How to Land Almost Any Job on Upwork

How to Land Almost Any Job on Upwork

For the past decade, I have consistently been one of the highest grossing freelance writers on Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk), the largest freelance job site around. In four of those years, I was the #1 individual in the world for the writing category, and I can only describe those times as a true snowball effect.  I literally went from being slow in the spring of 2004 to having more work than I could ever possibly handle by that summer.  Then in 2005, I had an entire team of writers working with me and countless invitations bombarding my inbox every single day.

In fact, when Elance was transforming over to Upwork, I was the very first freelancer on the entire paltform that they reached out to for feedback.  It may sound silly but I’ve always worn that interaction like a badge of honor.  I can tell you firsthand that the talented people behind the scenes at Upwork really care about you and their clients.

Of course, I’m not saying all of that to brag- I just want to illustrate that I am incredibly good at landing jobs on Upwork.  With some luck, I’ll teach you here today how to replicate my success.  Fair warning though- this isn’t a “get rich quick” or “scam the system” type of guide.  I can teach you how to land virtually any freelance job, but there’s also going to be a lot of work involved as well.

So where do you start?  Let’s find out…

 

Creating a Professional Image

 

If you wanted to be a lumberjack, then you’d have chainsaws, axes, blade sharpeners, gas, oil and all the other tools of the trade, right?

So if you want to be a freelance superstar on Upwork, you need to acquire those same types of tools.  For instance, take a quick tour of my website- look at the branding, content and calls to action on each page.  This appears to be a huge company, right?  But it’s not, it’s just me and a couple of part time folks that help out.  So whenever someone asks for an example of a site I’ve worked on, you’d better believe that this is the very first place I send them.

Think about that- my best portfolio piece is my own business.  Can you see how that would make sense to a client?

Now, that doesn’t mean that you need an expensive looking website to impress people.  But you shoud have at least a full portfolio laid out somewhere online- even if it’s on Google+.  You need one place where a client can take a look and think, “Oh wow, this person is the real deal.”  This will be your #1 sales tool throughout your career BY A LONGSHOT.

Tools of the Freelance Trade

Likewise, you want to have the other tools of the trade as well.  That means getting certified by Google for development, AdWords or analytics.  Then head over to HubSpot and get certified in Inbound Marketing, design, content marketing, or wherever your expertise happens to be.  Moz also offers an SEO course on Udemy so you can get up to speed there- these are steps that most amateurs won’t bother with.

Then there are the skills tests on Upwork itself- clients actually pay close attention to these kinds of things.

Finally, there is your Upwork portfolio; it should be 100% completed with awesome content.  That means linking to your previous work, providing full descriptions, sharing why you’re the perfect candidate for the job and what to expect when working with you.  My Upwork profile still earns me at least 1 or 2 invites a week from people who find it in Google search engines.

One other thing you need to have in your arsenal- if you send clients SEO/analytics reports, wireframes, work summaries or anything else outside of the regular chat, you need to create branded documents with your logo and business/portfolio info in the headers and footers.

If you don’t have a logo yet, then design one on Canva for free.  It’s the most no-nonsense place I’ve found.

 

 

Making an Awesome First Impression

When a client posts a job on Upwork, Freelancer, iWriter or any freelance paltform, it’s almost like a fishing expedition.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted an ad to hire an extra writer and every sinlge application was just boring.  Here’s what 99% of all freelancer place in a proposal-

  • Their name and how long they’ve been in the biz
  • A few generic sentences about how they’re an expert
  • The price they’d charge for the project
  • End with something like, “I hope that we can talk soon!”

As a client, when you see 15-20 proposals that look exactly the same, it’s almost impossible to distinguish one applicant from another.  And when that happens, the client either decides to not hire anyone or they pick either the highest or the lowest possible bid…depending whether they’re searching for quality or value.  Most of the time though, they just walk away because they’re not impressed.

This also goes back to your portfolios as well (on Upwork and on another website).  When all the proposals stink, then the client will sometimes browse through the freelancer’s job history to see what others have said.  And if you’re not shining in that aspect, then it’s almost impossible for you to ever get hired for anytihng…except crappy jobs for low pay from crappy clients.

Writing a Killer Proposal

Here’s how I write a proposal on Upwork-

1)  I look through the client’s job history, click on a past job, and find the client’s username (You can’t see it in the current job page until after you apply- this is a quick little workarond.).  Then I Google that username to try to get a clue of who they are, what they do, etc.

