No freelance writer website is perfect. I pointed that out when we looked at five freelance writer websites done well. That includes my own site, ProBusinessWriter.com. And today I'd like to use it as an example to show you the kinds of things you might want to change by picking it apart a bit here on the blog.
About a year ago I updated the design on my site. It was looking a little stale, and my previous test with branding changes didn't have much of an impact and it felt much less like me. Here's what the site looks like now:
When I took care of the redesign, I made minor copy updates (to account for changes in the site's layout and some small adjustments elsewhere), but I didn't do a comprehensive overhaul of the copy and content. And that is one (of far too many) things on my plate this month. What I've chosen to update is based on a content audit I did several months ago before reviving the professional blog.
Not sure what a content audit of your professional website should include?
My Content Audit Overview
When conducting an audit of your site, you'll need to determine whether or not existing copy should stay or go, what should be updated, and what should be added. Basically, is it doing its job? And, if not, how can you improve it so your site and copy help you attract and convert more, or better, prospects?
My top three issues with my own site are:
- Missing pages for specific advertised services (I have pages for some but not others, keep meaning to add them but forgetting, and this needs to be more consistent.)
- Some outdated copy that doesn't represent me as well as it used to (info in my FAQs, stylistic issues in some of the copy itself, and some things I'd like to simplify)
- A neglected blog (which I revived this year, though unexpected sick time over the past month has me a bit behind -- I'd like to get a stockpile of posts written and scheduled for this site so that doesn't happen.) [DONE]
It was a solid mix for me -- old material that needs to go or be updated and new material that needs to be written. You might find your site is too simple and you have a lot to add. You might just need minor tweaks to reflect improvements in your writing over time. Or you might focus on scaling back by defining a tighter specialty or cutting services clients rarely order so you can focus copy and conversions on your biggest sellers.
So that's my plan in a very general sense. But let's dig a little deeper.
My Service Pages
One of the areas I've wanted to improve for quite some time is my collection of service pages. I'm okay with my main Services page, which you can see below:
I decided in the redesign to pull out my top services: blog posts, press releases, online copywriting, white papers, case studies, and consulting. Then I mentioned some additional services I'm experienced with below to let prospects know that while I might focus on the highlighted projects, I can handle other types of business writing for them as well.
Pretty basic. And it gets the job done.
Where I've wanted to make improvements are the individual services pages. I have pages currently for my freelance blogging, press release writing, and web copywriting services. They all need a refresher to get them a little more in my current voice. The copywriting page will get a near-total overhaul. But I don't have pages at all yet for white paper writing, case study writing, or consulting. That's my primary focus in this area -- making this more consistent across all six key services.
I also currently have a page related to e-book writing. But this is a project I don't take on for clients often, and when I do it's almost exclusively for clients I've worked with previously (they'll usually have me go from blogging for them to writing an e-book when they're ready for longer-form content). For the sake of consistency, I plan to remove this page and turn the general content into a blog post to promote the service. [DONE]
My Business Writing Blog
The main issue with my professional blog is simply that it hadn't been updated in a long time.
If you're actively looking for leads, don't slack off on that like I did. In my case, you have to remember that I've been at this a long time. So how I use my professional blog might not be the same way you do, and that means you shouldn't model yours after what I do (or don't do).
Most of my work comes from repeat or regular clients and referrals from them. That alone brings in plenty of prospects. But you can't always rely on it. So I also try to focus on SEO.
Over the years the top factor in my professional site's rankings has been the blog. When I update the blog, its rankings go up. When I ignore it more than a few months, rankings drop a bit. For years, I ranked #1-2 for my top keyword phrase. That alone brought in enough prospects to keep me busy when I needed it to, and it helped me fill a waiting list (I stopped offering a waiting list a couple of years back however and just got more selective about what I agree to take on). When I'd let the blog slip, rankings for that primary phrase would drop to #5-8. Still not bad, but it led to a very noticeable decrease in inquiries.
Before reviving the blog earlier this year, I'd slipped to the top of the second page's rankings for that same phrase. That wasn't only because of the lack of timely content, but because algorithm changes started giving extra weight to sites like big job boards and race-to-the-bottom bidding sites like Upwork. I've seen those kinds of Google preferences come and go so many times I'm not too worried about them. But still, within just a few weeks of updating the blog again, I was bouncing from #7-8, back on the first page. And since letting it sit for just a couple of weeks while I was sick, it's back to the top of the second page.
That's how much it matters for this particular site and this particular keyword phrase. And that's why I want to get consistent updates going again.
As of now, my plan is to get the site on a regular Monday and Wednesday posting schedule. [DONE]
The blog itself isn't terribly fussy. I don't advertise anything in the sidebar. I don't push a newsletter (why I don't use one for this site is a topic worthy of its own post). I just direct readers to the content. Here's what it looks like:
As you can see, I recently published a series of posts pushing my press release writing services. Every post will be tied to a specific service in some way, with a call-to-action (CTA) at the end.
