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How to Start an SEO Company in 2019 (A-Z Process)

59 min read


Want to start an SEO company?

You’re in the right place.

It doesn’t matter whether you have zero SEO clients or want to get even more.

This guide will give you the exact framework I used to go from making $0 to making six figures in only 6 months by getting SEO clients.

Let’s jump right in.

Need a niche to target? Here are 52 lucrative SEO niches to go after.

Client SEO System Overview

The Client SEO System is going to show you:

  1. How to pick a niche to land SEO clients in.
  2. How to get real SEO results and build your portfolio as fast as possible.
  3. How to use the outbound system to land SEO clients fast.
  4. How to stack the inbound system with the outbound system to take your income to another level.
  5. How to convert your prospects into paying SEO clients.
  6. How to make your clients love you so they stick around and continue to pay you for years.
  7. 35 Lessons from starting an SEO company

Remember:

The key to succeeding with the Client SEO System is to act on what you learn.

I’m giving you the framework and steps, but you’re the one that’s responsible for your success. I believe in you and I’m super excited to help you through your journey.

Now I’m going to show you how to pick a niche and make competition irrelevant (Hint: most people think there’s only one way to niche down, but there are actually 4 different techniques).

Pick a Niche

Pick a Niche

The first question I need to cover is whether you should niche down or have a general focus.

There’s no wrong answer here. But, it’s generally going to be easier to niche down because there will be less competition. It also makes your marketing and sales process more targeted.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t take on clients in other niches. It just means that your brand’s identity only focuses on one or a few a niches.

Now most people don’t realize, but there are many different ways to niche down.

For example, most people think niching down is choosing an industry like HVAC or plumbers. This is a good approach, but as you’ll find out in a second, there are a few different angles you can take.

Let’s start with the most common way of niching down which is on the industry level.

1. Niche Down on the Industry Level

I recommend targeting niches that have a high customer value.

Need a niche to target? Here are 52 lucrative SEO niches to go after.

For example, a single customer for a personal injury lawyer could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. That means that you can charge a premium for SEO because the ROI for the personal injury lawyer is enormous.

On the other hand, companies with low customer values won’t be able to to get an ROI on SEO services unless they’re able to make up for the low customer value with sales volume.

For example, a supplement company I worked with had a low customer value, but they had enough sales volume to justify their investment in premium SEO services.

The main takeaway here is to target industries that can actually get an ROI from using your SEO services.

Here’s a list of some industries with high customer values.

Now let’s talk about the second way you can niche down, which is to target specific locations.

2. Niche Down by Location

So, instead of choosing a niche, you’ll choose locations to go after.

When I first got started, I choose smaller cities that were high on the wealth scale. For example, instead of targeting Los Angeles, I went after Santa Monica, Glendale, and Beverly Hills.

Santa monica SEO

These cities have a lot money flowing through them, but the competition is lower than Los Angeles.

One way to determine how wealthy a city is, is to look at how much police officers and firefighters are paid.

For example, according to Indeed, on average, police officers in Beverly Hills make about $80,000 per year.

Beverly Hills Police Salary

This is 37% above the national average.

Police officer and firefighter compensation is usually public record, so you can find this information out with some quick Google Searches.

That said, if you’re new, you should target lower competition, high value cities in the beginning.

Then, as you begin to build a portfolio and website authority, you can venture into more competitive cities.

The third way to niche down is on both the industry and location level.

3. Niche Down by Industry and Location

For example, you could target lawyers in Beverly Hills. Or even get more specific and only target personal injury lawyers in Beverly Hills.

Now obviously, your pool of prospects will be much smaller with this approach, but it can be effective when you’re starting out.

In general, focus is always the best route.

The final way to niche down is on the service level.

4. Niche Down on the Service Level

Instead of offering full-service SEO as your primary solution, you can splinter your service into micro services.

For example, you could specialize in technical SEO, SEO content creation, link building, or local SEO.

What’s interesting about this approach is that micro services can be used a “foot-in-the-door” tactic to land larger full-service SEO contracts.

As you’ll be finding out soon, this is one my favorite methods for landing clients.

You can also become known as a “link building guy” or whatever identity you want.

Many SEO agencies have been successful using this approach.

A good one to study is Page One Power.

Page One Power

They specialize in link building and they’re very successful because their marketing material and sales process is streamlined for closing link building contracts.

Remember:

Focus is good.

So, there are four ways to niche down:

  1. By industry. Choose an industry with high customer values
  2. By location. Focus on smaller, wealthier cities
  3. By industry and location
  4. Niche down on the service level by splintering micro services from your primary service.

Now it’s time for me to show you how to build a portfolio of real SEO results even if you’re not an SEO expert.

Get Results

Get Results

Here’s something that most gurus won’t tell you:

You need to get real SEO results before taking on clients.

Here are three reasons why you need to prove that you can do SEO before taking on clients.

3 Reasons You Need Results Before Taking on Clients

1. The First Reason are Ethics

Companies that invest money with you are under the impression that you know what you’re doing.

This doesn’t mean you need to be an industry-leading expert to take on clients. You just need some results to prove your competence.

What if you don’t have results right now? Don’t worry because I’ll be showing you some ways to build your portfolio as fast as possible.

With that said:

It’s highly unethical to provide SEO services if you’ve never ranked or gotten results.

Think about this way:

Would you knowingly hire a supposed plumber to fix your pipes if they’ve never fixed a pipe before? It’s unlikely and super risky for you.

When you hire a plumber, you assume they A) know more about plumbing than you do and B) they’ve actually practiced plumbing and have experience.

Now imagine if you did hire a supposed plumber that had no experience or knowledge and he or she destroyed your pipe or flooded your house?

You would be fuming if you found out that this person lied to you and made you believe that they were competent.

That’s brings me to the second reason why you need results before taking on clients and that’s:

2. To Protect Your Reputation

If a company pays you to do SEO, but finds out you have no experience and never gotten results, then your reputation will be on the line.

Sure, it’s possible that you’ll figure it and get the client results, but it’s highly risky for you and them. If you don’t get them results, they might wreck your reputation.

That’s why you need to learn how to actually get SEO results.

The best way to think about this is quote from Warren Buffet:

warren buffet quote

Buffer is implying that your reputation means everything and you should think about what actions you should or shouldn’t do to protect it.

The third reason why you need results before trying to get clients is because:

3. It Makes Your Sales Process 10x Easier

There is no greater persuasion vehicle than demonstrating that you actually know what you’re doing.

Building a deep portfolio of SEO results should be a priority if you’re planning on working with clients for the long-term.

Now let me show you a few methods you can use to build up your SEO portfolio quickly.

How to Build Your SEO Portfolio (Fast)

The first and most hated method is to:

Work for Free

I know you probably just rolled your eyes at this idea, but hear me out for a second.

First, it’s easy to close someone if you simply say: “I’ll help your rank for some lower competition keywords for free because I’m trying to build my SEO portfolio.”

Then, once you get these clients some results, you can convert them into actual paying clients.

The key is choose a small number of very low competition keywords.

Your goal in this process is to get results quickly (so you can add it to your portfolio) and to demonstrate to the client that you know what you’re doing.

If they client has a decent website, you should be able to rank for some low-competition, micro long-tail keywords pretty quickly.

After you’ve achieved some results, I recommend pushing for referrals. You can say something like, I’ll help you rank for x, y, z for free if you send me some referrals.

This is the fastest way to snowball your portfolio and monthly income.

The second method, which takes much longer, is to:

Build a Niche Website and Rank for Low-Competition Keywords

This is similar to the example above (and it’s the approach I personally used).

You’re technically still working for free, but you’re in complete control and you’ll be the one to reap the benefits of the success of your niche website.

Remember, that each keyword you rank for is a success that you can add to your portfolio.

The goal is to demonstrate that you’re more competent at SEO than the companies you’re pitching. That’s it.

If you do that, you’ll land clients.

The third method is to:

Build a Local Website and Rank for Low-Competition Keywords

In particular, keywords that your target market wants to rank for.

For example, if you’re targeting HVAC companies, you could rank for a super long-tail keyword phrase like “best HVAC company in Beverly Hills CA”.

This is a powerful method because you’re actually demonstrating in their target market.

