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10 Things You Need To Know To Be Successful

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10 Things You Need To Know To Be Successful


Editor’s note: As 2021 winds down, we’re celebrating with a 12 Days of Christmas Countdown of the most popular, helpful expert articles on Search Engine Journal this year.

This collection was curated by our editorial team based on each article’s performance, utility, quality, and the value created for you, our readers.

Each day until December 24th, we’ll repost one of the best columns of the year, starting at No. 12 and counting down to No. 1. Our countdown starts today with our No. 1 column, which was originally published on November 17, 2021.

This freelancing career-focused article by Kristina Azarenko shares really great expert tips to not only boost SEO freelancers’ careers but help set it up for continued success.

Congratulations, Kristina. Really well done! Thank you for sharing your expert thoughts and ideas as a contributor at Search Engine Journal. 

Enjoy!   


Freelancing is often romanticized and seen as an escape from an annoying boss who doesn’t value you.

But often, when people start working for themselves they quickly realize that they ‘quit 9-5 to work 24/7’.

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This can have detrimental effects on your self-worth and mental health, but it doesn’t mean freelancing is not worth it.

It can be a fulfilling experience if you get to it with the right mindset.

In this column, you’ll learn SEO freelancing tips that will help you find more (and better) clients, build a sustainable business, and truly love what you do.

But first, let’s take a look at why so many people choose to go freelance.

Pros Of A Freelance Career

I mentioned a few cons of starting an SEO freelancing business above. So now it’s time to balance it out with the pros of this journey.

When you are a freelancer…

You have more control over your time and life.

You don’t need to ask for permission to go to the dentist during the working day. You can even take a full weekday off, if your projects allow. Your schedule is your own.

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Your salary can grow quickly.

Search Engine Journal research shows that 60% of SEO professionals earn the same or more than the U.S. median while working full-time.

But growth is often limited by the years of experience one has plus it’s hard to substantially increase your salary within one company. You would often need to change jobs to get a bigger increase.

But when you’re an SEO freelancer, you don’t need to wait for a ‘3% yearly increase’ in your salary. You can make more faster.

I made my previous full-time job salary within the first year of freelancing, and I more than doubled it in the next year.

That’s not a unique result, there are many other success stories from fellow SEOs who decided to start their freelancing careers.

Moreover, there’s literally no limit to how much you can make since you can grow your freelancing business into an agency or something else.

Working with clients directly.

It was one of the most important pros for me as I wanted to have a bigger impact on my clients’ success.

You understand your clients better.

Being a business owner, you understand your clients better as you now know more about prioritization and estimating effort vs impact.

It helps you concentrate on the most meaningful recommendations instead of trying to fix all SEO issues.

I started my company two years ago without any business or freelancing experience, so I had to learn everything quickly.

Here are my 10 most valuable tips that I hope will help you get your SEO freelancing business up to speed (and keep you sane while doing it).

1. Talk To Other Freelancers

No matter where you are at, there are people who have already been there. They have experience and insights you can benefit from.

Getting tips from such people can save you months of figuring things out. I’m personally really grateful to Aleyda Solis, Luke Carthy, Andrew Optmisey, Kirsty Hulse, and Troy Fawkes, who were open with me and helped me with their valuable advice.

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A few tips on reaching out to people to ask for advice…

Be respectful of their time.

Don’t just DM your list of questions or something vague like ‘please help me.’ If you build relationships instead, people will be happy to help you.

Ask specific questions.

The answers you get depend on the questions you ask. So make sure you ask specific questions that would really move the needle for you.

You’re responsible for your decisions.

You ask people to get help, not to put responsibility for your business on them. So use common sense and see what’s working for you and what’s not.

2. Build Your Online Presence

You can be the best SEO ever. But if nobody knows about it, it’ll be hard to succeed.

We live in the world of so many voices on social media, and your voice should also be heard.

You can use LinkedIn to build your presence. You can use Twitter, start a newsletter, or do everything at once. The choice is yours.

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But trust me, it’s much easier to talk to prospects if you have a great digital footprint.

