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How freelance journalists and writers can use Google’s Keyword Tool to get work

I’ve already blogged about Google’s Keyword Tool now displaying absolute search volumes. I thought it would be worth looking at a practical example. I keep hearing from various freelance journalist and writer friends that it is tough finding commissions these days – not just journalistic work but also PR and general copywriting. It occurred to me that perhaps they could put their writing talents to good effect by testing the water with some PPC advertising (this presumes of course that they have a blog or website – and that it is properly set up to capture and convert traffic).

Here’s a quick look at some fairly obvious keyword terms – the first figure shows the search volume in the UK for June 2008 and the second figure the expected cost per click for a 1 – 3 ad position.

Copywriting 33,100 £1.29
Copywriter 14,800 £1.02
Media training 8,100 £2.01
SEO copywriting 1300 £2.76
Web copywriting 1,000 £1.85

Clearly not all of these searches will be from people seeking paid-for copywriting work – but surely some of them will be. Even gaining a tiny percentage of response from some of the more popular terms would hopefully convert into work that would justify the ad spend (I’d certainly suggest setting a nominal initial budget and test from there).

The media training result was also interesting. I know a number of journalists offer media training services – over 8000 searches in the UK last month suggests there is clearly a lot of interest in it – and surely a percentage of that must come from people seeking to buy media training?

On a different tack, I looked at a few phrases containing “How to start a (insert company type)”

The results below are the searches for last month along with the trend:

How to start a publishing company (73) Falling
How to start a record company (46) Falling
How to start a clothing company (36) Rising

I wonder who those 73 people are out there dreaming of starting their own publishing company? I wonder how many journalists are in that number? However, it would seem the current trend is down – as is starting a record company (no surprise there I guess). Though rag trade interest seems to be rising – albeit from a very small base.

3 replies on “How freelance journalists and writers can use Google’s Keyword Tool to get work”

Interesting post.

I think you’re perhaps over-estimating the value of the approaches that might come through Google, though.

Many (95% plus) of the unsolicited approaches from new clients these days come from SEO farms, commercial blogs or big websites like that pay less than £10 per thousand words – they’re really geared for students and the like.

I am certainly taking on more corporate work as newspaper budgets decline over the summer, but most of that work comes from recommendations, previous working relationships or from people finding details in online directories like the NUJ’s or Gorkana’s.

In 10 years, I can probably count the number of profitable approaches that have come from people who found my website on one hand – so the investment I’d be prepared to make in keywords at this point would still be very low, personally.

Sally – appreciate your comments (as ever!). I don’t think there is any argument that recommendations and existing clients/working relationships are the best way to get work. However, in a tightening economy, I would have thought that at least testing a small scale PPC campaign might be worth the effort. If you assume that only 1pc of those 8,000 searches for media training were from people who were in the market for purchasing media training, that’s still 80 opportunities to get work – and presumably even one or two media training gigs would be better than a poke in the eye.

Or look at it this way. What if you set a target eg gain one day of media training in the next month. Work out how much you’ d be prepared to spend on a PPC campaign to justify the effort. Create your PPC ad with a dedicated landing page specfically designed to convert. You can’t guarantee that it will generate work, but surely out of those 8000 searches for media training, at least some of them must be from people looking to buy related services – also, there is a lot you can learn about the traffic these ads generate that might help to better understand why and what your potential customers might buy.

I agree, perhaps this kind of approach isn’t for everyone – but surely giving it go is better than just hoping the phone will ring?

I suppose I sort of imagine, in my hopelessly old-fashioned, 1.0 way, that writing isn’t something you just farm out to someone you found on Google.

Also, I did use PPC for PR training but obviously this is way more competitive – our sad little ad never showed up on searches for PR training before about page 6 of results, but we got loads of clicks from blogs and websites running those little affiliate ads, and every month I shelled out £75 for ads running on pages that weren’t even appropriate (like we’d be displayed on journalist job sites). Ditched it after a year.

Was I doing something wrong, do you think?

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