6 Simple SEO Tips for Freelancers and Agencies

Improving your business’s search engine ranking means more leads and better business growth

Small businesses often struggle with marketing themselves. Whether you’re a marketing solopreneur or part of an agency, it’s difficult to dedicate resources to growing your business and industry reputation—even if that’s precisely what you do for your clients. (Oh, the irony!)

At Mailchimp & Co, we know all too well that marketers often de-prioritize marketing themselves—time’s always at a premium, after all, and you’d rather be billing. But the reality is that any business—of any size—needs to keep the pipeline full. Luckily, there’s an easy way to boost your discoverability, increase your conversions, and fast track business growth: SEO.

Reaching Google’s first page can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Most marketing professionals know what search engine optimization (SEO) is, but it’s easy to overcomplicate the matter. (That’s not surprising, considering entire PhD dissertations have been written on the topic of gaming the Google algorithm!)

Although there’s no cut-and-dry formula to make it to #1, optimizing your website for search doesn’t need to be time consuming or complicated. In fact, a few simple-to-implement tweaks will often help bump your website’s search presence significantly, which can have a big impact on your bottom line.

We know marketers come in all stripes, and we’re not all SEO experts. Luckily, there are Mailchimp partners who live and breathe search engine everything. We’ve consulted 2 top experts—Christine Darby and Robbie Kohli—to bring you SEO tips you can apply to your own business, and your clients’, too. Here are their top 6 tips for climbing the rankings.

1. Use plain language

It's always smart to choose your words carefully, and SEO keywords are no exception. While you might be tempted to use industry jargon to appear more authoritative, it can work against you. According to SEO expert Christine Darby, it can be more powerful to explain things in the clearest terms possible than to inject industry jargon.

“People will sometimes use high-level, technical-sounding terms,” she says. “So I’ll ask, ‘in plain English, what is that?’ Then they tell me and it makes complete sense. This is where we start finding keywords.”

Before you begin writing or editing any of the words used on a website (including the backend), try writing:

  • What your business does
  • Why people should hire you

Use language that your ideal customers would use when trying to solve a key problem. And keep things simple. This will help you come closer to the words people use when they search. In turn, the copy will be clearer and the site will feature meaningful keywords.

2. Do a content check-up

“Time and time again, we have seen that websites with good content always rank higher,” says Deep Focus CEO Robbie Kohli. “You can invest a lot in SEO, but if your copy is lacking, Google will penalize you for it.” But how do you know if your content is good? According to Robbie, your bounce rate is an important indicator. A bounce happens when a user exits your website within the first 5 seconds of opening it. There are many reasons for a high bounce rate, but one of the most common is the quality of your copy.

Robbie recommends using plug-ins like Yoast and Ahref to improve content quality. These tools analyze your text (using the Flesch Reading Score) and offer suggestions for improving readability.

3. Write descriptive title tags

Title tags are descriptive text that should tell people what to expect on a page. They are an important part of SEO and help with ranking. Whether visitors see it in their search engine results page (SERP), or while hovering over a tab before navigating to it, this copy should clearly state what’s on the page.

According to Christine, “Site visitors should be able to clearly discern what you do and who you are.” For this reason, the same guidance for clear, targeted language applies here.

SEO IRL

Christine consulted with K40 Electronics about their need for clearer, more descriptive title tags, and they saw a quick impact.

“We dramatically changed how visible we are on search engines,” says Rachel Clark, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at K40. “We now enjoy first page search results for a wide variety of searches related to our products."

4. Think about the why (rather than the what)

As a small (or new) business, competing with established corporations for top search engine ranking can seem daunting—especially when you’re vying for the same keywords. “Our secret weapon is to identify intent-based keywords,” says Robbie. By intent-based keywords, Robbie means putting yourself in your client’s shoes and understanding the motivation behind their searches. When you can pinpoint the rationale behind a search, you can discover keywords your competitors haven’t invested heavily in.

SEO IRL

Ikikai (an eco-conscious home goods online retailer) was facing some fierce SEO competition. Their niche—sustainable decor—was hyper-competitive, making it difficult for them to earn a top search ranking. So, Robbie had to think outside of the box. After doing some market research, he discovered that sustainable decor items are often purchased as gifts.

“There’s an impressive volume of searches for ‘gifts for boys’, ‘gifts for men’ and ‘gifts for girls,’” says Robbie. “These are intentful searches, which means that the likelihood of a purchase actually happening from these keywords is very high.” Armed with this knowledge, Robbie included these keywords in Ikikai’s meta-tag and product descriptions. This small change resulted in much improved search performance and higher sales.

5. Put the right stuff on your homepage

Christine has observed that many businesses use their website’s homepage as merely an aesthetic display—all style, no substance.

“A lot of people are going for design, but you want your homepage to work for you. It’s often going to be your most visited and the page with the most backlinks. So if people are landing on that page, you should give them something to do,” she says.

Outside of providing basic descriptive information about your business, the homepage should provide people with the right opportunities to explore your website.

In SEO terms, this is done through hyperlinked words called anchor text. This copy should feature keywords that indicate what the person will see if they click the link, and it should be more descriptive than “Click here.”

A call to action, or CTA, is the term for the anchor text on a hyperlinked button, which a person clicks to do something, like “Learn More,” or “Apply Now,” or “Contact Us.”

Christine suggests thinking carefully about what people might come to your website to do, and providing that pathway directly on the homepage. She’s seen this change yield great results for her clients.

SEO IRL

Corlears School, a private preschool and elementary in New York, wanted to increase the number of student applications it receives each year. So on the school’s site, Christine added CTAs that gave prospective and current parents a clear pathway to learn how to apply.

These changes resulted in a 30% increase in student applications. And now the school updates their CTAs based on their seasonal goals: more timely, focused messaging generally resonates better.

6. Focus on users, not search engines

Even if your current task is to optimize for search, the long-term goal is always to make your website more useful and usable for real people. When you prioritize clear language, intelligent navigation, and valuable content, it yields results.

SEO IRL

“Before [hiring Christine’s agency] Collaborada, our website traffic was limited to existing customers, but now organic traffic and inquiries are through the roof,” says Jason R. Self, Director of Operations at Dimensional Engineering. “After launching the new site, qualified leads contacting us via our website resulted in approximately $250,000 in new opportunities.”

Give your business a boost when you apply these 6 simple SEO strategies to your website. When your website is search engine optimized, it’s working around the clock and around the globe to help more clients find you.


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