On-Page SEO Tutorial: How To Perfectly Optimize Your Website

On-Page SEO Tutorial: How To Perfectly Optimize Your Website

In this tutorial, I’ll show you the exact on-page SEO techniques you can use to outrank your competitors.

Although Google is getting smarter, you still need to optimize your pages if you want to show up as the most relevant result.

I have a few competitors in my niches who are not optimizing their site at all.

They have a much stronger link profile than me, and have amassed links for years before my site was even created. But my site is optimized much better, and I outrank them.

Want to learn how? Let’s dive in.

On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO – What’s The Difference?

On-page SEO refers to the optimization of your HTML source code and content to rank higher in search engines for your targeted keywords.

Off-page SEO refers to increasing positive external signals pointing to your site such as backlinks.

Back in the day when I used to work with SEO clients, clients who had on-page SEO issues were my favorite to work with.

Why? Because they were the easiest to fix!

On-page SEO is totally under our control. We can fix issues instantly.

Off-page SEO, on the other hand, takes longer. You need to go out and “build” links on other websites that you don’t own, and the process is more complex and time consuming.

There are a LOT of websites out there with huge backlink profiles that don’t get a lot of search traffic.

The reason? Their on-site SEO sucks.

Just a few tweaks to your content and HTML source code can drastically increase their rankings and traffic.

Let’s go through what a perfectly optimized SEO article looks like.

On-Page SEO Starts With Search Intent

Before we start optimizing anything, we have to make sure that we’re not fighting a losing battle. Google is getting better and better at understanding search intent – what users are specifically looking to do when they make a search query.

search intent categories

If Google sees that searchers for a keyword are looking for ecommerce content, your informational content is not going to rank no matter what you try. And even if you do, it won’t last long. Your horrendous bounce rate will tell Google your page is not relevant for that keyword anyways.

It only makes sense that this is the very first place you start when optimizing any page for a keyword. Always try and maximize your understanding of what the search intent behind that keyword is before you create something around it.

Is the searcher looking to buy something or are they looking for information? Are they looking for quick or in-depth information? What pages are ranking already? Why are they ranking? What type of content would help the searcher answer their question fully and in the best way?

Once you understand that, we can begin the optimization process.

Create a Compelling Title With Your Target Keyword

A page has many HTML tags, but the title tag is the most important one. Your title tag is the most important on-page SEO factor. It’s what tells Google what your page is about, and it’s also what shows up in the Google search result.

title tag google search result

There are a couple of things you need to do with page titles.

First of all, you need to make them compelling so that people click on them.

Don’t write boring or vague titles that don’t immediately tell the searcher what your page is about. Instead, use descriptive and action-oriented words in your titles.

Here’s a really useful comparison that shows the difference between good and bad page titles.

difference between good and bad page titles
Source

As you can see, the best performing titles have certain common characteristics for example they use numbers at the start, have an element of mystery, and powerful words that drive action.

Using the current year in your blog title also makes it stand out and generates more clicks.

Tell me which title would you click?

On-Page SEO Tips For Bloggers OR On-Page SEO Tips For Bloggers (2020)

Most users would click the second one becuase it gives you the impression that the content is more recent and updated.

The other thing you have to consider when creating titles is SEO. You have to use your target keyword in the title to tell Google what your content is mainly about.

It’s still surprising to me when I browse the web, and see a website with a super strong link profile. They should be ranking #1, no competitor should even come close to outranking them. But the title of their page is something like: “Main” and they’re nowhere to be found.

Keyword in title tag: If you want to rank for a keyword, the first and most important step is to have the keyword in the title tag.

Title tag character limit: Make your title tag too long, and it will be cut off by Google with ellipses. Today, there isn’t a total character limit. It’s totally user and device dependant. Ideally though, your title tag should be 60 to 70 characters in length.

Creating your title: Just because having the keyword in your title is important, doesn’t mean you should create title tags with JUST your keyword. You want to make it interesting so that people want to click through to your page rather than the others.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

bad example of title tag

Instead, go for something like this:

good example of title tag

The second one is much more interesting and detailed, and also accomplishes another very important thing…

Optimizing for related keywords: If you have room for more characters in your title, target another keyword that’s closely related. In the example above, I fit in “Create Articles That Rank” alongside my main keyword.

If I can get this page to rank for “on-page SEO” then I have a high chance of ranking for the other one as well.

This is something I do a lot, and it makes a big difference in how many keywords your article ranks for, and drives more long-tail traffic to your page. Don’t go overboard though. It has to be very closely related to your main keyword.

Entice A Click With Your Meta Description

What’s a meta description?

It’s the snippet of text in each Google search result that describes what the page is about.

meta descriptions

The meta description isn’t a direct ranking factor, so it’s not a huge issue if you don’t optimize it. However, it can help increase your CTR in the search engine results.

The best method of writing a meta description is to try and convince the searcher why they should click on your page rather than the others. Think of it like you’re writing an ad description. The more enticing it is to the reader, the higher your CTR is likely to be.

NOTE: Even if you write the perfect meta description, Google often shows other content from your page within the description depending on what the user is searching for.

Create A Short And Simple URL With Your Keyword

Shorter is better. Try to keep your URL’s short and concise, and try not to bury content deep in multiple directories.

Just keep in your main keywords, and cut out everything else.

You can edit your URL’s in WordPress here:

url structure

As you can see, my title is really long, but my URL has been edited to be short, and contain only the main keywords.

*This isn’t a major issue. Having reasonably long URL’s are not going to hurt your Google rankings. However, it’s just good practice to get into the habit of creating clean, keyword-focused URL’s.

