How to Get New SEO Clients
Proven strategies from an industry expert, Aires Loutsaris
It's this time of the year again… Summer days are a week behind, and most of your potential clients are back from vacations. They're looking for ways to improve their business' online performance, and you need to be right there for them (or else, you lost them to a competitor).
But where do you find the people in need of SEO and how do you pitch your SEO services to them? Today we turned to one of the best in the field for the answer: Aires Loutsaris, a leading SEO consultant from UK (and a loyal SEO PowerSuite user).
Our expert – Aires Loutsaris
Aires Loutsaris is the Head of SEO in one of the largest UK-based SEO agencies — SEO.CO.UK, and an SEO consultant in a well-known UK digital marketing agency Aira. He also runs his own SEO consultancy through SEO.claims
Over his 10-year experience in SEO (as well as 6-year experience in managing PPC and Social Media campaigns), Aires has worked with dozens of small businesses and large companies.
Aires has an SEO course with over 2.2k paying students on Udemy and holds SEO courses for SME Business owners.
Whether you've just decided to make some cash as an SEO consultant and are looking for your very first SEO client, or want to expand the SEO business you've been running for quite some time… First and foremost, you are in for some deep strategic planning as to where to find your prospects and how to turn them into paying customers.
For SEO agencies and consultants that rank high on Google for related key phrases, the easiest way to convert clients is of course through inbound leads.
However for those who don't rank for much or at all (oh the Irony) there are not too many options left. Many SEOs turn to paid advertising — and while it always works in order to gain traffic, exposure and clients, this should never be used as a reliable long-term strategy in my opinion.
An alternative to paid ads is a strategy I'm going to dwell on — it's a little more time-consuming than just getting an ad posted, but way more effective (and completely free). This strategy has been working extremely well for me throughout my entire career in SEO.
Connect with your target audience
If your customers can't find you (through organic search or your advertising), the only option left for you is to go after them yourself.
This is where most of my efforts have been invested in these past few years and where I have been able to convert the biggest clients I have ever worked with.
Your strategy here would be to:
- Establish the criteria for the search;
- Find people who seek SEO advice;
- Reach out offering your help and expertise.
Before you start:
Build a list of your target keywords
You know you're searching for people seeking SEO help or looking for an SEO agency; but they will not always express their needs so explicitly. Your client prospects may be asking more specific questions that have to do with particular aspects of SEO — think recent Google updates or manual penalties. Before you start your client hunt, it's a good idea to sit down and make up a comprehensive list of keywords you'll use in your search, both generic SEO-related terms and more specific key phrases — preferably related to aspects of SEO you specialize in. Here's an example of what your list may look like:
- choosing an SEO agency
- best SEO companies
- recommend an SEO agency
- how much do SEO services cost
- recovering from Penguin
- how to build quality links
- getting rid of bad backlinks
- Google manual penalty
Here are the places to look for potential clients
People in need of SEO help usually have similar questions, and these questions are usually placed on similar websites:
1. SEO and business-related websites
LinkedIn Pulse posts, LinkedIn Groups, SearchEngineJournal, SearchEngineLand, MOZ, SEOChat, DigitalPoint Forums, eConsultancy, UKBusinessForums, etc — all these websites can be a perfect place to find potential SEO clients.
The strategy here is that you want to roam these websites looking for comments or posts regarding personal SEO or digital marketing experiences.
In order to quickly sieve through pages of these websites, use simple search commands on Google such as:
site:example.com your keyword
site:example.com "your keyword"
If you're overwhelmed with the amount of results you get for your queries, you can narrow it down to make sure you're only participating in the latest discussions and answering questions that were posted not long ago. To do that, hit Google Search Tools on a Google results page, click Any time, and select the date range you'd like to receive results for.
2. Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Google Product Forums
Countless amounts of site owners or SEO managers have either complained about a recent Google penalty that they have received or have asked for advice on the issue.
Yahoo Answers and Quora are two great little hangouts for experts on any subject one can imagine, including all SEO-related topics. Simply run your site:answers.yahoo.com and site:quora.com searches on Google.
You'll probably be surprised how many questions don't have an answer yet. So get writing!