Those are the best ways to build up your portfolio quickly. Focus on demonstrating SEO skills by getting real results.

Now let me show you my Outbound System for getting new clients. These methods are powerful for anyone trying to land their first client quickly.

Use the Outbound System

Use the Outbound System

The first question is, what is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is often referred to as push marketing, but it means that you’re the one pushing for new clients. You’re the one reaching out to qualified prospects and trying to persuade them to become a client.

This is different the inbound system (or sometimes referred to as pull marketing), which is the process of attracting leads to your business using inbound marketing.

In layman’s terms:

Outbound means you’re going out to get clients and inbound means they’re coming to you.

Now before I can show you the outbound methods, I need to show you:

How to Find Prospect Contact Information

Since you’ll be sending emails, this is critical.

Hunter.io is my personal favorite tool.

Just enter the target company’s domain and let Hunter.io work its magic.

hunter.io

Sometimes it won’t produce any results and that’s why you’ll need to Viola Norbert as a backup option.

Open Viola Norbert and enter the first name, last name, and domain of the prospect you’re trying to reach.

viola norbert

If these two tools don’t produce any results, then I recommend using LinkedIn to find the point of contact you’re trying to reach.

Those three tactics should help you find most company’s point of contact information.

Now let me show the process.

Strategy #1: Identify a Point of Leverage

Some possible leverage points you can use are:

  • The company is ranking on page 5 of Google or worse for their most important keywords
  • The company is paying for Google Ads but has no organic search visibility
  • The company doesn’t have an SSL certificate installed
  • The company’s website isn’t mobile friendly
  • The company’s website loads slowly
  • The company’s website doesn’t have Google Analytics or a Facebook pixel installed
  • The company hasn’t claimed or properly set up their Google My Business listing
  • The company has inconsistent NAP-W (Name, Address, Phone, or Website) information

Now what you’ll do is:

Gather a Large List of Prospects

Then go through each of these items. Then mark if their website or company is displaying any of these points of leverage.

Then you’ll:

Develop a Customized Pitch

…based on the issue they have.

For example, let’s say the company is ranking on Page 5 or worse for their target keywords.

What you would do is pitch a free video audit to help them identify what’s holding their SEO performance back. Then, once they agree, you perform the audit.

Upsell Full-Service

After you deliver the SEO audit, you just ask them if they would like you to handle the SEO campaign for them.

How you approach the pitch will depend on your experience level.

If you’re trying to build a portfolio then it would make sense to either work for free or for a low amount as I described in the previous section.

You can also pitch a micro-service BEFORE trying to score the large full-service SEO contract.

This will turn your prospect into a paying customer, but without them having to make a big commitment up front.

Finding leverage is the key.

This will make you different than 80% of all SEOs because you’re taking the time to analyze these businesses and develop an intelligent, targeted pitch.

Here’s a Google Sheet template you can copy for prospecting, identifying leverage points, and tracking your outreach.

Now let’s talk about the second best way to land new clients and that’s partnering with other digital marketing agencies.

Strategy #2: Partner with Agencies

In short, you’ll do SEO for the agency’s clients on a white label basis.

That means you’ll do the work and get the results, but they’ll take credit for the results and communicate directly with the client.

You’re simply working on the backend.

This is a great arrangement in the beginning because:

  1. You don’t have to focus on sales (other than the initial sale with the agency) and…
  2. You don’t have to deal with direct customer service because you’ll only be communicating with the agency.

The downside are that the monthly retainers will be smaller per client because the agency has to make a profit.

The good news is that this is usually offset by the quantity of clients that an SEO agency will send you.

I used this exact method when I first got started.

In fact:

I had white label agreements with several agencies in the beginning and this was a great source of income. It also led to all kinds of other opportunities down the road.

I recommend combining both white label and direct-to-client to maximize your income growth.

The question is:

How do you actually land white label agreements?

Target Companies That Offer SEO Services

First, you have to know what types of companies to target. I recommend making a list of all digital marketing, internet marketing, SEO, PPC, graphic design, and web design companies.

Or, any type of business that may provide SEO services.

Secondly, you have to understand why an agency would even want to outsource their SEO to you.

Understand the Reason Why They’re Willing to Partner

The main reason why they are open to outsourcing is because it saves them time and doesn’t force them to hire and train employees. If an agency gets more time, they can focus more on bringing in new clients.

The most important part for them though, is to work with a competent SEO who can actually get their clients results.

The last piece of the puzzle will depend on your level of experience.

Design Your Unique Selling Proposition

If you’re new, I recommend pitching the agency that you’ll work for free on one of their client campaigns to prove yourself.

You need to emphasize that they have nothing to lose by hiring you.

Trust me:

The long-term value of this approach is worth working for a free for a little bit of time.

If you do a solid job, a single agency could send you enough clients to replace your day job income.

At least that’s what happened for me.

There are a few other places you should monitoring and trying to score clients.

The first is the gigs section on Craigslist. I landed several clients through Craigslist when I first started.

Craigslist Gigs

You can use all the same leverage methods I’ve shown you to score clients here.

I also recommend setting up a profile on WeGrowth, UpWork, Freelancer, and even Guru. Constantly monitor these websites for new opportunities and apply to as many as you can.

Upwork SEO Jobs

You have nothing to lose by applying and learning what works during this application process.

I’ll tell you this:

I’ve hired many freelancers on UpWork and I almost always hire the person that has the best attention to detail.

For example, in my job posting, I’ll inject something like “write the word banana” in your proposal.

Upwork Job Posting

The people that don’t do it are automatically disqualified because:

  • It shows they didn’t take the time to actually read the job posting (which implies laziness or they don’t have enough time to service my company the right way)
  • It implies that they can’t follow instructions or have a low attention to detail.

These are bad qualities and that’s why I eliminate those possibilities at the onset.

The main takeaway is that putting in a little more effort than the average freelancer will produce far better results. Most people on these freelancing websites are focused on quantity.

I recommend focusing on quality.

Think about this way:

If you submitted just one detailed and thoughtful SEO proposal per day for 3 months, you will have sent off 90 quality proposals.

If you converted just 3% of these proposals into new clients, you would have 3 new clients and this is being very conservative as far as output and conversion rate.

Believe it or not:

Increasing your client base is sometimes nothing more than putting in consistent, quality work over time.

The best way to illustrate this is through a quick story I read from James Clear’s book.

In 1993, a 23-year old named Trent Dyrsmid was hired by a bank in Abbotsford, Canada.

Upon his hiring people didn’t expect much of him, but then they started to take notice how quickly he was progressing. Drysmid used a simple method each morning to excel at his new job.

He simply placed two jars on his desk and one was filled with 120 paper clips and the other was empty.

Then after every sales call, Drysmid would take 1 paper clip and move it to the empty jar and he didn’t stop until all the paper clips were moved.

This signified that he made 120 sales calls for the day.

And by using this simple and consistent method, Dyrsmid was making $75,000 per year (which is the equivalent of $125,000 today) within only 18 months and then landed another big job shortly thereafter.

The main takeaway here is that consistency pays off.

Most people aren’t consistent and won’t do this type of work. That’s your advantage.

Do the work and be consistent.

Those two qualities are the key to producing results using the Outbound system for landing new SEO clients.

Now it’s time to learn my proven Inbound System that makes leads and SEO clients COME TO YOU. Stacking this with the outbound system and you’ll never need to worry about getting new SEO clients again

Stack the Inbound System

Stack the Inbound System

Just to review:

Outbound marketing is when you’re searching for and reaching to potential clients.

Inbound marketing is when potential clients are searching and reaching out to you.

You should be stacking both methods together to achieve maximum results.

That’s because outbound is effective for getting clients quickly while inbound methods take longer to see an impact (and will require considerably more work).

Here’s the good news:

Once your inbound marketing picks up steam, you will get new leads and customers 24/7, 365 on autopilot.

And eventually, you can choose to stop doing outbound marketing altogether if you’re driving enough leads from inbound.

For example, I only used outbound methods for the first three or so months of starting my agency. Since then, my company gets 100% of its leads through inbound marketing.

Trust me:

It’s a lot easier to grow a company this way.

Before I jump into tactics, I need to explain how the sales process for outbound vs inbound is different.

The big difference between the two is that with inbound you’ll be responding to leads either through a contact form or through a direct phone call.

I recommend both types of conversion options when you’re focusing on client SEO, but I’ll cover this more in the sales portion of this training.

There are three types of inbound methods I’m going to show you:

  1. Referral generation
  2. Content marketing
  3. Paid advertising

The key to fully understanding inbound marketing is to understand how a content marketing funnel works and how a sales funnel works.

What is a Content Marketing Funnel?

A content marketing marketing funnel is broken down into three sections, the Top, Middle, and Bottom of the Funnel.

Content Marketing Funnel

These are often referred to as ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu. In short, you need to produce content at each stage of the funnel.

My process for doing this is as follows (and this applies to both products and services):

  1. I create ToFu content, which is usually an in-depth blog post targeting a relevant keyword.
  2. I create a free lead magnet to convert traffic into email subscribers. Depending on the offering, this may also be a call-to-action for the traffic to submit an application or submit a contact form. The goal at the MoFu stage of the funnel is to turn your traffic into leads.
  3. Then in the last stage of the funnel, I’ll produce BoFu content that’s focused on persuading the lead to become a customer.

That may come in the form of testimonials, stories, results, etc.

To show you this in practice, let me walk you through one of my sales processes for Gotch SEO Academy.

Keep in mind, this will vary for a service, but the general concept will be illuminated.

Here’s how my content marketing and sales process looks at a 30,000-foot view.

Content Marketing Funnel Example

  • At the top, you have traffic. This may come from organic search, paid advertising, or other referral sources.
  • At the top of the funnel, I have blog content.
  • Then within that blog content I promote a free lead magnet which my SEO 101 course. This is my MoFu content.
  • Then after a subscriber goes through the course, I offer them a limited time free trial of Gotch SEO Academy. This free trial is my BoFu content.

I also stack testimonials, frequently asked questions, and other types of BoFu content.

The goal at this stage is to turn leads into customers, so all your content should be structured to achieve that objective.

Notice how the content changes as you go down the funnel.

  • First, you educate.
  • Second, you add more value, but you ask for them to make a small commitment.
  • And lastly, you sell.

Believe it or not, the traffic part of this equation is the least important.

You can get enormous amounts of traffic, but if your funnel is poorly structured, that traffic won’t convert into customers.

And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

That’s why investing time into developing an effective content marketing funnel and sales process is well worth it.

So, now let me show you how you can develop and execute an effective content marketing funnel and sales process so you can land more SEO clients.

The first method is what I call the Case Study method.

The Case Study Method

Here’s how it works:

You’re going to create an SEO case study about some results you’ve achieved. Preferably one that’s relevant to your target market.

Then, you’re going add a call-to-action in this case study for the reader to apply for a free SEO audit.

Then, all you need to do is drive traffic to your SEO case study.

In most cases, you’ll need to use paid traffic.

Method #2 is my personal favorite, but it’s also the most challenging.

Rank Geo-Targeted Pages

It’s the process of choosing locations and then creating geo-targeted landing pages that you’ll rank in Google.

For example, if you search for “St Louis SEO”, you’ll find Gotch SEO.

St Louis SEO

This single page was one of my biggest sources of lead generation when I was still taking on clients.

If you’re new, I recommend targeting smaller cities like I mentioned in the niching down section.

Select high-value cities and then work to rank those pages.

Trust me, it’s worth the effort. It just takes time and patience.

Then, on these pages, you can either have a traditional application form or you can pitch a free audit.

If you don’t have an existing client base or don’t have much authority in the SEO industry then I recommend using a free SEO audit to get your foot in the door.

These first two methods can work together as well. For example, you can promote your case studies on your geo-targeted pages.

The next method is to target informational keywords in the SEO industry.

Target Informational Keywords

Now I’ll be honest, this is a challenging one because of the competition.

But it’s extremely valuable once you rank because there is no better form of skill demonstration.

You’re building social proof and trust upfront and subconsciously before you even talk to a lead.

Think about it… if they’re searching Google, going to your page, and submitting a form, then what just occurred?

You just demonstrated that SEO works without talking or having to persuade them at all.

That’s why I always laugh when some gurus (who aren’t ranking for any keywords) claim that ranking for SEO keywords is a waste of time.

99.9% of my leads are directly attributed to SEO keywords that Gotch SEO ranks for.

Don’t let them fool you.

If you take this approach, make sure you start out by targeting longer tail keywords.

For example, trying to rank for “backlinks” or some other tough head of body keyword will require lots of links, content, and patience.

I recommend waiting until your website is more authoritative to target those types of keywords.

In the meantime, go after long-tail keywords and dominate those. You don’t need a ton of traffic to get qualified leads.

Create Public SEO Audits

The final inbound method that’s incredibly effective is to perform public SEO audits and then post them on YouTube.

I recommend looking at Chase Reiner’s YouTube channel because he’s done an excellent job using this strategy.

Chase Reiner YouTube

Audits are great way to demonstrate your expertise and they cost you nearly nothing to produce and publish. Just your time.

YouTube in general as a channel is, in my opinion, and untapped source for driving SEO leads.

There are only a few SEOs pushing hard on YouTube, so there’s a lot of opportunity there.

You can produce case studies or even general informational video content.

The ultimate goal of your YouTube content should be to educate, inform, and establish you as an authority.

In fact:

The ultimate goal of inbound marketing is to educate and to build the trustworthiness of your brand.

Trust is the key to sales.

You should be looking at every channel as an opportunity to add value and to build your brand’s authority in the industry.

In addition to your website and YouTube, you should also be adding value to Quora, forums, blog comment sections on industry blogs, and even in Facebook Groups.

Quora Answer

People have built entire careers just by adding value in Facebook groups and in forums.

While contributing to communities won’t always drive direct traffic to your website, it’s a way to build your brand.

As a result, people start to recognize the value that you bring, they will start to search for your name and brand in Google.

Branded Search CTR

This is beneficial from an SEO perspective, but it’s also huge from a business perspective. It’s only possible by adding massive amounts of value across multiple channels.

Now keep in mind:

You don’t have to do this forever. But in the beginning, you should be testing every channel and consistently producing value on them.

So, those are the best inbound marketing methods in my opinion and I’ve personally used each one.

There are other tactics such as webinars, but that’s not something I personally used to get SEO clients, so I won’t be covering that.

With that said, let’s review the inbound system:

Step #1 – Create Top of the Funnel Content

This may be informational content, case studies, YouTube videos, or even contributions to communities.

Step #2 – Create Middle of the Funnel Content

This may be a free SEO audit which requires a user to submit an application or it can be a free download which requires a user to submit their email address.

Either way, the objective at this stage is get a percentage of users to take another step in furthering a relationship with your brand.

Step #3 – Create Bottom of the Funnel Content

…That’s designed to persuade your leads to become SEO clients.

This will come in the form of testimonials, keyword rankings, traffic growth screenshots, case studies, frequently asked questions, or even a list of your happy clients that they can call.

And the final stage is creating an SEO proposal and following up on that proposal.

Now let me show how to convert your leads into paying SEO clients by using my simple step-by-step sales process. The best part is that you’ll close leads without being salesy or over-the-top when you use the system I’ll show you.

Sales 101

Sales 101

Many of the inbound marketing techniques require you to capture leads either through email or through an application form.

I recommend setting both up. Let’s start with email. There are three email providers that I recommend:

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is perfect for a smaller budget because you can get a good number of subscribers for free. I started out with Mailchimp, but then outgrew it and needed some more advanced.

Leading me to number two, which is Drip.

Drip

Drip is more focused on email automation.

I don’t recommend jumping into email automation when you’re new because it will likely be a distraction and there’s a big learning curve.

But once you’ve mastered many of the other skill sets, it will be worth looking into.

One other respected email provider is Aweber.

Aweber

It doesn’t have a big learning curve and is quite similar to Mailchimp.

After you’ve selected a way to capture email addresses, then you need a way for leads to apply or contact you. You can use Contact Form 7 to embed forms directly on your website, but I also love using TypeForm.

It’s free and it has some really amazing functionality. You can also use Gravity Forms, which is a more advanced version of Contact Form 7, but it’s paid.

What do you do after you’ve collected a lead?

Well, your initial outreach will depend on what they are requesting by filling out a form.

For example, if they fill out your SEO audit application, your outreach will vary compared to if they submitted your full-service SEO application. This part is common sense, so I won’t bore.

If they applied for an SEO audit, then reach out, thank them for their application, and let them know when their free SEO audit will be completed.

Believe it or not:

I recommend the same process even if they’re a full-service SEO lead. Once again thank them for applying and then ask if you can perform a free SEO audit.

What do you do after you’ve completed the audit?

This is the most important stage of the process, so listen carefully. You need to turn this lead into a paying customer.

That means you’ll send them a simple email about the completed audit and you’ll say something like:

“Hey NAME, I’ve complete your SEO audit and {attached | here’s the link}. The biggest actions you need to take to improve your SEO performance are:
1. HIGH IMPACT ACTION
2. HIGH IMPACT ACTION
3. HIGH IMPACT ACTION

These actions will have the biggest impact on performance, but there are many other actions/issues you’ll need to tackle (as you’ll discover in the audit).

Do you have a few minutes to discuss the audit this week?”

Or:

“Hey NAME, I’ve completed your SEO audit. Do you have a few minutes today or tomorrow to go over our findings?”

This method is a sneakier one because you’ll send the audit right before the meeting. So in a way, you force them to get on the phone with you.

The previous template is a value-first template, but it won’t drive as many phone calls as the second one.

You can vary these templates if you don’t want to talk over the phone.

I highly recommend you get on the phone because your close rate will be substantially higher.

Let’s assume you get them on the phone to discuss the SEO audit findings.

You don’t need to do anything complicated here.

Just talk about what you found and what they would need to do to make the changes you’re suggesting.

The only method I recommend here is to discuss how much work goes into the actions.

Remember, companies hire SEO experts because

  • It’s too technical for them to execute and…
  • they don’t have an enough time to execute

These two factors should naturally be demonstrated through your discussion.

Then, towards the end, just ask the lead if they would be interested in letting your company do the SEO for them (so they don’t have to waste time or effort to figure it out themselves).

If they “yes”, then tell them that you’ll develop proposal and get it over to them by the end of the week. And that’s it.

Now if they say “no”, then you should counter with a downsell.

Say:

“Ok, no worries. I know it’s a big commitment. Would you be interested in us fix your technical issues? This won’t require a monthly commitment or anything. It’ll just be a one-off project and we’ll make your website technically sound.”

If they say “yes”, then you’ll send them a mini proposal.

Remember:

The goal is to get them to pay your company money.

That’s when the relationship changes.

It may seem like they’ll never become a full-service client, but once there’s an exchange of value, everything changes.

Now let’s talk about proposals.

First, let’s talk what tools or software you can use to deliver proposals.

There are few different ways to create and send proposals.

My personal favorites are:

  • Google Docs
  • PDFs
  • Pitch Decks using Google Slides or Powerpoint
  • Proposal software such as Proposify, PandaDoc, and Nusii

I recommending testing each to see what works best for you.

But listen:

The vehicle for your proposal is by far the least important part of the process.

What matter most is the substance of the proposal.

19 Qualities of Effective SEO Proposals

Here are 19 elements you need to produce successful SEO proposals

1. They’re Personalized

There are some pieces of the your SEO proposal that can use templates, but the key to a truly successful proposal is to personalize it for the prospect’s situation.

The best way to accomplish this goal is by performing an SEO audit upfront before you send your proposal.

That way you can add your findings from the SEO audit in the proposal and create a personalized roadmap based on their situation.

2. Successful Proposals are Efficient

No one wants to or is going to read a 100 page proposal. The best way to think about this to use a quote from someone way smarter than me, Albert Einstein.

Einstein said that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” That means your proposal should be efficient and gets to the point, but don’t go overboard and make it thin.

3. Use Opening Testimonials or Data

Think of this section as a quick hook to get the prospect to read your entire proposal.

Testimonials from successful clients, data proving your value, or data proving the value of the industry/service will work here.

4. Write Your Opening Statement

Your opening statement is nothing more than a big thank you and way to express gratitude to the prospect for them giving you the opportunity to work together.

It doesn’t need to be more than a sentence or two.

5. Outline a Scope of Work (Overview)

The scope of work section defines what you’re offering the prospect. Think of it as an overview of the service offering.

For example, you may something like: “Gotch SEO will conduct an extensive SEO campaign to increase traffic and customer volume through organic search.”

6. Define the Objectives

Outline the goals of the SEO campaign here. Be as specific as possible.

Some common SEO campaign objectives are: increase organic search traffic, increase the total keyword ranking positions, and drive more customers through organic search.

7. List the Deliverables

“Deliverable” is business lingo for what things are actually going to be done/accomplished during this service.

A simple deliverable is: “We build a keyword database of at least 1,000 potential keyword targets.” Be specific in this section.

Also, it’s a good idea to mention what deliverables will be dependent on the client. For example, if the client needs to approve content you’re creating, then make sure that’s listed.

8. Emphasize the Benefits

You should be emphasizing the benefits of your SEO service throughout your proposal, but it’s also a good idea to dedicate a section to it.

The one question you need to ask yourself is: How is my service going to make their business and lives better?

Some of the biggest benefits of hiring an SEO company are time savings, expertise, and most importantly, revenue growth.

9. Establish Realistic Expectations

Most SEO proposals skip this part because it’s not a “cool” topic. What you want to do in this section is be incredibly honest about what they can expect from an SEO campaign.

This section alone will eliminate a lot of headache down the road.

For example, you should outline how long it takes for an SEO campaign to pick up steam. In other words, how long it takes to see results.

I typically say 6-12 months.

Although this may seem like a “bad idea” on the surface, it’s actually genius because you’re eliminating prospects that don’t understand how much work goes into an SEO campaign and how long it actually takes to see results.

On the other hand, you’ll close the clients that understand that SEO is a slow burning customer acquisition strategy.

You’ll also get validation that your client understands the importance of patience. Trust me. You do not want clients breathing down your neck about results within the first couple months.

This section eliminates most of these issues upfront.

10. Outline the Timeline

This section is simply setting deadlines for when the deliverables will be completed. I recommend outlining the timeline by months.

For example, in month #1, you could say that you’ll finish the keyword database, you’ll finish the competitor analysis, and you’ll complete a deep SEO audit.

This will depend on your offering, but the key takeaway is that you’re giving them an idea of what to expect every month of the engagement.

It also holds you and your company accountable for delivering on what you promised.

Sometimes it’s good to have this type of motivation to avoid any possibility of slacking.

11. Establish the Project Lead

This is a very short section, but just write out who is going to be managing their SEO campaign. Explain who this person is, their accomplishments, and ultimately why they’re qualified to run the SEO campaign.

12. Reveal the Investment

Notice that I didn’t say “pricing”. You have to angle your service as an investment, not a cost.

The good news is that this is true. Investing in SEO can produce a return on investment.

It’s not like buying a car. You’re investing in a marketing channel because it’s going to make your company more money in the future.

That said, this section will show how much they need to invest to work with you.

I recommend offering three different pricing options. This is also known as tiered pricing.

How you price your services is up to you, but I recommend having a super premium option because it will act as a price anchor for the other options.

For example, in my SEO proposals, I’ll have a $3,997/mo package on the low end and a $14,997/mo package on the high end.

You know that most people won’t choose the premium option, but anchoring is a powerful method. $4,000 on it’s own looks pretty huge, but it doesn’t look that big if I showed you $15,000 first.

That’s the power of price anchoring.

One other tactic I recommend in this section is to itemize the deliverables in each tiered pricing section.

That way you can negotiate by removing unnecessary deliverables.

13. Inject Social Proof

Dedicate this section to testimonials, results, and case studies proving that you’re capable of getting this prospect SEO results.

14. Use a Action-Based Guarantee

While you can’t guarantee SEO results, you can guarantee that the work will be completed. I highly recommend that you do this.

15. Thank You & Call-to-Action

This might seem obvious, but you need to instruct the prospect to act. First, thank them again for the opportunity and then ask to sign the proposal to get started.