You can read more about good URL structures for SEO here.

Use Header Tags To Tell Google About Your Subtopics

Headers are simple. Whatever you put into your title tag should be wrapped in an H1 tag on the page. If you’re using WordPress, your title will automatically be used as your h1 tag in most cases. But you could still change it up a little bit using an SEO plugin like Yoast.

The rest of your headers should be H2, H3, H4, H5, H6.

Personally, I usually never use anything beyond H2. I only use H3’s when I need to expand further on a topic within the H2 subtopic.

Like this:

header tag example

As you can see above, the H3 subtopic is still within the H2 subtopic of goals. Header tags are also a great way to improve your user experience on the page. Headers give your page depth and organization. They guide the user through the article.

A few things to note:

1. There should only be one H1 tag on a page.
2. Don’t skip header tags. Don’t use H1 and then H4’s throughout the page. Go in order of importance/significance.
3. It’s not essential to use multiple header tags in a page, but don’t forget the H1.

And lastly…

No keyword stuffing for h2 and h3 tags – keep it simple

Use Wikipedia, one of the best examples of a website that does on-site SEO correctly, as an example. They don’t use the the main keyword in their h2 and h3 header tags.

header tags
header tags
header tags

It’s not: “SEO history” OR “SEO as a marketing strategy” OR “White hat SEO vs black hat SEO techniques”.

I see a lot of people excessively stuffing keywords into all their header tags. There was a time when this worked, and it was recommended to do so. Today, especially after Hummingbird, there’s really no need to do this kind of stuff.

If you have too high a keyword density, it can hurt your rankings.

Sometimes, you can’t help but use the keyword all throughout the page. If you’re writing naturally, that’s fine. But if you’re excessively stuffing keywords into all your header tags just because you hope that it gives you a rankings boost, you’re potentially putting your rankings at risk.

Should you focus on keyword density at all?

No… but not entirely.

What I like to do is to write naturally first and don’t focus on keyword density at all. When I’m outsourcing content, I’ll tell the writer to ignore keyword density.

After the article is completed, I’ll either replace synonyms with keywords and LSI keywords if the density is too low, or I’ll remove them and add synonyms if it’s too high.

If you’re unfamiliar with LSI keywords, Ankit does a great job of explaining them in this article.

Don’t forget image alt tags

Using images makes the article have a better user experience. It’s much more enjoyable to read content that has images than it is to read hundreds of lines of pure text.

But a lot of people forget to optimize their images with proper alt tags.

Setting alt tags to images gives Google another indication of what your page is about.

How to use the alt tags: For the first/feature image of a blog post, I’ll put in my keyword as my alt tag. All other alt tags should be used for describing the image. Don’t stuff them with keywords.

Use LSI keywords: Using images to add LSI keywords is one of my favorite on-site SEO strategies. Don’t stuff your main keyword into every alt tag. Instead, use it as an opportunity to add even more LSI keywords into your page.

For example, for the image I used earlier:

header tag

I set the alt tag as “wikipedia use of header tags”:

image alt tag example

It clearly describes the image while using an LSI keyword that isn’t my main keyword.

Embed Relevant Videos To Increase Ave. Session Duration

Ave. Session Duration indicates the time an average visitor spends on your website.

If this duration is higher, it tells Google that your visitors like your content and find it relevant to their interest.

It is one of the ranking factors Google uses to evaluate sites.

Embedding relevant videos to your content is an easy way to increase your site’s ave. session duration.

Brian Dean, a leading SEO expert, regularly embeds relevant videos within his blog content.

embed relevant videos
Source

If you don’t have original video content, there’s nothing wrong with using third-party videos from YouTube as long as they’re relevant to your content.

This simple strategy not only increases the perceived value of your content but also positively impacts your search rankings.

Use Your Main Keyword Early On In Your Article

Go through any of Wikipedia’s articles, and you’ll notice that they always have their main keyword as the first word, and that it’s bolded.

SEO keywords
keyword snowboard bolded
keyword bolded

You don’t need to go that far, but you shouldn’t be 1000 words deep into your content before you bring up your main keyword for the first time.

For best results, use it as early on as you can. For me, I always try to use the keyword in my first sentence.

Create Long-Form Content With Search Intent In Mind

Longer content ranks better.

Based on studies by Moz and BuzzSumo, longer articles tend to get more links and shares.

And this study by SerpIQ analyzed the top 10 search results for over 20,000 keywords and noticed that on average, content ranking on the first page of Google had over 2000 words.

content length and rankings

While optimum content length varies depending on keyword difficulty, and type of keyword, it’s fair to conclude that long form content is the way to go if you’re serious about ranking for anything (especially informational keywords).

For standard blog posts, I try to keep my articles between 1800 to 2500 words in length.

The type (and length) of content you create depends on search intent. It largely depends on the scope of the topic, and keyword. For some topics, it just doesn’t make sense to have so many words.

Google algorithms have evolved over the years and consider lots of different search ranking factors while evaluating a site.

But backlinks are still among the most important ranking factors.

According to a study by SEMRush, there’s a direct relationship between the search ranking of a site and the number of domains pointing it.

study by SEMRush
Source

I have covered various backlinking strategies on this blog before.

But getting backlinks becomes much easier when you create link-worthy content (content that actually deserves to get backlinks).

How do you create such content?

With a few simple changes to how you create content

i) Back your arguments with data and research

You can instantly make your content more link-worthy by adding more stats and linking to credible third-party research.

A study by Link-Assistant found that 70% of marketers use Data/Research-based content for link-building.

A study by Link-Assistant
Source

Whenever you’re making an argument or sharing an opinion in your content, search Google to see if you can find any research or numbers to back to your argument.

This makes you content more credible and as a result people mention it in their content and link back to it.

If you have a large email list or social media following, you can also generate primary data by running surveys on your audience and sharing the results in your content.

ii) Share case studies and examples

Examples and case studies have the same impact as numbers and data.

They also add credibility to your arguments and make your content more link-worthy.

If you’re running an agency, share client experiences or case studies of how you helped them improve performance.

If you don’t have your own case studies, share relevant examples from your industry to back your argument.

iii) Create long, in-depth, and actionable content

I’ve already discussed the importance of creating long and in-depth content for SEO.

part from helping you rank for your target keywords, longer content also gets more backlinks.

Hubspot found in a study that articles longer than 2500 words received the most backlinks on their blog.

Word Count vs Linking domains
Source

It makes sense as well becuase longer content covers a topic from every angle and gives the readers a lot more value.

But don’t increase your word count just for the sake of it.

Add genuine value to your content so that your readers benefit from it.

iv) Add visuals to your content

Here’s an easy way to get backlinks.

Find any research, study, or raw data and turn it into an infographic or image that describes the same study visually.

KissMetrics used infographics to get more than 41K backlinks to their site in just two years.

Canva and Visual.ly are pretty awesome tools to create infographics and attractive blog images for free.

If you can’t create images yourself, use cropped sections of third-party infographics in your content like I’ve done (but don’t forget to link back to the original source).

It not only makes your content more engaging but also results in more backlinks because people tend to links back to your content when sourcing images instead of the original image creator’s site (I’m speaking from experience).

What’s one of the biggest signs of unnatural linking? Having all your links pointed at just your homepage.

One of the keys to building a successful blog these days is to make sure that your links are spread out throughout your domain.

It’s just natural.

Don’t just build links to your homepage. Build links to your internal pages as well.

It’s a tough concept for people new to SEO to understand why building links to page X helps increase rankings for page Y.

It’s one of the reasons why broken link building is so effective, and one of the reasons people like Neil Patel invests thousands of dollars creating infographics.

His infographics attract a lot of links and shares.

But these links usually point only at the page the infographic is on, not other pages he’s trying to rank.

So how does that help rankings for other pages?

Your domain authority increases and you build more trust to your site overall. This in turn increases rankings across the board for your entire domain.

Of course, make sure to set up your internal links on those pages so that they pass this link juice to the pages you want to rank higher.

You should be interlinking your blog posts whenever possible.

Proper internal linking is probably one of the easiest (and fastest) ways to improve your site’s SEO.

Why?

  • Internal links helps improve your link flow to individual pages on your site, helping them to rank better.
  • The anchor text of links helps Google to understand the context of a webpage and to rank better.
  • Internal links help Google Bots crawl and access different parts of your site.
  • Internal links also improve user experience by providing them with more information on certain topics. That in turn increases your user metrics such as bounce rate and time on site which are all ranking factors.

When you publish new articles, link to your older articles wherever you can. And you should also make it a habit to go back to older articles and link to your newer articles.

When I’m onboarding new writers, one of my criteria is to use and link to as many sources as they can.

Linking out to helpful external sites is just a better user experience overall.

So you should do it more often. You won’t lose your rankings by linking out to a helpful resource. If anything, it will make your own content more credible and trustworthy.

For instance, I love reading content like this articles by Forbes because there are links everywhere.

When I read a sentence that intrigues me, and I want to learn more, there’s usually a link to another page which extensively covered that story.

links on forbes

Now, that’s a helpful external link!

Know what I’m thinking after reading it?

Forbes really did their research and covered this story thoroughly. I trust this site.

When you write an article, you’re NOT the only authority on every single sub-topic within the article. There are other places where people can go to learn more.

Link to them.

Don’t be a dead end on the internet. Link out to helpful sites. Credit sources where you got your information. Outbound links in relation to your rankings is pretty well explained in this video by Moz.

Should you nofollow external links? Ever know somebody who’s super cheap? Don’t be that guy. Nofollowing every external link in fear of sharing link juice is pretty much like being the cheap friend who is stingy about spending a dollar more than their fair share.

Share the link love! You won’t lose rankings for linking out to helpful sources on the internet.

One of my favorite things about a Wikipedia article is how they organize their content with in-page links.

I’m talking about this thing at the top of every article.

in page links

It’s a great user experience because it allows you to preview all the major sub-topics within the content, and then jump straight to the section you’re interested in.

It’s the perfect way to format organize really long pieces of content.

For example, I created in-page links for my outreach link building guide because it’s over 10,000 words long.

inpage links

Creating in-page links is really easy to do.

All you need to do is create links and ID’s throughout the page by following this guide.

NOTE: Creating in-page links is probably not the best thing to do on pages with less than 1500 words. It’s short enough that people can just easily scroll through everything. But if you have pages that are over 2000 words long, it’s a nice feature to add on.

Write Naturally For Your Readers

Don’t write for search engines. Write for people, then optimize for search engines afterwards by going through the techniques we just learned.

Don’t pay too much attention to keyword density. Sometimes, your keyword density will be higher than others. That’s just due to the nature of the keyword. There isn’t a “perfect” keyword density you should be shooting for.

Instead, check to see how it reads after right before you publish it. If it sounds weird because you’re stuffing keywords everywhere, then use pronouns or LSI keywords to remove some of your keywords.

If you notice your keyword isn’t mentioned enough, then sprinkle it in a bit more.

