Anyone who’s worked as a freelance graphics or web designer will know the frustrations associated with finding steady and well-paying work, even with a well-designed website. The irony is that it’s no longer enough to keep your portfolio up to date.

Gone are the days where you could let your work speak for itself and watch your inbox fill up with requests. Now, with so much competition, your portfolio will only work for you if potential clients are able to see it in the first place.

To set yourself up for success and make sure your digital design solutions are visible, you need to engage in SEO best practices. So as you go about preparing your perfect portfolio, here are a few of the things you might need to consider.

How to Do SEO for Your Design Portfolio

1. Utilize the Title and Headline Tags

While you might be forgiven for thinking visuals are the most important aspect of your portfolio, when it comes to SEO it’s the written word that takes center stage, and this is where keyword hierarchy comes into play.

By grouping projects together under specific classifications you’re letting search engines like Google pick up on what’s important from a top-down perspective.

Start by placing the most relevant details, like the project’s name, within the headline tag before moving on to add descriptions in the metadata of your images.

2. Optimize Your Images for the Search

Humans tend to process images visually but search engine algorithms work on a different level and only recognize them textually. This means you need to insert HTML codes or keywords into each of the pieces in your portfolio to achieve a higher ranking on Google.

To establish such a dialogue, you can add:

  • Descriptive file names
  • Descriptive alt tags
  • Descriptive captions

What this does is ensure your portfolio’s content will be picked up by search engine bots and given greater online visibility as a result — and here you can be as descriptive as possible.

3. Build Relationships and Links

Just as building backlinks for your blog are helpful to grow your traffic, it can also be used to pull some well-deserved traffic to your portfolio. Of course it helps if you can incorporate this into a page that is constantly updated with industry news, events and/or process work.

You don’t need to go overboard with this one as it’s purely for those interested in creating a strong network of backlinks; however, it’s one other thing to be mindful of and so included in this list.

4. Don’t Ignore Your About Page

If you choose not to create a separate page for ongoing updates, make sure you put time and effort into creating a good about page. Add your most important keywords where possible and where they feel most natural.

You’ll probably want to look into adding your areas of expertise, geographic location and any other information that might help those searching for someone like you.

5. Promote Your Portfolio on Other Channels

Building up your portfolio on your own site is great, but especially if you don’t have any traffic yet, it should not be the only place you focus. There are a lot of places where you can share your best work with the design community, but the two biggest players to hit are Dribbble and Behance. However, there are specialized communities for different kinds of design. Vimeo has built up a vibrant community of filmmakers and video artists, Visual.ly is the go-to community for infographics designers, and LogoMoose is a haven for logo designers. Find the places where the best people in your design niche interact with other designers and go rub shoulders with them.

6. Make It Mobile Friendly

Perhaps the most critical aspects of being online in today’s age concerns load times and mobile responsiveness. As your site will be primarily populated by images and visual content, this is something you should give a considerable amount of thought to.

The easiest way to check if your site is optimized for mobile devices is to visit Google’s mobile friendly test site, type in your URL and analyze the results. You might find you need to upload smaller file sizes to get past slow load times, or use an image optimization tool like JPEGmini or TinyPNG.

7. Tailor Your Portfolio for People

Lastly, just remember that the end user will be a person and your adventures in SEO should not force you to make any radical compromises — you’re simply tailoring the way your portfolio is found and navigated to by humans via search engine algorithms.

So have a target demographic in mind, or more preferably, speak to your ideal client and remember to test any changes you make to the layout or design of the site.

It’s also important to understand that getting your portfolio indexed isn’t always easy and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Hopefully you’ll now have a clearer idea about what you need to do and will begin to see results.

Good luck!

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