For all translators interested in making their websites bring in more clients: tips on increasing engagement and winning at SEO from Simon Akhrameev
Links mentioned in the interview:
Yoast plugin settings: https://neilpatel.com/blog/setup-yoast-seo-wordpress-correctly/
Website promotion: https://backlinko.com/blog
Simon’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk3ytFCF8Ig9VF7aeRPCaWw
Simon’s website: https://russiantranslator.pro/
Ekaterina: Thank you for joining, Simon. Glad you found the time, even though we have a huge time difference.
Simon: Yes, we have about 10-hour difference.
Ekaterina: Yeah. I'm not going to do the math right now, 'cause I'll get it wrong anyway, but thank you.
Simon: My pleasure.
Ekaterina: Can you introduce yourself for the listeners?
Simon: Okay. My name is Simon. I'm an English-Russian translator from the Kyrgyz Republic. It is the former Soviet Union republic, and now we've been independent for about 26 or 27 years. I started translation career in 2007, when I was a third year student at the local linguistic university. Linguistic department in the local university. And gradually, I've been moving to my freelance career. I also have about four years of experience in a mining company, as an in-house translator. Then I shifted back to freelancing, and now, maybe for two years, I am the owner of a local, so-called, boutique translation agency. We offer specialized translations only in two-language pairs. Like, English-Russian and Russian-English. So, that's a short introduction about me.
Ekaterina: Okay. What I really like about your website is that it seems to be very targeted, and you are ... You have decided to speak to a particular audience. But what I would like to is go back to 2015 on Wayback Machine and talk through how you started working on the website, and ... Tell us more about your starting point.
Simon: Okay. As you can see, there is something wrong with this web archive. It looks like… It displays the initial HTML version, and the actual way it looked back in 2015 was a bit more pleasant for viewers than you can see right now. But, anyway.
Simon: When I start this website in 2015, I already had about one year of experience in, let's say web development. I finished a couple of courses dedicated to WordPress website development. It was just basic courses where I learned how to register a domain name, how to install WordPress, and how to use it. How to create pages, how to create blog posts, and so on. And I had a one-year background when I started this website, so I already know what to do. At least, I thought that I knew what to do.
Simon: Initially, the purpose of this website was to attract the attention of translators, and then to catch the attention of potential translation clients. It was really hard to understand what my clients really need, and what they were searching for on the Web. But I actually knew what translators are searching for on the Web. That's why I started blogging with ... By covering the main topics which are of the most interest for translators.
Simon: So I prepared several blog posts about freelancing, about creating a personal curriculum vitae or resume. How to make it more appealing for clients. Also, I described several mistakes translators usually make when preparing this CV. And so on. And at some point in time, I understood that I have ranked for several highly competitive keywords, because I've been using ‘Russian Translator’ keyword in several posts. And I really only started to climb up on the first page of Google Search. And I decided to split this website into two parts, and I created the separate website for translators where I still post some useful tips and tricks about freelance translation business.
Simon: And now this website is dedicated purely to attract direct clients. Especially in English-Russian language pair. So, it was actually a long way. Currently, this website is live for about three and a half years, maybe almost for four years. It will be four years in September, I believe. In September 2019.
Simon: It brings me several good leads, as marketers call them. So, potential clients, potential customers, they call them leads. About two, three leads per month, which actually pay off all the online marketing efforts I apply to this website.
Ekaterina: So, it's a good result.
Simon: Yeah. I think it's a good result. Though I am not on the first page of Google right now ... But if you live in certain parts of the world, for instance in Europe, it's highly likely that when you type in "professional Russian translator," you will see my website on the first page. And also, there are several more keywords that my website ranks for on the first page, like "specialized Russian translation" and "English-Russian translation services."
Simon: In particular, I focus on those keywords that are called ‘long-tail keywords’. So it's not that hard to rank high using these long-tail keywords.
Ekaterina: Right. So, when you were trying to optimize your websites were searched, we're looking at intents? Search intent, or you were just trying to see what works out?
Simon: I tried to learn as much theory as possible about website optimization and actually about Search Engine Optimization. There are two parts. There is SEO for the back-end of your website, and also there is Search Engine Optimization for the front-end, or ... Let's say inbound and outbound Search Engine Optimization practices.