16. Use Scarcity

I recommend adding an expiration date to the proposal along with a special offer.

So, example, your proposal may say: “This SEO proposal is valid until December 14, 2019.”

Then, I like to add a special offer like: “If you sign-up by Friday, we’ll give you 20% off your first three months of service.” The goal here is to get them to act.

Remember:

The fear of loss is stronger than the possibility of gain (loss aversion).

17. Add a Signature Section

In most cases, you’ll need to discuss the proposal before a client signs on. That’s okay, but there are some prospects are ready to go, so give them that opportunity.

18. Check Your Grammar and Spelling

Your goal is to be as professional as possible and that starts with your grammar and spelling. Use Grammarly and Hemingway Writer to optimize this.

Hemingway Writer

And last, but not least:

19. Optimize Your Design

You can use Canva templates to create well-designed PDFs or you can hire a designer on Fiverr or UpWork. Either way, it definitely helps to have a presentable, well-designed and professional proposal.

20. Add a Credit Card Form (Optional)

I’ll typically add a credit card form on the proposal to push the envelope, but it’s not necessary. I recommend testing it to see how well it converts.

Now there’s one other big question:

When should you send your proposal?

I recommend setting up a phone call or screenshare BEFORE you send the proposal.

Then on the day of the conversation, send the proposal right before. That way you can guide the client through the offering.

As opposed to sending it to them and them scrolling to the pricing section.

The way you win over clients is through perceived value.

Pricing means nothing.

Your goal is to amplify your perceived value and the best way to do this is through the strategy I just outlined.

That’s all you need to know about developing effective SEO proposals.

Now it’s time to learn how to retain 95% + of your clients. Most people think retention is about customer service, but they’re wrong. There’s something far more important.

Make Your Clients Love You

Make Your Clients Love You

No matter what anyone tells you, the key to making your clients happy is to get results.

There are some other factors that will determine their happiness level, but results are the lead domino.

Get them results and most clients will love you forever.

Keep in mind that there are some clients (probably less than 1%) who will never be satisfied. These clients are extremely rare, but you’ll know it when you encounter one.

That said, here’s how my client SEO process looks. You can replicate, modify, or add to this process.

I’ve tried to make this process as lean as possible so that A) you can get your clients results fast and B) you get turn a profit.

At a high level, the client SEO process is as follows:

1. Perform an SEO audit to find existing issues and research to analyze their competitors and find keywords and link opportunities.

2. Prioritize actions based on your findings and what will have the biggest impact on their performance. For example, making their site mobile friendly would be a level 1 action because it would have a big impact on their performance. Compare this to writing image ALT tag descriptions, which would be a level 3 action because it would have a low impact on their SEO performance.

3. You need to take action on your priority list.

4. Repeat critical actions such as creating new keyword-targeted content, optimizing pages, and acquiring backlinks every month.

This is the 30,000-foot view of an SEO campaign, but here’s what you might do month-to-month.

Let me show you how I would structure a 6-month campaign. Keep in mind that some of these actions will vary based on the client’s budget.

In month #1, you’re going to do the following:

  1. Perform an SEO Audit
  2. Conduct Keyword Research
  3. Analyze Competitors
  4. Find Link Prospects
  5. Fix All Technical/UX Issues

In months 2-3, you’ll:

  1. Optimize Existing Keyword Targeted Pages
  2. Create New Keyword-Targeted Pages
  3. Create Linkable Assets

Then in months 4-6, you’ll:

  1. Acquire Backlinks
  2. Create New Keyword-Targeted Pages (if the budget is available)

But now I need to cover something very important.

Should you do all the work or should you get help?

When you’re starting out, it may seem wise to try to do all the work yourself. But in reality, you should begin the process of getting help and building systems as soon as possible.

That’s because it’s only way you can scale your services and take on more clients.

Think about this way:

You can either spend more time working and retain more profit on a low scale.

Or you can have more time, but have less profit on a high scale.

Here’s how that looks from a numbers perspective:

Let’s say you have 10 SEO clients paying you $500 per month each and you’re doing all the work.

Technically, you’ll have a 100% profit margin in this scenario.

However, it’s not that simple when you consider your time investment. Let’s say your hourly rate is $50/hour.

That means you would spend 10 hours a month per client, which equates to 100 hours per month.

That means you’re working 100 hours to make $5,000/mo. This is a nice amount of money, but there’s a problem. You can only go so far until you’re maxed out. Let’s say you took on 10 more $500/mo clients.

That would put you at 200 hours per month or 50 hours a week.

It would be nearly impossible to bring on new projects at this stage.

Sure, you’re making $10,000/mo, but at what cost? This all assuming you’ll have incredible efficiency and you’ll work like a robot, which doesn’t happen.

In this scenario, you’re nothing more than a highly paid employee because you’re being paid based on the amount of hours you’re working.

This is okay in the short term, but in the long-run you want to flip this equation.

You DO NOT want to be paid based on the amount of hours you’re working.

Think about this for second:

Would you rather make $10,000 per month in pure profit and work 200 hours…

Or…

Would you rather make $5,000 per month in profit and work 50 hours?

I would take the latter any day of the week. But how is it possible?

It’s possible to stop being paid by the hour when you either outsource or hire employees.

As you probably know, I’ve done both and I prefer outsourcing.

Pretty much every single SEO task can be outsourced.

That means instead of spending your time servicing clients, you can spend your time selling new ones and keep your existing client base happy.

So, how do you do it?

It’s very simple.

Let’s say you have $1,000/mo client. Take 25-50% of your revenue, $250-$500 and invest into a service or individual freelancer. Then every time you take on a new client, you just repeat this process.

You’re still going to profit, but you’re going to be able to scale and have much more time.

Then, at a certain point, you’ll have so many clients that you’ll need to raise your prices.

But in the beginning, just take a small amount of your revenue and get help immediately.

This is exactly how I was able to get up to grow my monthly income so quickly with client work.

It wasn’t because I was a guru SEO. It was because I started looking for help right away. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

Take less profit and get help.

Ironically, doing so will actually produce more profit at scale.

For example, 100% profit at $10,000/mo is $10,000 profit.

But 50% profit at $50,000/mo is $25,000 profit. You see how that works?

Less margin at scale destroys high margin on a low scale. Not only that, you’ll be working less in the second scenario.

Review everything I just outlined because it will change your life and business.

The last big piece of client work that I need to cover is reporting and client support.

My recommendation is to:

  1. Send a monthly report outlining what deliverables were completed
  2. Send a performance report, which may come in the form of individual keyword ranking performance, total keyword positions according to Ahrefs, or Google Analytics organic search traffic growth.

Aside from your big monthly report, you should be updating your clients at least bi-weekly. Weekly is even better. Report positive changes in rankings and report big actions that were completed.

Clients want to stay in the loop and if they believe you’re working hard on the campaign, they won’t breath down your neck as aggressively. Lastly, don’t keep clients hanging.

If they send you an email, respond within 24 hours or less.

BONUS: 2 Powerful Client Acquisition Tactics

2 Powerful Client Acquisition Tactics

But wait, there’s more! Here are two my favorite (untapped) SEO client acquisition methods:

1. The FOMO Tactic

Let me start by defining what “FOMO” is… FOMO stands for fear of missing out. I won’t get too deep into the psychology of FOMO, but it’s a powerful principle that works almost all human beings.

The way you are going to leverage this principle is by finding influencers who don’t have a strong organic search presence. Then you will reach out to them and give them data showing how much traffic they are missing out on. Obviously, the end goal is to do SEO for them.

So, let me get a little more specific about these steps:

1. Develop a list of influencers (Instagram, YouTube, etc) who aren’t getting much organic search traffic. The key is to find influencers where the follower to organic search traffic ratio is way off.

For example, let’s say a fashion influencer has 100,000 followers on Instagram, but you estimate their organic search traffic is less than 10,000 visitors per month. This would be a prime candidate to reach out to. Ultimately, look for unbalanced ratios or little, to no organic search traffic.

Now you’re probably thinking, how do I do that? Just throw the prospects URL into SEMRush or Ahrefs to see their estimated organic search traffic.

Take note because this will be primary leverage point when reaching out.

