How to Get Good SEO Clients

Jan 27th

SEO Question: I have been submitting my articles to article directories and submitting my site to directory after directory, but I am not getting anywhere in the search results. What should I do to promote my SEO site and services?

Answer: Rankings do not matter.

The first thing you have to understand about getting good SEO clients (as in clients actually worth having) is that ranking is not the key to getting good clients. Building trust is the key. In fields which have a bad reputation (especially ones where there is high value and a lot of competition) you need to do more than just rank to sell. Here are four examples to back up this point of view.

  • Ranking for SEO Book sends me far more traffic than ranking for SEO. Most generic searches in the SEO industry are automated traffic, competitive research, and low quality leads.

  • When SeoBook.com did not rank for SEO Book for a while during an aggressive algorithm update that filtered out sites with too much similar anchor text my ebook sales were 85% of their prior month volume. Imagine selling almost the exact same amount of an ebook about ranking in search results when you don't even rank for your own brand name. That shows that my sales come mostly from recommendations, not search results.
  • ClientsideSEM is a new site and we have not marketed it aggressively, and the site does not rank for many keywords, yet we already get more leads than we can possibly handle.
  • I ranked in the top 10 for search engine marketing a few years ago and got very few leads from it. I didn't start getting many leads until I wrote a popular article about the Google Florida Update. Oddly enough, my rankings were worse when I was getting those leads, but because people were reading my stuff and talking about me I got more leads than I knew what to do with.

As an SEO you don't build enough trust just by ranking. And you don't build trust (or rankings) by getting an unlimited supply of garbage links on the edges of the web. The key to picking up clients is to be seen where the potential clients are. Participate in the active parts of the web and be seen as an expert. Submit articles to sites like WebProNews.

Target YOUR Audience:

Pick your audience and appeal to their interests. And while not all traffic is created equal you do not have to target Digg if you are looking for clients, it is easy to bias your demand toward the target market.

If you can come up for reasons people would want to talk about you then you will get more exposure than you can handle. There is still a lot of opportunity out there. For example, you can commission a study of fortune 500 websites to see which of them are using cloaking or IP delivery, and then market the hell out of it. If you do a good job a few weeks later you are suddenly one of the experts of SEO for fortune 500 websites.

Making the Invisible Visible:

SEO is largely painted as a bad hated field and SEO services are often viewed as an invisible service. If you know how to get people to talk about your brand and SEO you should be good at getting people to talk about other topics (for your clients) as well.

If you know how to make the invisible visible you have an endless supply of affordable quality links at your disposal.

Go Offline:

And if you go to conferences and meet people in person it is far easier to build a solid trusting relationship. That is where the best potential SEO clients are, as they have capital, knowledge, and an interest in the topic. If they have enough resources to attend a conference they probably can afford to hire a good SEO too.

Published: January 27, 2007

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Comments

January 30, 2007 - 3:48pm

I believe it's important to convince clients that they don't just need pure SEO since search engines don't buy anything. You've got to up-sell your clients on the notion that SEO is one of the routes to growing sales. So you've got to fix your attention on the ultimate goal of more sales and do SEO in a way that contributes to that goal.

If you lose the client because they only wanted pure SEO, then you're better off in the long term. You'll get better word-of-mouth advertising from clients who you helped to be successful in business terms.

January 27, 2007 - 12:35am

Great post Aaron!

I just want to add to your post the next point:

You can get good SEO clients when the clients feels that they can get more benefits than the cost of the service.

¡Saludos desde Chihuahua Mexico!

January 27, 2007 - 12:57am

Great post. I don't understand why more people don't get this. Why would I want to fill my website with technical SEO articles? Other SEO guys are the last people I want to visit!

SEO clients don't want to read all the technical stuff and don't care about SEO secrets -- that's why they are clients! They want to hire someone who does read it.

Start at the other end with a client profile -- who is the most profitable client that is the best to work with? What do they type into the Google to find your services? Target everything toward them and their level of technical competency -- and pretty soon -- you get really profitable clients that are great to work with!

Matt L
January 27, 2007 - 1:22am

Aaron,

Will you call my clients to explain why I don't get them hundreds of garbage links every month, and that I need some real content on their sites? :)
thanks

January 27, 2007 - 4:07am

Pitch them, pitch them, pitch them! Although I would love to rely on a more passive online approach to getting leads, I think the best way is to pitch companies directly.

A form I often use is: This is who I am (show examples of ranking and reputation), this is what I can do for you (be specific), and this is why you should hire me as opposed to all the other SEO gurus. Oh yeah automated spammy e-mails don't count, real personal e-mails or phone calls is the only way.

I don't make a lot of money, but I've been self-employed for over 4 years, I work out of my work / live loft in downtown LA and set my own hours. I get most of my clients through referrals (not online) and direct pitches.

Aaron likes the "buzz buzz buzz" approach, going to conferences, spending your life writing and constantly building your brand. It's made him a lot of money and although I respect this approach and use some these tactics for myself (and my clients) it's problamatic for most individuals looking for good SEO clients.