Simon: So, I started from inside, or let's say on-site optimization practices. I've installed one of the most popular WordPress plugin for Search Engine Optimization, it is called Yoast. And I read a couple of comprehensive guides on how to set up this plugin. I'm not a real professional in this, but actually, when you master the very basic things about inside Search Engine Optimization, it is quite enough to start ranking on Google.
Simon: I believe that you will be posting this video on YouTube, and if you'd like your viewers to take a look at some useful resources about Search Engine Optimization, I will provide you with the links.
Ekaterina: Sure, that'll be great. Yeah, [inaudible 00:08:08].
Simon: The outbound part of Search Engine Optimization is a really huge topic, and there are so many different features and different pitfalls that you may stumble upon when you're trying to optimize your website from the outer position. It's really hard to squeeze it into a short video.
Simon: As you may know, there are about 200 ranking factors that, for example, Google uses to identify the authority of your website. And it is really hard to keep everything in mind and to optimize everything within these 200 ranking factors. So we can choose, for example, 20 or 30 factors that are of the highest importance for Google, and focus on them.
Simon: So if you are talking about the most important Search Engine Optimization factors, these are, of course, the side-loading speed. So, the faster your website loads, the higher you will be ranked by Google, because it is very important for user experience, for smoother user experience. Of course, you should have clean HTML code, so if you are using a free WordPress theme, it is highly likely that it is not very good optimized. And if you are using a premium one, there are better chances that you will not ruin your website with bad code.
Simon: You should also consider the reliability of your web hosting provider. It should offer at least 98% uptime. So your website should be always available for visitors. Also, now, one of the most important factors that helps you to rank higher is the use of safe protocol. Safe HTTPS protocol, SSL certificate. It is not very expensive, you can even use a free version of SSL protocols, but it is highly recommended to use it. My website ranking improved drastically when I installed this SSL Certificate on my website.
Simon: So this is just the very basics. Also ... So, in the very beginning of the Google company, the main ranking factor was the number of links leading to your website. And surprisingly, this factor is still one of the leading factors. The more good links you have to your website, the better you are ranked on Google. But now, of course, Google has many other criteria to check the back-links to your website, and you shouldn't even try to purchase links from some scammers on the Web. These back-links should look natural and they actually should be built in a natural way. People should be linking to your website as a resource that brings value to their visitors. So, if you provide valuable information on your website, and you spread it via social media, people will start linking to a website naturally.
Simon: I guess these are the most important factors to rank higher.
Ekaterina: Right. I can see that working for blogging about translation. But does it also work for your website that targets direct clients? Is there enough interest for them to share your stuff? At all?
Simon: Excuse me, I couldn't hear you.
Ekaterina: Okay. Let's try again. I can see how this can work as a strategy for a blog targeting translators, but what about a website targeting direct clients? Do you get back-links for that website?
Simon: Actually, it doesn't matter from which websites these back-links come from. The main criteria here is that the linking website should be also a quality resource, and it should have at least some authority on Google. So if you receive back-links from website of prominent translation bloggers, Google understands that bloggers who are also talking about translation are linking to your website and it will show your website higher.
Simon: Of course, you should be trying to get back-links from more authoritative websites like, for example, websites of official governmental authority, which ends with .org or .gov, or something like this. If you have any clients from the governmental sector, it would be really cool if you ask them to put a link to your website in their blogs, or something like this. For instance, if you're working for a mining and exploration agency, like I do here in Kyrgyzstan, you may ask them to provide a kind of review of your services and say that, "This website was translated by this translator, and here is the link to his website." And when you get these links from governmental websites, Google decides that your website is really credible.
Simon: Actually, there are many link-building tactics. So if we have time, I can tell you a couple of things about these tactics.
Ekaterina: No, let's talk about the copy. That okay with you? Alright, let's see.
Simon: About the copy of the homepage?
Ekaterina: Yeah, yeah. You wanna talk through this as I scroll, or ...
Simon: Oh, maybe I will talk about the copy of the homepage of website in general?