As long as it reads naturally, you’ll be fine. Focusing on keyword density will hurt most people more than it helps them.

Format Your Content For Maximum Engagement

No matter how well you write, most of your readers won’t completely read your articles.

They’ll simply skim it for the information they’re looking for.

If you want them to find value in your content, you need to format it so that it’s easy to skim and scan.

Why is this important?

Apart from giving value to your readers, proper formatting improves the ave. session duration of your site since the readers stay longer to read your content. Plus, it results in more social shares, comments, and clicks on the CTAs in your content.

How do you format your content the right way?

  • Nail The Introduction Paragraph

Blog article introductions are different from the essays you were taught to write in high-school.

Blog readers don’t have time so you need to get straight to the point.

However, to engage them and keep them interested, start with a question or a bold statement that immediately captures their attention.

Here’s a really good example.

Formating Content for maximum engagement

The writer starts with a big claim and then goes on to prove it with numbers.

Why wouldn’t you read a blogging guide from someone who has built multiple six figure blogs?

In short, make your intros impactful.

Don’t drag them too much (100-150 words max).

Just tell the readers what your content is about and why they should read it.

Then jump right into the meaty part of your article.

  • Use Short Paragraphs

You’ll lose your readers pretty quickly if your write in the conventional book format that uses long paragraphs and large text blocks.

Blogging is different.

Use short paragraphs, 2-3 lines max., and make it easy for readers to skim over your content.

The concept of paragraphs is different in blogging. They’re not distributed based on the topic. They’re simply there to make your content more readable.

Look at the passage you’re reading right now.

You’ll even find 1 line paragraphs.

Because it makes reading easier.

  • Use Sub-Headings For Easier Navigation

I’ve already covered this part so I won’t repeat everything.

Like paragraphs, make sure you have lots of sub-headings (H2, H3, H4) throughout your content.

It makes it much easier for readers to navigate your content.

  • Use Lists And Tables To Communicate Faster

Lists are easier to remember for your readers as compared to long paragraphs.

If you’re sharing tips or instructions in your content, try using lists so that your readers can remember them.

The same goes for comparison tables.

They’re much easier to remember and help you communicate a lot of value in fewer words.

Plus they make your content more engaging.

  • Use Bold, Italics, And Underlines To Highlight Important Parts

Use these common formatting options to highlight the important points in your content that you want your readers to remember.

These are effective but highly underutilized techniques to make your content engaging and more readable.

Making them a part of your writing style will give you immediate returns.

Optimize Page Speed To Improve Rankings

And lastly, page speed. If your page takes forever to load, you’re going to have a really high bounce rate.

Even a one second delay in page load time can decrease your page views and conversions by a significant amount.

On a mobile device, Google recently reported that on a mobile site, as page load time goes from one second to five seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 90%.

The fastest way to increase your page load time is to switch to a high end hosting company.

If you don’t want to increase your hosting budget by hundreds of dollars per year, you can also use Cloudflare (free) combined with a caching plugin.

Here were my results when I implemented CloudFlare with a caching plugin:

BEFORE:

page speed before

AFTER:

after page speed

Only took 10 minutes of work, and it was compeltely free.

Read this tutorial if you want to do the same: How I sped up my website by 362% in under 10 minutes.

Update Your Content Regularly To Stay On Top Of Search Results

Google wants to serve fresh, relevant, and high-quality content to its searchers all the time. This is why content freshness is one of its core search ranking factors.

It makes sense as well.

For example, if I am searching for the best travel destinations today (2020), it doesn’t make sense for Google to show me 2-3 year old content.

According to Moz, content degrades with time and needs to be updated regularly to stay relevant.

content freshness on page seo
Source

There are a couple of ways you can keep your content fresh and stay on top of Google search results for your target keywords.

First of all, make updates a regular part of your content calendar.

There’s no ideal update frequency since it depends on your niche. For example, news and current affairs sites update their content every few hours.

You can’t do that with a marketing or corporate blog.

You could decide a frequency for reviewing older content (for example quarterly or bi-annually) based on your niche and make updates to keep your content fresh.

Add new data or reference new studies, share new tips, or expand the older ones, share new examples, etc.

Don’t try to game the system by changing the order of different paragraphs in your article or changing the title only.

Make genuinely useful updates if you want your content to be considered fresh.

Secondly, use Google Structured Data (Schema.org) to tell Google when your content was last updated.

Schema is a piece of code that helps Google understand the various aspects of your web page.

You can use this free schema markup generator to create the required code and copy/paste to your site’s header section.

Once you do this, Google will show the last modified date of your page in search results.

Use “People also ask” For Easy On-Page SEO Wins

In response to most search queries, Google Search shows a “People also ask” section” that lists the most common questions people are asking about that topic.

People also ask google

These are proven topics that your audience is searching for.

Here’s how you can use them in your on-page SEO strategy.

  • Search for your target keyword in Google.
  • Note down all the relevant question from the “People also ask” section
  • Answer those questions in your content.
  • Use the questions in H2/H3 tags where relevant.

Apart from this, add an FAQs section at the end of your blog articles and answer all the relevant questions you can find in “People also ask”.

Also, use the FAQ schema markup code on your page to display your page’s FAQs in Google Search results (you can generate the FAQ schema with the same tool I mentioned earlier)

FAQ schema markup code

As you can see, the result with FAQs stands out in the SERPs.

However, don’t use this approach for pages where adding an FAQs section doesn’t make sense.

For many search queries, Google shows a featured answer box at the top of the search results.

