The role of freelance copywriter has always been tough, and with the economy in the doldrums, it’s triply so. Budgets are being squeezed so businesses are looking to cut back on their costs - such as hiring freelance copywriters.
Competition is merciless. In such a world, being able to stand out is really important, and luckily that’s what Wordtracker’s Keywords tool helps you do. Leaving you free to do what you do best. Write.
Most freelance copywriters, and people generally, would rather that work came to them via word-of-mouth. But with the bills mounting up, it’s not always possible to rely on that. Almost certainly, you’ll have to approach companies proactively and pitch.
But this approach is beset with problems.
a) Hard pressed businesses think that because they can speak a language they can also write it, so why pay someone else? In the current climate, businesses need to watch their costs. And most are pulling the purse strings tight.
b) You don’t know who wrote the existing copy (that you want to change). It might be the person you’re speaking to.
c) You’re probably not the only copywriter who has pitched to that company. They’ve probably already heard what you’re telling them. You’re not standing out (but you should).
All these things are tough. But we can help with each and every one. Just follow these steps.
1) Pick your target
Most of you will have a target in mind that you want to work for. And that’s great. It’ll mean you’re passionate about the work and you’ll do a better job. But if that’s not you, or if, shock horror, your dream company doesn’t want to hire you, you need to spread the net a little wider. Have 10 companies in mind, and pitch to them, one by one.
If you already know the 10, skip to the next step.
If not, think of an industry you’ve worked in and run a search on a relevant keyword. So if you worked in fashion, you might search Calvin Klein glasses. Look for a company towards the bottom of the first page of the results.
These results are a good bet because they’re already doing something right (otherwise they wouldn’t rank on the first page), but there’s probably room for improvement. They may well have some unoptimized elements, like no alt tags on the images, or no keywords in the title, that kind of thing. By improving those (which we’ll come to) and writing better copy, you could probably improve the rankings which will improve traffic (SEOMoz did some research - the higher you are on the first page, the more clicks you get.) More clicks of course, means more dollars. And everyone likes those.
Target the sites at the bottom of the first page and you stand the best chance of boosting your clients' profits, which makes your work superbly valuable. So if I was doing this for Calvin Klein glasses, I‘d choose Lensway.co.uk
Why? Because it’s at the bottom of the first page, so any increase in rankings will dramatically improve traffic. And I can see some obvious optimization to work on (more on that later). So yes, I‘ve gone for LensWay.co.uk. How about you?
Now, whatever your site is, critique it.
2) Run a Site Audit
To help our critique, we’re going to run a site audit of our soon-to-be client. Luckily, we have a subscription to Wordtracker. (PS, you should get one of those.)
Open up Wordtracker’s Keywords tool and you can create an SEO site audit It’s really easy, so we’ll do this now.
Click ‘New Campaign’ and input the details of your prospect’s website (so in this case, www.lensway.co.uk).
Now, just click the + button in the site audit section ....
... and to keep everything manageable, you can input a memorable name (like ‘pitch’) or the section of the site you want to crawl if it’s huge.
Now, click the ‘Create Site Audit’ at the bottom and the work is done, the audit will run by itself. If the site’s a big one, it might take a few hours so go for a walk, grab a coffee, or maybe just get on with some other work.
When you get back, you’ll see something like this:
Because you can’t read it, I‘ve enlarged the tabs:
The sections that I’ve put a red box around are, frankly, the areas of the site that could use better copy. That you’re going to write.
For those who are less clued up about SEO, here’s an explanation of what page titles, descriptions, heading and images actually mean but briefly, if these things are written so that they include relevant keywords (ie, words that you’re trying to rank for) you’ll probably improve your ranking.
Page descriptions (also called ‘meta descriptions’) are a little different, they don’t affect your ranking, but they do get people to click on your site when they see it in a search engine result. Page descriptions are just like ad copy actually, so use them to sell the site and introduce a sales or marketing message that you can carry throughout the site. That way, the user gets a unified message and is also more likely to convert. And you thought SEO was all about ranking. Pah!
What you’re now looking at is a work plan, a list of problems that you can solve.
Export the data (top right hand corner) and save it. You’ll be needing it shortly.
3) Get nasty (but in a nice way)
Even if you’re not that confident at SEO, look at the exported data. What you’ll see is a list of all the SEO problems that the site is experiencing ie, all the things that are preventing it from ranking higher. The tool groups all the problems together by type (eg, all the pages with poorly optimized page titles are on the same tab).
Pick a few key pages, such as the home page and a few product category pages. As a general rule, the fewer slashes (/) there are in the web address, the more important the page is, so pick your key pages and list all the problems the tool flags up with that page.