2)  If I can find out what the business is, then I’ll visit their website and look at it critically.  What could they do better to impress customers?  Where are they losing out on a great call to action?  Are there awesome graphics, videos, and other stuff to make the page engaging?  How easy is their navigation to use?  I look at all of that stuff.

3)  From there, I use the business website to figure out who posted the ad.  Then I’ll look them up on Facebook and LinkedIn to see if we have anything in common.  If not, is there something there I can use as an ice-breaker?

4)  Finally, I’ll make their job requirements almost an afterthought in the conversation by focusing on what the client really needs.  NOTE- that’s way different from what they want to hear!

What does that mean?  

Let’s say that a client is looking to hire someone to create an email marketing campaign or sales funnel.  In my proposal, I’ll actually tell them NOT TO hire anyone because their website is not optimized for people.  Why would you let a client spend a thousand bucks to get people on their website when it’s not going to help them sell?  You always optimize the website and the calls to action first.  

By not actually bidding on the project, I accomplished something that 99% of all freelancers goof up- I proved my value without ever having to brag.  I also showed that I was loyal to them and not the money.  Clients will reply almost 100% of the time in those situations and they’ll ask me to tune up their website…then they’ll have me do the email marketing campaign afterwards.

Learning to Break the Ice

If that’s not an option, then I’ll use one of those ice breakers to show that I did my homework.  For instance, I sent a proposal the other week that started with, “I see that you just got back from vacationing in Orlando…did you happen to go to Disney Wolrd?”  Of course, I know they did because there was about 50 pictures with their kids and Minnie Mouse.  That’s how you break the ice though…you find something to start a conversation with.

The lesson here is to make sure that you’re completely different from every other applicant by paying attention to the client’s needs, writing a personalized proposal and tying in anything that the average person won’t bother to look up.  You’ll be amazed at how many doors will open for you quickly.

 

Always Over-Deliver

Want to hear about how I landed my first Fortune 500 client on Upwork?  I absoluely love this story.

About seven years ago, I hopped on Elance late one night just to see if anyone on the West Coast was posting a project before bed.  I’ve learned that if you can get your proposal in before anyone else and it impresses, then you have a decent chance of landing the job on the spot without any competition.

So I would check the job feeds fairly often back then- usually 3-5 times a day minimum.

Anyway, I see a project for writing a post card for an upcoming charity event with a budget of fifty bucks.  And I’m thinking a post card?  That’s almost not even a job.  I have a policy of never charging charities anything if I can help it but at the time, the minimum bid on Elance was $25 if you didn’t want to get penalized.  So I bid $25 for a series of five postcards, with visual cues for the front and the copy for the other side.

Now, the client didn’t ask for any of that…she only wanted the writing.  But it was for a good cause so I tried my best to go way above and beyond in any way that I could.  Even so, I spent maybe 30 minutes total on this project before sending it back to the client.  She was absolutely thrilled.

About a week later, the same client emails me and says, “Have you ever written a video script?  I work for <massive, huge company>  and I need five scripts for one of our major clients- I could pay you up to $1,000 if you could complete them within the next 3-4 days.”

Naturally I was blown away- I had no idea who I had volunteered for.  But it made sense; highly sucessful people are more likely to be involved with big charities.  And I happened to get on this person’s good side over a simple $25 project.

Over the last 7 years, I have billed this one client in excess of a half million dollars.  She’s also referred me to two others on the Upwork platform that add up to an additional $175,000 in freelance work.

The Art of Landing Small Projects

Personally, I love bidding on small projects that can show off my abilities because I know for a fact that the client will come right back to me the next time they need something.  So while others only bid on the jobs with $500 or $1,000+ budgets, I don’t pay any attention to the numbers part of the equation.  I just look for users with a history of projects and good feedback- if they have that, then I’ll spend two minutes researching them and try to get them on board.

Here’s the thing though- if I had delivered $25 worth of postcard copy, then that client may have never reached out to me again.  She loved me because I went above and beyond for a complete stranger…that’s how you prove your worth.

So remember this- there’s no such thing as a lousy job on Upwork.  If you earn great feedback and get the chance for more work later on, then it’s a win/win situation.  And you can always decline recurring projects down the road if the money is not adding up.  That feedback and making a great impression is literally priceless though- I initially built my Elance profile $25 and $50 bucks at a time.

The Joys of Scam Artists

In fact, I remember an early job- maybe the worst project I ever accepted on Elance.  It was for a “short eBook” on the driving laws in Australia, and the client said that he would be fully involved with the project and do all the research.  The proposal said to write around 15 pages and he was offering $300.  So even though the money was lousy, I said what the heck.

