but there are many tools and resources to help you with the most time-consuming jobs like keyword research and data analysis. These are extremely helpful in letting you track and monitor the website’s performance and adjust parts of your strategy.
For example, for coming up with keywords, you can consider resources such as Google Keyword Planner, Bing Keyword Research Tool, and SEMRush. These tools are either free or paid, so look up how effective they are and consider the pros and cons of investing in the pricier ones.
4. Invest in a website
Think of a personal website as a modern resume. You need somewhere you can list all the services you offer. This is where you will market all the skills people look for in specialists. Having a website gives you credibility, and clients tend to gravitate more towards freelancers with problem-solving resources.
In designing your website, keep these things in mind:
- Start with a freelance website template – Ensure that the correct elements for freelancing stand out. Then, choose the customizable ones and personalize them to fit your brand.
- Use a simple domain name – All your domain name needs is your name (or your work persona name) and what you do.
- Give your brand a visual image – This includes creating a logo, coming up with a slogan, and selecting fonts and colors.
- Organize the pages – The essential sections include the homepage, a list of services with and where to book a service, a portfolio, client reviews, an about section, and contact details containing your email, phone number, and social media handles.
5. Find your clients
Having a freelance career means you’re responsible for putting yourself out there and attracting clients to take a look at what you can offer. Even if you have a personal website, you need to be found online. Here are some ways you can do to let people know about your SEO services.
Build a presence in freelancing portals
Clients consider freelancing portals first when they have a specific project in mind, so it’s imperative to build your presence on these sites. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one site, either. Once you’re done making your profile, look around for any leads. If you find something that attracts you, start bidding.
Attend non-SEO events
Going to non-SEO events may seem counterproductive, but hear me out: if you’re the only SEO specialist in blogger, startup, web design, and social media meetups, you can think of it as a new market of closely related industries that will significantly benefit from SEO. Chances are, you can talk to anyone and ask about their search results, help them out, and tell them a bit of what you do. Essentially, it’s network-building– you’re not there to hard-sell and be all advertise-y, but to engage in casual conversations and let people know where to find you if they encounter anything related to your work.
Communicate with the online community
Online acquisition models and digital marketing is complicated, and SEO plays a big part in untangling the complex process. Spend some time reading Q and A’s, blog posts, comment sections, and forums and help people solve SEO-specific problems. Being part of an online community and learning from others’ experiences will help you become a more successful freelance SEO Specialist. Some people look for SEO services in these places, so you can address their questions and offer your services. Be visible in the scene, build a presence, and you’ll find out that referrals are just as crucial in getting clients.
6. Have a standard rate
The key to dictating your salary is confidence. While you can make adjustments and raise or lower your rates depending on how much work is involved in a project, it’s wise to have a measuring stick. If you’re not sure about what your rate should be, look around for other SEO services and gauge their average rates. Freelancers can price their services per project or hour, and on average, the SEO industry demands a $100-$150 hourly rate.
When setting your rates, keep two things in mind: begin with a reasonable budget, but know your worth. If you’re just starting, you might not always land high-paying offerings. Take up smaller projects and produce quality outputs in time. Once you have many customer reviews and have a more prominent presence in the freelance SEO industry, you can start raising your rates. Clients will always look for specialists with lower rates, but this shouldn’t deter you from standing your ground. Every amount of effort exerted in each project has to be compensated. So if you know your clients will get the quality guaranteed in your rates, then stick to them.
7. Set a schedule and stick to it
Taking the “traditional nine to five” in freelancing work sounds so freeing, but you still need to set a work schedule. Freelancing still requires commitment. When negotiating, you and your client will discuss how much time you’ll need to complete the project and discuss a deadline. Once you close the deal, you need to exert all efforts necessary to deliver your work in time. Setting a work schedule will help you get your affairs in order. Establishing a routine doesn’t have to be that bad, especially if you’re calling all the shots. It’s easy to fall into a black hole of unhealthy work hours and disrupted sleeping schedules, so make sure you know how to assign work hours throughout the day.
Effective communication is a strength in any line of work. Naturally, your clients are not SEO experts and don’t have a complete picture of each project’s amount of time and effort. Therefore, it’s up to you to explain your process and justify your rates and turnaround time. If you feel like your client is unreasonable by asking you to lower your rates or demanding a faster turnaround time, be transparent and share your concerns about their approach. While you may lose the client, you must explain that you’re reasonable in the compensation you want for your process.
10. Get reviews
Once you’re done with a project, don’t hesitate to ask if they can leave a review. Having several client reviews and recommendations is a surefire way of building your credibility as a freelancer. Of course, you can put these on your website, so clients will have an easier time gauging their expectations of working with you.
11. Be your own boss
Being your boss sounds empowering, but it also means you’ll be doing all the work, compared to having a relegated role in companies. If you’re just starting in the industry and it’s just you and yourself, that means you have to be prepared to take on all the roles involved. Along with understanding SEO, you’ll also be the project manager, the bookkeeper, the entrepreneur, and the customer representative. The traditional work world undermines freelancing so much without understanding how much work there is to it. If you’re a freelance SEO specialist, you must have effective communication, organization, and problem-solving skills.
Specializing in search engine optimization requires a lot of time and dedication. Starting your freelancing career in the industry will be full of challenges, especially with all the added difficulties of managing everything. That said, before you make a move and put all your chances on becoming a freelance SEO specialist, it’s imperative to assess your skills, resources, and your commitment to building your name within the industry.
If you’re able to deliver on all those areas, be patient with the learning process and be dedicated to adapting to the dynamic nature of the digital work landscape. Once you have those down, you’re well on your way to becoming a full-fledged SEO specialist.
Hope this helps! I also recommend that you read this article that talks about how you can make money with SEO and how you can build a good career in this kind of industry.