Picking Effective Keywords
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If you do go for generic keywords, be sure not to go so generic that you’re really just filling your keyword list with fluff and clichés. You may believe you offer “superior customer service” or think your work is “quality”, but so does everyone else. These are not good keywords, because everyone believes they excel in these areas, and clients aren’t going to do searches for words like “quality”.
If taking the generic approach to extremes means keyword fluff, the other end of the spectrum is using keywords so specific that they are really industry jargon. Unlike being too broad with your keywords, highly targeted phrases can actually work well, but only if you use them properly. To employ jargon successfully, you must know what terminology is in common use in the industry, and what clients are looking for.
As an example, consider Microsoft Excel spreadsheet work. You could put “Excel” in your profile, and you’ll get plenty of hits. But you could also (or instead) use the phrase “pivot tables”, if you have expertise working with them. Pivot tables are a specific feature of Excel, and not many clients even know what they are. But the ones who do may search for “pivot tables” and be willing to pay very well for someone who really knows them.
Jargon becomes slang when it is so obscure that only those who do the work even know what it means. To extend the example above, suppose that pivot tables are referred to colloquially as “pivvies” or “ptables” among Excel programmers. (They probably aren’t, I just made that up.) Slang can be convenient shorthand, but most clients are probably not in on the joke, so they aren’t going to search for those terms.
Finally, remember that keywords are not set in stone. There’s nothing wrong with trying different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t. Adjust keywords based on how much success you have with your initial selections, and to adapt to both changing marketplace conditions and growth in your freelancing career.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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