Only, the client completely lied- he didn’t share any research at all.  In fact, he didn’t do anything but make additional demands.  He changed the page count to 25 pages and then 35…all while promising me a hefty bonus at the end.  The end product was 42 pages AND I did all the formatting for it.

But all of a sudden, the client wouldn’t respond.  I could see that he was logging into Elance, yet he wouldn’t reply, release the payment or talk about that huge bonus he promised.  So I’m contacting customer support and screaming bloody murder…this crook ripped me off!  They did initially get the $300 released to me though since the client was non-responsive.

Nightmare job, right?

Of course it was.  Yet, I received an invite for an eBook job about seven months later from a really, really good client.  This person happened to like my profile and then he noticed that project, which convinced him to reach out.  So even bad projects pay off if you deliver quality work.

 

Parting Thoughts on Upwork

I’ve saved the best (or possibly the worst) for last since this is something a lot of people won’t want to hear.  To succeed on Upwork, you only have to do one thing well- impress clients.

Throughout this article I’ve given you almost everything that you need to shoot up to the top of the ranks…there’s only one little thing missing.  Your work ethic.  Are you willing to go above and beyond for evey client?  Have you created an awesome portfolio, stationery and all the other tools of the trade?  Can you guarantee that you’ll never miss a deadline?  Will you research clients inside and out before applying (with a custom proposal)?

These are all the things that the best of the best do on a daily basis.

Over the years, I have literally trained hundreds of writers, digital marketers, SEO professionals and copywriters at all stages of their career.  And if there was one thing that the vast majority were lacking, it would have to be an amazing work ethic to consistently go above and beyond.  They wanted to put out minimal effort and receive great pay…that’s just not how the freelance world works.

If you’re really committed to your craft though and you’re ready to take the freelancing world by storm, then Upwork is certainly a place that you can do that.  The best advice I can give you is to be yourself, work hard and always overdeliver for your clients.  Focus on building actual relationships as well- that’s what clients are ultimately looking for.  The last thing they want to do is scan through dozens of postings every week, they’d rather just hire that last person who did such a great job.

So become that person who always leaves clients with a smile on their face.  Then the frelance world will literally be your oyster.

By the way, I LOVE netowkring and comparing notes!  If you’ve had a different experience on Upwork or see anything that I’ve missed, feel free to share it in the comments section below.

 

Welcome to the New Upstate Synergy!

Welcome to the New Upstate Synergy!

As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve fully overhauled our website and switched our brand name to Upstate Synergy.  Hopefully you like the new look and feel!  It was truly a labor of love that we spent entirely too much time on.  We’re still polishing up some final features here and there so “please excuse the mess” if you come across an old landing page or blog that isn’t formatted correctly. 

Although “Web Synergy of the Upstate” served us well for over five years, the name was too long and our website no longer represented what we really did.  Our first thought was to buy the domain web synergy dot com, but we spent two months trying to contact the domain owner overseas and finally gave up.

Our next thought was to rebrand to a different name completely since all of our larger clients don’t reside in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Tons of potential names were thrown around as we redeveloped this site, but ultimately we decided to stick to our Upstate roots.  

Living in the foothills of SC is a big part of who we are- it just didn’t feel right abandoning that.  So the Upstate Synergy domain name ultimately stayed.

So what’s next for Upstate Synergy?  With a new year and a new brand, we decided to change up our content strategies a little bit.  Our founder Keith Koons has had thousands of followers for many years now in the content marketing niche, and you fine folks represent close to 40% of our total web traffic each month.  It seemed a little silly for us to be giving advice to clients about catering to their visitors while not doing so ourselves.  

 

This was a unique problem for us though since almost half of our traffic comes fron people that will never be our clients.  But then again, they’re our people- writers and digital marketers just like us wo are always searching for new insights.  So do we just chase the all-mighty dollar or focus on giving back?

Blogging for Clients & Our Fans

 

Ultimately, we decided that we have to really ramp up blogging efforts in 2017 with two different series- one that focuses on small businesses looking for web design or branding help, plus another blog catering to novice digital marketers and writers.  Keith will also continue to share client success stories and his own insights as well, so we’re setting the bar pretty high to produce a tremendous amount of content moving forward.

 

Part of that strategy is going to be opening our blog to some great writers that we’ve worked with over the years, so you will start to see a little bit of guest posting moving forward.  If you’d like to be a part of that, shoot an email over to Friends@UpstateSynergy.com with a story pitch and a brief outline.  

