SEO Success Story Part 1: Freelance Copywriter Tells All

Are you a small business owner? If so, you’re probably familiar with the benefits of SEO but unsure of how to get started. You probably feel like the key to success is held by only a few select individuals. DIY SEO - Case Study

Thanks to puffed up so-called SEO experts, many people mistakenly believe that SEO success requires spending thousands of dollars. That it’s comprised of complex, confusing technical strategies and methods that are too complicated for you to attempt. It doesn’t help that those who do succeed in SEO keep their secrets closely guarded. The truth is, the fight for the first page of Google is a competitive—and often expensive—one.

In my live Atlanta SEO workshops and training presentations, I always share my keywords and show screenshots in Google Analytics of additional keywords people use to find my site. I get asked all the time why I share my strategy with my “competitors” (other copywriters) who are in the audience. My answer? It’s too darn hard to teach others about SEO without being completely honest about the who, what, why, where, when and how.

Enter Don Sadler: A Small Business Owner Unafraid of Discussing His SEO Success
A few months ago I got an e-newsletter from a colleague that immediately got my attention. Don Sadler, a fellow Atlanta-based copywriter and small business owner, had dedicated his monthly newsletter (and the next two after that) to discussing his keywords, on page optimization strategy and the success he has had with SEO. Don and I met at a Freelance Forum meeting a year ago and have kept in touch since. I reached out to see if I could interview Don about his SEO success, and he graciously accepted. In this interview you’ll learn:

  • How soon Don started seeing results from his SEO efforts
  • Why Don used a combination of DIY SEO along with hiring a consultant
  • What Don has to say about using Google’s free keyword tool
  • What Don thinks about spilling his SEO secrets

Because there is so much great information I want to cover, I am splitting up this article into two blog posts. In the next post (which I’ll publish later this week), I’ll share a few snippets of the advice Don shares in his newsletter and explain why this insight is so important for an SEO newbie. Now, on to the interview – enjoy!

Jenny: Did you do the SEO yourself or hire a company or consultant? Why?
Don: I did the SEO copywriting myself. I hired an expert to do the back-end on-page stuff: He made sure the meta data was correct, utilized image names and alts, and cleaned up extraneous code. This was done about 6 months after I did the copywriting.

Did anything surprise you as you got started optimizing your site?
Not really. It was pretty easy for me to think up the keyword phrases that would be best to optimize and then check them out on Google Adwords. Then it was simply a matter of SEO copywriting, which I’ve done for many clients, so it wasn’t new or hard for me.

You have a 6 page website – how many pages did you optimize?
Just the home page for copywriting. The SEO expert did work on most of the pages, I believe.

You mentioned SEO has transformed your business – how soon did you see results?
Almost immediately. I first got a few emails from “tire-kickers” who were looking for a cheap writer ($10-20 an article) but soon got calls and emails from prospects willing to pay market rates for copywriting. Leads tend to come in bunches for some reason — I can get several in a week (and even in a day) and go several weeks without a lead. But leads have come in steadily over the past year since I did the SEO copywriting. I’d say that 90% of my new work now comes from someone finding my website via a search using my optimized phrases. As of this morning, I rank #1 on Bing and Yahoo! for my phrases and #4 on Google.

Most people are so protective about their keywords and optimization efforts…I was VERY impressed with how open you were discussing these things. Weren’t you nervous to divulge these “secrets”? Are you worried about people copying you?
Just a little bit, but not too much. And I have a pretty specialized niche. But I do still check periodically to see if any new competition has cropped up from other writers optimizing my phrases! So far, none has.

Did you have any trouble using the Google Adwords tool? What advice would you have for someone who finds it intimidating?
No trouble. Just follow the instructions — it’s easy!

Don Sadler is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in business and financial topics. Check him out at where you can sign up to receive his insightful newsletter.

Stay tuned for the next blog post. I’ll get more detailed about how both Don and I achieved so much SEO success with minimal effort and costs.

Interested in learning how to make SEO work for you? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter where I provide non-technical DIY SEO tips and strategies.

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.


  • Josh Squires says:

    I’ve done the same thing, but since I don’t work in a niche (I’ll write just about any kind of copy and actually have a background in on-page SEO) I have a hard time picking out relevant keywords to optimize my site. I know a large part of my problem is that I’m casting too wide a net, but I get a lot of compliments about how my diversity sets me apart as a copywriter. All in all, I’m not having trouble, per se, but I definitely feel I could be doing more and certainly ranking higher.

  • Jen says:

    Hey Josh – that’s really interesting. It is more difficult when you’re a generalist, but one strategy I recommend is to create individual pages for your more popular (or your primary) niches or services. That way you can work on optimizing a few targeted, specific pages and don’t feel like you have to compete so broadly.

    For example, I noticed that you’re in Richmond. If you want to have a few geo-targeted pages you could create a Richmond Copywriting specific page or two.

    Great site and just remember, you optimize individual website pages, not a whole website, so potential customers will find you via different internal pages not just your homepage.

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