If you’re a freelance writer in Edinburgh, stop reading now. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT FOR YOU. *hisses*
Okay, now let’s talk about how I got my freelance writing website, EdinburghCopywriter.com, to rank number one on Google, almost immediately bringing me a big case-study job for a lovely new client down the road from me, a half-day’s work for an agency in the city, AND a surprise request from an editor at the fricking Guardian. The national newspaper. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
The first thing to clear up is that I am not ranking number one on Google for ‘freelance writer’. Going after that keyword would be madness. MADNESS, I tell you. Instead, I’m ranking for these (and similar) terms, which was my intention:
- edinburgh copywriter
- edinburgh copywriter freelance
- freelance copywriter edinburgh
- edinburgh freelance copywriter
- … you get the picture, right?
If you want a freelance copywriter in Edinburgh, I’m who pops up first. I’m also the first freelance copywriter who pops up for the term ‘freelance writer edinburgh’, although there are a couple of indeed.co.uk results that spring up above me. But given those links are for copywriters looking for work, and therefore not my competition, I’ll call it a win.
My goal was to get on the radars of agencies in the city, as well as any other organisations in Edinburgh that needed to hire a writer. And it appears to have worked. I’m not awash with new enquiries – there is not an army of people seeking Edinburgh copywriters day in, day out – but I am getting enough enquiries. And so far 75% of them have turned into paying work. I also think the impact will be exponential as I become known and gather more contacts in the city
For context: I bought EdinburghCopywriter.com in October 2017, actually added content to it in late November, started ranking on page one (at position six or seven) a couple of weeks after that, and was ranking number one by mid-January.
Now I’m going to share the three things I did to accomplish this. Since Google is a secretive bastard, technically this is all speculation. But I’m pretty sure I am correct, which is my default position on everything.
1. I bought the right domain name
Since giving up the digital-nomad life last year and choosing to settle in Edinburgh, I knew I wanted to start working with more local clients. I wanted to talk to people IN PERSON, not just over email or Skype. You know, to have meetings where you shake hands and stuff.
Therefore, it made sense to target people looking for writers in Edinburgh. Not everyone wants to work with a local writer, but enough do that it’s a viable search term to try to rank for. After all, if you’re seeking a writer, what DO you base your search query on? Typing in ‘freelance writer’ is waaaay too vague. Perhaps if you specifically know what type of writing you want – sales page, website copy, etc. – you’ll type that in. (So now I’m sat here thinking, Huh, maybe I should have gone with WebsiteCopywriter.com instead. OH WELL. No, it’s fine, it’s fine. I just checked and it’s already taken.)
But otherwise, a lot of people will default to the local area. For one thing, you’re more likely to trust someone from the local area, since you immediately have a tangible connection with them. The knowledge that they could meet you in person within an hour is comforting, somehow. You’re a real person, not just some con artist on the internet.
This approach is obviously more useful if you live in a city, where there are lots of people and businesses. If you live some remote wilderness, there probably aren’t too many people around wanting to hire a writer, you know? If that’s you, consider a domain name based around the type of writing you do instead.
A side effect of the local-area approach is that you might get people asking you to write about the city. That’s what happened with me and The Guardian. They needed a journalist to get out on the streets and interview people for a piece about hidden gems of Edinburgh. Naturally, a local writer is going to be much more useful in this regard, in that they’ll know where to go to interview people, they’ll know the right questions to ask, and they’ll know how to find the places people mention. And their expenses will be lower, since they won’t need to be put up in a hotel. But I’m getting off track. I’ll write about my experiences with The Guardian another time.
Your domain name is a HUGE factor in Google recognising what you do and what your site is all about. (This is why Untamed Writing ranks well for so many writing-related terms, I reckon.) So if there’s a way for you to sneak a relevant search term into your domain name – whether it’s location- or specialism-based – I strongly recommend it. Because getting found on Google is the easiest way to score new work, especially if you’re new to this and haven’t networked enough for people to start sending referrals your way yet.