I started building my LinkedIn and Twitter presence two months before I quit my job. It did help me get first clients and first students into my SEO course.

3. Treat Yourself As A Business

When you start your own business, you are now an accountant, a salesperson, an account manager, a legal department.

And you also pay your taxes (yes, that’s frightening at first).

You need to account for this when pricing your services. It’s not enough to just calculate the hourly rate you had at a day job. You’ll need a few times more to cover all other expenses.

4. Learn To Price Your Services

Now you know that you’re a business, even if you’re currently the only person working in it.

The main goal of any business is to make a profit. So the next important thing is to embrace it and stop underselling yourself (it might be easier when you see your first tax bill).

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A few tips here:

  • Don’t work for free.
  • Use project-based pricing over hourly billing.
  • Constantly improve and up your prices accordingly.

5. Learn How To Sell

When I started, I heard people saying “you’re not in the business if you can’t sell.” It would make me cringe every time.

I did not want to sell; in fact, I was afraid to do it.

Also, there’s a common misconception that if you’re good at your craft (in SEO in our case), you’ll automatically have many clients lining up to work with you.

That’s not true. In reality, selling and SEO are completely different skills. And you need them both to succeed.

Everything changed for me when I accepted this truth. I started learning to sell.

I’m not talking about door-to-door sales or sending annoying messages to your contacts on LinkedIn. It’s much more subtle.

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Whenever you jump on a call with a potential customer, you’re selling.

Even when you’re just talking or sharing your past wins, you’re selling.

You’re selling ideas, results, yourself as a professional, your agency. Any conversation with a prospect is a sale.

The sooner you understand it, the better.

See also: How SEO Professionals & Agencies Win New Business [Survey Results]

6. Create Processes And Systems

I hear so many people saying that they still don’t have a clear path they follow for an SEO audit or similar repeatable tasks.

It’s okay if you don’t have processes or systems right now. But it’s time to start building them.

Creating processes will help make your freelancing business more efficient and improve margins. Processes are also valuable for the delegation at later stages if you decide to hire someone else to help you.

You don’t need to create anything fancy. A process can start in the form of a simple checklist that you can expand over time.

Screenshot by author, November 2021

7. Build Assets

When I started my freelancing business, I simultaneously started building a course.

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While I would not recommend everyone doing something big like that (as it’s exhausting), it’s still valuable to start building some kind of assets (for example, an ebook or a paid membership).

I truly believe that selling products in addition to services makes you a much better SEO as you learn a lot of marketing skills.

You start seeing audience research differently, learn copywriting, and understand your SEO clients much better.

Moreover, assets bring you passive income and they also keep you busy when there’s not a lot of client work. They can also grow into something bigger in the future – who knows?

8. Set Yourself Up For A Long Journey

Starting a freelancing journey is not easy. You’ll need to figure out many things quickly. It can also be lonely.

All this can lead to constant overworking and issues with mental health.

In fact, according to this poll I did on Twitter, work/life balance is one of the 3 hardest things in freelancing:

Cons of freelancing in SEOScreenshot by author, November 2021

So it’s better to take care of yourself and your work/life balance before it’s too hard to remember who you are in life outside of your business.

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Here are some tips:

  • Have a support group who would cheer you up (your spouse, friends, fellow freelancers).
  • Have a hobby that is not connected to your work (and ideally doesn’t involve a computer, too).
  • Schedule your leisure time.
  • Set clear boundaries with yourself; don’t work 12 hours a day in your pyjamas.

All these small things will ensure you’re running a marathon, not a sprint (yes, it’s an allusion to SEO).

9. Know Your ‘Laws’ And Stick To Them

You can’t work on every type of SEO project out there. You can’t work with all types of clients who come to you.

Trying to help everyone will only burn you out.

Instead, you need to have clarity on what you do (your strengths), how you help (your services), and who you help (types of clients you work with).

A reminder to SEO freelancers.Screenshot by author, November 2021

You will find it hard to say ‘no’ to potential projects at first. But it will pay off in the long run.

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10. Help People Throughout The Way

You’re valuable. No matter where you are in your freelancing journey, you can help someone who is a few steps behind you in something.

