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Content Marketing & SEO Blog

Blog about startup growth strategies revolving around content marketing, SEO, CRO, and social media marketing.

How to sell SEO and inbound marketing campaigns

Sean Smith

Selling SEO campaigns can be an interestingly complex process. SEO can seem very vague and ambiguous unless properly simplified. After years of pitching clients on SEO campaigns, being asked about SEO pricing and campaign structure and generally how a business should go about obtaining SEO services, I've come to a pretty good full-rounded approach to properly selling SEO services. 

Simplify and De-mistify SEO

What is SEO and how would it help your prospective client. If a prospective client is coming to you about SEO services I'm sure they already know what SEO is, however they might not know the real intangibles of what the core of SEO truly is. Yes, it's "Search Engine Optimization" or "making sites, brands, businesses rank higher in Google" though there is a lot more to it. 

SEO is about increasing your ORGANIC traffic. This can be done through means of referrals, ranking higher in search engines, social media, video production, etc. We exhaust our resources to get your site more traffic.

Expressing this is KEY because it lets the client know that you're about more than getting them to the top of Google's index.

Expressing your previous experience

As in any sales process, there needs to be a point where you establish trust, use previous experience for this. Let it be known where you have worked, what brands you have helped, if you have some metrics to flaunt now would be the time. "I increased so-and-so's organic traffic by 120% over the course of 3 months" is a very sufficient way of establishing trust in your services. Have a flagship client, someone who will stand by your services and give testimonials on your behalf. Having someone you can point to and say "we made them rock out" will be invaluable to your sales process.

Use percentages

Percentages are a hard thing to argue with, and really simplifies the value your service will provide. Use percentages from past client work, industry surveys and don't be afraid to use info graphics or charts to visually represent these percentages. 

Here is a list of some percentages you can use when selling SEO or other inbound marketing services:

SEO:

  • Local reviews can influence up to 40% of Google's Local Ranking algorithm
  • 57% of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on their lead generation goals 
  • 78% of Internet users conduct product research online
  • 40% of US smartphone owners compare prices on their mobile device while in-store, shopping for an item
  • 84% of 25-34 year-olds have left a favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising
  • Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional, outbound marketing
  • 44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine
  • 70% of links users click on are organic instead of paid
  • 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results
  • 81% of businesses consider their blogs to be an important asset to their businesses
  • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
  • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine
  • 88.1% of US internet users ages 14+ will browse or research products online in 2012

Email:

  • 78% of business people use their mobile device to check email
  • 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted-in to
  • 40% of B2B marketers rated the leads generated by email marketing (house list) as high quality

Social:

  • A single +1 from an authoritative Google+ account can propel a brand new site to a top 10 ranking with no other promotional activity involved, as long as the site being promoted is in the same niche as the Google+ account
  • 41% of B2B companies and 67% of B2C companies have acquired a customer through Facebook
  • The number of marketers who say Facebook is “critical” or “important” to their business has increased 83% in just 2 years
  • Users who have liked a business on Facebook are 50% more likely to convert into customers
  • 44% of marketers have acquired customers through twitter
  • Social media use has increased by over 356% since 2006
  • 67% of US Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands they follow
  • Social media lead conversion rates are 13% higher than the average lead conversion rate
  • 85% of fans of brands on Facebook recommend brands to others, compared to 60% of average users
  • 43% of all marketers have found a customer via LinkedIn in 2013
  • 36% of all marketers have found a customer via Twitter in 2013
  • Approximately 46% of online users count on social media when making a purchase decision
  • Though nearly every large charity and university in America has a Facebook presence, less than 60% of the Fortune 500
  • Facebook is the leading source of referred social media traffic to websites, at 26%. Twitter is second at 3.6% 

Blogging:

  • Users are over 47% more likely to click on a link with Google+ (Author) rich snippets than one without
  • 57% of businesses have acquired a customer through their company blog
  • Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic
  • Users who read a blog post on a product are 50% more likely to convert on that product
  • 57% of marketers have acquired customers from blogging
  • Blogging can increase your Twitter reach upwards of 75%
  • Companies who blog have 97% more inbound links
  • Nearly 40% of US companies use blogging for marketing purposes
  • B2C companies that blog generate 88% more leads per month than those who do not
  • B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who do not

most of these stats come from Hubspot's blog

Set expectations; under promise, over deliver

Setting expectations in an SEO campaign was one of the first things I discovered was extremely important. If a client thinks that you are going to flip a light switch and have results for them you are either selling your services wrong, or you are doing some shady SEO. In this stage I typically set very understood KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) with my clients. These KPIs used to be more about rankings but are now far more focused around overall organic search traffic, referral traffic, conversion rates, time on page etc.

I recommend making no guarantees, as with SEO you really have no ability of giving a surefire guarantee. The engines fluctuate so much that it is really nearly impossible to guarantee, yet it can be a powerful sales tactic if you are confident in your ability to perform at an even higher rate than what you guarantee. If you are going to guarantee, under promise and over deliver. If you know you can get a business a 40% increase in organic traffic in a years time, guarantee at least a 20% increase.