 

Just know up front that our content standards are very high and we don’t publish fluff pieces.  If you’re going to get a byline on our site, then it has to be something with actionable advice that directly helps our readers.

 

 

A New Video Blog Series

Additionally, we plan on starting a video series later this year with simple, straightforward advice on topics like creating a powerful digital brand, writing content that converts, building awesome websites and sales funnels, and all sorts of topics on learning about everyday customer engagement.  

We are extremely excited about the video series and we hope that you are too!

Look for this series to start around March or April of 2017.

 

A Kick-Butt Community Forum

Finally, we are also debating whether or not we should add a community forum where our friends and clients can talk about digital marketing.  We’ve always loved sites like Warrior Forum and Digital Point for sharing strategies and just getting to know our peers, but the problem with those places is that they become overrun with big egos.  The solid advice tends to get lost in the cracks far too easily.

So if we did do a forum, we would want to keep it small…maybe even invite only.  We would also have the community moderate to keep the trash talking to a minimum, and just make it a place where folks can share ideas, ask marketing questions or get some quick help.  But to do that, we’d need people like you to share that same vision.

This is one topic where we’d really like to hear your input, so please share some feedback in the comments section below.  

Also, what do you think of the new site?  Did we nail it or not?  We can’t wait to hear your opinion! 

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Never hire a website designer?  What kind of idiot would actually say that out loud?  Before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at your screen, just hear me out…

After all, if you want a great cup of coffee, then you would visit the best coffee shop in your town.  If you need a new suit, then you go to the premiere tailor around.  So why wouldn’t you hire a website designer to help you build a great website?

To put it simply, a freelance website designer is good for only one thing- coding HTML into websites.  And for the sake of argument, let’s say that you do need a website built.  Should you hire one then?

No.  Heck no.  Don’t even think about it.  That’s a big mistake Mister.  Do not hire a website designer and expect random miracles.

Why?  The initial coding elements of your website are a minor part of the overall picture compared to things like design, branding, marketing, search optimization and customer engagement.  The vast majority of web designers don’t know about any of those things, so they’re definitely not the one you want leading your online face lift for the masses to see.  Choose a creative design firm instead.

If that’s not enough to sway you to never hire a website designer, then here are 27 more things to consider-

Do You Know Content Marketing?

1) Can you speak in HTML, PHP or Klingon?

Let’s start with what websites designers are actually good at; programming in languages like PHP and HTML, plus brushing up on their Star Trek lingo for this summer’s Comic-Con.  Since you don’t speak these languages though, then you’re going to have no idea how to make any adjustments.

2) Do you care about customer service at all?

Besides, have you ever asked a website developer for help understanding something?  That’s like asking Gollum from Lord of the Rings for fashion advice…there’s simply no answer to the equation.

3) Are you a genuine WordPress expert?

Let’s say that you do hire a website designer and they deliver you a site as promised.  Now what?  Do you know your way around WordPress enough to actually turn an empty domain into a place that potential customers would want to visit?

A website designer is a person who takes instructions and works with code to make your idea come to life.  But well over 90% of them now very little about how to attract customers or make a website become popular.

4) Do you enjoy overpaying for imaginary services?!?

Besides, most of today’s web developers still work on an old-school monthly-rate plan, which means that you pay for your website up front and then shell out a large chunk of change each month for site maintenance and other imaginary services.

Well, guess what?  You don’t need to pay someone to sit idle and collect monthly fees for absolutely nothing.  Don’t EVER hire a website designer under these conditions without spelling out exactly what they’ll be doing for you each month

5) Do you enjoy being frequently lied to?

Now, we’re not saying that website designers are liars, because most of them have the best intentions in the world when they say that they can design your new website from top to bottom in a few weeks.  But again, they’re thinking about code and the bare minimum of back-end stuff to make something qualify as an actual website.  All of your content marketing, lead banners and images in place are a completely different story.

If you hire a website designer with the sole intention of driving sales or attracting new customers, then that’s the very first question you should ask- can you prove that you can do that kind of stuff?

6) Do you follow the latest SEO algorithm trends?

If you do then that’s great, because your web designer almost certainly doesn’t.  He has to keep up with new programming languages and the latest apps/tools instead.  That means you’ll have to do a lot of reading on Moz and HubSpot for hiring a website designer.

There’s another inherent problem here though- and that’s Google’s inherent love towards innovative online businesses that strive to make customers happy.  If you hire a website designer that’s not studying these trends and continually expanding their strategies, then you’ve already lost before your website is even built. 