2. Do some basic keyword research to get search volume.

3. Reach out to the influencer(s) to gauge their interest. Use a template like this:

Hey [NAME], love what you’re doing on [Insert Platform]. My name is [Your Name] and I’m the head of SEO at [Your Agency]. I noticed that you have a large following on [Platform], but I wanted to give you a heads up that you’re missing out on approximately [INSERT TRAFFIC ESTIMATE] website visitors every month. Can I send you a quick video showing you how you can capture this traffic you’re missing out on?

4. Send a follow up sequence if they don’t respond.

5. If they do respond, then you need to show them the keywords they could rank for + how much traffic they could get from ranking for those keywords.

6. Send pitch email or get on the phone.

Just make sure your offer is “special” and that there is a deadline attached to it. If you don’t have a ton of credibility, then you use a free or ultra low priced offer just to get your feet in the door (free SEO audit, free keyword research + a SEO content strategy, free competitor analysis, free link prospecting, etc).

The key is add massive value upfront and remember that lifetime value is what really matters.

2. Client Thief Method

Strategy #3 is the most risque method because you are calling out low performing agencies.

The truth is that businesses pay to get results. They aren’t a charity and they want to see a return on their SEO investment. If an SEO agency isn’t achieving that goal, then there is no reason that a business should continue to pay them.

Of course, every SEO agency needs a fair shot. Which means that they should be given enough time to be properly evaluated.

To put that in perspective, most SEO campaigns pick up traction around the six month mark, but this can vary greatly based on website authority, website age, and various other issues that are encountered. So, in essence, the Client Thief Method is designed to attract businesses who are unsatisfied with their existing SEO campaign.

Here’s how it works:

1. Create a landing page using Leadpages or some other platform that streamlines the process.

2. Create a Facebook ad. Here’s are some ideas:

“Does your SEO agency suck?” or “Is your SEO agency not getting you results?”… we will audit your website and SEO campaign 100% free. No commitments. We will tell you if your agency is on the right track or if they don’t know what they’re doing. This analysis is 100% free and private (don’t worry, we won’t tell your agency). Your business deserves to get results when you are paying an agency. Don’t waste another day wondering if your SEO agency actually knows what they’re doing or not. Secure your free assessment today.

3. Send a video or text-based SEO audit (pdf)

4. “We can help” pitch. Nothing complicated here. You showed them the issues in the audit and now you are simply emphasizing that you know how to fix them.

5. Categorize your prospects based on sales cycle. For example if the prospect is locked into a contract, make sure you note that in your CRM. That way you can follow up in the future.

35 Lessons from Starting an SEO Company

If you are thinking about starting an SEO company, then stop what you are doing right now and read this.

Let me tell you a quick story:

in 2013, I packed up my stuff and drove from California to St. Louis, Missouri.

I wanted to be with my girlfriend (now fiancée) and I also wanted to pursue my dream of running my own business.

My girlfriend’s parents were kind enough to let me stay at their house until I found a job.

Or, until I was making enough money in my business to move out.

Since I didn’t want to be a moocher, I made a goal that I would be out of their house within a month (max).

So, here are the advantages I had when trying to start my business:

  • Less than $100 in my bank account
  • $0 in savings
  • $43,000 of student loan and car loan debt

But in all seriousness, the real advantages I had were:

  • A laptop
  • I knew how to do SEO
  • One credit card with a credit line of $1,000

I knew this would be more than enough to get my business off the ground.

And within one month, I achieved my goal.

I secured several clients through hustling on Craigslist and ranking pages on my site. These clients gave me enough revenue to move out my girlfriend’s parents house.

In two years, my SEO agency has grown from a single freelancer (me) to two full-time employees.

The experience and knowledge I’ve gained from these two years is beyond comprehension.

I want to share these experiences with you so you can avoid many of the mistakes I’ve made along the way.

What I have learned can help you with three things:

  1. get through tough times
  2. make sure you are maintaining the right mindset
  3. help you grow your business.

What I’m about to show you can help ANY business.

I may get “self-helpy” in this article because I’m speaking from real experience.

If you are cool with that, here are the 35 lessons I have learned running an SEO agency for two years:

Marketing Lessons

1. Practice What You Preach

Believe it or not there are SEO companies that don’t even rank their own site in the search engine.

If you are running an SEO business, then you should be getting the majority of your leads through SEO.

What’s a better demonstration of competency?

An SEO company that blasts businesses with cold calls? Or, an SEO company that’s rank well in the search engine?

It’s a no brainer.

I get 99% of my leads from the search engines.

The best part about practicing what you preach is that it makes selling easier.

All you have to say is “Well, how did you find us?” – BOOM.

Proof is in the pudding.

The idea practicing what you preach applies to ANY service business.

You should be able to prove you know what the heck you’re doing.

Don’t say you’re an SEO “expert” if you have never ranked a keyword.

Don’t say you’re a social media marketing “expert” when you only have 50 likes on Facebook.

Don’t say you’re a PPC “expert” if you have never made an ROI on ad spend.

You get the point.

Practice what you preach.

Go out and get results on your own.

It will not only build credibility, but it will make selling WAY easier.

2. Testimonials & Referrals Won’t Come Organically

It doesn’t matter how well you get can results and how happy your clients are.

They will not go out of their way to give you a testimonial or send you a referral.

Think about it: they are either A) running a business or B) acting as marketing director for a company.

They don’t get into work and think: “You know what I should do today?? I should go and leave the SEO company working for us a testimonial! I should spend my day trying to find referrals for this SEO company!”

Sorry.

Doesn’t happen.

You need to push your happy clients to get testimonials and referrals.

Believe it or not, sometimes asking isn’t even enough.

To get your clients to act, you should incentivize them.

For example, we offer clients a free month of SEO service when they send us a referral and we close them as a client.

A free month of SEO service is pretty valuable considering they would likely be saving $2,000 +.

Sales Lessons

3. Be Responsive to Leads (Or Lose)

It’s easy to sit back when you see an inbound lead.

But every second you waste is a second the prospect gets less interested in you.

It gives your competition another second to call before you.

Oh, you thought you were the only company they’ve reached out to?

Lol.

Don’t fool yourself.

For a big investment like SEO, businesses are going to reach out to least 3-5 different companies.

Being the first to respond is sometimes all it takes to win contracts.

I have had clients tell me that they picked my agency because we responded the quickest.

Here’s a strategy you can use to become more responsive to leads:

  • Setup a separate email address just for web leads.
  • Configure Gravity Forms or whatever form you’re using to push new web leads to that email.

Note: if you are using Gravity Forms, make sure you use a @gmail.com email address. Otherwise your leads will get delayed or you won’t get them at all because of the filters.

  • Enable push notifications on your computer or phone only for that inbox.
  • Respond immediately

4. You Don’t Have to Be a Car Salesman

Don’t forget, if you are using inbound marketing to generate leads, there is no reason to be pushy.

You aren’t making a cold call.

The lead has gone out of their way to contact YOU.

Call them, be calm, cool, and collected, and explain what your service is and what it can do for them.

Keep in mind:

You should always try to close over the phone.

Just understand that most businesses will need time to discuss and review proposals.

If you are speaking with a smaller business, you can often close over the phone. If you are speaking with a marketing director, then it will likely take weeks for them to come to a decision.

5. Follow Up

This feels like sales 101, but following up is key.

I wouldn’t have some of the clients I currently do without following up.

Marketing directors and business owners have a lot on their plate.

It’s your job to stay on top of their mind.

Do not allow your company to become an afterthought.

6. Always Be Prepped For Sales Calls

I was clueless when I first started out and would take on sales call without getting prepared.

I learned from this and developed a set of questions to ask every single prospect.

These questions allow me to see if the prospect is serious and whether they are a person I would like to work with.

I recommend that you develop a set of questions you ask every prospect.

Think long and hard about these questions.

Some of the questions I ask every time are:

  • Are you targeting a local or national market?
  • Have you done SEO in the past?
  • What are you currently doing to market your business?
  • Have you ever considered (Insert service like social media, PPC)?

There are many others, but if you are starting a marketing agency, these can help you out.

7. Be Smart With Your Sales Language

Get used to using embedded commands in your conversation. Here’s an example of an embedded command I would use on a sales call:

“Alright, so what’s going to happen when you sign up is….”