If people / companies like you and trust you they may give you a chance to improve their rankings / online influence. After they have seen success they will refer people to you, regardless of who you're competing against and what their public reputation is compared to yours. They've already built a successful relationship with you and trust you.

You don't have to spend 12 + hours a day trying to update 3 blogs and write articles for recognition. That approach will work, but the only person you have to convince is the company you want to do work for.

If you're passionate and knowledgable about the topic with some hard evidence that you can actually promote / rank a site, it won't matter if SEO guru XYZ is more popular online; you're the one that has their attention.

Sales is a transference of belief. If they believe you can help them and they like/trust you, then you can sell even without ANY public buzzy reputation. When the results go above the expectations you have a client and referral base for life.

You don't need a lot of these to be able to make enough money to work for yourself (or form a corporation with a few employees) and have a good lifestyle.

I've done and continue to do work for many medium size clients and most of you have never heard of me, as I'm new to the public SEO scene.

I write for multiple blogs, but I don't want to go to conferences or try to build up any type of amazing reputation (although if I end up with one that would cool) I'm too busy building sites and marketing them online and still finding enough time to puruse my other passions (filmmaking & screenwriting). I build relationships with individuals and companies who will refer more work to me and more clients.

Results speak for themselves outside of all the hype.

January 27, 2007 - 5:40am

I'd say that especially within the search medium itself, SEO is viewed as one of those industry stepchildren, often looked down upon and mistreated. Naturally it is going to be extremely competitive since search->seo is rather narcissistic (in a good way).

In stepchildren industries, the marketer needs to think differently and do everything possible to build up that defensible traffic, similar to how you branded your ebook and subsequently survived the algo shift.

To expand upon your segment about going offline, I know that one great way to find potential clients, especially for local search, is to just go to open office meetings (realtors, insurance salesmen, etc) -- while looked down upon, these people are great networkers and have a lot of information to share about how to get your name out there.

Cygnus

January 27, 2007 - 7:09am

I've had a lot of success creating a community and placing myself at the center of it. From that point, once a level of activity is reached, the opportunities open. It's valuable on many levels; in the context of this discussion the value comes from member trust.

I don't even have a website for this, but the clients keep coming. Word of mouth and referrals drive quality leads, without any effort on my part.

Build a community, and place yourself at the center of it. Let your community trust you, and leverage that trust into quality potential clients. Then, deliver for them and nurture positive relationships, which drives referrals and long-term retainers.

January 28, 2007 - 3:07am

It was a very good read. Thanks you AAron.

January 28, 2007 - 4:54am

WHAT??? He is asking: “What should I do to promote my SEO site and services?"

And he calls himself “SEO”? What kind of “SEO services” he has?

There are thousands “SEOs” like him. They just read Aaron’s SEO book or maybe some other $20 “SEO books” and made themselves “SEOs”. Take a look my site, and then guess how many clients I have? Aaron, send him my way I will do the “real SEO” for this guy.

This is really funny, when SEO professionals need to explain the “SEO” how to do SEO.

January 29, 2007 - 5:39am

I've found the best method to building your SEO business is to get in good with a web design company that doesn't do SEO. Nearly every client they get has a desire to sell something, but since they don't provide SEO services, every client of theirs is a potential client of mine. It's great having an online presence, but quite frankly, I haven't gotten one lead from any of you ;-)

I also have built up and SEO'ed a website chalked full of thousands of venues and hundreds of bands (madtownlounge.com) - I'm ranked quite well for each of them for the most part. Since the site is mine, I can cross-advertise my companies. That is another way to promote yourself.

January 29, 2007 - 5:21pm

So much about running an SEO business is about relationships and marketing. While my company has been very successful over the years I know that it has not been as successful as it could have been had I been more active in the relationship building. Getting good articles out there certainly helps, but you've got to build relationships to build trust!

November 14, 2010 - 4:33pm

Aaron - Excellent post.

When I first started doing SEO independently, I primarily targeted the legal industry. There were several reasons for that decision.

First of all, I learned SEO for a legal lead generation company, so most of my experience comes for doing 'SEO for Lawyers'. Moreover - and I'm thoroughly convinced - the legal industry is an almost perfect marketing mix for SEO and PPC campaigns. (The four "P's" - Product, Price, Place & Promotion)

Having had some sales success in the past, I decided to model my SEO client acquisition strategy from a consultative sales approach. Seeing that I can't stand cold-calling, rejection or the 1000 pound telephone, I contacted prospects only to set appointments - I didn't want to present my company from a position of weakness by pitching the prospect as a telemarketer - I only explained to the gatekeepers & decision makers that I wanted a 30 minute meeting to show them how I can bring them in more clients.

Though I also acquire a large percentage of new clients from my own site's SEO, the face-to-face presentations have been the most successful thus far.

September 19, 2011 - 1:41pm

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