And don’t even get me started on those “specialty website design firms” that essentially sell everyone the exact same website over and over again- the automotive world wastes billions of dollars every year on websites that will never, ever draw customers because of poor design and horrible SEO.

7) Do words really matter at all?

Most website developers will quickly volunteer to write your website’s content for a nominal fee, and then turn around to do one of two things-

·         Hire a writer from India for $2.36/hr., who sub-contracts it to a gal in Pakistan for 1/4th that amount

·         Write the content themselves…which makes the Pakistani look like a true poet in comparison

Either way, none of these people are brand experts that can help you drive in conversions.  And if pleasing customers and making sales isn’t a priority, then there’s no sense in having a website to begin with.

8) Can you create an effective banner ad?

Since sites like Canva and BeFunky make it easy for almost anyone to get their art on, then maybe you can crank out a decent looking banner all by yourself.  But do you know how to upload it and link it to your squeeze page?  Can you configure it with your lead generation software?

Probably not…and neither can your web designer.  That’s why you never hire a website designer to handle creative aspects of your domain (HINT- which should be the ENTIRE FREAKING WEBSITE!)

Do You Know Web Design?

9) Do you like people who overstate their credentials?

Unfortunately, most website developers earn a bad rap because people have no idea what they’re looking for when hiring a professional.  So here’s a little cheat sheet-

  • Web developers install themes and write code
  • Programmers create apps, often from scratch
  • Designers make pretty page layouts & graphics
  • Copywriters and bloggers handle your site’s content
  • Marketers focus on traffic and generating leads
  • Analysts dig deep into the data to find insights

Very rarely will one person have some serious skills in all of these areas since each can take decades to master.  That’s why you hire a digital marketing team instead of a web developer.

10) Do you prefer face to face business meetings? 

If so, then your boss will either laugh or cry when the “website guru” you hired shows up in the board room wearing cutoff jeans, a tie-died tee shirt, and flip flops.  Either way; you’re probably in for an ear-full from the VP of Common Sense after the meeting adjourns.

Not that web designers can get dressed up for a meeting, mind you…that’s not really the point here.  You need a firm representing your brand online that understands business, marketing, sales projections, customer loyalty and all that good stuff that really matters.

11) Does your company work late-night?

If so, then hiring a website developer may not be such a bad idea after all.  That’s because a large portion of the top web geeks tend to work well into the night and sleep until noon…just because they can.

Between that and Halo tournaments, that’s essentially why it takes three weeks for you to get a simple answer.

On the bright side though, if you hire a foreign web designer then his nights are your days so everything works out perfectly!  That is, as long as you have enough time to overcome the language barriers.

12) “It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again!”

What, you don’t like random pop culture quotes forwarded to your inbox sixteen times a day?  Then let’s hope that you didn’t accept your web developer’s Facebook request…that’s where the real magic happens!

Seriously though, coders are a special breed that don’t always march to the same drum cadence as the rest of society.  That doesn’t make them any less dependable, mind you, but most are simply not made for the board room.

13) How important are overall results anyway?

Let’s say your boss is a big AC/DC fan and he wants the song “Highway to Hell” to auto-play on your homepage as soon as new visitors arrive.  Sounds like a pretty terrible idea, right?

Well, too bad for you that the web developer you just hired could care less about what may seem like a good or bad idea.  Their only job is to build a site and get paid…they could care less about results.  And once your boss realizes that heavy metal misses the demographic , guess who gets paid all over again?  Cha-ching!  Time to hire a web designer all over again.

Go ahead and click play though- you know you want to.  Better to get it out of your system now.

14) Hey look, the homepage is giving some random 500 error…

Oh, you actually believed that random web developer when he said that you can call him day or night?  Sorry friend, but it’s a Buffy the Vampire marathon weekend and definitely not a good time.  Maybe try back next Tuesday when his mom will be there to pick up the phone…

Seriously though, you want to hire a website designer that has a long history of great customer service.  At times it will fell like you’re married to your design firm since they play a vital role in practically everything your company does.  So focus on your relationship early and makes sure all lines of communication are wide open.

15) Are you looking for results-based quality?

Surely by now you’ve seen a little bit of a pattern forming here…it’s not just in your head.  The average web developer knows absolutely zero about actual design, marketing, search optimization or your customers, so they can only deliver a mere fraction of what you’re looking for.

