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How To Get SEO Clients: The Ultimate Guide

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An Actionable Guide To Landing More SEO Clients

Whether you’re a new or experienced SEO, there’s an entire side of the business that doesn’t get talked about much.  The business end of being a successful freelance SEO consultant or agency is an entirely different set of skills that many of us in the industry could stand to improve on.  I’m talking about:

  • Landing new clients
  • Keeping existing clients,
  • Building credibility and presence in the SEO industry for your location

The following is a detailed list of different strategies you can use to land more clients and start to build a reputation in your area for being “That SEO guy that gets my website ranking and making money!”

Strategy 1: Build your portfolio with freelancer websites

Experience Level: Beginner

oDesk CAN be a great way to start out if you're just beginning in SEOThis strategy works for those of you who are just starting out in SEO and inbound marketing.  You might be asking yourself, “Who’s going to hire me if I have ZERO track record of working successfully for clients?”  While there are good reasons that this line of thinking is flawed, it’s understandable to think this way when you’re just starting out.

You can use ElanceoDesk, or other freelance websites to take on some easier, lower paying jobs. They will help you build a track record of good work, communication, and results.  Use this to springboard yourself into higher paying jobs.  It’s a great way to get your feet wet in consulting without having to do a lot of manual outreach and communication.  The beauty of these websites is that they have the target market advertise their desire to hire a SEO to YOU instead of the other way around!  If you use this strategy, you’ll inevitably build some good relationships that are likely to pay off later down the line as well.

Strategy 2: Be active and helpful on social media websites

Experience Level: Beginner

People spend money on things they like, things that they think will HELP them in their life.  In the same vein, people hire people that they like and people that are helpful.  We have seen time and time again that a business owner is much more likely to hire a likable, reliable, helpful SEO rather than the SEO who might be more technically skilled but is bad at communication and has an abrasive personality.

Use LinkedInQuora, or niche-specific online forums to deliver helpful, actionable advice to people.  For LinkedIn, you can access groups in a niche that you really enjoy and start offering marketing, CRO, and SEO advice.  On Quora, you can give the same exact advice to people, but you’ll have to target it slightly differently due to the structure of the site.

*If you are just starting out, you can ask questions on these platforms and look to build out a network of helpful people that you can turn to for advice.

Strategy 3: Have your packages and services very clearly defined

Experience Level: Beginner

Let’s face it…most business owners have dealt with SEOs before you and it’s not uncommon that the experience left a bad taste in their mouth.  Because there is no formal accreditation in the SEO industry, it’s easy for the fly-by-night SEOs to come in and fleece local business owners.

You need to combat this negative stereotype right off the bat.  Lay out your service offering and compensation plan clearly.  Have example projects to both calm their fears and show them what is possible.  Spend some time asking them how their experience with other SEOs has been.  Showing a business owner that you are very organized and very assured of your ability to generate results is going to go farther than any of the technical jargon and analysis you throw at them.

There should be no hesitation when someone asks you, “How do we get started?” or “What do I get for the fee you just quoted me?”  It’s important to remember that SEO is not a very easy thing for most people to understand.  In fact, it makes almost no sense to a lot of business owners.  You need to be the one to provide clarity for them so they are perfectly clear on what they are hiring you to do for them.

Strategy 4: Practice reputation management on yourself

Experience Level: Intermediate

Controlling the top 6 results for my name after a month of effort

The serpIQ SERP overview snapshot for my name. Controlling top 6/10 positions :)

These days you WILL get Googled by your potential clients.  Both your business name as well as your personal name will be searched…so be sure to make sure that you create a SERP that you want them to see.  This means have a YouTube channel with some great marketing content, have a solid blog, have social media profiles that are contributed to on a regular basis.  BE the expert.

If you want more information on reputation management, check out this serpIQ exclusive webinar with reputation management experts.

Strategy 5: Rank for SOMETHING

Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate

Supreme Strategies Rankings

My inbound marketing company website ranking #1 for “san diego inbound marketing”

Beyond your own name, you should be ranking for something.  You can show them client websites that you have ranked, or simply tell them to search “SEO in [city]” and have your name pop up there.  Sure, it could be a vanity keyword, but it doesn’t matter.

It’s very powerful to pull up Chrome and type in “[city] inbound marketing” and have your website show up.  This tactic instills confidence in your potential client and is visual proof that you know what you’re doing (even if the keyword happens to be easy to rank for).

*All it took to rank for the keyword shown above was a simple homepage title tag change.  Not a large traffic driver, but it is a nice thing to show to potential clients.

Strategy 6: Consider pro-bono work

Experience Level: Beginner

Image courtesy of Stu’s Views

When you’re just starting out, you have a lot more time than money.  Use it wisely and invest in your future success by doing some free work for businesses or non-profits that will get eyeballs.

Free work is not always bad.  You need to make sure that when you do free work, you publicize your work and results as much as possible.  That’s what you’re really getting out of an arrangement like this: publicity, recognition, and social proof.

If you can’t stomach working for free, you can always say:

I’d love to work on this project, and I’m trying to build up a portfolio.  My normal rate is $X/hr, but I would be willing to work for free (or at a discounted rate) for two weeks.  If I do an amazing job for you, I would like to be hired on at my normal consulting rate after that period.  Does that sound fair to you?

As a business owner, it’s very hard to say no to a proposal like this.  If you do an amazing job (and you should!), it’s going to be even harder for them not to hire you.

Read and adapt this guide by Charlie Hoehn if you want to understand the mentality you need to have when working for free.

Strategy 7: Join Local Organizations and Meetups

Experience Level: Beginner

Toastmasters of La Jolla

My local toastmasters group – awesome people, awesome way to get your name out there!

If you’re not going to local meetups or organization meetings in your area, get on it immediately.  Not only are you going to get more social and naturally network with more business owners, but these types of gatherings are your exact target market…all in one spot!  You can’t ask for much more than this.

Be sure to dress well and have your contact information with you.  Come in with a mindset of, “How can I help these people?” rather than, “What can I get out of these people?” and you’ll be surprised how many new friends and potential clients you will make.  Be genuinely interested in their businesses and lives and don’t ask for much at the start.  If they are interested in your services they will make it very obvious.

Part of this strategy revolves around becoming “the internet guy” to a lot of these people.  Regardless of if they hire you or not, you are going to become ingrained in the minds of a lot of business owners as a helpful and savvy individual when it comes to online marketing.  An interesting way to think about this is that it’s almost like going for long-tail keywords in real life.  Sure, a lot of these people won’t turn out to be paying clients, but they’ll be bringing traffic in the form of word of mouth about your business if you’re a friendly, helpful person around them.

Here’s a list of some places you should check out:

  1. Meetup
  2. BNI chapters
  3. Toastmasters
  4. Google ”Chamber of Commerce + Your City”
  5. Find niche-specific organizations

Strategy 8: Give seminars

Experience Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Give SEO Presentations

A surefire way to captivate your audience. Photo credit

This strategy ties right into the previous one.  Once you find a few meetups, organizations, or chapters to join and you have become a part of the community there, you can usually sign up to give a talk.  Pick a topic that you know business owners will care about when it comes to marketing their businesses online.  Offer as much value as possible and be open to speaking with people after the meeting about your talk in more detail.

This is an amazing way to position yourself as the expert in the area and has personally gotten me a few clients from just a single talk.  When you’re up in front of people talking about something that you know and love, it shows.  People can sense that you’re someone who is not only knowledgeable about your topic, but passionate…and people want passion in someone that they hire to do contract work.

