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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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Google Shopping Ads With Shaded Backgrounds For Some Results

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Google Shopping Ads With Shaded Backgrounds For Some Results


Google is using a gray shaded background color for some of the results within the Google Shopping Ads carousel. I was able to replicate this, where for some images, Google thinks a light gray background works better than a white background. This is not tiled, where every other result is shaded, it is based on some other algorithm, maybe the color of the photo of the product?

Here is a screenshot of this:

Saad AK shared videos of this on Twitter:

I am not sure if this is new or not but maybe it is?

Forum discussion at Twitter.





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W3C Announces Major Change

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W3C Announces Major Change


The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body in charge of web standards such as HTML and browser privacy, announced a significant change in how it will operate. Beginning on January 2023, the W3C will become a new public-interest non-profit organization.

Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C)

While many turn to Google to understand how to use HTML elements like titles, meta descriptions, and headings, the W3C created the actual specifications for how to use them.

The W3C is vital for the future of the entire web because it is developing privacy standards with stakeholders from around the world and the technology sector.

Stakeholders such as Google, Brave browser, Microsoft and others are involved in developing new standards for how browsers will handle privacy.

However, there are others with a stake in tracking users across the web via third-party trackers, who also belong to the W3C, who are trying to influence what those new privacy standards will be.

A news report (A privacy war is raging inside the W3C) on the internal W3C struggle for what the future of web privacy will resemble quoted the director of privacy for anti-tracker browser Brave stating that some members of the W3C who are contributing to the discussion are trying to water down privacy standards.

Pete Snyder, Director of Privacy at Brave, said:

“They use cynical terms like: ‘We’re here to protect user choice’ or ‘We’re here to protect the open web’ …They’re there to slow down privacy protections that the browsers are creating.”

What happens to the W3C and how it evolves is important because this is the future of how the web works, including what the future of the privacy standards will be.

The W3C was founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s inventor. The mission of the W3C is to guide the creation of open protocols and guidelines that would encourage the continued growth of the Internet, including web privacy standards.

It is currently a “hosted model,” an international standards-making body hosted in the USA, France, China and Japan.

The decision was made to transition this model to a non-profit that could more rapidly respond to the fast-changing pace of innovation on the web.

The statement notes that the original “hosted model” hindered rapid development.

According to the official announcement:

“We need a structure where we meet at a faster pace the demands of new web capabilities and address the urgent problems of the web.

The W3C Team is small, bounded in size, and the Hosted model hinders rapid development and acquisition of skills in new fields.

We need to put governance at the center of the new organization to achieve clearer reporting, accountability, greater diversity and strategic direction, better global coordination.

A Board of Directors will be elected with W3C Member majority.

It will include seats that reflect the multi-stakeholder goals of the Web Consortium.

We anticipate to continue joint work with today’s Hosts in a mutually beneficial partnership.”

Transition to a New Legal Entity

Although the W3C is transitioning to a new structure, the announcement sought to assure the public that current decision-making processes will remain the same.

They stated:

“The proven standards development process must and will be preserved.”

While they state that the development and decision-making processes will remain the same, the reason for transitioning to a non-profit organization is to enable the W3C to “grow” beyond the original structure since its founding in 1994 for developing web standards for the early web and to “mature” in order to meet the needs of the future better.

The reason for the change was explained in the context of evolution and growth:

“As W3C was created to address the needs of the early web, our evolution to a public-interest non-profit is not just to continue our community effort, but to mature and grow to meet the needs of the web of the future.”

“Grow” means to change, and “mature” means to reach the next stage of change. It’s awkward to reconcile the concepts of change and maturation with the idea of remaining precisely the same.

How can the W3C expect to grow and change to meet future challenges while simultaneously remaining the same?

The W3C claims that the decision-making processes will remain exactly the same:

“Our standards work will still be accomplished in the open, under the W3C Process Document and royalty-free W3C Patent Policy, with input from the broader community. Decisions will still be taken by consensus. Technical direction and Recommendations will continue to require review by W3C Members – large and small.”

While the announcement downplays the changes as just being a change to the “shell” around the W3C, it also states how it operates will evolve and grow.

Fortunately, as long as the W3C conducts all of its business in the open, and nothing is decided except by consensus by all the stakeholders, transparency should help guarantee fairness in the decisions made, regardless of how much the W3C changes (while remaining the same).


Citation

Read the Official W3C Announcement

W3C to become a public-interest non-profit organization

Image by Shutterstock/SvetaZi





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Daily Search Forum Recap: June 29, 2022

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Google said they communicate more often about algorithmic updates, not less. Google is testing snippets that expand to show more local intent information. Google product grid results are organic, not ads. Google is testing shaded background colors for shopping ads. Would you hire an SEO who doesn’t know the difference between crawling, indexing, rendering or ranking?

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:

  • Google: We Are Communicating About More Algorithm Updates

    Another point from the Google NYC SEO Meetup the other night was that Danny Sullivan at Google said Google has been more active about communicating about algorithm updates now than ever before. Danny said Google communicates more often about algorithm updates, which is why it feels that there are so many more updates now than previously.
  • Google Tests Expandable Local Related Carousels Within Snippets

    Google is testing a search result snippet that shows a expandable drop down menus under the snippet that contains weather, hotels, restaurants, visual stories, events and more. When you click on these expandable menus, you get carousels of search results for those types of search features.

  • Should All SEOs Know The Difference Between Crawling, Indexing, Rendering & Rankings?

    At the Google NYC SEO Meetup Lily Ray mentioned that when it comes to interviewing new employees for the Amsive Digital SEO team, she asks a question you must get right or you are immediate dismissed. The question is, what is the difference between crawling, indexing, rendering and rankings.

  • Google Product Grid Results Are Organic & Are Huge

    We’ve been seeing a lot of grid-like formats with products and shopping results. We know some are ads and some are organic. John Mueller of Google just added official Google representative confirmation that many of these are organic – if you don’t trust that there is no ad label on them as evidence enough.

  • Google Shopping Ads Carousel With Shaded Backgrounds

    Google is using a gray shaded background color for some of the results within the Google Shopping Ads carousel. I was able to replicate this, where for some images, Google thinks a light gray background works better than a white background. This is not tiled, where every other result is shaded, it is based on some other algorithm, maybe the color of the photo of the product?

  • GooglePlex Outdoor Play & Games

    Here is a photo from a spot at the GooglePlex where Google has set up a nice and comfortable outdoor play area with outdoor games. This was shared on Instagram who posted “fun times at work.”

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Search Features

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, you can follow us on Facebook and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.





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