That’s what I’ve been saying all along here; do not hire a website designer if you’re looking for the total package.  Such a person doesn’t exist in the modern world unless you’re looking to spend $150/hr for the next 18 months.

Can You Afford a Rockstar Designer?

16) What if I want to work directly with a top-level programmer?

Here’s a little secret for you- the rock star programmers in today’s world are earning comfortably in the six-figure range creating apps and future technologies.  The few that do develop websites are often either-

·         Making their own custom themes and affiliate sites, or

·         Earning a huge paycheck with a top-tier agency/corporation

Either way, there are only a small handful of top-tier website developers out there that still build websites from scratch.  The rest use platforms like WordPress or Joomla.

17) Okay, but what if I want a website built from scratch anyway?

Well, that is the way to go if you are a large company with 6+ figure online sales and millions of web views per month.  Clean code from a professional will easily pay for itself in no time, plus save you countless headaches.  So in this one very specific case, you need to hire a website designer…through a design firm.

Why? Remember how arrogant Tom Cruise and his fellow fighter pilots were in the movie Top Gun?  In real life, a superstar coder is likely going to be five times as self-righteous and twice as quick to defend their excellence.  

These types of work relationships almost always end badly without that designer being on premesis and working as a part of a team.  Think epic proporations bad.

18) Do you take deadlines even halfway seriously?

Was Picasso given timelines when creating a masterpiece?  Heck no…and he didn’t even know C+ Basic.  So when you’re braving the world of programmers and building something from scratch, there’s no such thing as a timeline for actual launch.  You can be given estimates, but definitely not any sort of deadline.

To be fair, you can experience this type of setback with any reputable design firm if communication breaks down or you simply like watching underlings dance in terror.  That’s why you never want to hire a website designer without properly vetting them first- grab the phone and call a few of their previous clients directly.  Just because their site is pretty doesn’t mean it didn’t finish six months late and $15k over budget.

19) What if I just skipped using a web designer completely?

Oh, you mean like one of those free website builders that allows you to launch a complete website in 15 minutes?  That’s a great idea…except that they absolutely, positively suck.  Not only do they vastly overcharge you on a monthly plan to move forward, but the “plug and play” coding is also a jumbled mess that the search engines hate.

So if you’re going to be a do-it-yourself type, then buy a premium WordPress theme and find a highly rated foreign WordPress expert on Upwork to install it.  This will save you a small fortune if you can serve as your own tech support and figure out the content/marketing elements on your own. 

20) Wait- there are cheap AND talented foreign website developers?

Definitely, and you can find some world-class developers from Pakistan, India and similar regions for less than $200 a week for full time work.  But be warned; there are many language and cultural barriers that will drive you absolutely nuts if you don’t know what you actually need completed.

These are super-friendly, hardworking people that really aim to please…just be prepared for quite a long trial and error period.  If you do hire a website designer from overseas, then it would be a great idea to start with a consultation from a reputable digital marketing firm here in the USA (hint, hint- that’s us!) and have them manage the project with your cheap labor.

21) Are you a true patriot?

Of course you are…so why are we talking about hiring foreign web developers and putting some hard working American college graduate out on the streets?  You should be ashamed of yourself for even entertaining the notion!

Then again, what’s more American than saving money on business expenses?  There are certainly pros and cons to hiring individuals overseas so I’ll let you decide how to proceed there.

What About Other Online Factors?

22) How versed are you on finding and optimizing keywords?

These days, it is almost impossible to appear on the first page of the search engines for your major keywords by accident.  Ranking a website is a process that’s both time consuming and highly technical; plus it takes a creative flair and a solid understand of consumers to execute correctly.  So this person with a multitude of talents either needs to be on your staff (likely for six figures), or it can be part of a creative team working on your behalf.

For you to hire a website designer that has all of these skills though, it will be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Unfortunately, the only way a designer becomes the total package is by sheer experience working with a number of leading companies and start-ups while wearing a number of different hats.  And quite honestly, these types of folks usually get hired by major corporations before you’ll ever find them.

23) What is your actual end goal with web design?

Most people would answer this question by saying, “I want to make more sales or gather more leads.”  That’s what we all want from our websites.  But the only way to achieve that is by having a fully optimized website that engages your customers and answers their most pressing questions.

Remember that getting the customers to your domain is only half the battle…the rest is convincing them to stick around and actually experience your brand.

24) Who’s going to hold your web developer accountable?

