SEO: the Missing Business Model

From my limited perspective there are a couple major recurring flaws in the buying / selling cycle of selling SEO services.

  1. Client ignorance of pricing: some clients view SEO as free money. This leads them to hire a cheap guy or someone who heavily markets the free money angle. Either of which stand a good chance of leading to fraud.

  2. Client ignorance of process: some clients assume they know how to do it or that SEOs are messing it up based on slow feedback loops.
  3. Rapid changes: this kinda goes hand in hand with the ignorance of process since most available information is dated. Some search algorithms are changed in ways that could best be described as random.
  4. Big leap of faith:

many SEOs want to sell a $10,000 + package right out if the gate.

Not that I am actively seeking lots of clients (because I am still bad at pricing and still am not sure what I want to do when I grow up) but I have found that by being not available demand is much higher.

Another thing which works well for me is to do an hour long or couple hour phone consultation. Then when you are done go through the clients site and write a report for them giving them specific action points for improving their sites visibility.

In doing that you can easily sell a $500 to $2,000 review package where you might be able to make a few hundred dollars an hour while still avoiding the longterm commitment of performing ongoing SEO services.

You get to feel the client out and they get to feel you out. At the end of that report you can say that if they have any questions or need any help they can get ahold of you.

By charging a decent bit off the start you help the client assume there is value which filters out many of the worst clients.

As long as the suggested improvements report and phone call do not sound like a sales pitch you start to build trust. If you and a client click you can go forward from there with a bit of trust built up.

I see tons and tons of sites sell full service SEO solutions, but few people seem to be looking for that middle ground where they can still deliver good value without expecting a longterm or big dollar commitment from the clients.

What are some of your favorite business models or sales techniques within the SEO space?

Published: May 4, 2005 by Aaron Wall in marketing


May 4, 2005 - 6:07am

I have found that by being not available demand is much higher.

I couldn't agree with your more about this. Since I put it forth that I no longer offer SEO consulting services, demand for that service has gone way up. Now I can "make exceptions" for projects I want to take on and "make referrals" for projects I don't want. I win either way.

I also like your method for taking the middle ground with a new client. Giving away a consultation and a critique is a good way to establish trust.

May 4, 2005 - 5:57pm

For us, plain customer service is the key. Of course, most of that comes after we've got the client, but from a recent survey, most of our clients feel that *they* are our top priority. And, of course, they are right!

May 6, 2005 - 11:02pm

We were getting invited back to present proposals we already submitted... and wouldn't you know that the second time back, there was always a much bigger audiance. A 1-2 hour consultation with a follow-up proposal should be enough for a prospect to make a decision - but when it wasn't, we found that we were consulting for free. So now, we have a memorandum of engagement which provides a second consulting session (in person or over the phone) for $200/hour. If we are hired within 30 days of the consulting session, we waive the fee. If not, the prospect is obligated to pay for our time.

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