See what I did there?

I’m implying that they are going to sign up.

Aside from proven psychological principles, you need to let the prospect SPEAK.

Great salesmen are also great listeners.

Mindset Lessons

8. You Are Disposable (No Matter How Good You Are)

If you take anything out of this article, then please make sure this is it.

No matter how good your service is, you or your agency are ALWAYS disposable.

The client is always going to value THEIR business over yours.

If they are having financial issues, SEO will be the first thing they cut.

It doesn’t matter how “buddy-buddy” you were with the client.

When it comes to their business, they are always going to do what’s best for them.

Knowing this, you need to always have the mindset that your client could leave you tomorrow.

9. Be Selfish

I’m all about the client-first mantra, but why are we in business?

Many of us are in business to achieve financial freedom and live a better life.

So, why do so many of us work ourselves to death over a single client?

I’m not implying that you should do poor work.

I’m saying that you need to stop acting like you are a commodity.

HAVE BOUNDARIES.

Let says a client is paying you $500 a month and your rate is $100 an hour.

Then you should only work 5 hours a month for that client.

Do not let the client convince you otherwise.

If you work a single second longer on that client, it will take away from other clients.

Not only that… It will also take away precious time for you to work ON your business instead of in it.

10. Be Cheap

When I first started my agency it was just me and many VAs. I outsourced everything and paid stupid amounts of money for link placement. Some of these vendors scammed me and many of the link placements sucked or got removed.

Just like the previous section, you need to set a budget for each client. If you want your profit margin to be 70%, then you have a budget of 30% to spend on any client.

Do not exceed it.

11. Never Get Complacent

You must focus on growing YOUR business every single day.

Never think that your clients are going to work with you forever.

Always work with the mindset that you could lose all your income tomorrow.

Will this happen? Not likely.

But never EVER get complacent with what you have.

Always keep pushing and trying to grow.

Clients will come and go, but your business is your life.

If it’s not, then you might as well give up now.

Half ass dedication doesn’t work.

12. Never Stop Trying to Grow

Grow or die.

It’s challenging in service-businesses to have a growth mindset.

That’s because you have to fulfill the work.

If you don’t fulfill the work, you lose clients.

But this goes back to one of my original points: “Be Selfish”.

You have to keep trying to grow your business.

No matter how many clients you have.

No matter how much money you are already making.

Focus on growth like you don’t have a single client.

Have the mindset that you could lose it all tomorrow.

Complacency will kill your business.

13. Stop Being a Commodity and Become an Asset

Commodities are disposable.

Assets are hard to let go.

Give your client so much value that it would actually be painful for them to stop paying you.

When you reach that stage, you become an ASSET.

You can demand prices YOU think are fair.

Instead of the prospect telling you how much you should get paid.

Always remember that price is nothing more than perceived value.

The more valuable you are to a company, they more they are willing to pay.

14. Avoid Startups/Young Businesses

As a general rule of thumb, I recommend you avoid any type of “startup” company or young business.

Many young businesses are not making money and likely cannot afford your services.

They think it’s easier to hire someone to grow THEIR business.

But in fact, all they are doing is creating an environment where they rely on other people to be successful.

When you don’t get results in the first week, they will be calling and questioning your every move.

This isn’t because your service doesn’t work or because you are doing something wrong.

It’s because:

  • they know they can’t afford your service
  • they don’t know how to actually grow a business
  • they would rather talk on the phone than actually hustle

Do yourself a favor and avoid these businesses.

At least until they take accountability.

AND recognize that the growth of their business is their responsibility.

SEO is the long-term game and it should SUPPLEMENT a business’s other forms of marketing.

Productivity Lessons

15. Don’t Let Email Control You

I am a recovering email inbox checker.

I used to have Gmail open in a tab ALL DAY and would check it hundreds of times a day.

Why?

Because I craved distractions.

Thanks to Tim Ferris, I learned how much of a killer this can be.

I changed my habits and I only check email twice per day.

This had a dramatic effect on my business.

It was liberating.

It gave me the confidence that I was in control, not the people emailing me.

I decide when to respond.

I decide how much time to spend on my emails.

I eliminated the feeling of anxiety and stopped rationalizing.

My thoughts used to be:

“O-M-G… I wonder is (insert client name) has email me… I better check..”

…or “I  wonder if I have a new lead”

…or “That vendor said he would finish today, let me check…”.

After you set a boundary, you no longer have to think about these things.

Did my business crumble because emails weren’t answered immediately? No.

Stay out of your email inbox.

Set a clear boundary of how many times you will open your email inbox everyday.

I recommend you use Inbox Pause when responding to emails to avoid getting trapped.

16. Create Systems & Processes

If you don’t have systems and processes, then you agency will live in chaos.

You need to have clear processes for:

  • lead gen
  • sales
  • service fulfillment
  • client retention

Many service-based business will have many moving parts.

Systems will bring clarity and end the chaos.

Use templates and all available software to make things easier.

We use Google Sheets, Dropbox, Excel, and Basecamp to run my agency.

Always try to keep things simple or you will suffer from decision fatigue.

Bringing me to an important point..

17. Avoid Decision Fatigue (At All Costs)

Decision fatigue is when you have to think about “what to do next”.

Fatigue sets in every time you must to make a decision.

How do you solve the problem?

Limit how many decisions you are making throughout the day!

Plan your day.

Keep it simple and know that most tasks almost always take longer than expected.

I keep it super simple with my agency.

We usually only work one project per day.

This keeps us focused on the task at hand and removes mind wandering.

18. Live and Die by 80/20

Now that I have employees I can spend 80% of my time trying to grow my business. I used to be a solo artist, I spent 80% of my time fulfilling the work.

I now have the ability to act as CEO.

Acting as CEO requires a different mindset than being a freelancer.

You must train and educate your team.

But the most important part is to teach them how to get clients results.

Without YOU.

I love using VAs, but nothing beats having employees who you can speak with in person.

As you know, I was a college baseball player, so I love having a team atmosphere.

You need to get to the point where you are spending 80% of your time trying to grow your business.

Don’t worry if you are on the wrong side of this equation right now. It doesn’t mean you can’t flip to a growth equation.

Here’s what you do to start making the transition:

Every week you should examine how much time you are spending on clients. Then compare that to “growth” based activities.

Begin the process of flipping the equation.

Try changing the equation by 1% each week. For example, you may be 80/20 for service fulfillment/growth right now.

Next week, you should try being 79% client fulfillment and 21% growth.

At this rate, you will be at 68/32 within a year. 68% of your time will focus on growth and 32% on client fulfillment.

You can be more aggressive.

Changing your mindset from scarcity to growth is beyond powerful.

You begin to act like a CEO.

You stop worrying about whether a client is going to leave you or not.

Your business grows because you stop spending the bulk of your time on maintenance tasks.

Stop being an employee and start being a CEO.

19. Leverage VAs

To achieve the goal of 80/20, you will have to use VAs or hire an employee.

You can’t do it alone.

Unless you want to feel like an employee for the rest of your life… I don’t think that’s the goal for 99.9% of self-employed individuals.

You started your own business because you want to be in control.

You left the 9-5 because you don’t want to be an employee!

You have the opportunity.

You just need to be willing to delegate tasks.

There are only so many hours in a day and you need to cherish every single minute.

You can delegate almost every task in one way or another.

Lessons Clients Have Taught Me

20. Your Client’s Success is Your Success

Clients want results!

If they are successful, then your business will be successful as well.

The opposite is true.

If they majority of your clients are NOT successful, then it will bring your business down.

Before you start taking clients on in ANY industry, make sure you have a clear understand of how to get results.

Remember what I said earlier?

Practice what you preach.

21. Some Clients Will NEVER Be Happy

There are always going to be bad seeds.

There is a small percentage of clients who you will never please.

In the beginning, they will critique ever small detail of your work.

They will be ones complaining about communication… Even though you spend more time on them than any other client.

They will complain weekly, sometimes daily about the results.

Once you get them results, they will complain about not being #1 for every single keyword.

Sounds fun right?

These types of clients will make you lose sleep at night.

That is, if you let them.

I’m extreme and I will straight up fire clients who are time-sucks and unreasonable.

