Tag Archive | "agencies"

Win That Pitch: How SEO Agencies Can Land New Business

Posted by TheMozTeam

If you’re a digital agency, chances are you have your sights set on a huge variety of clients — from entertainment and automotive, to travel and finance — all with their own unique SEO needs.

So how do you attract these companies and provide them with next-level SEO? By using a flexible tracking solution that delivers a veritable smorgasbord of SERP data every single day. Here are just four ways you can leverage STAT to lock down new business. 

1. Arm yourself with intel before you pitch 

The best way to win over a potential client is to walk into a pitch already aware of the challenges and opportunities in their online space. In other words: come armed with intel.

To get a lay of their search landscape, research which keywords are applicable to your prospect, load those puppies into STAT, and let them run for a few days (you can turn tracking on and off for however many keywords you like, whenever you like).

This way, when it comes time to make your case, you can hit them with hard data on their search visibility and tailored strategies to help them improve.

Walking into a pitch with deep insights in just a few days will make you look like an SEO wizard — and soon-to-be-new clients will know that you can handle any dark magic unleashed on the SERPs by a Google update or new competitors jumping into the mix. 

2. Look at your data from every possible angle

As an SEO for an agency, you’re vying to manage the visibility of several clients at any given time, and all of them have multiple websites, operate in different industries and verticals worldwide, and target an ever-growing list of topics and products.

So, when prospective clients expect individualized SEO recommendations, how can you possibly deliver without developing a permanent eye twitch? The answer lies in the ability to track and segment tons of keywords.

Get your mittens on more SERPs

To start, you’ll need to research and compile a complete list of keywords for every prospective client. When one keyword only returns one SERP, and people’s searches are as unique as they are, the longer the list, the greater the scope of insight. It’s the difference between a peek and peruse — getting a snapshot or the whole picture.

For example, let’s say your would-be client is a clothing chain with an online store and a brick-and-mortar in every major Canadian city. You’ll want to know how each of their products appears to the majority of searchers — does [men’s jeans] (and every iteration thereof) return a different SERP than [jeans for men]?

Next, it’s time to play international SEO spy and factor in the languages, locations, and devices of target audiences. By tracking pin-point locations in influential global markets, you can keep apprised of how businesses in your industry are performing in different cities all over the world.

For our example client, this is where the two keywords above are joined by [jeans pour hommes], [jeans for men in Montreal], and [jeans pour hommes dans Montreal], and are tracked in the Montreal postal code where their bricks-and-mortar sit, on desktop and mobile devices — giving you with 10 SERPs-worth of insight. Swap in “in Quebec City,” track in a postal code there, and gain another 10 SERPs lickety-split.

Unlock multiple layers of insights

While a passel of keywords is essential, it’s impossible to make sense of what they’re telling you when they’re all lumped together. This is why segmentation is a must. By slicing and dicing your keywords into different segments, called “tags” in STAT, you produce manageable data views with deep, targeted insight.

You can divvy up and tag your keywords however you like: by device, search intent, location, and more. Still running with our earlier example, by comparing a tag that tracks jeans keywords in Montreal against jeans keywords in Vancouver, you can inform your prospect of which city is bringing up the rear on the SERPs, and how they can better target that location.

STAT also lets you to segment any SERP feature you’re interested in — like snippets, videos, and knowledge graphs — allowing you to identify exactly where opportunities (and threats) lie on the SERP.

So, if your tag is tracking the all-important local places pack and your prospect’s brick-and-mortar store isn’t appearing in them, you can avoid the general “we’ll improve your rankings” approach, and focus your pitch around ways to get them listed. And once you’ve been hired to do the job, you’ll be able to prove your local pack success.

For more tag ideas, we created a post with some of the keyword segments that we recommend our clients set up in STAT.

3. Put a tail on the competition

Monitoring a client’s site is one thing, but keeping an eagle-eye on their competition at the same time will give you a serious leg up on other agencies.

With an automated site syncing option, STAT lets you track every known competitor site your prospect has, without any additional keyword management on your part.

All you need to do is plunk in competitor URLs and watch them track against your prospect’s keywords. And because you’ve already segmented the bejesus out of those keywords, you can tell exactly how they stack up in each segment.