Google shows a featured answer box

This featured answer snippet (also called position zero) is second only to position 1 in terms of the average number of clicks by searchers.

How do you optimize your content for position zero?

There’s no fixed formula becuase Google can pick results for the featured snippet from any of the top 10 search results for that keyword.

But based on experience, here are a few things you can do to rank for position zero.

  • Target the questions related to your main focus keyword
  • Include all the relevant questions from the “People also ask” section of Google Search in your content
  • Use the Inverse Pyramid Approach to content creation which means you’ll briefly asnwer the most important questions after the initial introduction section of your article. You can answer those questions in more detail in the later sections.
  • Use H1, H2, H3, H4 tags in proper order throughout your content body.
  • Add an FAQ section in your content as I’ve mentioned earlier in this article.
  • Structure your answers according to the needs of your audience. For example, if a question requires you to compare different products, use comparison tables. Other questions types might require simple text or lists.

Following these tips won’t guarantee you a featured answer spot, but it would certainly improve your chances.

Conclusion

Optimizing your on-page SEO is very important. And the best part is, it’s easy. Anybody can use go through this tutorial and implement these techniques even if they’re not an experienced SEO.

Although writing high quality content and building strong backlinks are what mainly help you rank higher, you can’t forget to optimize your pages for your keywords. For a lot of websites I’ve come across out there, it’ll be all you need to do to drastically improve your search rankings.

How to Hire SEO Freelancers

How to Hire SEO Freelancers

Ranking a website or web page today is not as easy as it was a couple of years ago.

Not only is the competition stiffer, but the constant changes in the algorithms that determine rankings also make it more challenging to stay on top of your SEO game.

As a business owner, keeping up with all these changes and regularly updating your website is something you might not have time for.

That’s why you may need to enlist the help of an SEO freelancer.

How an SEO Freelancer Can Help Your Business

Before we go any further, let’s quickly define what a freelance SEO is.

Simply put, an SEO freelancer is a professional who helps you gain more visibility on search engines. If you hire the right one, they can get you to rank for your main keywords, thereby helping you drive tons of traffic to your website and business.

So how can an SEO freelancer help your business?

Keyword Research

One of the foundational principles of SEO is keyword research.

This is the practice of discovering search terms that users enter in search engines when they want to find something. Discovering the keywords used to search for your products or services is crucial to boosting your SEO.

This foundational practice is one of the ways an SEO freelancer can help your business rank well.

Content Strategy

Content strategy involves planning the entire process necessary to create content. It includes, among other disciplines:

  • Keyword research
  • Understanding user intent
  • Crafting optimized headlines
  • Creating content outlines
  • Determining content types
  • Choosing the best platforms on which to publish the content

Developing a content strategy is key to helping your content rank well, especially in a space saturated with content on similar topics.

Content Creation

Another integral part of SEO is content creation.

Creating SEO content is a science that not many people understand.

It requires knowledge of proper keyword placement, structuring and formatting content properly, and writing in your audience’s preferred tone, among other things.

While anyone can be a good writer, not everyone can be a great SEO writer.

Again, this is one of the few ways an SEO freelancer can help drive your business forward.

Link Building

Besides content, another critical aspect of SEO is link building. This is because search engines use links to gauge the authority of content and websites. The more authoritative a web page is, the higher search engines rank it for queries related to your keywords.

A successful strategy involves building relevant links on three levels:

  • Internal links: These are links between content on your website and must be chosen strategically.
  • Outgoing links: Links to other sites are important, but if done incorrectly, you could link to competitors, low-authority sites, or even spammy websites.
  • Inbound links: Also called backlinks, these point to your website, and search engines deem them votes of confidence in your website. Quality, not quantity, is the key here.

Good SEO freelancers also know the importance of monitoring your backlink profile. This is important because toxic backlinks could negatively impact your SEO.

Link building is a time-consuming endeavor that requires knowledge of the right kind of links to build and strategies that work.

To build links that will help your website rank better, you must get a professional to do, which is an instance where an SEO freelancer will come in handy.

As long as you want to make an impact online (of which you have no choice), you must invest in SEO. That’s why you must consider hiring an SEO freelancer.

How to Hire the Best SEO Freelancer

Hiring a good SEO freelancer can be a tricky business.

For one, most SEOs are self-taught, and typically the only way to verify their knowledge or experience is through their portfolio.

Secondly, the world of SEO is constantly changing and knowing which SEO freelancers keep their knowledge and skills relevant is almost impossible.

So how can you improve your chances of hiring the best SEO freelancer?

Here are a few simple tips:

Determine Your SEO Needs

The first step to finding the right SEO freelancer for you is to determine your exact SEO needs.

If you’re not sure how to do this, you may need to look for an SEO freelancer that has experience in conducting SEO audits. Of course, in most cases, this is an add-on service, so expect to pay for it separately.

However, if you want to do it yourself, check out my SEO checklist for direction.

Determining your SEO needs makes it easier for you to know what to look for in an SEO freelancer.

Features to Look For in an SEO Freelancer

Now that you’ve determined your SEO needs, the next step to hiring the best SEO freelancer is to know what to look for in one. Here are a few pointers:

Check their Track Record

Every SEO freelancer worth their salt has a track record that proves their knowledge and skill.

To be worth your consideration, they must have results to show their effectiveness in delivering the services you want.

So how do you check their track record?

  • Ask to see a portfolio of their work
  • Visit their website
  • Ask for references from past or current clients
  • Read reviews on their website or other platforms

Checking an SEO freelancer’s track record is critical because you want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing. Failing to do so could lead you to spend money on an SEO freelancer that won’t get you the desired results.

Interview Your Prospective SEO Freelancers

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential candidates, it’s time to find the best SEO freelancer for your business.

To do this, you might want to conduct an interview to get to know them better.

Thankfully, with technology like video calling software, you can conduct interviews from anywhere in the world.

Get to know them, their methodology, and how they plan to help your business rank well.

Give Your Prospective SEO Freelancer a Test Project

Another strategy that will help you find the best SEO freelancer for your business is to give your prospective candidates a test project.

This will help you:

  • Gauge their abilities
  • Have insight into what your working relationship will be like

Your test must be based on the core duties you’re hiring your SEO freelancer for. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect from them in terms of performance.

Know Where to Look for SEO Freelancers

Once you’ve determined your specific SEO needs, the next step to hiring an SEO freelancer is to know where to look for one.

Some of the best places to look include (but are not limited to):

Job Boards

Job boards are a great place to source SEO talent. A big advantage you get from the most popular ones is that they vet all freelancers in their database. That helps eliminate unsavory characters from the platform.

Some popular job boards you can get SEO freelancers on include:

  • Indeed: Has a large pool of SEO freelancers. Searching through candidates using different filters makes it easy.
  • Upwork: Arguably the most popular freelancer platform on the planet. Has a strict verification process.
  • ProBlogger: One of the best platforms if you’re looking specifically for SEO writers.
  • AngelList: Trusted by many startups for the high-quality talent pool. The best choice if you’re looking specifically for technical SEO freelancers.
  • Fiverr: Great place to find affordable SEO freelancers, but you may have to sift through a lot of profiles to find the right person.
  • Craigslist: Another great place to find good SEO talent. Unfortunately, however, you’ll have to do your own candidate vetting.

What if you want the freelancers to come to you? To source the best SEO freelance talent, you must know how to attract them, and you can do this by creating optimized job ads.

Hallmarks of an optimized job ad include:

  • Keyword focused job description
  • A killer headline
  • Detailed but to the point
  • Sells the benefits of working with your business

Once you’ve crafted your job ad and posted it, you’re sure to get a flood of responses from interested SEO freelancers.

Social Media

Social media is now playing a huge role in the recruitment process, helping businesses source top talent. If you’re looking for some of the best SEO freelancers, you’ll be sure to find them on social media platforms like:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Facebook

Make sure to include a relevant hashtag (like #SEOfreelancers) when you post your need for an SEO freelancer.

Ask Google

Most SEO freelancers have websites to showcase their work, and if they practice what they preach, their websites should rank high on Google for their keywords (like SEO freelancer and other LSI keywords).

So if you’re looking for SEO freelancers, a casual Google search can help you discover professionals you can entrust your SEO tasks to.

If you want one who’s based in your locale, you can simply google “SEO freelancer+your area” to pull up results of the best local SEO freelancers near you.

When Not to Hire SEO Freelancers

As much as SEO freelancers have their advantages, there are times it wouldn’t be wise for you to go the freelancer route.

In those cases, you’re better off hiring an SEO agency.

Here are a few examples of such instances:

When Your Needs Exceed a Freelancer’s Capacity

Remember, SEO is a broad field. No one person can handle every SEO task you may need.

For example, if you want to execute a comprehensive on-page SEO campaign, you may require (among others):

  • A content strategist
  • An SEO writer
  • An editor

True, you may be able to find an SEO freelancer who can wear all three hats, but if your content strategy is extensive, you may need at least one content strategist, one editor, and a couple of SEO writers.

In this case, you’re better off going the agency route.

Carefully evaluate your SEO needs and determine if the scope of work is manageable by one person or if an agency better handles it.

When You Need Different SEO Services

If you need different SEO services, you’re better off going the agency route.

This is because agencies have different skill sets in their human capital, and all your SEO needs can be taken care of under one roof.

It makes for a streamlined and cohesive SEO campaign.

Giving different tasks to different SEO freelancers could result in a disjointed campaign, and in some instances, what one SEO does could conflict with what another has done.

If Stability With a Team is Important

An agency has all the resources (human and technological) needed to execute projects quickly. Because of this, you’re also assured of quality work because they have quality controls in place.

Another advantage of an agency that many people overlook is the fact that if a freelancer gets sick or if life happens, your project could be put on hold indefinitely. With an agency, however, there’s rarely any downtime as they can easily find a replacement.

Conclusion

With many people opting to ditch the 9 to 5 and work as freelancers, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to picking SEO freelancers for your business.

However, there are two sides to this coin.

In your quest to find the best SEO freelancers, you may come across a few bad ones that may cost you your reputation, rankings, or resources.

That’s why you must know how to hire an SEO expert that will help you achieve your business goals.

Have you ever worked with an SEO freelancer before? If so, what was your experience with them?

How to Choose The Right Email Marketing Agency

How to Choose The Right Email Marketing Agency

Nothing converts like email.

Email beats all other marketing channels and can generate $37 for every $1 you invest. 

Even though email marketing can generate a ton of revenue, it’s still not easy.

You need to know which email tools are best, how to use them so you don’t end up in spam folders, and how to create emails that convert.

Even for fully-staffed marketing teams, it can be overwhelming.

Email marketing agencies are perfect for overcoming these challenges.

They know how to use the tools and run fully-scaled email campaigns. They can also distill your brand and offer into great campaigns that generate revenue.

Today, I’ll walk you through how to choose an email marketing agency that’ll help you unlock all the business value email holds. 

Good? 

Well, let’s start from the basics.

Know Your Goals and Desired Outcomes

Before you jump straight to the top email marketing companies and pick one to work with, it’s a good idea to pause first.