The domain-name approach means you don’t necessarily need a blog, either. A blog is another great way to rank well on Google, but it takes a lot longer – you’ve gotta build up a backlog – and requires constant upkeep. Having said that…
2. I linked back to it from Untamed Writing
As I said, Untamed Writing already ranks well on Google for various writing-related search terms. Which means Google sees it as a valuable and reliable source of information on writing, and specifically freelance writing. And, as people say, backlinks are the currency of the internet. Do people say that? I bet they do, because I feel like that’s not a phrase I would’ve invented myself.
Anyway, what this means is that if Google sees a relevant website it already considers valuable linking back to a new website, it will also begin to recognise the new website as a valuable one on the subject. Because good websites don’t link back to shitty ones. That’s what makes them good. Well, it’s not the core thing that makes them good but, you know, it helps.
This is a trickier thing to implement if you’re new to freelance writing and blogging, of course. If you don’t happen to have a relevant website with five years’ worth of blog posts to link to your new site from, what do you do? Well, you need to get those backlinks from somewhere else instead. And that’s where guest posting comes in. Find some blogs on the subject of writing or freelancing or something else relevant, see if they accept guest posts and, if they do, pitch them! I’ve written more about guest posting here.
3. I used the right anchor text in my backlinks
Anchor text is the text used in links. For example: the best freelance copywriter in Edinburgh. Here, ‘the best freelance copywriter in Edinburgh’ is the anchor text. And that matters.
If I linked back to my new freelance writing site with anchor text like, ‘Karen Marston is soooooo fabulous’, that’s probably not going to be particularly helpful. Unless there are a lot of people searching for that fabulous Karen Marston lass. Which I’d like to think there are, but, well. Even if there were, it still wouldn’t be helpful unless they were looking for me to write for them. Which… I mean, they probably would be since that’s what I do… but uhh… actually, they’d probably end up on Untamed Writing if they searched for that, now that I think on it, and that isn’t especially helpful. (CONFIRMED.)
So! The anchor text you use matters. When Google decides how to rank websites, it reads what’s on them. And that includes reading anchor text. ‘Oh, they’re linking to another website with the anchor text “best freelance copywriter EVAR”? That’s probably the website of a really good freelance copywriter. Better bump it up the old “best freelance copywriter” search results.’ (Yes, I am utilising this technique A LOT in this post. You don’t rank number one on Google by accident, people.)
That’s why on Untamed Writing’s about page, I open with this:
And on my home page, I include this:
4. I used the right words on the site itself
It’s not all about off-site trickery and backlinking. You also need to make sure you put the right words on the page itself. I did this before I even thought about linking back to the site from Untamed Writing – because if you link to a site with nothing on it, Google’s probably just going to be like, WTF?
I probably should’ve made this point number two of this article, since technically it is step two, but I forgot about it and now it’d ruin the whole flow, okay? We’re doing this here. A lot of people say you should research your keywords and stuff them into your text a certain amount of times, just to make sure Google knows absolutely certain what’s going on here and that you’re using the words that will make the biggest impact.
But I say fuck that. I have never done keyword research. I don’t even really know what it is, if I’m honest. All I’ve ever done is use my common sense and talk about things in a normal way. This results in copy that contains phrases people will search for. Just say what you mean to say, in the words you or anyone else would use to say it, and bam – you’ve done some SEO.
Still, you do need to make sure you actually include those words. That’s where your common sense comes in. If you’ve got a freelance writing website and you never mention the words ‘freelance writer’ on it, well, what are you playing at? I open my site with a jokey line about being ‘the best freelance copywriter in Edinburgh‘, because if someone searches for that, I want to appear. (But I can’t take that shit too seriously, so I turned it into a joke.)
If you haven’t snagged a domain name that’ll be particularly helpful for SEO, another thing you can do is use your desired search terms in your headlines and sub-headers. I haven’t done this on Edinburgh Copywriter, because I didn’t need to, but I do do it here on Untamed Writing, in my blog posts.
Final thing to bear in mind? Google is super smart. It KNOWS that kids and children are the same thing, for example. It knows that people looking for a freelance copywriting course are probably also going to be searching for the term ‘how do I become a freelance copywriter’. So don’t worry about using the ‘perfect’ phrasing. Google will know what you mean, so long as you don’t use a totally obscure word.
And that’s it, really. That’s my entire thought process for buying EdinburghCopywriter.com and attempting to get it to rank number one.