Now, run a search for those pages and see what comes up. To get the home page for Lensway, I would run a search on their brand name (to get the home page title tag and page description). Then I’d do this:
What you’re looking for are examples of badly optimized text. So here, they use the term 'eyeglasses' which isn’t a very popular term because most people in the UK just call them glasses.
Meta (or page) descriptions (that’s the black text in the search result) should be punchy, with relevant calls to action - something that encourages you to click the link. Also they should be around 160 characters, otherwise Google truncates them (that’s what the ... at the end means).
The navigation links on the site (what you can see in the red blocks) are not keyword rich, but they should be. (So instead of 'frames for men', say ‘men’s frames’, instead of ‘eyewear’ say ‘glasses’.) It’s all about matching the words on your site with the words people naturally use.
Some of the time this is intuitive, but not always. Do a little keyword research. To make everything clear, here’s some keyword data for the UK so you can see I‘m not lying.
Armed with robust data, I’d then open up the home page and do something visually offensive like this:
This took me all of three minutes. What did I do? I looked at the text on the page and looked for keywords. This site has very few. There should be more copy, talking about glasses. (Optical products? Who has ever said "I’ve got bad eyesight, I need some optical products!") Maybe something like:
“We have the UK’s largest selection of glasses, contact lenses and men's and women’s frames. Click on a link below and find the product that’s right for you.”
Then they should make sure their links are keywords - so instead of shop glasses I‘d say buy glasses and instead of daily, weekly and colour, I‘d say daily contact lenses, weekly contact lenses and colour contact lenses. Because that’s what people would search for. (Colour contacts, by the way, are what British people call color contacts.)
Do this, as thoroughly as you feel comfortable, to about three to five pages. You don’t have to show this to your future client, but it will help to crystallize in your mind what the problems are with the site. And, by extension, how you can solve them.
4) Now, get ready, you’re about to pitch
Hopefully now you’ll be crystal clear about the problems with your soon-to-be-client site and how you can solve them. You just need to convince the client now.
The best way to do this is to make it absolutely clear that you understand the needs of their business and that you are the best person to help them. But to do that, you need to actually understand their business. And to do that, you ask questions.
Talk to them about their problems (their business problems, I should say), and get an insight into what they think their challenges are. Take all of it on board, and incorporate it into the solution you can provide. The more you can link your work to their business objectives, the more receptive they’ll be.
5) Present the problem
Some businesses are all too aware of their problems. Others aren’t. Depending on what sort of responses you get, it’ll always good to spell them out yourself. It will confirm your client’s worst nightmares. Or it will challenge their rose-tinted view of their business. Either way, remember this isn’t personal, you can now do this objectively because you had the site audited by independent SEO experts (that’s us, for the record). You can present the report as factual, which makes it much harder to object to.
How you go about the process of critiquing the site is up to you, but a good general rule is to lead with an easy-to-swallow example, like the key pages you looked at earlier. Then you can use the excel spreadsheet to hit the point home. "And these are just the pages I picked. Look at all this!" you’ll say, as you unveil a whole list of problems, with theatrical aplomb.
6) Dig a little deeper
Depending on you, and how the pitch is going, you might want to dig a little deeper into the site’s performance (which you can present as a problem needing to be solved).
A great way of doing this, while ladling on some extra fear factor, is to check their rankings (in the Ranking Reports section of the tool. Go back to the main page and click the + on ‘Ranking Reports’.
... then add a few keywords.
This will then churn out some rankings that you can use for added drama.
So you say, "Look at where you rank then look at your competitors". If the competitors are out-ranking your soon-to-be client, the competitors will be getting more search engine traffic and therefore more sales. That’s not something any business wants to hear. But by performing these optimizations, you’re making it easier for your client to improve their rank, thereby getting more search engine traffic. Again, you’ll be presenting a problem (that their competitors are getting more traffic than them) and presenting yourself as a solution. Which is a brilliant segue into the next section.
7) Offer a solution
You’ve demonstrated that they have a problem, that for whatever reason they’ve not addressed, but now you can solve it. Suggest some deadlines and start small. You can pick five pages and say "I’ll write fabulous SEO-friendly copy, including all the alt tags, page titles and all the SEO stuff for the end of the week, then I’ll do the next five and so on”.
If they start quibbling about price, spend a little time in the Quick Research tab, and find the keywords that are going to give you the best bang for your buck. Obviously, you can’t go crazy with this, a site that sells glasses will have to be optimized for keywords that are synonymous with glasses. But you’d be amazed how different keywords can deliver different results. Use the tool to show the relative levels of search volume and competition and prove the value of what you’re about to do. They’ll think you’re magic.
