Finding new clients as a freelancer takes effort. And it’s especially difficult when you’re new and don’t have an established list of clients. Many freelancers spend hours every day hammering out proposals on a freelancing platform, knowing that many won’t be accepted.
With the ability to bid on projects anywhere in the world, it’s easy to ignore job opportunities right in our own backyard. But before freelancing platforms even existed, most people did business locally.
In this article we’ll look at how to use local SEO to get sales leads from businesses near where you live.
What’s Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your website for local business. Imagine you move to Springfield and don’t have a doctor yet. If you get sick you might search on Google for “doctors office near me” or “medical clinic in Springfield.” Google knows from those queries that you are looking for something nearby. But guess what?! If you just search for “medical clinic” Google will still show you mostly local results.
Your business isn’t ‘brick and mortar’ like a doctors office or hair salon, but you can still get lots of local traffic by doing the exact same things that local businesses do.
But why bother?
Yeah, but isn’t it easier to get business from the platforms?
Freelancing platforms are great, but they aren’t without potential problems. You are usually bidding against multiple people for the same job. And many of them work in countries with lower overheads, which can push down costs. You also run the risk of the platform changing its terms and conditions on short notice. The best solution to mitigate these risks is to put your eggs in different baskets. You can use freelancing platforms while working on getting local clients.
Having local clients means far less competition and limited downward pressure on pricing.
Here’s what it looks like when you are in the “local 3 pack” for your service.
Nice, right! Getting in the local 3 pack doesn’t take a lot of work. Below are some steps to take.
Select Your Keyword and Location
The first thing to do is decide what you’d like to be known for. Some freelancers offer a variety of solutions. But you’re better off choosing just one. This keeps your website focused, and makes it easy for Google (and humans) to understand what your site is about.
Think about how people search for your solution. If they are looking for a local service, they’ll probably add a location modifier to their search.
The most common form of search will often yield the best opportunities. Using a bookkeeping example, which of these keywords has the most search volume?
- bookkeeping Miami
- bookkeeping services Miami
- bookkeeping agency Miami
- bookkeeping company Miami
- bookkeeping solutions Miami
If you aren’t sure which word works best, use a keyword tool and do some research. You want keywords that have good search volume, but aren’t too competitive.
In the above example, “bookkeeping Miami” and “bookkeeping services Miami” have decent search volume and aren’t very competitive.
Finally, change your website’s title to reflect your keyword. You can add your main keyword phrase into your site content and use it in your H1 tag.
Name – Address – Phone Number (NAP)
Take a look at how your NAP is listed on your website. Is it consistent everywhere? Sometimes small details like “Ltd” or brackets in the phone number “(123) 555-6789” can confuse search engines. So make SURE you use your contact information the exact same as on your website when you register on other sites, like Google My Business.
Put your NAP on the footer of your website. This will ensure it’s the same on every page. And you can associate the content on that page with your location.
Register for Google My Business
When you register for Google My Business then you’ll be on the map (literally – Google maps). And you’ll have a good chance of being shown in the “local 3 pack.” Which is a great way to get discovered by clients.
Given that Google My Business is free, it’s a wonder that more businesses don’t use it. But sadly, many companies don’t make the effort. Depending on the size of your town or city you may find you’re the only company in your niche to claim a Google My Business listing.
When you set up your listing Google will want to verify that you do business at the address you listed. There are a couple of ways to verify your address, but the easiest is for Google to mail you a PIN number to your physical location. When it arrives you can input it into your Google My Business profile to confirm your location.
Register in Local Directories
Take an hour to register in some online directories. When you sign up, make sure you use the EXACT same contact details as on your website.
You don’t need to sign up for a huge number of directories. Four to six will establish your online presence. Try to focus on directories that are specific to your niche, or directories related to your geography. For example, a listing in the local chamber of commerce for your niche works very well.
Some larger directories to consider include:
Ask your clients if they think you’ve delivered ‘5 star’ results. If they do, ask them to give you a local review on Google My Business.
Google gives a lot of weight to reviews. It’s not a coincidence that the companies in the local 3 pack are often ones with the most positive reviews.
If you haven’t got a lot of local competition in your area then just a couple of strong reviews can give you a huge boost.
Reviews are so powerful that some sales people in physical stores ask customers to pull out their phones and provide a star rating before they’ll let them leave!
Get Some Backlinks
The final thing to do is get some high quality backlinks to your website. It’s not easy, but that’s ok. If you have to work hard to get a few backlinks, then your competitors do, too. And you can out work them, right?
There are TONS of ways to get backlinks, but the simplest way is to offer to write an article for established websites in your niche. In the article include a link to an article on your own website. And now you have a backlink to your website!
Backlinks are the way Google will know you are important in your industry and worth ranking during searches.
The local SEO steps listed above cost nothing and take little to no effort. That’s what makes them so powerful. For a very small time investment you can find yourself consistently at the top of Google for your niche.
And just as importantly, you’ll eventually establish yourself as a leader in your niche in your community. When you do that, other local opportunities will begin to open up to you, too.