You can help in any way that suits you: writing a blog post, tweeting your tip, answering someone’s question in a Slack group, etc.

Just know that your experience matters and one day (very soon) you’ll be the one helping someone who’s just starting.

Final Bricks

Life is too short to stay at a job you don’t like or work on projects you don’t enjoy.

When you open a freelancing journey for yourself, you’ll have no limits.

I believe in you.

2021 SEJ Christmas Countdown:

Featured image: Shutterstock/Harbucks





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How To Safely Try New Strategies

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How To Safely Try New Strategies


Are you comfortable taking risks with your small business?

Do you enjoy the comfort of your existing, reliable campaigns?

Or would you like to experience the thrill of successfully implementing a new marketing channel?

While there is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, regardless of the size or scope of your small business, we’re happy to share some good news.

Taking risks doesn’t have to be scary.

Especially if we look at how other SMBs craft their marketing plans and use those plans as a guidepost.

Exploring tested, successful marketing strategies for small businesses is a safe path to expanding into uncharted territory.

Register now to learn how you can easily measure the actionable results of trying new marketing strategies.

You’ll learn:

  • Where SMB marketers are taking chances and reaping the rewards.
  • How SMBs decide where to be bold and where to play it safe.
  • How to calculate marketing risks.

65% of SMBs who didn’t test a new channel in the past year worry that their company will lose business to competitors because they don’t have an effective marketing strategy.

Learn how to overcome this hurdle.

Join Amelia Northrup-Simpson, Marketing Manager at CallRail, for a webinar on July 13, 2 p.m. ET.

Simpson will show tested strategies that align with your small business to help you maximize marketing ROI.

Can’t attend the webinar? There will be a recording available afterward when you register today.





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Google Explains How To Inject Canonical Tags Using JavaScript

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Google Explains How To Inject Canonical Tags Using JavaScript


Google has updated its JavaScript SEO help document to add a new section on how to properly inject canonical link tags using JavaScript. The document says Google does not recommend using JavaScript for this, however “it is possible to inject a rel=canonical link tag with JavaScript.”

The help document adds that “Google Search will pick up the injected canonical URL when rendering the page.”

A note Google made is that “when using JavaScript to inject the rel=”canonical” link tag, make sure that this is the only rel=”canonical” link tag on the page. Incorrect implementations might create multiple rel=”canonical” link tag or change an existing rel=”canonical” link tag. Conflicting or multiple rel=”canonical” link tags may lead to unexpected results.”

Here is a code example of how to do this:

Previously, as Google is doing now, Google warned against doing it this way but did say it can work.

Forum discussion at Twitter.





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Inflation’s Impact On Ad Spend Detailed In Merkle Report

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Inflation’s Impact On Ad Spend Detailed In Merkle Report


The leading technology and data-driven customer experience company, Merkle, released its quarterly Performance Media Report last week.

Research from the past quarter shows valuable insights into marketers’ priorities, challenges, and performance.

With over 57% of respondents indicating an increase in paid search spend YoY, these findings are especially crucial as we face economic challenges and uncertainty.

I sat down with Matt Mierzejewski, SVP of Search at Merkle, where he provided his take on some of the most glaring stats from the Performance Report.

Prioritizing Privacy And Measurement

From the Merkle report, 45% of respondents stated that getting accurate reporting in the face of privacy regulations is a top priority in measurement.

Many companies are likely in the same boat but may not know where to start.

Mierzejewski states: “Brands are big on cross-device measurement. Apple disrupted the measurement game. Many companies are looking to build their data warehouses for multiple reasons:”

  • Too much reliance on individual platforms. The more conversions are modeled in a platform, the less perfect a company’s individual measurement is.
  • They’re tired of black box solutions. Brands want to be able to own or change the way they model conversions.

Mierzejewski also noted that with more brands looking to build their own reporting solutions, it changes the dependency from the platform conversion truth to their own conversion truth.

Prioritizing Audiences & First-Party Data

Looming privacy regulations have kickstarted the need for brands to create and manage their first-party data.

However, only 35% of respondents prioritize managing audiences and first-party data.

