S01 Episode 5: How to Master SEO With Simple Changes with Matt Olpinski

By Brennan Dunn

Matt Olpinski is a UI and UX designer who had over 200 viable project leads in 2017.  Through casual but precise SEO, he’s become an expert in giving clients what they want.  Matt’s site ranks extremely well on Google searches in his niche and with minor site tweaks, he’s ensured these leads go from “shopping around” to conversion.  He shared some of his techniques with Brennan in this week’s DYF podcast on Lead Generation through SEO.

Matt Olpinski is a full-time independent design consultant based in Rochester, NY.  He has been designing user interfaces and websites for almost a decade, many of them leading to rapid user growth, large increases in sales, and millions in startup funding.  Matt has designed native apps, responsive web apps, e-commerce websites, and marketing websites for clients in many industries including: fitness, shopping, video, food & beverage, industrial, law, education, automotive, music, social, SaaS, enterprise, non-profits, and more.

Independent UI designer, Matt Olpinski never intended to freelance full time.  After college he was looking for a comfortable job to make a comfortable life, and he was just freelancing on the side.  Despite this side-hustle approach, Matt’s designer instincts always had him aiming for a “pixel perfect” portfolio and site.  Through his refining, he stumbled on some strategies that made too big an impact to ignore, and he shared some of these tactics with Brennan on this episode of the DYF podcast.

The first big change that drove Matt’s shift towards great SEO was seeing an early edition of Double Your Freelancing’s The Blueprint.  The course changed Matt’s outlook as he realized there was more potential to grow his freelancing business if he began to focus on his clients rather than himself.  Just by changing his focus and positioning, Matt increased his leads, rate, and ranking, but at first he didn’t really understanding why. After some investigation, Matt realized that simply providing what clients were looking for (and presenting it that way) made him a better search result for Google to come up with, thereby increasing his SEO.  From there, the growth compounded. So what actual changes lead to this turn around?

The Little Things

Matt’s original site was similar to many freelance web designer’s sites in that it said, “I’m a UX Designer.  I built websites. Here’s my work. Here’s how you contact me.” When he shifted focus, Matt’s site’s design, copy, and language changed.  It now sounded more like “Hi, I’m Matt, I build websites that help businesses grow.” He started thinking like a client and his testimonials began highlighting metrics clients might find valuable and associate with project success.  He found that clients don’t necessarily care about fancy transitions, they care about what Matt is going to do for their website. Matt also found that when they get to his site, leads have obstacles to overcome before hiring him, so he recognized that his site was an opportunity to address and allay those obstacles.

Matt’s approach was a little more laid back than it could have been since he had a fulltime job and still viewed freelancing as his side project. However, small tactical changes made a big difference in traffic. He ensured his page titles were consistent, wrote unique page descriptions for each of his big pages (home page, service page, project page).  He found that by making descriptions unique helped instead of having either nothing or a generic description that shows up on every page. He rewrote/shortened his page slug URLs and took out breaks and stop words.  Matt approached the changes not as an expert, but just looking at the logic of creating desirable content. Although SEO has a slimy reputation, Matt points out that there are a lot of very simple changes others can do to increase the viability of their site.  Plus, giving clients what they want (and making it easy to find) is a win-win strategy.

What Clients Search For

As Matt began consciously optimizing, he asked himself, “What are my clients searching for?”  There are numerous tools and lists to help users find the best search terms, and as a designer, Matt turned to Dribble and Behance.  As he reverse engineered popular searches, Matt realized that he learns three things about his clients through their search terms:

  1. What task his customers wanted to complete: (search terms might be UX Design, UI Design, or Web Development).
  2. His clients’ geographic location (if they’re in New York, they might type in UI Designer in New York).
  3. What kind of person they wanted to hire (freelance, consultant, agency etc).

Now Matt discovers what the customer wants in their own words, and because of this, he’s better able to provide and present it.  For example, he could answer the above queries by titling his page: “Matt Olpinski, Freelance UI Designer, New York.” To prove his theory, Matt asked clients what they searched to find him.  In addition to validating this theory, this data has informed further SEO.

Brennan points out that tools like Google Search Console can also trace what terms people actually used to get to your site and where they landed etc.  Information on adjacent searches can allow sites to pull in traffic that might have skipped them otherwise. For example, he says Matt could add content to draw in people looking for a UX Development Agency in NY.  This content could actually be an argument convincing them of why they should use a freelancer instead. Of course with his current success, Matt isn’t looking to make any harder sells, but Brennan points out that there is always opportunity for further optimization.

What Clients Find

Content has made a big difference in Matt’s ability to project authority and and he has found case studies to be his preferred format.  Initially, Matt’s site featured images with captions to let the work speak for itself. He has since flipped this model to show each project’s process and how his decisions impacted each business.  Although he only presents 6-8 projects on his site, Matt writes extensively about each one. He writes not just what he did but also why he did it, and the thought process behind each action. This humanizes the work and Matt has taken this further by integrating the related testimonials directly onto the project page.  Instead of just presenting a menu of services, Matt’s site explains what UI and UX design are and how they might be used in a project; “Instead of just listing what I can do, I tell people why that’s important for them,” says Matt.

Other ways that Matt shares his process and builds authority include his blog, his newsletter, and guest posts on freelancing websites.  Not only does this content help SEO by keeping his site relevant, Matt says that when a client sees he’s written over 60 articles on a topic, they know that he is a good choice to hire.

Brennan agrees that seeing inside a potential collaborator’s head is key to building trust.  It can help clients feel justified in making a purchase. He suggests that if you’re struggling to find blog topics, write about a few ideas that came out of your  latest sales meeting (without giving away too much specific project information). The details of brainstorming are helpful. As an example, Brennan mentions a client meeting with a realtor that he wrote about.  The realtor wanted to follow up with clients after they’d bought a house from him so that they use him again when they sell it five years down the line and he could gain referrals. Brennan built software to remind the realtor a month after the purchaser is settled in, to check in and ask “How are the neighbors, what do you love about the house?” etc.  While the specifics seem mundane to the developer who lived through it, their audience might actually find them useful/inspiring, and potential clients are energized by the success story. This is exactly what Brennan looks for when he hires people too. He says, backing convincing sales copy with “the Mind of Matt Olpinski” insights is a much stronger draw than the copy alone.

To make things easier on his leads, Matt places most of these thought process insights into his case studies.  That way a client doesn’t have to look through a bunch of articles to piece together how he thinks. They see his work on the landing page and can click into the project to read about how it came to light.  Matt tries to include the “before” version of the project before his changes so that he can show where it came from and where he took it. “Seeing that transition is really valuable,” he says.

Blog posts drive traffic in conjunction with social media updates also.  Matt finds that most of this traffic is from other freelancers, but he has had some project inquiries from these articles.  For the most part, Matt’s audience is split in two. He has the clients on the consulting side of his business and the “level up you career by joining my newsletter,” peer side of his business.  Although the sides are separate (color cues and other dividers make this clear to site visitors), Matt believes the freelancer side of his site probably helps reinforce the idea that a potential client should contact him.  It builds his authority/credibility while not directly serving the needs of his consulting clients. It tells these clients about his professionalism.

Outshining the Competition

No matter how high the rankings, potential clients are probably shopping around for service providers and won’t stop at just one site.  So how does Matt draw clients back to his? He feels the primary draw is his “what do clients want?” approach. Matt hopes his clients get to his site and say “Oh, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear!”  instead of just seeing a portfolio and contact information. From simple changes in the copy, to thinking about what buttons clients want to have available, and eventually what details they need to see about his process, Matt works to give clients what they’re looking for and so far it sets him miles apart.

Brennan acknowledges a necessary balance between speaking the language of business and speaking the language of design.  Using the right search terms in the right places, proving his design skill and talking to the prospective clients about THEIR business allows Matt to stand out.  Matt also argues depth of content is a huge benefit. Even if some of his content is not directly what a client is looking for, all of his content matters and drives visitors to the site which boosts his ranking –the freelancing side gets him the clicks so the consultant side can find him easily.  Having an older domain helps too, but Matt says not to worry, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t.

In the end, providing what clients want, also answers what Google wants.  To boost his SEO, Matt considered what page titles he had, what URLs he was submitting to google, and what each were saying once a human being finally saw them.  With blog posts and articles, Matt provided more fodder for Google to reward while allowing potential clients to get into his head and feel confident about hiring him.  Matt says anyone can make these changes too. He says to, “pay attention to the small stuff. Pay attention to goofy things like alt descriptions on your images, and the length of your URLs and the kind of order of pages on your site, [and also] the page titles.”  He says to stay consistent on social media and just call yourself one thing. Overall, simple tactics and a clean up to refocus your site on customer needs can make a big difference in results and Matt is living proof.


Matt Olpinski’s website

Matt’s Ultimate Guide to Getting More Clients

DYF’s The Blueprint