Why? 

You’ll get much better results.

Famous email agencies, like the ones I’ll recommend, usually have a track record of overseeing successful email marketing strategies and campaigns.

However, it’s never a one-size-fits-all situation. 

Some agencies only excel when working on specific projects or campaigns. Others drive better results when working with specific kinds of businesses. 

Knowing your goals and desired outcomes with email marketing gives you the right lens to evaluate different agencies and know which one is best for your needs.

Not to mention, it’ll help your agency get started a lot faster. The clearer the goal, the better the outcome.

Let’s take a look at some examples. 

Example #1: Build and grow your email list

Without an email list, you can’t do email marketing. 

And if you have a small list of, say, 33 email addresses, you’ll never get the full benefits of email marketing either. 

The first step is to build your email list.

You’ll achieve this by choosing an agency with experience executing list-building campaigns to get your first 100, 1,000, or 10,000 email subscribers.  

Take yourself, for example. 

You won’t give a company your email address for nothing, right? 

Absolutely not! We all get enough spam as it is.

Similarly, most people would only subscribe to your email list in exchange for something valuable. 

In the digital marketing world, this could be an ebook, a checklist, or other forms of relevant content promoted to the audience whose emails you’re targeting. Consider choosing an email marketing agency with experience creating and promoting amazing content. The better the content, the faster your list will grow.

Example #2: Increase your email open and click-through rates 

Low open and click-through rates will destroy your list. 

If your open and click-through rates are low, you’ll run into a cascading series of problems:

  1. Your audience isn’t seeing your offers. That’s less revenue.
  2. Email service providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo will notice your low performance. Then they’ll flag you as spam or stop delivering your email altogether.
  3. Now your open and click rates get even worse.
  4. Even if you improve your campaigns later, they won’t deliver nearly the same results.
  5. Improving your email reputation is REALLY hard.

Instead of risking this email cycle of doom, it’s a good idea to partner with an agency that knows what they’re doing.

They can look for early signs that something’s wrong, course-correct early, and keep your email reputation safe.

In this case, look for an email marketing agency that is exceptional at developing strategies and tactics to help increase your open and click-through rates. 

The two examples above were to show that your goals and desired outcome with email marketing go a long way in determining what agency to choose. 

They were also to demonstrate that no agency is a one-size-fits-all for all email marketing problems. 

Set your goals first, then look for an agency that specializes in those goals.

6 Characteristics That Make a Great Email Marketing Agency 

There are hundreds of email agencies out there. Maybe thousands.

And if you visit the websites of these agencies, every single one claims to be the best. 

But what characteristics make an email marketing company great? And how can you vet and choose an agency to work with?

1. Great Content Creation

Think of all the emails you receive from other companies. 

Do you know why you can’t wait to open and engage with some, but would ignore, delete, or unsubscribe from others right off the bat? 

In most cases, it’s because you don’t value the content of those emails. 

Amazing content keeps people opening and reading. Then when you send an offer, they’re willing to consider it.

Great content is the core of any serious email strategy. 

Check to see if they focus on a process for crafting engaging email content. The best ones always do.

2. An Impressive Client Portfolio

Excellent email marketing agencies didn’t achieve that status overnight. 

They worked with dozens or hundreds of brands to execute successful email campaigns. 

Because of this, they should have plenty of top-tier brands in their portfolio. And case studies that show you exactly what was done.

Not all of this can be shared publicly. But when you’re exploring options with agencies, ask for examples during your initial calls. The agency should have plenty of examples to point to. If they struggle to come up with some, look elsewhere. 

It’s a great way to quickly vet agencies of all types.

3. Thought Leadership 

Exceptional email marketing agencies are always on top of email trends. It’s constantly evolving and you don’t want to work with someone that’s using tactics from 5 years ago. 

An easy way to check for this is the agency’s blog, YouTube channel, or their own email list. Within 20-30 minutes of consuming their content, you should learn a ton. And it should all be cutting edge. 

That’s a good sign they’ll be able to apply those same tactics to your email campaigns.

4. Deep Expertise with Email Tools

Great agencies will have used them all.

If you ask them which tools are best, you’ll quickly learn:

  • Which are most popular
  • Strengths and weaknesses of each
  • The handful of tools to avoid

But don’t worry about which tool they recommend. Pay attention to their depth of knowledge when speaking with them. They’ll probably start by recommending a single tool. Then as soon as you ask any follow up questions, they should have plenty of qualifications, nuance, and detail to their answers.

You should get the feeling that the agency knows this stuff cold. If not, find someone that does.

5. Has Specific Rules to Avoid Spam

If you’ve been hit hard by spam flags, you might need an agency that specializes exclusively on reviving domains with negative email reputations.

Most of us don’t need to go that far. 

But you absolutely want to work with an agency that knows how to stay out of the spam box.

Also ask new agencies about how they stay out of spam, their processes to keep things clean, and early warnings that they like to look for.

You should be blown away with the thoroughness of their answers.

If not, keep looking.

6. A Great Company Culture

By choosing an email marketing agency to work with, you’re entering a business relationship with another business entity.

So, before you proceed, check that their company culture fits with yours.

Without a good fit on culture, you’re going to get email campaigns that don’t jive with your brand. You could anger your audience and turn them away. Or play things too safe and leave money on the table.

There’s no right answer on culture, just make sure their culture and yours fit well.

Ask for samples of recent campaigns that they’ve done. They’re likely to do similar work for you.

