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I'm in the process of revamping my freelance brand identity and web presence in preparation for graduating, and I'm wondering whether I should think about trying to optimise for keywords etc, beyond general best practices?

I'd rather not get into the SEO game too much. My name is reasonably uncommon (although difficult to spell) but I have the top matches on Google for it. My main issue is that the field I'm going into (a mixture of front end development and interactive installations) doesn't really seem "Googleable", in that it's unlikely I'll ever rank particularly highly for specific keywords.

Given how much business comes through referrals/word of mouth, it seems like the time would be better spent improving personal contacts IRL rather than trying to move up the rankings for more general keywords.

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    This sounds very opinion based, but I would say no, it's not worth your time to do so. If you aren't expecting most of your business off of Google, then I wouldn't put all my work into it. – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Dec 23 '13 at 17:19
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The main question you need to ask is - how do you expect to use your portfolio site?

If you are expecting to direct people with whom you've already made contact to it to view more expansive examples of your work, then SEO will not be of much use to you, because you will provide these folks with a URL and they will not be needing to look for you to get to where you want them to go.

If you expect people to be looking for you online, and for that to be a major route for obtaining invitations to apply for open jobs (ie, you are fishing for recruiters) then you may benefit from some SEO. But, as mentioned already, do it yourself or set a reasonable budget that you can live with for the work to be done.

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I would agree with Teresa here about how you expect to use your portfolio. Before you get busy with the SEO techniques, you need to set a clear definition of your portfolio site's purpose.

  • Do you expect an audience to find you through various search engines and get in touch with you for inquiries and possible projects? If yes, then you should get to work. The challenge of being "found" though lies mainly in your situation where what you offer does not seem very "searchable". In this case you may need to brainstorm about very similar words to use - words that people use to search for the kind of services that you do. Then use it to your advantage. Try to see your competition's site and find out the keywords they are using for your content optimization. And then listen to what your industry talks about by getting updated on discussion boards, blogs, Social Media and other Internet channel. This should give you a good grasp on how you can structure your optimization.

  • Do you merely just want a site to direct the people you have already contacted to show your completed projects and offer them services? If yes, then maybe there's not much need for you to be at the very top of Search Engine Results Pages. If you've already got a list of prospects and you're not over the moon about writing down your portfolio over and over again (or even maybe creating a template too long for them to read in your proposals), getting in touch with them and providing them a link where they could thoroughly review your qualifications and your completed projects will be very useful. SEO-wise, you may just need to skip that bit, as you've already gathered everyone you want to show yourself to.

Although I believe that every person online who wants to increase their audience should engage in SEO by being searchable through various engines, on-page optimization is just one factor of the strategy. There are other ways in which you could promote your site, build a reputation for yourself and have "crawling & indexing" merits for it, and eventually be at the top ranks of Search Engine Results Pages. And it definitely does not stop at "dressing up" your portfolio site with the SEO components like meta-tags, keyword-rich content, meta-heads, and what have yous.

Rome wasn't built in a day. It will be wise not to expect your portfolio site to be searchable right away. Optimizing is a work in progress and SEO is dynamic. The Google process itself changes from time to time - giving and taking away merits to various SEO factors. The SEO technique you might apply today may not have much bearing to Google's process tomorrow.

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I would suggest you to do SEO for your portfolio website if you know how to do it. If you plan on outsourcing this to others, I would recommend a strict no because it would be a waste of money.

As a freelancer or a start-up company, it is always essential to keep the money in check because there are not many sources of income for us in that stage.

  • Thanks. I definitely wouldn't be paying anyone else for it. I'm leaning towards what @CanadianLuke says in his comment on the question, but I'll make sure to follow general good practices. – velvetkevorkian Jan 1 '14 at 21:33
  • @velvetkevorkian As a startup or a freelancer, its always better to be a "jack of all trades" :) – prat1kk Jan 2 '14 at 6:51
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I'm answering this mostly because it's what I do every day. First things first, anyone who is online should think about SEO if they want to maximize the number of visitors to their site. Targeting specific keywords that customers might type in to find your product or service is key. I'm always amazed at how many people will spend money to build a site and start a business but not promote it. Having said that, promoting yourself online AND offline is the way to go.

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YES!!! If you have a great portfolio then SEM/SEO is a great way to attract new clients.

You need a good strategy to do it.

I'm going to assume that you know how to do the basics (i.e keyword research and using the correct tags in your code, sitemaps, etc). For starters, there is a great guide available at http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo, and also lot's of great info on the web.

But you will still need a 'workable' approach that won't break the bank. A great approach is to attach a blog to your portfolio site - and here is were you can really demonstrate your knowledge and attract clients at the same time.

If you can write a blog post that gets an average of 100 visitors/months, do that twice a week for a year, that translates into over 10,000 visitors/month, 2yrs, that's about 20,000 visitors/month, and so on (yes, I'm over-simplifying this), but that's the idea.

Put in a nice slider highlighting your portfolio in your blog articles (i.e. right-hand column), and a call-to-action (i.e. "Contact me for a free quote today") - and you've got a great SEM/SEO strategy for your portfolio site.

Go for short-articles (500 to 1000 words) on topics that you feel prospective client would be interested in (i.e. "How can a blog help my business get clients?" ;-) ).

For extra mileage, make sure your blog posted are tweeted, posted on FB and G+.

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If it costs nothing, then do the SEO.

If you have clients waiting for you to get their work done, put SEO on hold.

If you have to choose between doing SEO and improving personal contacts, choose improving personal contacts.

In the long term, give priority on building a good word-of-mouth image. Only after that should you work on building a good SEO presence.

My pick: don't waste too much time with SEO.

  • Hey Avram, welcome to Freelancing SE. It seems the question was asking if the op should focus on SEO on his own website, not his customers. You may want to consider an edit to answer the core question. As you're new, you might find our tour page helpful, as well as How to Answer. Good luck! – jmort253 Apr 11 '14 at 4:19

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