Every day, your target customer is being bombarded by endless volumes of data online through advertisements, social media, and emails. How can you push through all that clutter, find your way to their screens, and direct traffic to your design projects? How can you turn your work and expertise into content marketing material?
I specialize in SEO for designers. There are 3 tips I give all designers to get them more traffic to their portfolio from search engines like Google, Bing, and Pinterest.
Whether you’re a graphic designer, animator, or website developer, these search engine optimization (SEO) tips can work for you.
"Your design portfolio needs a marketing strategy behind it to attract the attention you’re looking for.
Art by Olga Davydova
1. Rename your portfolio pieces to be “Searchable”
The first step to getting traffic to your portfolio is making your portfolio pieces searchable and discoverable by search engines, like Google, with the help of keywords.
What are keywords?
Keywords are the words, phrases, or questions we type into a search engine, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, to help them find answers to our questions.
Using keywords—the right ones in the right places—improves your odds of being ranked on the search engines results page and being findable by your target audience.
Let’s look at an example:
Let’s say you designed a menu for a restaurant. To make this design findable on search engines, avoid being too specific and calling the page “Menu Design for Lorenzo’s Restaurant, Little Italy”.
Only people that are familiar with the restaurant and neighborhood will use those terms and names and find your page.
Instead, give it a name that is searchable by a wider audience. For example, you can call the page “Minimalist Restaurant Menu Design in Montréal”.
Do you see the difference? In this case, your keyword or keyphrase will be “minimalist restaurant menu design”.
Now to get this keyword to direct more traffic to your portfolio, add it in the right places throughout your content. Here are the best practices:
- Use in the title (H1)
- Use in the URL
- Use in the first intro paragraph
- Use in the subtitles (H2 and H3) where appropriate
- Overall, use it 8 to 10 times for every 1,000 words in the article
- Use in the meta description
- Use in the image file name and alt tag, where relevant
Working with a professional SEO specialist can help by researching the list of keywords your target customers are using on Google and decide which keywords you should use in your content and how.
Now that you understand SEO keywords, let’s look at the next step.
Art by Nikita_Krushko
2. Use your portfolio to tell a story
The most common mistake I see designers make is they upload just a simple photo gallery to their portfolio. However, Google can’t read images as well as it can read text (for now, it’s working on the technology!).
If you want to get more traffic to your portfolio, give your website readers context for each portfolio piece. Use your portfolio to tell us a story; what did their branding look like before? What was the vision? Elaborate and show us both the process and progression of your work. That is, what happened at each phase?
You can include your sketches, mood boards and of course, mock-ups. Don’t just show us the “after”; show us the “before” and “during”. Make us walk the journey through your eyes.
Adding more content will give you more opportunities to use keywords. Use keywords in the image file name and alt tag can also help you rank on Google Images. A good use of keywords will help you rank on the first results page of Google and get traffic to your design pieces.
I also suggest you include testimonials from your clients. Your portfolio can act both as a content marketing or brand asset tool and a sales tool.
Pro Tip: My professional advice is to create a content structure or template that you can use for all your portfolio pieces. This way, the flow is consistent and easy to understand.
Now let’s take a look at my third and final step.
Art by Frederique Matti
3. Turn your portfolio into blog posts
Before someone decides to hire a designer, they often search for ideas, inspiration or expert opinions online to get a sense of what they want. Keywords at this “research” stage typically have more search volume and can bring more traffic than your portfolio pieces alone. Blog posts are a great way to use these keywords and give the information researchers are looking for at this stage.
Say graphic design for restaurants is your niche, and your portfolio is made up of dozens of design pieces for fine-dining, cafés, and takeout joints. Here are some ideas of how you can turn your portfolio and expertise into high-traffic blog posts.
Example Blog Post 1: 10 Ideas and Inspiration to Designing Menus for Cafés
Summarize your design tips and feature examples of your work in a blog post. Then, optimize the blog post for keywords like “menu design ideas for café”.
According to SEMRush, a keyword research tool, this keyword gets an average of 140 searches a month.
Example Blog Post 2: The Psychology Behind Restaurant Branding
Another example is to explain the methodology behind restaurant branding, and again, feature your own work as examples to back up your points. Optimize the blog post for keywords like “restaurant branding” or “how to brand a restaurant”.
According to SEMRush, this keyword gets an average of 710 searches a month. This keyword is quite competitive so your content will need to stand out in order for Google to rank it on the first page. That might mean making it longer and better than what’s currently ranking, getting more backlinks (aka. PR), or making it specific to an industry or region.
When someone searches any of those keywords, you’re not only giving people what they are looking for (that is, design ideas and expertise) but you are also showcasing your work at the same time. If someone likes your work, you’ll be the first to come to mind when they’re thinking about hiring a professional.
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Once you put these tips into action, there are 2 more things you can do:
- Distribute your portfolio. Turn them into social media posts or, even the story behind a piece is super unique, pitch it to journalists, podcasters, and publications.
- Track and measure your progress. For the next 3 to 6 months, monitor and record the new volume of traffic generated by your portfolio and compare the progress.
Ready to get discovered? Whether you’re looking to build your portfolio, find your next freelance client, or showcase your work, Dribbble has a plan for you. Sign up for Dribbble Pro today to level-up your design career today.
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