Hopefully you’re not the type that listens to some fast talking salesman and then says, “Sure, let’s run with it!”  Since you don’t personally know website design or the many other skills it requires to make a website rank favorably, it will be impossible for you to hold a web developer accountable or even guide them in the right direction.

That means you either need someone on your staff that understands tech or you need to partner with a firm that has earned your trust through delivering actual results.  If you just hire a website designer off the streets though because you saw their spammy ad on Facebook, there’s very little chance that they’ll have your best interests at heart.  After all, they’ve already proven that they have a quantity over quality mentality.

25) Who’s keeping an eye on your competitors?

Large corporations spend millions of dollars per year analyzing their competitors and creating campaigns to counter their rival’s latest moves.  And on a smaller scale, you should be doing the exact same thing with your website and everywhere you keep an online presence.

Is the guy who writes website code the best person for this job though?  Not by a longshot…you’d be better off hiring the average 7th  grader to take on the job.  At least you can keep them focused with a juice box.

26) How do you measure success and failure online?

When a website visitor stumbles on your website, how do you know whether they had a great customer experience?  Where’d they even come from?  What do they want?  Is anyone actually paying attention to this sort of stuff?  You need answers to these difficult questions and very few website developers are qualified to be the one interpreting it.

If this is starting to sound like a broken record, that’s because you should never hire a website designer that doesn’t talk about conversion rates, click-through rates, time on site and all the other metrics that mean your customers are actually being engaged.

27) Why are you so negative about website developers anyway?

Like I’ve mentioned several times already, I have nothing against web developers since they are essential for both my business and yours.  I just want for it to be crystal clear in your mind that website development is a very small (although important) aspect of your complete online presence.  Web developers are generally weak at copywriting, photography, graphic design, search optimization, lead generation and marketing…which are all vital to your success.

So you absolutely, positively need to hire a website designer…but you don’t want that person in charge of your overall campaign.  Would you recommend an awesome mechanic to be the next VP of Marketing at Ford or Chrysler?  Of course not- the same principle applies to hiring web developers.

Have any good horror stories from hiring a website developer?  Did I miss something in my list?  Feel free to share away in the comment section below.

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Lunch with Friends CampaignDo you ever get the feeling that if you could only talk to some of your ideal customers and show them that you’re the real deal; that it could really change things in a dramatic way?

I was thinking about that today when I realized that I have more clients in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Chicago lately than I do in Spartanburg County.  Sadly, my local networking has really been lacking in recent years because I stay so busy with larger national clients.  At the same time though, I started Web Synergy years ago because I wanted to impact local businesses right here in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Asheville…so it’s time for some serious changes.

I decided to start a new “Lunch with Friends” campaign for Spartanburg County and the surrounding cities, and it basically works like this-

  • Visit my online calendar and choose a date to sit down for lunch together
  • When we meet I’ll answer each and every one of your online marketing questions
  • I’ll help you create an action plan to optimize your website and fix any issues
  • We will also look at the fastest way for you to start gaining new customers online
  • I’ll waive 100% of my consulting fees as well…just pick up the check

What am I looking to gain from this?

As I said, I would prefer to have all of my clients locally within the next few years.  I would rather help you out today for free and make a new local contact to network with, or possibly even gain your business.  But either way, you’ll receive my expertise and we both walk away big winners.

So if you’ve been wondering how to significantly boost your online presence, this is the perfect time to learn about search optimization and online marketing from the top authority in the southeast.  I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!

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The Death of Keywords in 2018

I need to ask you an important question here- and be honest.  How much do you really focus on keywords these days? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone about this.  Not even those self-proclaimed SEO gurus that...

The Death of Keywords in 2018

The Death of Keywords in 2018

I need to ask you an important question here- and be honest.  How much do you really focus on keywords these days?

Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone about this.  Not even those self-proclaimed SEO gurus that fill our LinkedIn feeds with daily content…especially not them.  Because I’m about to ruin the scam of the century for an entire industry that’s filled with snake-oil salesmen, con artists and self-promoting idiots.

Are you ready for it?  Keywords are officially dead in 2017.

And just so we’re clear here, I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as keywords anymore.  Keywords are just some words placed together with other words…so obviously they still exist.  But they’re just not important.

Take this website, for example…and this very blog.  We all know that to properly optimize a page under SEO standards, we have to get the keyword in the title, in the very first sentence and again in the first subtitle.  Yet I haven’t used any of my site’s primary keywords.  And look down the page- there are no subtitles either.

But guess what?  You’re still reading this…and visitor engagement has surpassed silly things like meta-descriptions and keywords a long time ago.  Google has said so like a billion times.