Explain your process

Try to break down your process as simply as possible and have key points and phases to express that you have a refined process to drive results. I've really discovered that having a three point process can really help. Three points are very easy to comprehend, yet vague enough to pack a lot into. I typically break my campaigns up into the three points below:

phase 1: research and onboarding

This is where we get all of the information from the client, set expectations, determine KPIs, research competitors and the industry, perform keyword research, research the site, research offsite opportunities, research all current social profiles, blogs and networks and any other sort of research that could be partaken. Also this is where we set up all of our tracking tools, configure analytics, and gain account credentials for any access we may need.

phase 2: site optimization

This is where we use our research of the site to optimize it structurally, content-wise, technically and socially. This is where we go through and fix 404 errors, canonicalization errors, duplicate content, missing tags or titles, page speed problems, and any other errors the site may have. After this we assess what the site is really lacking, how it could be improved or redesigned to increase conversions and drive more traffic. We build landing pages for certain keywords or products. We optimize everything we can on the site as to where it will be at it's optimal state of being indexed by search engines, and being used by people alike.

phase 3: offsite optimization, content generation, social media integration and general link building

This will be the bulk of our SEO campaign. This is the point where we optimize the offsite strategy, how we guest post, how we use social media, our content generation process and offsite outreach to blogging networks and publishers and general link building. We use the research we conducted in phase one to put towards who we should outreach to for offsite promotion, blogs, networks, local sites etc. Then we follow our influencers and where we plan to post to on their social media accounts and start sharing and interacting with them. Once we have interacted and created a bit of trust with our prospects we use our outreach methods to convey to them that we would like to do some guest posting or something of the like. This way we are not just cold-calling them (or in this case, cold-emailing). 

This is also the time where we establish exactly how our own internal content should be generated and handled, what funnels we should be taking control of and where our presence should be focused. This means we set up conventions around our blog (how we should post, what about, what point of view should we take etc.) structure the blog correctly and establish a content calendar. Also we determine if there are other funnels we should be taking advantage of such as video, pinterest, twitter, tumblr, etc. If so we establish another content calendar and set up conventions around those funnels.

Setting conventions for content funnels is crucial, if you go in willy-nilly and toss around some content without structure it will not catch traction unless one of the videos has a viral aspect to it. Establish a structure for your videos, topics, uniqueness, the artistic feel of your videos, video length, target audience etc. This way it has a better chance of catching traction and being a viable asset as a content stream. If your thing is writing long piece of very information content, don't pull a 180 and drop a 300 word post on your followers (unless there is very good reason to, and it is meant to throw a kink in the chain). Deviations have their uses as well.

Potential rejection

Be honest to your prospects. If you get a request for a quote and go to the URL and see an absolute train wreck, search through their social profiles and see absolutely no activity, notice there is no clearly defined brand or that they do not have a unique selling point.. don't sell them on SEO. Be real with your customers and they will recommend you to the highest extent, it's just good for your reputation. I've noticed for every client that wasn't ready for SEO that I denied has given me 2 that are rearing to go! 

Some people will just have an atrocious site that does not work as it should, has no real clear purpose or sells a vague product and generally has an unexplained point to it. These clients need to be educated that they should really be investing in making the site's design better, making the product clearer and their message more understood. These three things being optimized will be far more impactful on SEO than building a few links to a heaping mess. Don't put lipstick on a pig, be real with people and don't get greedy. Besides once they are up to par with design etc. they are far more likely to use your services as you were the one to set them down the right path.

 

Jeremiah from Simpletiger and I have had multiple conversations about this and I would really like to toss in his 2 cents:

I love honesty. I've been in sales in many different capacities and at times people haven't bought from me because I was honest about what they'd get. I quit selling things I don't believe in myself and now I just sell SEO, CRO and Inbound Marketing.

Once you've seen the effects of an SEO campaign you'll be able to honestly sell one. Lay out all the warnings like no guarantees for results, could take a while, always at the whim of the search engines, results will dwindle and fade away after the campaign efforts stop, etc.

The next thing I recommend is providing high level recommendations right off the bat, before getting paid. For instance, I break SEO down into 3 buckets;

  • Onsite Technical
  • Onsite Content & Usability
  • Offsite Social, Links & Mentions

This allows me to easily lump the weaknesses of a client's website together and provide a more specific approach. For instance, some clients are on HubSpot which has an awesome CMS (in regards to it's technical SEO best practices) so I usually have to look at the other two buckets for a client on HubSpot. Some enterprise clients are on a dated CMS with major technical issues so the first bucket gives us a quick win.

Telling them where they're weak is a safe bet because the work it takes to fix those weaknesses is what they want your help with. Even if they can fix it themselves they need to know how.

In the end though I think you'll find more and more clients who already know about the technical stuff, the content stuff, some usability elements, perhaps even some good social activity. They may still not be getting what they really want from search or inbound marketing.

At this point I think the branding is the biggest weakness. Your brand needs research to understand targets, simplicity in definition, clarity in purpose, benefit and messaging, and honesty in end results. I think constantly studying your audience to better define your brand ensures you'll succeed once the rubber meets the road and customers interact with your company. They'll feel it and like it, like you do when you pick up an Apple TV remote. I digress...

 

That's how I prefer to sell SEO, and that's how Jeremiah prefers to sell SEO. How do you sell your SEO and inbound marketing campaigns?