I asked Mierzejewski: “what do you see as the macro implications of so many companies waiting on this?”

He responded with a few points:

“From a digital perspective, they’re shifting towards getting their creative and messaging right.” If you’ve interacted with a brand, you’ll notice how consumer expectations have shifted.

“An implication of deprioritizing audiences and first-party data is poor customer experience.” Not prioritizing these crucial aspects of marketing will accelerate the deceleration, or further remove, the customer feeling connected to that brand.

“You have to use those unknown audience signals to your advantage to meet the expectations of consumers and beat out the competition.” For example, In-Market audiences from Google releases more signal and intent of propensity to buy. They’re allowing those signals to be in the open market.

Mierzejewski summarized: “It misses out on the opportunity for the best customers. You’ll be left competing for the worst customers!”

Paid Social Growth In 2023

An overwhelming 67% of respondents prioritized paid social more this year than 2021.

The growing number of social platforms with ad opportunities is a partial factor in increased prioritization.

When asked about what social platform would see the most growth in 2023?

“If we’re talking raw dollars, Facebook and Instagram will still win,” Mierzejewski stated.

Further, he notes: “If we’re looking at percentage growth and who to watch for, it’s TikTok.” Matt shed some light on user projections, with TikTok’s growth projected to surpass Snapchat next year.

Inflation Is Driving Faster Adoption Of Machine Learning

With inflation costs, adopting automation and machine learning may be put on the backburner.

Not according to the Merkle Performance Report.

  • 41% of respondents are beginning to take action on automation and machine learning strategies
  • 38% of respondents have made significant progress in their ML strategies

So, why is inflation driving faster automation adoption?

“Inflation is just one element. It goes hand-in-hand with the last few years. COVID accelerated Ecommerce and the digital world for many companies,” Mierzejewski noted. He went on to say:

“There’s greater scrutiny on the investments in companies. They are trying to beat the market and the competition. There’s pressure for leaders to be tied into the data and marketing measurement.”

Let’s not forget one of the most critical aspects: resources.

Mierzejewski finished by noting that if companies are having trouble hiring individuals, they’re trying to do more with less. They have to rely on automation to supplement the workload.

Inflation’s Impact On Advertiser Strategies

We’ve seen the stats on increased advertiser costs YoY.

We have a better understanding of what marketers are prioritizing in the future.

Amid economic factors that companies can’t control, advertisers might not know how or where to pivot their strategy. When posed with this question, Mierzejewski provided his expert opinions.

“Expect double-digit changes to ad spend.”

Whether the above statement refers to an increase or decrease in ad spend, this change is based on a mixed bag of strategy, cash flow, inventory positions, and the vertical.

“The economic pressure reminds me of 2008 – the downturn of the digital sphere. Some clients will pull back on ad spend. Others may take the opportunity on the downturn and have double-digit growth,” Matt commented.

CPCs will likely decline.

In these types of environments, CPCs are likely to go down. This could allow advertisers to shuffle dollars based on what will work hardest for them.

Matt notes, “If you can be bold, it’s the time to do it.” The decreased CPCs become a buying opportunity for advertisers with the financial capacity to spend more.

“Don’t over-pat yourself on the back.”

Mierzejewski emphasized, “Be careful on the data.” He explained that with inflation and rising costs, you may also see a natural rise in revenue.

For example, if you’re seeing a 10% lift in sales but spent 15% more in advertising or COGS, that can provide a false narrative in growth. The 10% increase in revenue may be attributed to inflation costs and, in this case, shows a decline in profitability.

Summary

The Q3 Performance Marketing Report provides invaluable data to unpack.

If you haven’t yet taken action on privacy regulations, you’re not the only one.

And while inflation, privacy, and other economic impacts can cause shifts in performance trends, they’re not the only factors.

The paid media landscape changes every day. Use this to understand how others in the space are shifting priorities and strategies and what this means for you.

You can download your copy of the Performance Marketing Report here.

A special thank you to Matt Mierzejewski, SVP of Search at Merkle, for taking the time to address these statistics and providing additional insights.


Featured Image: PopTika/Shutterstock





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