Google Product Forums is the place you go to ask for advice or share your expertise on a plethora of topics. Webmasters and business owners frequently share their SEO-related problems on the forums — a perfect spot for you to step in and offer advice.
Don't worry if you've run out of keyword ideas to use for your prospect searches on Google. Browse through Google Product Forums' Webmaster section — you'll be surprised to find that no less than half of the posts have to do with SEO.
After you run the search, you should end up with a list of dozens of prospects you could potentially reach out and pitch SEO services to. But first, you need to categorize your prospects and build the right strategy for pitching each group.
Identify your market and segment your audience
Your ideal strategy will depend a lot on whether you're pitching your services to Big Brands or SMEs (small to medium enterprises). So before you get down to the outreach, you have to segment your prospects and refine your list to make sure you're reaching out to the right people in the right way.
If you are trying to connect with Big Brands, then the person who you have to communicate with will usually have a title that reads: Digital Marketing Director, SEO Manager, Head of SEO, Marketing Director, Marketing Manager, Digital Marketing Manager, etc.
If you are trying to connect with SMEs, the person you will have to communicate with will usually have a title that reads: Founder, Co-Founder, CEO, Owner, Co-owner, Managing Director, etc.
Pitch your services the right way
Use the right tone with each group.
Your 'tone of voice' when dealing with each of the Big Brands and SMEs will be completely different. For Big Brand individuals, you will have to consistently be chasing and be insistent on arranging a chat or get together during work hours (9 to 5). Remember most of these marketing or SEO managers are not that keen to make a deal, especially since their participation on these forums might be outside of office hours or for personal gain rather than for the company they represent.
For SME individuals, any time and any place to connect is ideal, you simply offer your two cents of advice and let them chase you.
Don't hard-sell, build trust instead.
When reaching out, you don't want to go in for the hard sell straight away. Offer your customized advice, guidance or tips on each case and go as far as to offer an hour of video consultancy or a face-to-face sit down. The trust and bond you will form will soon transform free advice into a paid business deal.
Don't hackwork, be reliable.
Write such compelling arguments and justifications to back your answer up that your fingers are sore from typing and your brain is tired from thinking. The work you're doing now will give you a good return in future — many of your answers will get to rank high in Google (especially the ones from Quora) and keep attracting new clients on and on.
Give them more than they're asking for.
There is a little trick that I shouldn't be really giving away but here goes. When replying to a prospect's question, provide a free site audit report (don't just offer one — give it to them right away, without asking).
In what way does a free audit help you win the client over exactly? First, it lets you better understand the prospect's problem — and how serious it is. Second, chances are you'll find that there're more issues on their site than they are aware of. Informing them about those problems (and backing it up by a white-label audit report), and letting them know of the possible consequences could be perfect grounds for pitching your services.
SEO PowerSuite's WebSite Auditor is especially handy for that. I find this tool very useful to analyse potential targets and help with my outreach efforts as it covers the widest range of SEO factors I've seen in an SEO app. WebSite Auditor doesn't have a limit on the number of audits you can run — so you can literally do as many audits for prospects as you want, and it doesn't cost you anything.
I came across a prospect on Quora who was looking for legit and quick ways to build links. I ran a quick WebSite Auditor scan and discovered the client hadn't even thought of on-site SEO — their meta descriptions and titles were too long, duplicated, or empty. Hardly any of their target keywords were to be found in the meta tags, H1s or H2s. The site was also mobile-unfriendly and full of errors like poor redirects. So I put together an extensive reply in terms of link building, but also mentioned that even with the best backlinks, they had very few chances of ranking well in Google in their competitive niche (beauty and fashion). I attached a report where they could see all the errors and issues there website had. They got back to me within an hour — I didn't even have to pitch my services to them. The simple audit report did the job.
In a nutshell, the above is my client acquisition plan that I have used successfully to develop my own client base. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but certain procedures do need to be followed. If you do take away a few conclusions from this whole article, I would like it to be the following: Hang out in the right places. Hang out with the right crowd. Don't sell first — offer help and the sale will complete itself. And make friends in the industry — referring clients to friends and experts they trust is incredibly common among SEO consultants.
Good luck in finding new SEO clients — hope my advice comes in handy!