Simon: Your homepage, homepage of your website is one of the most important and one of the key pages on your website. It can be called a landing page, where almost 80% of your website visitors come to. And then they are redirected to a kind of sales funnel to learn more about your services and to make an informed decision about purchasing your services.
Simon: It is really important to provide enough information on this landing page, and to provide it in a more appealing way and make it as useful as it is possible. You shouldn't overload it with heavy images, like I did here.
Ekaterina: Wait, back when ... Yes.
Simon: [crosstalk 00:15:58]. Back in 2015. It should be very concise. It should be very informative and provide the exact type of information your clients expect to find here.
Simon: So, if you go to my website right now, you will see that currently, I am focusing on business services, and also on individuals, but the main message is targeted at businesses, at companies. And also, I optimized this page, so when the company representatives come to your [website], he or she will see that that's what I'm doing. I'm providing comprehensive translation services and covering everything a company needs if they're going to extend to the Russian-speaking markets.
Simon: So, of course, you ... In the very beginning of the webpage, before you scroll down, you should grab the attention with a comprehensive message. It should be also short, and describing your services in a very short form so that a person who is loading this page understand what it is about straight away.
Simon: So usually, it takes about three, four seconds before a person leaves your website. If he or she doesn't see the answers. So, if someone is looking for translation, English-Russian translation services, it should be talking about English-Russian translation services, as you can see here. There should not be some big pieces of text or sentences or something else, or a single picture. There should be a short line of text, it is usually called a "call to action." And it actually should be based on your unique selling point. Here, as you can see, a part of my unique sales proposition is translation, specialized translation for businesses.
Simon: Next, you should also place a button, which helps people to start communication. Here, they can get in touch. And actually, I will be trying to improve the wording [crosstalk 00:18:26].
Ekaterina: The call to action?
Simon: Yes, I will try to improve the call to action by using A/B testing, so I will use some words here to see how people react in it, and if it doesn't work, I will replace [button text] with another words, and so on.
Simon: If you grab the interest of a person, of a potential client, he or she will just scroll down and see the next part of my [crosstalk 00:18:52]-
Ekaterina: Can I ask two questions, before we move down?
Simon: Yeah, yeah. Sure.
Ekaterina: Okay. First, do you have enough traffic to A/B test? That's really cool.
Simon: Actually, I've ... I didn't attract much traffic for the last three months, because I had so much translation tasks that I didn't have time to work on this website. But actually, before, when I've been very active with this website, weekly visitors reached about one and a half thousand people per week. So, I have enough data to run the test, and I am sure when I get back, and I'm actually getting back to work with this website, I will have enough visitors.
Ekaterina: Okay. And second question is about the button in here ... So, do a lot of people click on it instead of scrolling down? Kind enough more?
Simon: Get in touch, do you mean?
Simon: A lot of people are attracted by this web chat icon. [you can see it] blinking here. If you click on it, you will see a web chat where people can ask a question and I will immediately receive a notification on my phone. On my ... Excuse me. On my smartphone and also on my PC. Many people are using exactly this method of communication. [crosstalk 00:20:51].
Ekaterina: What kind of questions do they ask?
Simon: Something is wrong with my throat.
Ekaterina: You can mute yourself and cough. That works.
Simon: Now it's okay. I hope.
Ekaterina: Good. I hope so too.
Simon: So currently, the main communication channel on the website is this web chat. Probably, I will even remove this button and leave only this chat in order to not make it confusing for visitors. Where should they click, here or here?
Ekaterina: Right. And this one'll take them to ... Oh, that's just mail, too. Cool.
Simon: Yes, that’s just email.
Ekaterina: Yeah, so you're not making an extra step with a form that they need to fill out.
Simon: Probably, I will put a link to another webpage with more explanation about the services. I'm not sure yet. So maybe I will remove it at all. Potentially.
Ekaterina: We'll see.
Simon: Yes, we'll see [inaudible 00:21:57].
Ekaterina: Alright. About you. And breakdown for the business versus individual services.
Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). There will be additional sub-pages about these kind of services explaining how to work with us, like for businesses and for individuals. These pages are not ready yet, but they are in the process of development.