Regular updates aren't the only thing I need to improve with the blog though. For example:
- I need to add or improve CTAs for older posts. [DONE]
- Before I build up too large of an archive, I want to change the permalink setup to remove categories and get them properly redirected. (I learned the hard way during a merger years ago that this link structure can cause enormous headaches.) [DONE]
- I want to create new branded header images for each of these posts (new ones have none; old ones have some outdated ones meant for the old site design).
- I'd like to improve internal linking between these posts, especially those targeted the same services.
- Some of the older posts will be updated or expanded (though I don't often use long posts here), and I'll remove external link lists at the end of some older posts (I used to link to related content, but some of those are dead, and others are outdated, and I've long since stopped this kind of "further reading" style of link).
- I need to update my mini-bio at the end of posts (or remove it given that the info is on the About page, though I prefer the personal touch of a headshot and bio there). [DONE]
That's the gist of how I'd like to improve the business writing blog.
Not all pages need major copy updates. Some exceptions are the:
- Copywriting services page
- About page
- FAQs page
The Testimonials page will be removed entirely (the new theme incorporates them in another way, so this is unnecessary). [DONE] And other pages will get more minor updates.
Perhaps the most important thing is to periodically give your entire a site a good once-over. When I updated the design, I not only found a couple of typos in the new copy, but also in older copy. And I'd read this copy more times than I can count. When we know what we mean to say, sometimes the little things slip by because we get ahead of ourselves. So read slowly. Read aloud. And, ideally, get a second set of eyes on your copy to catch what you might miss.
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), I'm mostly focused on on-page improvements. That includes:
- Writing higher-converting / more actionable meta descriptions for each page; [DONE]
- Improving title tags sitewide; [DONE]
- Increasing my internal linking;
- Making some older blog post URLs more SEO-friendly; [DONE]
- Switch the site to https. [DONE]
I'll also get as many external links updated to account for the https change as well as the permalink changes as possible.
Other Types of Content
What I've mentioned above will make up the bulk of changes to my professional site. But there will be other smaller updates as well. For example:
- I'm going to take a fresh look at my rates, and will most likely start offering package options for blogging in particular.
- I'm going to simplify my Contact page and put more emphasis on the quote request / project brief contact form. [DONE]
- I'm going to remove FAQs that aren't really an issue for me anymore, and I might add a couple of new ones. [DONE]
- I'm going to feature some additional resources (which I'd already created for my other sites) and update at least the e-book there (which has brought in quite a few long-term clients over the years, even when I used to charge for it).
- I'm going to release a white paper tied to my business blogging services (this will probably come out in the spring).
- I plan to release at least one paid product here later on (aiming for two by the end of the year).
- I need to add a favicon to show up in browser tabs for branding's sake. [DONE]
- I'm due to update some headings and other copy on the homepage for more SEO testing. [DONE]
- I want to add an "as seen in" list (similar to the one you see in image form in the sidebar of this blog). [DONE]
- I'd like to standardize the look of my CTAs a little bit more (specifically for my main pages; blog posts have their CTAs directly in the closing of the posts themselves).
- I set up a new Twitter account for this site and plan to start updating that soon. (While I don't shy away from speaking my mind in business so ranting about controversial topics doesn't concern me in my market, my personal account isn't really used to talk about business writing. And the All Freelance Writing Twitter account is for other writers, not my potential clients.)
What I'm Not Changing
One page you might have noticed I didn't include here was my Portfolio page. And if you look at it, you'll see those samples are on the older side. For years I've debated updating these regularly. And I always opt against it. But I don't necessarily recommend the same in most cases.
I have a few reasons for my choice:
- I had a huge problem several years ago where a freelance writer I had previously mentored started trying to poach my clients. While I don't worry about competitors doing that in general, this person went out of their way to contact every one of my clients. And they didn't just pitch them after I'd helped them out. They told my clients I'd referred them, as if I'd told them my clients needed additional writers. (I did not.) That left me rather put-off by announcing the people I was currently working with. So while I still take on gigs for some repeat folks in my portfolio and testimonials, most current or very recent clients aren't there.
- It's also not uncommon for me to have NDAs tied to my blogging these days because I primarily ghostwrite. With blogging, I essentially write as the voice of a small business or its owner, and the owner doesn't want readers knowing they needed help with that content. On top of blogging, most of what I do is copywriting (such as press releases) where there is no byline anyway.
- My policy's simple. If prospects ever drop off much, or if enough outright complain about the samples, I'll update them. But that has never happened. I even make additional samples available privately if I'm interested in a gig and if the prospect asks, and it's been years since a prospect has ever bothered asking for them. As long as they see enough to see you can do the job, you're fine.
That said, if you want to update your portfolio more frequently, you should do that. If you aren't working heavily with other, newer freelancers, it's less likely you'll run into issues like I did with the one I used to mentor. And if you rely on bylines, or you write about topics where timely content matters (like technology where things constantly change), more recent samples might serve you better.
With your site, you'll have to make that call depending on the kinds of inquiries you get, the kinds of projects you take on, how many clients you have (and need), and your specialty.
And that's the gist of what I'll be working on this month on my professional site.
Is your freelance writer website due for an update? Start with a simple content audit, and map out a plan from there. If you've recently made big changes, or are thinking about it, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.