Strategy 9: Write a book

Experience Level: Intermediate

One great way to get instant credibility with your potential clients is to write up a small book that offers massive value to the business owners that you are targeting.  Think something like “Google Places for Beginners” or “How To Nail Your On-Page SEO”.  It doesn’t have to be a novel – something like 20-30 pages with a LOT of pictures illustrating what you are explaining will be just fine.

If you use a company like 48hrbooks to get them printed they will be fairly affordable, especially when you consider the impact that your book will have on a business owner.  You can combine this strategy with #9 by giving a short talk at a local meetup or organization and then handing out your book to those that write their name, business, and email down on a sheet that you pass around.

*If you use the above strategy, be sure you follow Strategy 13

Strategy 10: Go Direct

Experience Level: Intermediate

SEO Email Spam

Best not to go for this approach ;)

This is one of the least attractive methods for a lot of people, simply because it’s very blunt and it’s very…direct.  There are a few ways you can do this.

  • You can go the direct mail route, where you send letters to local businesses in your area and seek to set up a meeting.
  • You can cold call businesses and ask them if they would be willing to sit down and talk about their online marketing challenges and goals with you.
  • As a final resort, you can actually get outside and walk into businesses during off-peak hours and chat with them about their online marketing problems.

It’s important not to be too pushy when you’re doing this kind of outreach.  You want to ask questions, not hard sell.  Be genuinely interested in the types of issues and problems that these business owners are having by asking them probing questions.  It’s very rare these days that someone will sit down and sincerely listen to someone’s problems.

You want to be that person.

It’s going to be such a refreshing change of events from what they’re used to that they will probably open up and talk about the deep problems that they’ve had in generating traffic, getting leads, or increasing rankings online.

Strategy 11: Create helpful articles and videos

Rand Whiteboard Friday

Think Whiteboard Friday style content, but for your own target audience.

This strategy is more for offering value to fellow SEOs than to your target clients.  The truth of the matter is that a lot of clients will never read your blog and never watch your videos.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use this strategy though!  As a client, would you rather hire the guy who has glowing reviews and praise from people within his industry, or the guy who is ruthlessly out for himself and keeps it all close to the vest?  I think you know the answer to this question.

Experts get paid more, and experts never run out of work.  You may even get passed leads from colleagues because they simply can’t handle their own workload.  By being open and offering a lot of value, you’re going to ensure that you’re the first person they think of when they need to pass a lead to someone that they trust will do a good job.  Becoming an expert in your field and being recognized as such by your peers is going to go a very long way for you.

Strategy 12: Partner with businesses that have complementary services

I personally know people that have made this this cornerstone of their lead generation strategy and barely do anything else to get clients.  Partnering up with businesses that are tangentially related to yours can be a very smart play.  Consider reaching out to:
  1. Web design companies
  2. PPC companies
  3. Graphic design companies
  4. Branding companies
  5. Direct marketing companies
Ask if they currently offer SEO or inbound marketing services.  If not, probe a bit and ask if that’s something that they know their current client base is interested in.  Maybe some of their clients are already paying for it, or maybe their clients have asked them for it, but the company doesn’t offer SEO.  This is the best case scenario for you because you can now pitch your value-added service to their business.  It’s a win-win.  You get a qualified source of leads from a business that has already landed the client and they get to offer a lot more value to their clients as part of their entire service offering.

Strategy 13: Follow up with EVERYONE

This should be a no-brainer.  Any time you have an interaction with a potential client, seek to follow up in some way down the line.  If you’re talking to someone who seems on the fence about SEO and doesn’t seem like they will be spending money on it anytime soon, it can seem pointless to follow up.  This is a big mistake.  You will be surprised at how often you either close these clients at some point down the road or they refer you to someone that is a much better fit for you.

The only times you should not follow up are when a potential client makes it clear that they don’t intend to spend money on SEO.  Even then, if you can offer value to them in some small way, you may want to reach out with a helpful email.  The general idea here is that you are planting a lot of seeds in the community.  Some of these seeds are going to grow into clients and great relationships very quickly, while others may never grow past the initial conversation and a failed follow-up email.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be planting those seeds though!

If you want to get better at followup and outreach, check out this post by our friends at HigherClick 

Get Out There and Start Closing!

You don’t need to start executing on every single strategy listed above.  There are a wide range of tactics here and you should choose the ones that you feel are going to be most effective for your personality and business.  That being said, as some of these become more familiar to you, you can start to expand your marketing efforts and implement more of these strategies.

While I think this list is pretty comprehensive, I’m sure I’ve missed out on some awesome strategies.  Is there a strategy that you have used to land SEO clients that I missed or didn’t cover thoroughly enough?  Leave a comment!


Thanks for reading this article! If you found it interesting and actionable, feel free to share it with your friends. If you're interested in checking out serpIQ, you can get a fully-featured 7-day free trial by zooming on over to our main website!
I'm the marketing and operations guy at serpIQ. When I'm not working with serpIQ, I run my own inbound marketing consulting business and I'm also involved in the sustainable food, hydroponic, and restaurant businesses.

19 Comments

  1. Gael

    Great post kev, I can see a bunch of these work pretty well, especially the real life stuff.

    Gael

    • Thanks Gael!

  2. Such a wonderful share and this low share? Those meetups work so well and I regret I started so late but still good. Thanks kevin

    • They sure do, thanks Sunita!

  3. Based on your Strategy 12: Partner with businesses that have complementary services …

    How can you protect yourself from these partners taking your clients at any point in time?

    I have had issues with this in the past and would love to hear some solutions.

    Thank You :)

    • Hey Brendan,

      What do you mean by taking clients? The best part about partnering with businesses with complementary services is that they do something related to your skillset, but don’t HAVE your skillset. Unless they’re hiring on a SEO or online marketer to their team, then taking your client base?

      I would say the best way to combat this is to be better than anyone they could hire on. Your clients won’t want to shift to a worse service provider :)

  4. BTW ..

    This page is a 404 http://blog.serpiq.com/our-tools/

    • Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Hello Kevin…

    It’s very helpful blog post for me as well as new SEO business launcher.

    And I am very happy after reading this blog post and also got lots of new techniques.

    And I would like to say…Thank you for posting such a nice Blog! Kindly post more SEO and internet marketing related Blogs.

    Regards
    Vikram Singh

    • Hey Vikram!

      Thanks for the kind words. Let me know what sort of challenges you’re facing, and feel free to reach out at kevin@serpiq.com if you have any SEO questions :)

      Kevin

  6. Zak

    What a great post. Just beginning to build my SEO brand. So glad I found your blog. Thanks! … Definitely agree with your “follow up” section. This has mainly helped me close deals as they’re delighted with the enthusiasm shown.

    • Hey Zak,

      Thanks for the kind words…completely agree – “follow up” has been a really simple and great way to land clients that might be too busy to remember to respond :)

  7. Kavin,

    Thanks for your wonderful guidance for the new comers those who are stepping into SEO business, i really learned so much after read your articles

    • No problem Vijay!

  8. Mwalmark

    I think that measurement of seo activities is very important things – it shows you the proper way. There are some tools for it, like ColibriTool, Google Analytics and many more.

    • Completely agree…we think that serpIQ is a pretty good tool to use as well ;)

  9. Great article, congrats on being the #1 in the google serps for “how to get seo clients” (which is how I found this article) I’m at the beginner level (still working on my website and building my brand) and this gave me a lot of new ideas, thanks!

  10. I can honestly say that “Rank for something” is the easiest, most effective method there. Clients who land on your website are already sold. One, because they contact you. Two, because you have just proved that you can rank for something.

    I have had my domain registered for a long time now but never really bothered to do anything with it. Started a month or so ago, just some simple on page and some great content. Voila, I am number one for so many terms and clients come to me now.

    @Kevin, this is a great, detailed article. If readers implement even one or two of them, they should start seeing immediate results.

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