Recently, I performed a survey against my list of subscribers, all of which are actively involved in the SEO industry as either freelance consultants, or small business owners and asked them, “What would you like me to write about? What's your biggest frustration or concern within your seo business?”
Without a doubt the most common area of concern was how to get more clients. Infact a staggering 80% of the feedback I received, were questions relating to finding more clients.
So how can we get more seo clients?
This is a question that I'm asked often and is obviously one of the biggest areas of concern with most freelancers, because lets face it, without customers, our businesses simply can't survive.
But how hard is it really to find paying customers?
Speaking from personal experience as a freelance consultant myself, I understand how difficult it can be, especially when you're just starting out and have no portfolio.
So in direct response to those that completed my survey, and are looking to land more clients and secure more seo projects, here are my top 50 suggestions to how you can begin attracting more seo clients today!
1. Setup a referral or affiliate program
Starting a referral program is an excellent way to reward your existing customers for recommending new ones. The way in which this can be worked is numerous; either by way of offering a commission to the affiliate, (the customer directing new clients your way) or by offering them some form of discounted optimisation work. In essence, your existing customers send more work your way, and you reward them with some form of incentive as thanks for doing so.
2. Approach those already promoting via adwords
In simple terms, this method involves seeking out businesses that are promoting their websites by way of pay per click advertising. Its obvious that if they are spending money towards advertising, then its likely that they’d be willing to potentially save some of that money and improve their organic search placement. You can usually seek out a dozen or so keywords that a business might be paying for, in an effort to see where they are ranking, then use this as leverage towards motivating them towards investing in your services. For example “We noticed that youre using PPC for the search term Sydney Florist, and your site is currently ranked page 8, would you be interested in a free consultation? We could rank you for this keyword and save you some money. Give us a call.”
3. Bang on doors - hit local businesses
I'm still a big fan of this method. Its amazing just how much business this can drum up within just a few hours. Unlike freelancing sites, email and telephone, face to face marketing is extremely powerful in that it provides that immediate relationship building element. When I first started my freelancing business, I would scour local businesses, introduce myself, leave my card and contact details and in every case, would secure a new client. Don’t think that there's no money to be made in local business. You'd be surprised just how many times I had business owners thank me for coming in and then go on to organise our first meeting. All within 5 minutes.
4. Do a leaflet drop
In many cases, the simple things often go overlooked. Leaflet drops are no different. Leaflet drops, or flyers whilst very simplistic in their nature, can also be very powerful in terms of generating new business. They’re also very inexpensive. Here in Australia, you can have leaflets printed and delivered at a cost of just $25 per 1,000 leaflets. According to recent surveys and statistical information gathered, leaflet drops can attract up to a 48% response rate, with many people passing them on to family and friends.
5. Get active in marketplace related forums
I'll be honest, I was never much of a fan of forum marketing until I began tracking search referal data using Google Analytics. Over time I found that just by participating on a large web development/seo forum, that I could determine that quite a few leads were being generated just through my interaction with other members. Through giving advice and helping people within forums, you can build a reputation which in turn can lead to more clients.
6. Speak at events
Look I'm certainly no public speaker, but for anyone that’s got the courage to step on stage and host an event, they’re seriously going to kill it in terms of building a client base. Lets say for examples sake you organise a gig and attract 300 people, and out of those 300, you have 15% people that decide to do business with you. That’s 45 potential clients you’ve just landed, that are ready to work with you. And lets say that each client is worth an average of $1,200 per month. That’s an immediate $54,000 worth of business. It’s a bit of a trade off isnt it? The fear of public speaking vs the potential earning amount. Perhaps a shot of vodka might help?
7. Email marketing
Anyone that’s involved in search engine marketing, really should be building a list. And if you aren’t you should be, so get started! Of course, the sole purpose of building that list is to direct market your services, products and software via email. So having said that, it really only makes sense to start pushing your services through direct email marketing. Email is most definitely one of the most powerful, yet cheapest ways to stay in touch with your existing client base.
Be sure to find a balance between providing useful, helpful content and self promotion though. Subscribers tend to become a bit annoyed if you’re emailing them twice a day with blatent sales pitches.