Just realize one unfortunate thing:

No matter how good your discovery/vetting phase is, you will end up with a bad client or two.

All you can do is have a strong discovery phase to avoid it becoming a regular occurrence

22. Your Most Unreasonable Clients Will be Your Cheapest Clients

I’m speaking for my business and in general.

In my experience, my worst clients are almost always my cheapest clients.

Remember, price is relative.

Someone who is paying $500 a month may think that’s a colossal amount.

They may think they deserve the world because they are paying $500 a month.

But in reality, we know that $500 a month is pennies for a real SEO campaign.

23. Always Have a Contract

Contracts are good for both parties. If a prospect doesn’t want to sign a contract, then run for the hills.

Trust me.

If they don’t sign a contract, they will be a problem down the road.

You will be kicking yourself (like I have), asking “why didn’t I have this person sign a contract.”

24. Set Clear Boundaries With Clients

At the onset it’s super important to set clear boundaries. What are your agency’s hours of operation? How often are you going to be updating and speaking with the client? How much communication will be over the phone vs email?

Set these boundaries early on.

Otherwise, you will have clients calling you at unexpected times. This disrupts your teams workflow and hurts productivity.

Remember:

As much as some clients would like to believe, they don’t own you.

25. Know That Most Clients Won’t Pay On-Time

Invoice goes out of the 1st of the month.

Days, weeks, and sometimes a month goes by with no payment.

Although you haven’t received payment, the client believes you should still be working.

That’s fair right?

Imagine going into a traditional 9-5 job and your boss told you he wasn’t going to pay you for 30 days.

He MIGHT pay you within 30 days, but it could even end up be 45 days.

That’s cool right?

You would raise hell.

Please listen to this word of advice:

Clients who don’t pay on-time, will never pay on-time.

Don’t waste your breath and struggle to keep clients like this.

They are selfish.

Fire them because there are many others who will pay on-time.

26. Beware of BUYER Scam Artists

There are some major scam artists in the B2B world that you need to watch out for.

You have likely heard many stories of how SEO companies screwed people over.

But how many times have you heard about buyers screwing companies over?

It’s happened to my agency.  On a couple of occasions.

Here’s how it happens:

In the beginning everything’s cool and they join your service.

You do everything that you said you were going to do, and BOOM, after a month they open up a PayPal dispute for no reason.

Do you see what’s going on here?

You do all the heavy lifting for the first month and then they can open up a PayPal dispute and get your service for free.

The good news is that as long as you have actually done the work, you will win the PayPal dispute (I have).

To avoid this you need to have a contract and consider not accepting payments through PayPal.

Serious businesses will have a business credit card or will be willing to send you checks.

Try to avoid the PayPal game as much as possible.

27. Never Negotiate on Price

I made this mistake for well over a year. I would send off a proposal with one price and hope they would accept it.

While this worked a lot, it also costs me several thousand dollars in contracts.

That’s when I discovered that I needed to have three pricing options.

“DUH”, right?

Here’s what I discovered after researching it further:

When you have one option, they forced to choose “Yes” or “No”.

When you have three options, they forced to choose within the three options.

Sure, they can still say “No”, but it decreases the likelihood.

28. Stop Saying “Yes”

I’m going to be honest, I get a lot of leads and I say “No” to 99% of them.

At this stage in my business, I can tell who can and cannot afford my services.

I also have standards.

As you know, I won’t work with startups. But I also won’t work with any business that I believe has morality issues.

Some examples are gambling, escorts, porn, or anything illegal.

Why would I ever want to associate myself with such businesses?

That’s why I say “no”.

I also say “No” to cheapskates.

It’s easy to lured into what seems like “easy money”.

You have a client willing to pay $500 a month for SEO.

How could you turn that down?!

Simple.

You say “No”!

I’m not trying to scale my business with cheap clients.

That’s not my business model.

There are other SEO companies who can take on cheap clients and are playing the quantity game.

I’m not.

You need to be realistic with yourself.

Do you have the capacity to scale a business of cheap paying clients?

Or would it be easier to take on less clients who paid more?

You need to consider these questions.

If you don’t, you will have tons of cheap clients who expect the world. Cheap clients who will hold your business back. Remember what I said?

Be selfish. Say “NO”.

29. Take a Profit-First Approach

What’s the point of being in business if you aren’t making a profit?

There are companies like Amazon that don’t make a profit, but I’m not Amazon.

I started my business to escape the 9-5 and be my own boss. I also did it to make money.

You should structure your service and fulfillment to turn a profit.

What I do is simple.

I have a profit percentage goal. Everything I do is to reach that goal.

30. Fulfillment is Hard

Every results-based business struggles with one thing: getting results 100% of the time.

It doesn’t matter how good you are.

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say:

There isn’t a single SEO agency with 30 + client who hasn’t struggled to get results.

At LEAST once.

I have struggled to get a client results before.

It’s not because my strategy doesn’t work or because I don’t know what I’m doing.

It’s because I didn’t screen the client well enough.

I ignored obvious red flags in the discovery phase because I was chasing money.

Here are the two biggest mistakes I’ve made:

  • Underestimating how long it would actually take to rank
  • Underquoting how much it would actually cost to rank

These two combined lead to frustration on both sides.

To avoid both of these situations, make sure you screen every client down to the last detail.

Do not sign any client on until you know 100% that they are

A) paying enough to get results

B) and you are 110% confident that you can get them results.

Don’t chase money because it will end up hurting you.

Basic Business

* I’m not a tax, law, or financial advisor. Everything I’m going to show you in this section is from experience. Consult with an expert.

31. Learn About Taxes

If you don’t understand taxes, you will get destroyed.

I’m speaking from experience here.

In my first full year of business, I didn’t adjust my quarterly tax estimates. Even though my business was much larger than the previous year.

Guess what happened?

I owed $25,000 in taxes and had to contribute $36,000 to my solo 401(k) just to avoid MORE tax burden.

The worst part is that I had to give up that amount of cash in a small amount time.

It sucked, and I pledged that I would never let it happen again.

The next year, I changed my LLC’s tax status to an “S-Corp”.

I also made sure to contribute to my retirement account on a monthly basis to avoid having to give up one lump sum of cash.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes!

Learn about taxes and talk to a CPA.

32. Structure Your Business Right

I started my business as an LLC, but got taxed as a sole proprietor. As I explained above, I got killed on taxes because of this.

In 2015, my business is still an LLC, but is now taxed as an S-Corp.

In essence, I pay myself a reasonable salary like an employee. After I’ve paid myself a reasonable salary, I can take distributions from the business.

The reason why the S-Corp is awesome is because:

  • My salary is tax deductible
  • I don’t have to pay self employment or payroll taxes on distributions

I recommend research and find out if your current business structure is benefiting you.

33. It’s Easy to Spend, It’s Hard to Save

When money’s coming in, it’s hard to be frugal. Just remember that every dollar you spend, is a dollar that could have grown your wealth.

Basic personal financial principles also apply in business.

Don’t spend more than you make. Save money. Etc.

34. Diversify Your Income Streams

If 100% of your business revenue is coming from one source, then you need to sit down and think about that.

What if that one revenue source disappeared tomorrow you had no income?

That’s a loaded question, but you get the point.

You need to have more than one income stream.

You need to have the confidence that if every client left you tomorrow, you would still be fine.

Trust me, having more than one source of revenue gives you incredible leverage. When you have many revenue sources, you don’t have to play the price game with clients.

You can decide how much you want to work for and what clients you want to work with.

You will stop chasing money.

If you run a service-based business, then there are many options for you to explore.

For example, in addition to client-side of Gotch SEO, we offer SEO training.

The point is, one revenue sources ties you down.

Think long and hard about how you can diversify your revenue.

35. Invest in Yourself

As cliche as it sounds, you have to invest in yourself.

It’s crazy to think that I have become such an avid reader and learner.

In school, I repulsed at the idea of learning anything more than I had to.

Now, I can’t learn enough.

To get more, you have to be more.

As I mentioned before, you need to become an asset.

YOU have to worth paying money for.

That’s All!

Starting an SEO company isn’t easy, but the rewards are worth it.

If got a lot value out of this guide, please share it.

Talk soon!
– Gotch



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