So you've ranked a few websites, worked out a process, and think you're ready for the big time. The question is: how do you get SEO clients?
Whether you're looking for your first client, or you're a thriving agency, there are many other ways to land new business. I've procured a list of 11 experts who've been successful in snagging SEO clients to open your eyes to new methods and hopefully grow your business. Here's how to get SEO clients:
Jayson Demers - SEO.co
I'm going to go ahead and skip the obvious stuff here — doing SEO yourself, content marketing, social, ads, etc. These are tactics everyone should be doing.
Instead, I want to share two pieces of unconventional advice. The first requires a bit of a strategic shift for your business, but might be worth it if your client well is running dry—find a weird niche to target. You'll eliminate the competition and increase your perceived authority to any within that niche who encounters you. You'll also open the door to things like industry forums and trade shows, where your target demographics will conveniently gather together.
The second is unappealing for those of us used to the luxuries of the digital age—go to a local neighborhood and knock on doors. Most business owners who don't have an online marketing strategy are used to doing business in person, in a brick-and-mortar store.
They aren't going to find you if you're only marketing to people who are already online. Make yourself available to these people by meeting them face-to-face and letting them know how much opportunity there is in creating and marketing a website. The only downside to this one is budget; most brick-and-mortar business owners prefer to start with small plans, but remember, you can always scale up.
Arsen Rabinovich - TopHatRank - Founder
We've done it all! SEO, PPC, email marketing, social, buying leads, and so on. And out of all of these ways, one always works best and has a high conversion and retention rate. This channel is called "referrals".
We get referrals from current and past customers, and other industry professionals (designers, developers, PR agencies, branding firms). These referrals have always been a big part of our customer acquisition model, and the best part is that you don't have to be a very well-known SEO agency to generate them. You do, however, need to be awesome at what you do!
When we were just starting out back in 2009, I was looking for a good development firm for one of my clients and came across a few local dev shops here in Los Angeles. Most of these guys were not ranking on page 1 of Google, so when I reached out to them to get quotes I also offered to do a FREE quick SEO audit of their website and provide them with recommendations on how to improve their search visibility.
Of course, all said "yes" and were very grateful for the free help.
Since my client didn't have a huge budget, the dev shops that I was reaching out to were on the smaller side. I knew that by offering some free help, establishing myself as an expert, and making an imprint with the higher-ups would yield some good referrals in the future. Which it did!
To this day we get clients from most of these local designers/developers, some of them have grown to become big branding agencies and are referring high-end clients to us. They know that we always do a stellar job and feel safe putting their clients in our hands.
Bryan Phelps - Big Leap - CEO
Some of our clients do product manufacturing and have a number of dealers throughout the nation that sells their products. One creative way we've found new clients for our agency is by working with these product manufacturers to become the preferred SEO vendor for their dealers.
Obviously, we have to first be doing great work for the manufacturers, or they won't recommend us, but once we have their endorsement it's an easy sale to many of their dealers who need digital marketing services.
Marcus Miller - Bowler Hat - Head of SEO, PPC & Digital Marketing
I have worked in SEO since around 1999 and ran my own agency for several years so bringing customers through the door is critical to our ongoing success - on the back of that I have a few insights from what has worked for us over the years.
Help people: The SEO and digital marketing business is complicated. If you are visible in the scene helping people then clients will often grow out of that. Whether that is direct help in SEO forums like Moz Q&A, blog posts, blog comments, or something else entirely - if you have an organisational mentality to help people you will pick up clients from this. It helps if you add a little strategy to this and ensure the folks you help are your ideal customers so they either want to work with you or inspire others with similar problems to work with you in the future.
Content Marketing: Content gets you in front of folks in so many ways. This is an extension of helping people but being visible on industry sites like Search Engine Land and Moz provides credibility and awareness. Blog posts demonstrate expertise. Case studies show how you can walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk. Use content to reach users, generate leads and persuade prospects you can do the job.
SEO: If you operate in a city then try to ensure you are well visible for the biggest terms in that location. We work out of Birmingham, the UK's second largest city so we are visible around 'SEO Birmingham', 'SEO Company Birmingham', etc. Many folks Google these kinds of terms and use that to qualify a potential company.
Steve Morgan - Morgan Online Marketing - SEO Consultant
One thing that's worked well for me - in getting local client leads in particular - is to visit non-SEO events in closely related industries, such as web design meetups, blogger meetups, startup meetups, social media meetups, and so on.
Often I'll be the only SEO there, and I'm happy to chat to people and give them a bit of advice if they have any questions or anything like that. The goal is not to sell - a lot of these events are quite casual and not necessarily full-on networking events, so hard-selling is usually not welcome at all. I end up being the 'go-to SEO' in each of these circles - not just for questions but also if anyone they know (or if they themselves) need SEO help for their business.
Ajay Pattani - Perfect Search - CEO
We identify what we refer to as triggers in a company life cycle that make them more likely to need our services. One example is a company that has received funding or an investment round.
These companies are more likely to then want to invest in digital advertising or SEO. We then accumulate a list of companies that fit this profile and conduct outreach. There are also geographic implications because we prefer to do business in person.
Steven Macdonald - Kingspoint - Partner
Write case studies on successful projects for major websites. I've written about several case studies where my work with a client has directly resulted in an increase in organic traffic and revenue. My case studies have been featured on Content Marketing Institute, Moz, and Marketing Sherpa. I've generated more than $25,000 from sharing case studies that have been used as a reference for when meeting new clients.
When you're busy, add a waiting list. On the Kingspoint website, we have removed a sign-up form and instead ask new clients to join a waiting list. When we have time to work on new projects, we look for clients that look like they're a good fit and connect. Telling potential leads that you're busy with current clients gives them a sign that you're doing good work.
Cody Miles - BraveCave - Founder
Agencies grow by referral. Referrals are always the best clients, but they're hard to come by when you're still an infant agency. At my company, we bootstrapped our growth — we started with a fresh website and SEO strategy. We found keyword opportunities, created great targeted content, shared it with other influencers and ultimately, gained traffic.
Like any SEO strategy, it really took about 6-8 months before we began seeing any real return — but it paid off. After the initial work, it became a snowball effect. Those initially hard-earned clients recommended us to their peers, and those peers recommended us to their peers, etc.
Everett Sizemore - Inflow - Director of Marketing
Strategic business partnerships are the way to go if you can find a win-win situation. One example is partnering with design and development agencies to offer "white label SEO" for their clients. This essentially gives the other firm an instant "SEO department". In many cases, you can have an open white label situation where the client is aware that SEO has been outsourced to your business.
Jasmeet Sawhney - Yiblab - CEO
Believe it or not - my team has been extremely successful in signing up clients with some offline tactics. The most successful offline medium for us has been the Yellow Pages. We focus on companies that run full-page advertisements in YP, and then search the company on the web to make sure it has a website.
Yellow Pages is a great lead qualifier because it costs thousands of dollars for a full-page ad (depending on the location). If a company can spend that amount of money on a print ad, they probably have funds to improve their online presence and SEO, which in most instances has better ROI.
So, we create a list of decision-makers (or marketing contacts) at these companies, and reach out to them with a comparative analysis of their spend on Yellow Pages vs. website SEO, with details around what impact the same dollar amount would have if spent on SEO.
Our initial plan was to use this technique for local businesses, but it worked so well that we scaled it to generate leads across the US. The only catch is that most of the time you are dealing directly with business owners or traditional marketing folks who have little knowledge of digital channels. So, there is a lot of hand-holding. But, it's all worth the effort.
Timothy Backes - TimothyBackes.com - Marketing Consultant
One way to target and sign SEO clients is to target people who are already paying for digital marketing services. If you do a quick Google search for a product or service and see a business paying for ads but not showing up organically, you have an opportunity to do some cold but educated outreach.
You already know the website has a digital marketing budget, and you know they are doing as well as they would like in terms or organic rankings, for example using the AgencyAnalytics rank tracker, so they could be in need of your SEO services.
If you want to learn more about this topic, check out our guide on How to Get More Clients for Your Agency.