Heck, “engagement” is probably Matt Cutt’s middle name by now…and he doesn’t even work for the search engine giant anymore.

Now, you may be pondering, “But what does it all mean?  How can the Earth survive without things like keyword density and anchor text?”  Before we get to that, I think it’s important for all of us to remain calm.  Go pop a Valium if necessary, because this feeling of utter hopelessness will pass by the end of this article.  I promise.

And just ask my kids- I may exaggerate all the time, but I never lie.  A promise is something worth keeping.

The truth is that keywords have actually been dead for quite some time now and in most cases, they’re completely unnecessary.    After all, the search engines have a very clear picture of what your website is actually about and one more blog post won’t tip the scales in your favor.

Now, you may come from the school of thought where you’d say something like, “Well, keywords definitely aren’t hurting my website, so why should I stop focusing on them?”

That’s a great question.

But unfortunately, you’ve been so obsessed with keyword stuffing for so darn long that you’ve completely forgotten what a keyword or a key-phrase is in the first place.  It’s just a series of words people- every single word on this page is a keyword.

Well, okay…maybe not all the “the, and, our, but, it” and words like that…but the rest are certainly keywords.  And if they are located next to other words on the page, then you have a bunch of key-phrases forming as well.

Before I make this too confusing, maybe I better give a practical example.  I’ll use my website once again.

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’m a copywriter that knows a thing or two about online marketing and search optimization.  And I live in Spartanburg, South Carolina, so naturally by most important key-phrase would be something like, “Spartanburg Copywriter” or “Copy writer in Spartanburg,” right?

Wrong.  Those are horrible keywords.  And I can prove it.

When I tell people around town what I do for a living, about 1/3rd of them assume a “copywriter” is a person who issues patents.  Or someone who creates laws.  They have absolutely no idea what I do for a living unless they actually have ties to the marketing field.  And that means when they look for someone like me, they almost never type those phrases, even though Google AdWords says that they’re my best bet.

So let me ask you a question- what would my main keyword be then if it’s not “copywriter”?

Well, it could be anything that people type into the search engines these days to find someone like me…and that’s a pretty darn long list.  I see everything from content creator to digital analyst to brand manager on job boards, while your average Joe searches for a blog writer or social media professional.  Some even use “wordsmith”, even though that’s technically not a word.

Do you see the problem here?  I can’t just pluck a few nifty keywords out of thin air and properly reach all of my potential clients.  In fact, I probably couldn’t reach all of them with a thousand targeted key phrases.

That’s why keywords are officially dead in 2017… they died long before you ever took your first lesson in SEO.

Besides, what good does it really do anyway to target the same keywords over and over again?  Google is dead-set on normalizing the search results so you can’t appear in multiple spots for the same phrase.  Either your website doesn’t have quality content and it will never rank for your terms, or it is already ranking well and you’re being repetitive anyway.

Either way, it’s wasted money if you follow conventional SEO logic.

Again, that brings us right back to finding a true definition of a keyword.  But the dictionary won’t help, because the only opinions that truly matter here are your actual customers.  After all, they control everything when it comes to the success of your brand.

Are you with me so far on this?  I promise- a big revelation is just seconds away.

If your main goal is to connect with more customers (and let’s face it; that’s the only reason you do any of this crap), then your main focus is not going to be on a single key-phrase.  Or even your top fifty.  Instead, you’re going to throw the SEO book straight out the window and casually use every possible combination of industry-related jargon you can think of.

And that, my friends, means that there are no such things as keywords anymore.  It’s almost like the Matrix- everything is a keyword, and you don’t even have to take the blue pill.

The morale to this lesson here is to completely forget about keywords except when it comes to your back-end meta stuff, because that’s the only place where it still slightly matters.  But to connect to actual people and to convince them to trust your brand, you’d better be talking in their language…and normal humans don’t say the same phrase six times in a two minute period.

That’s just weird.

So your content marketing goal in 2017 is to simply focus on what matters to your potential customers and to deliver your messaging in plain-Jane English that they can relate with…and then do the exact opposite of keyword targeting.  Instead, try to use every possible variation of what your customers might type across your next 10-20 blog posts.

Guess what?  There’s a term for that as well- it’s called great writing.  And that’s been the #1 ranking factor of the search engines since the early 1990’s.  The best overall content always wins.

So moving forward, forget about those silly keywords and just focus on putting a smile on a potential customer’s face.  As long as you’re doing that, Google will see your value.  That’s all that really matters anyway.