Welcome to Write Bites: Interview Edition, where I bring on a guest to discuss writing, marketing, and freelancing.
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In this episode, I interview freelance writer Declan Davey on how he used my SEO techniques to rank #1 for his copywriting niche via a brand new website.
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Read The Transcript: How Declan Davey Became The #1 Search Result For His Copywriting Niche
Okay, awesome, so we have Declan Davey here, and Declan is the first person in the last three years to take me up on the challenge of ranking for a niche copywriting term. He was able to recently hit the number-one spot for the term he targeted.
I’m going let him tell you guys about that and dig into a little bit of how he did it, how long it took, and then also some other thoughts on how he’s been growing his business. Declan, thanks for hopping on. Can you tell us what is the term that you are now ranking for?
Declan: Yeah, thanks so much for inviting me, Jacob. The term is health and wellness copywriter which, in the last couple of weeks, has hit result one on page one.
Declan: I managed to rank, I think number two as well for health copywriter, a separate page, and then alternative health copywriter on another page after that.
I really have you to thank for the inspiration and the guidelines. I read your guide back in March—April—this year, and I was like: Challenge accepted. Let’s get to work.
And yeah, obviously, it took some time to do my research and get a sense of what my competitors were doing: the kind of word counts there were on the top-ranking pages; how their pages were structured; and come up with a strategy:
“How can I make a better page that is going to outrank them?”
I used a variety of writing techniques, SEO strategy—trying to make the pages:
Long enough… so, I think the health and wellness copywriter example came in around 3000 words… and I think the top-ranking one before that was maybe 1800, something like that.
Jacob: Okay, so basically, you close to doubled it just to make extra sure that you’d have the edge.
Declan: Yeah. I thought I’d guarantee that.
Jacob: That’s awesome. And a few quick questions…. How long had your site been live prior to doing this?
Declan: Not long at all. Not long at all. I think I bought the domain around April and then was building the site quite comprehensively throughout April and May…
Jacob: That’s April of 2020!
Jacob: Okay, so this is a brand new site that you were able to get this ranking on, and you started the actual process of targeting this keyword—when?
Declan: I would say early May, right at the start of May.
Jacob: Okay, so we’re talking really only about four full months to rank for this term, which is kind of right in the vein of what I was talking about in my challenge about how wide open this opportunity is.
Man, that is the perfect case study because it’s a brand new domain, and you literally right off the bat are targeting this and got it in only four months. Pretty incredible.
I’m curious to hear… obviously, you mentioned the length. I noticed as well that rather than doing a service page, you opted to do, kind of like, a guide to hiring that type of copywriter. What led to that decision? Was length a part of it, like, “Hey, I don’t know if I could do 3K-words on a service page?”
Declan: Not so much, really. I was more thinking about trying to be a voice of authority in that particular niche, and not trying to go too much with the hard sell—stay off of that.
Declan: More demonstrating value upfront, but also peppering relevant calls to action throughout the page… subtly saying, “Hey, my services are available if you click this button or fill out this form.”
Jacob: So you went for the maximum value add, basically…
Declan: Yeah, yeah. I finally considered one of the topics of information someone looking for a health and wellness copywriter might want—if they’re maybe a little confused or unsure how to go about choosing the right one for them. So, I really broke it down into three categories, which were: experience, skills, and personality. And that enacted the structure, to build the page around that.
Jacob: Totally. Now, obviously, I know the process that I teach, but I would be really curious to hear how someone like you who took on the challenge almost a half a year ago now, and then has been implementing—and I’m sure learning a ton about SEO along the way—separate from even just my own process, I’m curious to hear about going through the process of ranking that, and then, getting to the end of that process and looking back:
What do you feel were the key things you did to rank that page?
Declan: Yeah, sure. So, I started off with researching keywords that I felt were going to be relevant to what I’m ultimately selling, and health and wellness copywriter fitted the bill. It wasn’t like there’s crazy searches for that each month, so I felt that as a new site, it would be doable.
Declan: And then really centering the article—I don’t want to be spamming the term throughout the whole article—it has to be user-friendly and readable, but including it, certainly, in the keywords, including it in the images tags, meta description, things like that, really.