Then you can go further and throw in clickthrough and conversion rates so you can demonstrate how much actual money your client is likely to make. Remember, an improved page description will help both clickthrough rate (because you’ll write an awesome call to action) and the conversion rate (because you’re introducing an marketing message that’s consistent throughout) so the uplift could be quite significant. If you don’t know what these numbers are, just ask them. Just say "What’s your approximate clickthrough and conversion rates?" If they don’t know, or don’t want to tell you, assume a conversion rate of 4% (it’s achievable on most sites). For clickthrough rates, check this research from SEOMoz Basically, the higher the rank, the higher the number of clicks.
A word on numbers
Before we start putting values next to our work, I need to clarify a few things.
No keyword data is 100% accurate, because the data is only ever a sample. You can choose between Wordtracker’s data (which is roughly 1% of US searches), or Google (who don’t disclose how big their sample is). Whichever data you choose, keep in mind that the numbers we’ll see are guesstimates, not hard and fast. In this case I'm going to use Google’s data because your potential client is more likely to be familiar with those figures. If you’re doing this for your own site, I recommend using Wordtracker's Keywords tool. It groups the terms into keyword niches which gives you more accuracy, and pays my salary.
What I‘m about to do is walk you through one example with one keyword, but of course, if you’re working on a whole site, there could be many more keywords you could target. And remember great copy is worth paying for even if it doesn’t improve ranking. It helps people convert and it improves the brand’s reputation. What I‘m about to show you is how you can put a value on the SEO side of what you’re doing. It’s not the total value of your work. You know how good you are far better than I do. #Solidarity
The basic math to do is this. (I’m going to use Lensway as a real-life example.)
Take the search volume for your term. For calvin klein glasses, that’s 500 a month.
Next look at your clickthrough rate to find the number of those searchers who then arrive at your site. I‘m taking 10% as the rank is in tenth position.
Next, you’ll need your conversion rate, the number of people who arrive on your site who then go on to buy something. Here it’s 4%.
So we now multiply everything together (500 x 10% x 4%) and we get 2. So every month, there are 2 sales from organic search.
But with the work will be doing, we’ll see some improvements.
A 15% improvement in the clickthrough rate will give us a new rate of 11.5%.
A 5% increase in conversion takes the new rate up to 4.2%
Now when we multiply all these numbers together, we get 2.42 sales a month. So we’ve increased the number of sales by 0.42 a month.
That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but consider that the site sells Calvin Klein frames for around £120 ($186), that’s an extra $78 a month. Or $936 a year. A thousand bucks from one page, that’s a pretty good going. Do this for a couple more pages, and the client will love you.
You’ve now got the tools to break down all the necessary work, and put a value next to it, with a clear goal (whatever your client’s priorities) in mind. That’s hugely comforting for hard-pressed businesses. And you don’t even need to tell them you had our help.
Will this approach work more effectively than what you’re doing currently? Let’s think about it. Go back to the problems I listed at the beginning:
a) Hard pressed businesses think that because they can speak their language they can also write it, so why pay someone else to write the copy in these straightened times?
But if you do these optimizations, you’ll probably bring more traffic to the site. And assuming you’re a half-decent copywriter, you’ll also improve conversion. More traffic plus higher conversions equals lots more revenue. You’re an awesome investment. Businesses can’t afford not to hire you.
b) You don’t know who wrote the existing copy (that you want to change). It might be the person you’re speaking to.
Yes, they might have done the copy, but they sure as sh…ugar haven’t done any optimization (or if they have, they’ve not done a good job). Now you can objectively say, "Look, these areas need work, so why don’t I look at these pages holistically (ie, do the copy too) and see what kind of return I can get?”
c) You’re probably not the only copywriter who has pitched to that company. You need to stand out.
With Wordtracker’s help, you’ll stick out so much people’s eyes will hurt. You can kill the competition, and make it look like an accident.
Wait, what? Sorry, mind wandered. No, with our tools you can slaughter them. METAPHORICALLY. You can win more business and make yourself look awesome.
Take a free 7-day trial of Wordtracker’s Site Audit tool
If you want to win more business, you can try Wordtracker free for 7 days
Wordtracker instantly identifies a potential client’s site’s SEO problems. It gives easy-to-follow recommendations for making SEO improvements. You’ll:
- Benefit from easy set up. Just type in the client’s website address, we do the rest.
- Save time. Get a thorough and instant SEO site report, ideal for your next pitch.
- Get up to 15 site audits per month. Ideal when you’re speaking with a number of potential clients