How to Work With an Email Marketing Agency

Working with an exceptional email marketing agency isn’t like dashing into a grocery store, filling your cart, and dashing out in a few minutes. 

There are steps you’ll need to take that ensure your partnership with one leads to business growth via email marketing. 

1. Align your in-house team

Most email marketing agencies won’t work in isolation but as an extension of your in-house digital marketing team.   

Hence, to ensure a smooth partnership between you and them, you should:

  • Have meetings with stakeholders in your company to align relevant teams on the need to work with an email agency.
  • Communicate how the agency’s work would impact your business and why it is necessary.
  • As needed, appoint employees to work directly with the email marketing agency. 

Doing this ensures team alignment between the agency and your company. Also, it keeps the agency in sync with your values, company culture, and the goals for choosing to work with them. 

2. Discovery session

As you first go out to contact an email marketing agency, they won’t jump straight into sending you a proposal or contract. 

The best email marketing agencies act like doctors who only prescribe after they diagnose. 

And to start diagnosing your challenges and goals with email marketing, expect to fill an inquiry form, followed by a discovery session.

3. Research & strategic recommendations

Before making a specific proposal, any good email marketing agency will do an extensive round of research on your current campaigns. This will include things like:

  • Signing up for your lists and looking at your current campaigns
  • Mapping out your signup flows
  • Checking landing pages and signup offers
  • Looking through social profiles and email funnels from other channels

Once they have a complete picture of where you are today, they’ll be able to put a proposal together.

4. A working contract with project deliverables

A typical work duration with an email marketing agency spans several months. 

To take on that kind of scope,agencies usually prefer to send a formal proposal and contract for you to sign.

Take your time and this stage and go through the proposal in detail. You should feel great about every piece. If you have any concerns, work through them now. It’s really easy to change scope, budget, or goals now.

Once you fee good about it, get the contract signed. 

5. Onboarding

Expect an onboarding process customized for your team after you sign the contract. 

During this step, the agency will usually ask for all your internal document and tool access. Expert to send them invites for your Google Analytics and email tools. Also put together every piece of internal documentation that you have on your email campaigns. The more info they have, the better. 

From here, the agency will get started on the work and should have regular check-in calls along the way.

How to Find The Right Email Marketing Agency For You

To choose an email marketing agency that’s right for your needs, the steps I recommend are: 

  1. Be sure about your business goals and desired outcomes from email marketing.
  2. Consider agencies with the characteristics above. 
  3. Choose an agency with expertise in the area you need help with. And where possible, also prioritize those that have worked with reputable brands.  
  4. Finally, know that email is part of your digital, and by extension, content marketing strategy. Hence, it’s best to choose a company with bandwidth for those. 

To help, we reviewed hundreds of agencies and found these to be the best.

The 5 Top Email Marketing Agencies 

#1 Neil Patel Digital – Best For Email Content

Every time you send an email, people unsubscribe.

That hurts the long-term prospects of your email list. 

Since every email has a real cost and makes your list smaller, it’s best to make them count.

The best way to do this is with great content. Your unsubscribes will be lower, your list will be more engaged, and you’ll generate more revenue in the long-run.

Content, including email content, is one of the core areas of expertise at my agency, Neil Patel Digital

#2. InboxArmy – Best for Full-service Email Management

InboxArmy comes highly recommended, as a full-service email marketing and management company. 

This agency’s services include email strategy development, template design, email automation, and other. 

InboxArmyserves companies such as Airbnb, LandCentral, and Jockey. If you’re looking for serious email pros for your B2C company, I’d reach out to them. 

#3 Fix My Churn – Best for SaaS Onboarding Emails and churn

Fix My Churn works with SaaS companies.

User onboarding emails are a very unique skill set. The content, CTAs, sending logic and tools are completely different. If you want to improve your SaaS emails, you really need experts in this area.

Fix My Churn applies top-level SaaS copywriting skills to create email onboarding and churn-eliminating sequences to turn free and trial users into happy, long-term customers. 

Led by its Founder and SaaS email expert, Val Geisler, Fix My Churn has earned a reputation as an email marketing agency for SaaS companies like Buffer, Aweber, Podia, InVision, and others. 

I’d also consider them if your have any type of subscription offer.

#4 Action Rocket – Best for Enterprise Email

Action Rocket needs no introduction as an email marketing agency for enterprise companies. 

This agency even works with leading email software companies like Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, Litmus, and others to shape the email marketing space.

Using its vast years of experience, Action Rocket strategizes and develops custom email and CRM programs for enterprise companies, including Marks & Spencer, the BBC, and others.

If you want serious muscle behind your email strategy, reach out to them.

#5 SmartMail – Best for Ecommerce Email

SmarMail is our recommended email marketing agency for ecommerce businesses. 

Every business model has its own unique challenges with email and ecommerce is no exception.

You need cart abandonment emails, promotional emails, lifescycle emails for repurchases, and receipts with guaranteed email deliverability.

This agency excels at helping online stores acquire, convert, and retain customers by strategizing and launching email marketing campaigns based on automated triggers across buyers’ lifetime cycle: 

SmartMail has an excellent track record, helping ecommerce companies generate about $187 million in revenues. Their clients include French Connection, Skechers, and others. 

Get Email Right to Drive Growth

Email marketing isn’t going anytime soon. It is here to stay.

And it generates a ton of cash. Choosing the right agency will get you that growth a lot sooner.

Set your goals, then start looking for the right agency for you.

Even if you plan on doing email inhouse, the right agency can get everything set up correctly from the beginning. That will save your team a ton of time and prevent disastrous mistakes like getting all your emails stuck in the spam folder.