And then really focusing on the formatting too, so trying to make it as skimmable and scannable as possible, including images and videos, and making sure the sub-headings were laid out well too, because I thought, “Who is really going to read through a 3000-word page all in one go?” I admire anyone who can do, but more than likely they are going to be scanning for subheadings that strike their attention and go, “Okay, I’m interested in this.” Maybe they’re not interested in the personality section, but they are interested in the skill section.
Jacob: Exactly, yeah. And on that note, when I give my little spiel on challenging people to execute SEO. There are two pieces to it: 1) there’s the on-page stuff, which I feel like once you go through the process of doing is actually super easy and most people wildly overestimate how complex it is, and 2) there’s the outbound, the offsite, link building stuff, which I feel is actually quite complex to execute, but is often not even needed, especially in our niche.
So I’m curious, first of all, when it comes to the on-page SEO, would you agree with me that after going through it that it was actually pretty simple to do, and then on the link-building side, did you do any like building? Did you need to do any to get these rankings or did it rank somewhat organically?
Declan: Yeah, yeah, totally. So in terms of on-page SEO, no bother at all. Hopefully, if you’re a copywriter or content writer, you enjoy the process of writing anyway. But if you’re writing a long form page, maybe you want to break it up and say, “Okay, this week I’m going to do a thousand words in this, and then, next week, I’m going to come back and do another thousand, and then another thousand after that.” And you can have a page that’s going to rank in a matter of three weeks, done, and then you just sit back and wait and let people do their thing.
In terms of off-page SEO, I have done a little bit, but really not that much. So, hopefully that’s encouraging to people. Initially, I shared the page on LinkedIn as a post. Since then, when I’ve been doing, for example, blog articles for clients, for those that are happy for me to be displayed as an author for the article, for example, then I’ve linked through the term health and wellness copywriter.
Jacob: That’s it, man. That’s honestly exactly how it worked for me. I was doing so much—both guest blogging and content writing for other sites—and basically would just include links to my own stuff in those whenever I could … either in the bio or if I didn’t get a bio, somewhere in the article where relevant, which wasn’t always relevant. But that’s awesome. Killer approach.
Declan: Yeah, for me, it’s always been bio. I haven’t been able to sneak into the actual article yet … maybe one day soon. But, yeah, fortunately, some clients have been cool to have me in the bio. That’s where I put the link in, and it seems to have worked out well.
Jacob: That’s awesome, man. Awesome. So, in hindsight, are you glad you spent the time to get this ranking?
Do you consider it a successful investment of your time and do you plan to attempt to rank for anything more in the future?
Declan: Absolutely worth your time. I think there’s multiple benefits aside from the actual ranking:
- It’s writing practice.
- It’s like a piece of real estate, your website, so you want to make it as high quality as possible, even for people who are finding you, say organically through Google, you can always share the page as well, or put it up on social media.
- And it’s just fun. I found it a fun process and obviously, the little ego boost of seeing your name up there on Google doesn’t hurt either…
Jacob: It doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure.
Declan: And yeah, I have been thinking about other terms I could potentially rank for, even if it’s not direct in terms of duh-duh-duh copywriter, maybe it’s something to do with marketing, like medical marketing, something like that.
I’m still yet to decide whether I want to just carry on building individual pages or whether I want to start a blog specifically on the site. I don’t want to start a blog and then give up after a month. If I want to start, then I want to commit to a longer term. That’s something I’m still thinking about.
Jacob: And you mentioned to me that your business has really been taking off and outside of just getting some of these rankings, you’ve also been doing posting on LinkedIn, doing direct outreach, and it’s kind of all combined to grow your business.
I’m curious if you could share a little bit more about what you’ve been doing in terms of outreach on LinkedIn … one of the different things you’ve been doing that have been contributing to your business growth besides the SEO.
Declan: Yeah, sure. So when I went through your guide, I saw there were the four main approaches, in no particular order:
- Outreach and
- Guest postings
I was like, “Well, let me experiment with all of these and see which fits best for me, which I enjoy the most, which…
Jacob: That’s literally the greatest thing I can hear as a teacher: “Well, let me try all of these…”
So, if I could just get every writer to have that mentality of, “Let me try it and see what happens…”
I love it, man, I absolutely love it.
Declan: What’s the worst that can happen? You do it for a month, it doesn’t work as well as you expected, and then you choose other ones…
Declan: For me, I found I didn’t enjoy the process of guest posting as much. I was like, “Well, let me scrap that and focus on the other three.” I would say there was the upfront work to write the pages for the SEO for the website, but then I knew, “I just need to be patient” after that. It’d really be in the last few months, the two primary ones have been email outreach and LinkedIn.
Declan: I would say the biggest or most lucrative one has been email outreach, I really have gone in on that and then have paid it back somewhat as my client base has grown, but I’m not going to stop that entirely because I don’t want to go through the feast or famine in that process…
Jacob: Look at this guy listening to all my content! I’m so excited.
And I just want to point out to everyone watching or listening this… What do I say about your number-one method for landing clients in the short term of 6- 12 months? It’s outreach—cold outreach.
It’s exactly what Declan has been using to grow his business. Even though he’s still investing some time in these other more inbound channels—which if he continues to do, will pay off very well in the long term—but in the short term, it’s the email, it’s the cold email outreach, it’s the pitching that’s bringing in the clients.
Right there in black and white. Easy to read. I know what I’m talking about, guys!
Declan: He does. He’s the Yoda. He’s the Yoda figure.
The best thing I can advise is just set up Google sheets, Excel, whatever gives you some sense of accountability. It’s like, “Right. I know I’m going to do 50 email outreaches this week.”
You can play around with whatever feels doable for you. And again, LinkedIn posting and email outreach is writing practice. You can be creative and play around and see what works best.
My approach has really changed over time, I would say, with email outreach. That’s been a writing process in itself.
Jacob: Totally, that’s awesome, man. And I would just add:
You don’t need to go as a multi-channel as Declan’s been doing, but one of the benefits of doing that is when people start to see you in multiple places. If people look up health and wellness copywriter, they find his posts and then they go look him up on LinkedIn and they see he’s got some content on LinkedIn. They look up and they find a guest post of his or they see him in on LinkedIn, and then they Google his name and they find some of his guest posts, they find his own website content.
These sorts of things can really contribute because most of us in this day and age, we don’t do as much due diligence as a lot of people think, but we do do a little due diligence. It’s very common to go search someone up on one or two other platforms, and so if you can do a little bit across multiple channels without neglecting the main thing, which is the email outreach, it can definitely contribute to getting some more traction more of these clients.
I think the fact that you’ve been willing to tackle multiple channels at once has helped to compound some of that early growth.
Declan: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I look at them as like, touch points for someone who’s never heard of you—they’re like, “Who the heck is this guy?”—and they’re probably going to hop from one platform to another. It might be they’ll first see your email. What I’ve done is included my LinkedIn page on my website in the signature, added a little call to action beside it.
What I’ve often found is, say, someone reads the email, then they’ll check out your portfolio on your site, they might check out your recent LinkedIn posts and instantly, they might reference that and they reply to you. They’ll reach out and say, “Hey, thanks for the email. I checked out your recent LinkedIn post, liked it … da da da da …” So, it is proof that they do hunt around, so I think it’s good to be in a couple of places at least.
Jacob: Totally. That’s awesome, man.
Well, I super appreciate you hopping on and talking a little bit about this, and I’m so excited to hear about someone who took me up on the SEO challenge. You’re making my day here, dude.
Declan: Well, thanks so much for the advice, I wouldn’t have got here without you. So, yeah! Let’s put this challenge out to the next person.
Jacob: Yeah, if you’re listening to this, you can be the next person to take me up on this challenge and rank for a niche copywriting term. The SEO techniques I referenced in the video were part of a case study I did with my email list. You can find the basics, learn how to build a profitable freelance copywriting business, and join my email list by clicking here.
So thanks for hopping on and we will catch you guys in the next episode.
Share Your Thoughts
I hope this was helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
I’d also love to get your thoughts on the new interview edition. Do you want more 10-15 minute interviews? Or would you prefer if I keep it to just shooting the shit while walking around the neighborhood?
Plus, if you have a question you want answered on a future Write Bites episode, ask in the comments, and I’ll add it to the schedule.