Simon: Also, this part is very important. It's testimonials, and actually, when people are trying to find something on the Web, especially when they're trying to search for specific services, very specialized services, intellectual services, they need to be sure that you are a reliable provider of such services. Probably the only way to show them that they can trust you is to provide them with the testimonials of people you already worked for or with.
Simon: And here, you can see some of my clients and their reviews.
Ekaterina: So do you ask all of your clients for testimonials at the end of a project?
Simon: Yes. I'm trying to ask for testimonials, so a kind of feedback. If they don't want to be displayed, of course due to some contractual limitations, they don't want or cannot be disclosed, of course I ask just for feedback, and I'm using it for my internal purposes to improve some processes or maybe some services, and so on.
Simon: But as a rule, people who are open and who are not bound by legal things, they are ready to provide this kind of public testimonials.
Ekaterina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Then you list your services.
Simon: Yes, this is the list of services.
Ekaterina: Oh, yeah. And no links yet. You're gonna add the links.
Simon: Yes. There will be links to additional landing pages, so if a person is looking for a particular service, like English-Russian marketing translation, I will redirect them to this page. And also, they will be able to find exactly this page via search engines. So ... It takes time to rank for such specific things.
Simon: Also, there are some benefits, additional benefits we can offer to our clients, and also relevant testimonials proving these benefits.
Ekaterina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you track how people scroll through your homepage? 'Cause I find it hard to go back and forth between the benefits and the testimonials.
Simon: Actually, you can use the upper menu, and if you are not interested in testimonials, you're interested in services, you will be redirected straight to the section. So, if you need something special, you can use the above ... The menu in the upper part of the website.
Ekaterina: So most of the people just go to the menu and click through it?
Ekaterina: Makes sense. Okay.
Simon: I found out that a lot of people want to get personal assistance, and actually, the average scroll rate is about 60%. They are just scrolling a half of page, and then they understand that they need personal communication, or they want to ask a certain, specific question they couldn't find here, or they just want to make sure that I'm a real person. Then they click on this web chat icon, and I'm here to answer all their questions.
Ekaterina: Makes sense. Okay. So, lots of people scroll to about here? Or ...
Simon: Yes. Approximately, yes approximately 60%.
Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ekaterina: So, lots of people don't even get to the prices. They're like, "No, just tell me how to work with you."
Simon: Yes, yes.
Simon: Then, when they establish personal communication, they start asking for prices.
Ekaterina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, relationship first, prices later.
Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ekaterina: Cool. And the process, and finally the footer. Hm? [inaudible 00:26:49]?
Simon: I have added a section about my team. I also ... I have already prepared their personal pages, and we'll be publishing that soon. And also [crosstalk 00:27:03].
Ekaterina: And you have the social media links, too, so that people can make sure that this is real people.
Simon: Yes. [crosstalk 00:27:07]. I'm not sure if I have added actual links, so ...
Ekaterina: No, no.
Simon: Not yet.
Ekaterina: Not yet.
Simon: As I told you, it's still in the process, but I've updated the website maybe about a week ago. About nine days. So there are still some sections that need to be completed. And also, the process. How a client can start working with us, from the very first contact to payment for the translation order and becoming our loyal customer.
Ekaterina: And there you have a small contact form. This one will also go to your email, right?
Simon: Excuse me, what?
Ekaterina: There's also a contact form in the footer. And this will be an email message for you.
Simon: Yes, this will be an email message.
Ekaterina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay.
Ekaterina: Well, thank you so much for taking the time and walking us through your homepage.
Simon: It was my pleasure to tell you about my website, and I hope it will help somehow, those translators who are watching your show, watching your videos. It will be cool. So, do you have anything else? Any other questions?
Ekaterina: No, but I will ask you about the links you mentioned. About the SEOs. I'll add them to the links. Right. Thank you.
Simon: Thank you, too.
Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter, the current Administrator of the ATA’s Slavic Languages Division, and a Copy School Graduate. She believes that both freelance translators and interpreters and T&I companies can do better than “great quality at a reasonable price” and blogs about the ways in which they can make their copy more relevant and more persuasive.