To make sure that you’re tracking true search competitors, as well as emerging and dwindling threats, you should be all over STAT’s organic share of voice. By taking the rank and search volume of a given keyword, STAT calculates the percentage of eyeballs that players on the SERPs actually earn.

When you know the ins and outs of everyone in the industry — like who consistently ranks in the top 10 of your SERPs — you can give clients a more comprehensive understanding of where they fit into the big picture and uncover new market opportunities for them to break into. They’ll be thanking their lucky stars they chose you over the other guys.

4. Think big while respecting client budgets

As an enterprise SEO, having economies of scale is a critical factor in beating out other agencies for new business. In order to achieve this, you’ll want to collect and crunch data at an affordable rate.

STAT’s highly competitive per-keyword pricing is designed for scale, which is precisely why STAT and agencies are a match made in heaven. Thinking big won’t break anyone’s bank.

Plus, STAT’s billing is as flexible as the tracking. So, if you only need a few days’ worth of data, whether for a pitch or a project, you can jump into STAT and toggle tracking on or off for any number of keywords, and your billing will follow suit. In simpler terms: you’re only billed for the days you track.

And with no limits on users and no per-seat charges, you’re welcome to invite anyone on your team — even clients or vendors — to see your projects, allowing you to deliver transparency in conjunction with your SEO awesomeness.

If you’d like to do any or all of these things and are looking for the perfect SERP data tool to get the job done, say hello and request a demo!

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Survey: Local SEO an ‘artisanal’ discipline dominated by small agencies

Roughly 53 percent of firms doing local SEO have 10 or fewer clients.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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SearchCap: Survey for agencies, Cortana app update, Bing Ads headlines, more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Help us understand how digital agencies are evolving: Take our survey

If you work at a digital agency, we want to hear from you.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Let’s Make Money: 4 Tactics for Agencies Looking to Succeed – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

We spend a lot of time discussing SEO tactics, but in a constantly changing industry, one thing that deserves more attention are the tactics agencies should employ in order to see success. From confidently raising your prices to knowing when to say no, Moz’s own Russ Jones covers four essential success tactics that’ll ultimately increase your bottom line in today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Agency tactics

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!


Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I am Russ Jones, and I can’t tell you how excited I am for my first Whiteboard Friday. I am Principal Search Scientist here at Moz. But before coming to Moz, for the 10 years prior to that, I was the Chief Technology Officer of a small SEO agency back in North Carolina. So I have a strong passion for agencies and consultants who are on the ground doing the work, helping websites rank better and helping build businesses.

So what I wanted to do today was spend a little bit of time talking about the lessons that I learned at an agency that admittedly I only learned through trial and error. But before we even go further, I just wanted to thank the folks at Hive Digital who I learned so much from, Jeff and Jake and Malcolm and Ryan, because the team effort over time is what ended up building an agency. Any agency that succeeds knows that that’s part of it. So we’ll start with that thank-you.

But what I really want to get into is that we spend a lot of time talking about SEO tactics, but not really about how to succeed in an industry that changes rapidly, in which there’s almost no certification, and where it can be difficult to explain to customers exactly how they’re going to be successful with what you offer. So what I’m going to do is break down four really important rules that I learned over the course of that 10 years. We’re going to go through each one of them as quickly as possible, but at the same time, hopefully you’ll walk away with some good ideas. Some of these are ones that it might at first feel a little bit awkward, but just follow me.

1. Raise prices

The first rule, number one in Let’s Make Money is raise your prices. Now, I remember quite clearly two years in to my job at Hive Digital — it was called Virante then — and we were talking about raising prices. We were just looking at our customers, saying to ourselves, “There’s no way they can afford it.” But then luckily we had the foresight that there was more to raising prices than just charging your customers more.

How it benefits old customers

The first thing that just hit us automatically was… “Well, with our old customers, we can just discount them. It’s not that bad. We’re in the same place as we always were.” But then it occurred to us, “Wait, wait, wait. If we discount our customers, then we’re actually increasing our perceived value.” Our existing customers now think, “Hey, they’re actually selling something better that’s more expensive, but I’m getting a deal,” and by offering them that deal because of their loyalty, you engender more loyalty. So it can actually be good for old customers.

How it benefits new customers

Now, for new customers, once again, same sort of situation. You’ve increased the perceived value. So your customers who come to you think, “Oh, this company is professional. This company is willing to invest. This company is interested in providing the highest quality of services.” In reality, because you’ve raised prices, you can. You can spend more time and money on each customer and actually do a better job. The third part is, “What’s the worst that could happen?” If they say no, you offer them the discount. You’re back where you started. You’re in the same position that you were before.

How it benefits your workers

Now, here’s where it really matters — your employees, your workers. If you are offering bottom line prices, you can’t offer them raises, you can’t offer them training, you can’t hire them help, or you can’t get better workers. But if you do, if you raise prices, the whole ecosystem that is your agency will do better.

How it improves your resources

Finally, and most importantly, which we’ll talk a little bit more later, is that you can finally tool up. You can get the resources and capital that you need to actually succeed. I drew this kind of out.

If we have a graph of quality of services that you offer and the price that you sell at, most agencies think that they’re offering great quality at a little price, but the reality is you’re probably down here. You’re probably under-selling your services and, because of that, you can’t offer the best that you can.

You should be up here. You should be offering higher quality, your experts who spend time all day studying this, and raising prices allows you to do that.

2. Schedule

Now, raising prices is only part one. The second thing is discipline, and I am really horrible about this. The reality is that I’m the kind of guy who looks for the latest and greatest and just jumps into it, but schedule matters. As hard as it is to admit it, I learned this from the CPC folks because they know that they have to stay on top of it every day of the week.

Well, here’s something that we kind of came up with as I was leaving the company, and that was to set all of our customers as much as possible into a schedule.

  • Annually: we would handle keywords and competitors doing complete analysis.
  • Semi-annually: Twice a year, we would do content analysis. What should you be writing about? What’s changed in your industry? What are different keywords that you might be able to target now given additional resources?
  • Quarterly: You need to be looking at links. It’s just a big enough issue that you’ve got to look at it every couple of months, a complete link analysis.
  • Monthly: You should be looking at your crawls. Moz will do that every week for you, but you should give your customers an idea, over the course of a month, what’s changed.
  • Weekly: You should be doing rankings

But there are three things that, when you do all of these types of analysis, you need to keep in mind. Each one of them is a…

  • Report
  • Hours for consulting
  • Phone call

This might seem like a little bit of overkill. But of course, if one of these comes back and nothing changed, you don’t need to do the phone call, but each one of these represents additional money in your pocket and importantly better service for your customers.

It might seem hard to believe that when you go to a customer and you tell them, “Look, nothing’s changed,” that you’re actually giving them value, but the truth is that if you go to the dentist and he tells you, you don’t have a cavity, that’s good news. You shouldn’t say to yourself at the end of the day, “Why’d I go to the dentist in the first place?” You should say, “I’m so glad I went to the dentist.” By that same positive outlook, you should be selling to your customers over and over and over again, hoping to give them the clarity they need to succeed.

3. Tool up!

So number three, you’re going to see this a lot in my videos because I just love SEO tools, but you’ve got to tool up. Once you’ve raised prices and you’re making more money with your customers, you actually can. Tools are superpowers. Tools allow you to do things that humans just can’t do. Like I can’t figure out the link graph on my own. I need tools to do it. But tools can do so much more than just auditing existing clients. For example, they can give you…

Better leads:

You can use tools to find opportunities.Take for example the tools within Moz and you want to find other car dealerships in the area that are really good and have an opportunity to rank, but aren’t doing as well as they should be in SERPs. You want to do this because you’ve already serviced successfully a different car dealership. Well, tools like Moz can do that. You don’t just have to use Moz to help your clients. You can use them to help yourself.

Better pre-audits:

Nobody walks into a sales call blind. You know who the website is. So you just start with a great pre-audit.

Faster workflows:

Which means you make more money quicker. If you can do your keyword analysis annually in half the time because you have the right tool for it, then you’re going to make far more money and be able to serve more customers.

Bulk pricing:

This one is just mind-blowingly simple. It’s bulk pricing. Every tool out there, the more you buy from them, the lower the price is. I remember at my old company sitting down at one point and recognizing that every customer that came in the door would need to spend about $ 1,000 on individual accounts to match what they were getting through us by being able to take advantage of the bulk discounts that we were getting as an agency by buying these seats on behalf of all of our customers.

So tell your clients when you’re talking to them on the phone, in the pitch be like, “Look, we use Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMrush,” list off all of the competitors. “We do Screaming Frog.” Just name them all and say, “If you wanted to go out and just get the data yourself from these tools, it would cost you more than we’re actually charging you.” The tools can sell themselves. You are saving them money.

4. Just say NO

Now, the last section, real quickly, are the things you’ve just got to learn to say no to. One of them has a little nuance to it. There’s going to be some bite back in the comments, I’m pretty sure, but I want to be careful with it.

No month-to-month contracts

The first thing to say no to is month-to-month contracts.

If a customer comes to you and they say, “Look, we want to do SEO, but we want to be able to cancel every 30 days.” the reality is this. They’re not interested in investing in SEO. They’re interested in dabbling in SEO. They’re interested in experimenting with SEO. Well, that’s not going to succeed. It’s only going to take one competitor or two who actually invest in it to beat them out, and when they beat them out, you’re going to look bad and they’re going to cancel their account with you. So sit down with them and explain to them that it is a long-term strategy and it’s just not worth it to your company to bring on customers who aren’t interested in investing in SEO. Say it politely, but just turn it away.

Don’t turn anything away

Now, notice that my next thing is don’t turn anything away. So here’s something careful. Here’s the nuance. It’s really important to learn to fire clients who are bad for your business, where you’re losing money on them or they’re just impolite, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn them away. You just need to turn them in the right direction. That right direction might be tools themselves. You can say, “Look, you don’t really need our consulting hours. You should go use these tools.” Or you can turn them to other fledgling businesses, friends you have in the industry who might be struggling at this time.

I’ll tell you a quick example. We don’t have much time, but many, many years ago, we had a client that came to us. At our old company, we had a couple of rules about who we would work with. We chose not to work in the adult industry. But at the time, I had a friend in the industry. He lived outside of the United States, and he had fallen on hard times. He literally had his business taken away from him via a series of just really unscrupulous events. I picked up the phone and gave him a call. I didn’t turn away the customer. I turned them over to this individual.

That very next year, he had ended up landing a new job at the top of one of the largest gambling organizations in the world. Well, frankly, they weren’t on our list of people we couldn’t work with. We landed the largest contract in the history of our company at that time, and it set our company straight for an entire year. It was just because instead of turning away the client, we turned them to a different direction. So you’ve got to say no to turning away everybody. They are opportunities. They might not be your opportunity, but they’re someone’s.

No service creep

The last one is service creep. Oh, man, this one is hard. A customer comes up to you and they list off three things that you offer that they want, and then they say, “Oh, yeah, we need social media management.” Somebody else comes up to you, three things you want to offer, and they say, “Oh yeah, we need you to write content,” and that’s not something you do. You’ve just got to not do that. You’ve got to learn to shave off services that you can’t offer. Instead, turn them over to people who can do them and do them very well.

What you’re going to end up doing in your conversation, your sales pitch is, “Look, I’m going to be honest with you. We are great at some things, but this isn’t our cup of tea. We know someone who’s really great at it.” That honesty, that candidness is just going to give them such a better relationship with you, and it’s going to build a stronger relationship with those other specialty companies who are going to send business your way. So it’s really important to learn to say no to say no service creep.

Well, anyway, there’s a lot that we went over there. I hope it wasn’t too much too fast, but hopefully we can talk more about it in the comments. I look forward to seeing you there. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Why Search Agencies Should Embrace the Adjacency of Email Marketing

Posted by davidmihm

As someone who’s spent virtually his entire career in local search, I’m by no means an early proponent of email. But in my interactions at marketing conferences, studies of industry research, and social media conversations, I get the feeling that many of my peers are even further down the adoption curve than I’ve been.

With this post, I encourage you to take a hard look at email marketing for yourselves, or an even harder look if you’ve already done so. If you’ve focused exclusively on offering SEO and SEM services to clients in the past, I hope I’ll convince you that email should be a natural and profitable complement to those offerings.

And if you’re a local business reading this post, I hope many of these points convince you to take a look at email marketing yourselves!

Making the case for email

High ROI

With a return on investment (ROI) of 44:1, marketers consistently rate email as the top-performing channel. According to Campaign Monitor, that ROI has actually increased since 2015, and it’s particularly true for B2B companies. Despite the supposed unpopularity of email among millennials, it remains far and away the most-preferred channel by which to receive communication from a business.

Just plain cheap

The fact that email’s so cheap helps the denominator of that 44:1 stat a bunch. Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, as are MailerLite and SendinBlue, and many other providers offer plans under $ 10/month depending on your number of subscribers.

It’s also cheap in terms of time cost. Unlike social media where daily or even hourly presence performs best, email allows you to duck in and duck out as you have time.

As far as the numerator, average open rates far exceed social media reach on most platforms. And even if they don’t open, ⅓ of people report purchasing based on an email they received from a brand (!). Search provides better purchase intent, but the top-of-mind awareness and referral potential from email is unmatched.

Makes other channels more effective

Gathering customer email addresses is essential for other critical forms of local business marketing already — you need an email address to ask for a review, build lookalike audiences, and make customer intelligence solutions like FullContact most effective.

Actually offering something of value, whether that’s a discount code, loyalty program, whitepaper, or newsletter subscription, increases the odds of earning that email address for all of those purposes.

Last best option?

Frankly, the number of organic digital channels available to small businesses is shrinking. Facebook’s latest announcement signals a tough road ahead there for businesses without the budget to Boost posts, and Google’s expansion of its Local Service Ad program to verticals and locales across the United States in the next couple of years seems inevitable to me. Now is the time to start building an email program as these monetization pressures intensify.

Why agencies should offer email

Your customers know it works.

Local businesses might be more aware of email’s potency than some of the agencies that are serving them. Email consistently rates among the top three marketing channels in industry surveys by the Local Search Association, StreetFight, Clutch, and more.

At the very least, email requires barely any client education. Unlike the black box of SEO or the complexity of PPC, by and large, small businesses inherently understand email marketing. They know they should be sending emails to their customers, but many of them just aren’t yet doing it, or are doing it poorly.

It’s a concrete deliverable.

Unlike so much of the behind-the-scenes work that leads to success in SEO, clients can actually see an email campaign delivered to their inbox, as well as the results of that campaign: every major Email Service Provider tracks opens and clicks by default.

It leverages existing offerings.

I already mentioned some of the ways that email marketing complements other channels above. But it can tie in even more closely to an agency’s existing content offering: many of you are already developing full content calendars, or at the very least social content.

<pitch>(For those clients whom you’re helping with social media, their newsletter can be built using Tidings with no additional effort on your part.)</pitch>

Building email into your client content strategy can help their content reach a deeper audience, and possibly even a different audience.

It’s predictable.

Though you could argue that the Gmail and Apple Mail interface configurations are algorithms of a kind, generally speaking, email marketing is not subject to wild algorithmic changes or inexplicable ranking fluctuations.

And unlike Google’s unrealistic link building axiom that great content will naturally attract inbound links, great content actually does naturally attract more subscribers and more customers as they receive forwarded emails.

You can expand it over time.

Unlike SEO for local businesses, which generally includes relatively easy wins up front and gets progressively harder to deliver the same value over time, email marketing offers numerous opportunities to expand the scope of your engagement with a client.

Beyond fulfilling the emails themselves, there are plenty of other email-related services to offer, including managing and optimizing list sign-up, welcome emails and drip campaigns, A/B testing subject lines and content, and ongoing customer intelligence.

Tactical ingredients for success with email

Use a reputable Email Service Provider.

Running an email marketing program through Gmail or Outlook is an easy way to get your primary address blacklisted. You also won’t have access to open rate or click rate, nor an easy way to automate signups onto specific lists or segments.

Be consistent.

Setting expectations for your subscribers and then following through on those expectations is a particularly important practice for email newsletters, but also holds true for explicitly commercial emails and automated emails.

You should be generally consistent with the day on which you send weekly specials, appointment reminders, or service follow-ups. Consistency helps form a habit among your subscribers.

Consistency also applies to branding. It’s fine to A/B test subject lines and content types over time, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot from a brand perspective by designing every email you send from scratch. Leave that kind of advanced development to big brands with full in-house email teams.

The other reason to be consistent is that designing for email is really, really difficult — a lesson I learned the hard way last year prior to launching Tidings. Complex email clients like Microsoft Outlook use their own markup languages to render emails, and older email clients can’t interpret a lot of modern HTML or CSS declarations.

Choose a mobile-first template.

Make sure your layout renders well on phones, since that’s where more than 2/3 of email gets opened. Two- or three-column layouts that force pinching and zooming on mobile devices are a no-no, and at this point, most subscribers are used to scrolling a bit to see content.

As long as your template reflects your brand accurately, the content of that layout is far more important than its design. Look no further than the simple email layouts chosen by some of the most successful companies in their respective industries, including Amazon, Kayak, and Fast Company.

Pick a layout that’s proven to work on phones and stick with it.

Include an email signup button or form prominently on your website.

It’s become a best practice to include social icons in the header and/or footer of your website. But there’s an obvious icon missing from so many sites!

An email icon should be the first one in the lineup, since it’s the channel where your audience is most likely to see your content.

Also consider using Privy or Mailmunch to embed a signup banner or popover on your website with minimal code.

The specific place of newsletters

Plenty of people way smarter than me are on the newsletter bandwagon (and joined it much earlier than I did). Moz has been sending a popular “Top 10” newsletter for years, Kick Point sends an excellent weekly synopsis, and StreetFight puts out a great daily roundup, just to name a few. As a subscriber, those companies are always top-of-mind for me as thought leaders with their fingers on the pulse of digital marketing.

But newsletters work far beyond the digital marketing industry, too.

Sam Dolnick, the man in charge of the New York Times’ digital initiatives, puts a lot of stock in newsletters as a cornerstone channel, calling them “a lo-fi way to form a deep relationship with readers.”

I love that description. I think of a newsletter as a more personalized social channel. In the ideal world it’s halfway between a 1:1 email and a broadcast on Facebook or Twitter.

Granted, a newsletter may not be right for every local business, and it’s far from the only kind of email marketing you should be doing. But it’s also one of the easiest ways to get started with email marketing, and as Sam Dolnick said, an easy-to-understand way to start building relationships with customers.

For more newsletter best practices, this ancient (1992!) article actually covers print newsletters but almost all of its advice applies equally well to digital versions!

A great option or a strategic imperative?

Facebook’s ongoing reduction in organic visibility, Google’s ongoing evolution of the local SERP, and the shift to voice search will combine to create an existential threat to agencies that serve smaller-budget local businesses over the next 2–3 years.

Agencies simply can’t charge the margin to place paid ads that they can charge for organic work, particularly as Google and Facebook do a better and better job of optimizing low-budget campaigns. More ads, more Knowledge Panels, and more voice searches mean fewer organic winners at Google than ever before (though because overall search volume won’t decline, the winners will win bigger than ever).

Basic SEO blocking-and-tackling such as site architecture, title tags, and citation building will always be important services, but their impact for local businesses has declined over the past decade, due to algorithmic sophistication, increased competition, and decreased organic real estate.

To grow or even maintain your client base, it’ll be critical for you as an agency to offer additional services that are just as effective and scalable as these techniques were a decade ago.

As a concrete, high-margin, high-ROI deliverable, email should be a centerpiece of those additional services. And if it just doesn’t feel like something you’re ready to take on right now, Tidings is happy to handle your referrals :D !

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Giving Away the Farm: Proposal Development for New SEO Agencies

Posted by BrianChilds

There’s a huge difference between making money from selling SEO and actually making a living — or making a difference, for that matter. A new marketing agency will quickly discover that surviving on $ 1,000 contracts is challenging. It takes time to learn the client and their customers, and poorly written contracts can lead to scope creep and dissatisfied clients.

It’s common for agencies to look for ways to streamline operations to assist with scaling their business, but one area you don’t want to streamline is the proposal research process. I actually suggest going in the opposite direction: create proposals that give away the farm.

Details matter, both to you and your prospective client

I know what you’re thinking: Wait a minute! I don’t want to do a bunch of work for free!

I too am really sensitive to the idea that a prospective client may attempt to be exploitative. I think it’s a risk worth taking. Outlining the exact scope of services forces you to do in-depth research on your prospect’s website and business, to describe in detail what you’re going to deliver. Finding tools and processes to scale the research process is great, but don’t skip it. Detailing your findings builds trust, establishes your team as a high-quality service provider, and will likely make you stand out amongst a landscape of standard-language proposals.

Be exceptional. Here’s why I think this is particularly important for the proposal development process.

Avoid scope creep & unrealistic expectations

Just like the entrepreneur that doesn’t want to tell anyone their amazing idea without first obtaining an NDA, new SEO agencies may be inclined to obscure their deliverables in standard proposal language out of fear that their prospect will take their analysis and run. Generic proposal language is sometimes also used to reduce the time and effort involved in getting the contract out the door.

This may result in two unintended outcomes:

  1. Lack of specific deliverables can lead to contract scope creep.
  2. It can make you lazy and you end up walking into a minefield.

Companies that are willing to invest larger sums of money in SEO tend to have higher expectations, and this cuts both ways. Putting in the work to craft a detailed proposal not only shows that you actually care about their business, but it also helps manage the contract’s inevitable growth when you’re successful.

Misalignment of goals or timelines can sour a relationship quickly. Churn in your contracts is inevitable, but it’s much easier to increase your annual revenue by retaining a client for a few more months than trying to go out and find a replacement. Monetizing your work effectively and setting expectations is an excellent way to make sure the relationship is built on firm ground.

Trust is key

Trust is foundational to SEO: building trustworthy sites, creating valuable and trustworthy content, becoming a trusted resource for your community that’s worth linking to. Google rewards this kind of intent.

Trust is an ethos; as an SEO, you’re a trust champion. You can build trust with a prospect by being transparent and providing overwhelming value in your proposal. Tell your clients exactly what they need to do based on what you discover in your research.

This approach also greases the skids a little when approaching the prospect for the first time. Imagine the difference between a first touch with your prospect when you request a chance to discuss research you’ve compiled, versus a call to simply talk about general SEO value. By developing an approach that feels less like a sales process, you can navigate around the psychological tripwires that make people put up barriers or question your trustworthiness.

This is also referred to as “consultative sales.” Some best practices that business owners typically respond well to are:

  • Competitive research. A common question businesses will ask about SEO relates to keywords: What are my competitors ranking for? What keywords have they optimized their homepage for? One thing I like to do is plug the industry leader’s website into Open Site Explorer and show what content is generating the most links. Exporting the Top Pages report from OSE makes for a great leave-behind.
  • Top questions people are asking. Research forum questions that relate to the industry or products your prospect sells. When people ask questions on Yahoo Answers or Quora, they’re often doing so because they can’t find a good answer using search. A couple of screenshots can spark a discussion around how your prospective client’s site can add value to those online discussions.

Yes, by creating a more detailed proposal you do run the risk that your target company will walk away with the analysis. But if you suspect that the company is untrustworthy, then I’d advise walking away before even building the analysis in the first place; just try getting paid on time from an untrustworthy company.

Insights can be worth more

By creating a very transparent, “give away the farm”-type document, SEOs empower themselves to have important discussions prior to signing a contract. Things like:

  • What are the business goals this company wants to focus on?
  • Who are the people they want to attract?
  • What products or pages are they focused on?

You’ll have to understand at least this much to set up appropriate targeting, so all the better to document this stuff beforehand. And remember, having these conversations is also an investment in your prospect’s time — and there’s some psychology around getting your target company to invest in you. It’s called “advancement” of the sale. By getting your prospect to agree to a small, clearly defined commitment, it pulls them further down the sales funnel.

In the case of research, you may choose to ask the client for permission to conduct further research and report on it at a specified time in the future. You can use this as an opportunity to anchor a price for what that research would cost, which frames the scope of service prices later on.

By giving away the farm, you’ll start off the relationship as a trusted advisor. And even if you don’t get the job to do the SEO work itself, it’s possible you can develop a retainer where you help your prospect manage digital marketing generally.

Prepping the farm for sale

It goes without saying, but making money from SEO requires having the right tools for the job. If you’re brand-new to the craft, I suggest practicing by auditing a small site. (Try using the site audit template we provide in the site audit bootcamp.) Get comfortable with the tools, imagine what you would prioritize, and maybe even do some free work for a site to test out how long it takes to complete relatively small tasks.

Imagine you were going to approach that website and suggest changes. Ask yourself:

  • Who are they selling to?
  • What keywords and resources does this target user value?
  • What changes would you make that would improve search rank position for those terms?
  • What would you do first?
  • How long would it take? (In real human time, not starving-artist-who-never-sleeps time.)

Some of the tools that I find most helpful are:

  • Moz Pro Campaigns > Custom Reports. This is an easy one. Create a Moz Pro campaign (campaigns are projects that analyze the SEO performance of a website over time) and then select “Custom Reports” in the top-right of the Campaign interface. Select the modules you want to include — site crawl and keyword rankings against potential competitors are good ones — and then offer to send this report to your prospect for free. It’s a lot harder for a customer to turn something off than it is to turn something on. Give away a custom report and then set up time to talk through the results on a weekly basis.
  • Builtwith.com. This free service allows you to investigate a number of attributes related to a website, including the marketing software installed. Similar to a WHOIS search, I use this to understand whether the prospect is overloaded with software or if they completely lack any marketing automation. This can be helpful for suggesting tools that will improve their insights immediately. Who better to help them implement those tools or provide a discount than you?
  • Keyword Explorer > Lists. Create a list in Keyword Explorer and look for the prevalence of SERP features. This can tell you a lot about what kinds of content are valuable to their potential visitor. Do images show up a lot? What about videos? These could be opportunities for your customer.
  • MozBar. Use the Page Analysis tab in MozBar to assess some of the website’s most important pages. Check page load speed in the General Attributes section. Also see if they have enticing titles and descriptions.
  • Site crawl. If you don’t have Moz Pro, I recommend downloading Screaming Frog. It can crawl up to 500 pages on a site for free and then allow you to export the results into a .csv file. Look for anything that could be blocking traffic to the site or reducing the chance that pages are getting indexed, such as 4XX series errors or an overly complex robots.txt file. Remedying these can be quick wins that provide a lot of value. If you start a Moz Pro campaign, you can see how these issues are reduced over time.

Want to learn how to add SEO to your existing portfolio of marketing services?

Starting on April 4th, 2017, Moz is offering a 3-day training seminar on How to Add SEO to Your Agency. This class will be every Tuesday for 3 weeks and will cover some of the essentials for successfully bringing SEO into your portfolio.

Sign up for the seminar!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

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SearchCap: Google My Business API, challenges faced by agencies & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google My Business API, challenges faced by agencies & more appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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4 Mistakes Agencies Make to Lose Clients

Not understanding the client’s business or economics, not doing enough keyword and competitive analysis, using a generic proposal template, and lack of communication and reporting the wrong metrics will cost you future business and current clients.
Search Engine Watch – Latest

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Do Marketers and Agencies See Digital World Differently?

Research is what research is. You take what you get and you can decide to draw conclusions based on what you see or not draw any conclusions at all. As we have discussed here at Marketing Pilgrim many times in the past, research as PR and advertising has really tainted our ability to get reliable information nowadays. As a result, we go with what we have and then let our gut and experience tell us whether what we see is real v. crafted for a branding purpose.

Having said that I find any data comparing how agencies look at the digital world vs. how marketers look at it as pretty fascinating. It is often the best indicator of what agencies are trying to sell oftentimes despite what marketers say they need or desire.

A study from the outsourced agency business development firm, RSW/US, (via eMarketer) gives some insight into this area by running a comparison to findings from 2009 to today. Take it as you would like.

The most obvious change is marketer use of online advertising. Does this switch show that more and more marketers are doing this on their own? Not sure from this chart but one would think that in the economy of the past three years marketers would want to figure more of this out on their own to keep agency fees to a minimum.

Meanwhile it looks like agencies are talking more about strategic direction v service delivery. That is an interesting shift as well. Having worked on both sides of this equation at different points in time I can sympathize. Scope creep in actual digital service delivery is a disheartening reality of the digital marketing services industry. As a result, many on the agency side will be more desirous of the less ‘deliverably definable’ (yes, I totally made that one up so just roll with it) area of strategic counsel. It’s that magical place where an agency can tell a client exactly what they should be doing but then leaves the delivery to the client. It’s much cleaner but as a model it is hard since ongoing needs for strategy and direction are not like monthly deliverables for search, display, content and more.

How do you see the marketer v agency world? is it adversarial or is it more harmonious? What is required of both sides to make the best of what can sometimes be a difficult situation?

Any thoughts?



Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

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