How to Use Google Trends to Understand What Freelance Clients are Searching For
By Matt Olpinski
When you’re writing content for your portfolio website, it can be difficult to understand what a potential client might be looking for. What do they want to read? What’s going to help them hire you? What’s going to help them find you on Google?
Most freelancers don’t have the answer and resort to using industry lingo that clients aren’t familiar with. For example, many designers refer to themselves as “UI/UX” designers when most people are searching for “web designers”.
If you’re not speaking the same language as your potential clients, you’re unintentionally making it difficult for them to find you.
What is Google Trends?
Google has a powerful tool called Google Trends that lets you compare global search queries. In other words, you can find out if more clients are searching for:
“web designer” or “ui designer”
“freelance designer” or “design consultant”
“logo designer” or “brand strategist”
“freelancer copywriter” or “freelance writer”
This can provide valuable insight into what your potential clients are searching for and where they’re located geographically. The idea is that by exploring this data, you’ll be able to make yourself more visible to freelance clients, which will result in more leads for your business.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Web Designer vs. UI Designer
You might not have guessed that web designer is far more popular than ui designer. In the last 12 months, about 70% of people searched for web designer while only 25% searched ui designer.
That means if you design websites, you can instantly make yourself more visible simply by referring to yourself as a web designer. That doesn’t mean you can’t say UI or UX anywhere on your website, but when it comes to page titles, page descriptions, and SEO strategy, web designer is going to result in more people finding your website.
Remember, it’s about meeting potential clients where they’re at on Google, then helping them understand what you do once they hit your website.
You also might not have guessed that Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Connecticut are in the top 5 regions for these searches, not New York and California.
Lastly, Google Trends will also show you related searches that contain your query. For example, most people want to know what a web designer does, what services they offer, and what web designers are in their area (nearby).
Why is that helpful? When you’re creating your portfolio website, make sure you have a services page and explain what you do because that’s what clients want to read about the most!
Most experts will tell you it’s good to “niche down” and specify what you offer. Even though you’ll get fewer leads, they will, theoretically, be higher-quality.
For web developers, that might mean marketing yourself as an Angular developer or React developer instead of a general web developer. Let’s take a look at what Google Trends thinks:
Web developer commanded 77% of searches while React developer saw 7%. Angular developer accounted for 4% of all search traffic and Vue developer trailed at only 1%. So yes, niching down can be a good strategy, but according to Google’s organic search traffic, you’ll still want to use the phrase web developer throughout your website if you want to maximize your traffic and visibility. This is especially important for page titles, page descriptions, and page headings.
For example, if you specialize in React, try referring to yourself (on your website) as a React Web Developer rather than just a React Developer.
Have you ever tried to figure out if you should brand yourself as a freelancer or a company? While there are many additional factors that influence such a decision, it’s helpful to look at the search trends.
Here’s how the terms rank from most popular to least popular (in volume):
web design company (55%)
freelance designer (50%)
web design agency (27%)
freelance web designer (10%)
Does that automatically mean you should brand yourself as a company to capitalize on the search volume? Definitely not. Also, it’s not surprising to see freelance designer trending much higher than freelance web designer. One is much broader than the other.
What I find most interesting in this comparison is that web design company is search far more often than web design agency. Despite designers constantly referring to every company as an agency, clients use the term “company” more frequently and are likely less familiar with the term “agency”.
Sometimes subtle nuances in the tense of a word can make a big difference. While it might seem obvious to call yourself a freelance [whatever], you might be missing an opportunity you didn’t even know was there.
Not surprisingly, freelance is the winner in this comparison with freelancer in second place. Most clients are probably searching for a freelance designer, freelance developer, freelance copywriter, etc.
But freelancing also has some search volume. Upon further investigation, Google Trends shows us that freelancing females is a breakout search trend. That’s valuable insight female freelancers might be able to leverage to their advantage!
Note: This specific trend is likely due to the wildly popular Facebook group called Freelancing Females, which has over 42,000 members.
When you start digging a bit deeper, you’ll fine more interesting results. For example, it may not have been obvious that freelance writer is twice as popular as freelance copywriter. Naturally, one is more general than the other, but it’s still valuable insight.
As freelancers, we naturally assume the biggest demand is in the most populated geographic locations such as New York, California, Texas, etc. But I would have never guessed that Nebraska would be in the top 3 for freelancer copywriter, above California and Illinois.
Google Trends has additional features you might find helpful. For example, you can see how a query is trending for Image Search, Shopping, News, and even YouTube (all Google-owned properties).
You can also see how a query is trending in your specific country or state over a custom period of time and within a specific industry. It’s all very insightful data that I think can help you improve your positioning and attract more freelance clients.
I hope you found this tip useful! For more content and SEO strategies you can use to get more freelance clients, check out my book: