The SEO for Freelancers Guide: Part Three
The bad news about onsite SEO is that you absolutely have to do it.
The good news about onsite SEO is that you’ll probably only have to do it once and then make small tweaks from time to time.
It’ll take you a few hours to set up your onsite SEO correctly and then you only need to check it twice a year to make sure all your plugins are still working correctly and nothing in the WordPress or Google updates have negatively impacted your freelance website.
The SEO Plan
While SSL certificates are super important for onsite SEO, we already covered what they are and why they’re so important in the SEO Freelancers Guide: Part Two. So you should already have one of these set up. We’re only mentioning it again here in case you somehow missed that article.
We’re also not going to cover mobile responsiveness or page load speed again. And we’ll leave the deep dive into Keyword Research for the SEO Freelancers Guide: Part Four.
General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)
If you’re a European freelancer or deal with European clients, you should make sure your website is General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)-compliant. GDPR compliance doesn’t officially affect your SEO but it likely will at some point. Having your GDPR sorted out now is a good idea as it covers your butt as far as lawsuits and financial penalties for not being compliant.
There are tons of free WordPress plugins to make your site GDPR compliant, so it’s just a question of picking one, setting it up, and making sure it’s running correctly.
If you never, ever deal with European clients or colleagues and never, ever plan to, you can skip having GDPR set up. However, if you think you may ever with work a European and collect data, it’s worth taking 10-20 minutes right now and never having to worry about it again.
Schema.org or Other Markup
This sounds super complicated and technical but don’t worry — it isn’t hard at all and the improvement to your onsite SEO makes it well worth the minimal effort.
Schema and other markup systems improve the way your website pages display in major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex by enhancing the rich snippets searchers see below the page title.
Some websites don’t have markup installed and you can tell because the nice little captions you see in the photo below are missing on the search engine results page. People use those snippets to determine whether a page is worth checking out so not having one will impact the number of visitors your site gets and your SEO.
WordPress has several free schema markup plugins. Search for one that you like the look of (we generally recommend checking how many installs a plugin has and what the ratings are like) and install it. It’ll take you just a few minutes to set it all up and then you never have to worry about it again.
Setting up your Schema and/or other markup plugin is only the first step to getting those concise little snippets to display on the search engine results page. The second step is writing them.
If you choose not to write them but have a markup plugin installed, Google will simply pull the first 160 characters from the page and display those. That sorta works but it’s much better if you take a few minutes and write up a concise description of the page which ideally includes your top keyword or two for that page.
Look at how nice and straightforward that is. It clearly explains what the page is about so human users are inclined to click on the page and stick around because it’s delivering exactly what it promised. Google has also helpfully highlighted the matching keywords from the search query (“freelance website design”.)
It’s important for onsite SEO to make sure each of your pages has a unique meta description so the searcher knows exactly what they’re getting with each page. It’s not a bad idea to put a call-to-action (CTA) in your meta description if you have the space to do so.
Your meta descriptions won’t directly impact your websites SEO. However, ensuring every page on your website has a real meta description will make a difference to your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and your bounce rate, which do impact your SEO.
Page URL Structure
There’s a lot that can be said about Page URL structures and how to best write them, but since this isn’t a book where we deep dive, I’ll keep it short and sweet.
Here are your onsite SEO best practices Page URL Structure:
- Keep your URLs definitive and concise
- Use lowercase letters to avoid any potential duplicate content issues
- Avoid lots of numbers and use words instead (it’s a great chance to use your keywords)
- You don’t need dates in your page URLs, not even for blog posts
As a note, use subdirectories (thefreelancehustle.com/blog) instead of subdomains (blog.thefreelancehustle.com) whenever possible. Search engines generally treat a subdomain as a totally separate website, which means your SEO is diluted between the subdomains.
Your link profile is what your outbound and internal links look like when assessed across your website. For blog posts, it’s best practice currently to have at least two internal links (which go to other pages on your website) and three outbound links (to reputable other websites) on every page.
You don’t want to have hundreds of links on every page of your website or just one on a page. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. If you’re a freelance writer, it’s perfectly fine to have your Portfolio page link to all your articles online. Similarly, your Contact page may have links to all your social media profiles or none at all.
If a page on your website isn’t an exception to the rule, the two internal, three outbound links rule is pretty good for onsite SEO. Make sure any outbound links are to well-known and trusted websites and open in a new tab (so your reader doesn’t forget about your website when chasing down the rabbit hole.) Internal links can open in the same tab or not. That’s your call.
Every six or 12 months, you should check your links and make sure they’re all working. If you’re linking to a website or page that no longer exists, it’s time to replace or remove that link.
Although you can no longer game the SEO system by just keyword stuffing the heck out of everything you put up on your freelance website, keywords still matter. A lot.
Keyword research and utilization is a more complex dance nowadays so instead of making it a short paragraph or two here, we’re going to dedicate SEO Freelancers Guide: Part Four to it.
Which means, congratulations! You’re done with Part Three already!