8. Go to chamber of commerce meetings
I went to a few of these when I first started my freelancing business and let me tell you, they are a fantastic way of meeting business owners in your area. If you can tolerate big wigs walking around flashing expensive watches and glossy business cards, then it really can open up opportunities to really leverage your business, through networking. It definetely landed me a few projects, so I recommend it. You should be able to find out where and when these things are scheduled through local newspapers or of course, online.
9. Offer free consultations
Most clients won't have any idea of what you can really do for them unless you sit them down and spell it out for them. This is where the power of consultations comes into play. I've met with plenty of clients over a casual coffee and a muffin at numerous cafes and blown them away with ideas I've literally scribbled down on paper napkins. Once they have an understanding of exactly what it is you can do to help move their business forward, they’ll be literally begging you to help them. One thing to be mindful of here though is your time. You certainly don’t want to waste time. Be sure to get in, hit it hard and get out. Like Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always be closing.”
10. Guest blogging
Guest blogging is another really powerful way of generating exposure for yourself within the industry. And of course with exposure, comes leads. Guest blogging essentially allows you to share your experience and knowledge with a highly targeted audience on another organisations website, and in most cases, list your own website, services offered and contact details. This all works towards building your credibility and overall profile within the marketplace. The difficult part, especially when first starting out, is finding someone to accept your offer. This is where organising an event and getting others in the industry involved can help build relationships that in turn will accommodate other means of marketing, such as guest blogging.
This one might seem a bit weird, but people love free stuff, and especially t-shirts. Given the right design, and the right people wearing them, they can certainly gain some attention and draw in some business. Something like this would be great to hand out at a seminar or local gig.
12. Run an ad in your local newspaper advertising your services
You might screw your face up at this one, but seriously, give it some thought. As newspapers decline, so does the cost of advertising. Yet readership is still respectable. For a small advertisement in the newspaper, you might be looking at $30, and in return, might land a dozen clients, all of which sign up to a $1,000+ monthly contract. Gee, even if you landed just one client, you’d be laughing.
13. Submit a press release
Press releases are awesome. Not only for the sake of promoting your business, but also for the seo element as well. I'm a big fan of press releases, and I use them myself within my own freelancing business. Not only can you raise awareness of your business, but you can also leverage contextually relevant keywords that can help rank your own site well, which will attract more enquiries.
14. Establish relationships with web design businesses
Not all web design firms offer SEO, just as you as a freelance seo consultant most likely don’t offer web design. This is a gold mine just waiting to be tapped into. Through simply contacting web design firms and asking if they would be willing to exchange referrals you can quite literally begin building a targeted client base overnight. All you have to do is ask, “Hey, you send seo referrals my way, and I’ll send clients looking for web design your way, what do you say?”. You’ll find that most businesses would be more than happy to work with you. What have you got to lose by asking?
15. Publish case studies
What better way to get the attention of potential new clients than by way of providing insightful case studies. This might be a case study of how you ranked a clients website, or how you improved their bottom line. The key here is providing tangible results via way of a report, rather than just “telling” a client you can help them. Often, once a prospect sees evidence of your work, they’ll be eager to sign up and start working with you. Case studies in essence showcase your abilities and expertise in the field.
16. Business cards in cafes
Here’s one that I've always wanted to try myself. Business cards in cafes. Why cafes? Because a) people are usually sitting there doing very little for 30 minutes or more and b) a lot of business people meet in cafes for lunch or to discuss work related matters. Instead of simply having a salt and pepper shaker to stare at, your business card is right there, in front of them, just waiting to be picked up. Of course, you'd need to seek permission from the café owners to do this, but this is where offering a commission through referrals might work.
17. Car stickers
One of the first things I did when I started my freelancing business was put a web address down both sides of my car. I then measured the effectiveness of this by way of capturing certain data when I received an enquiry. This was usually a simple form field that read “How did you find us?” and of course, vehicle advertising was one option. The costs for doing this are extremely low, and the end result can be something that is very eye catching. Just be sure to include all of your details clearly, that is readable at a distance. Oh, and be sure not to use silly fonts or bad colours that prevent your details from being read at a glance. Don’t forget, youre on the road, and in most cases, other drivers might have just a few seconds to note your details.
18. Rank your own website well
This really should be a no brainer, but its definetely worth mentioning. There's little point trying to promote and sell your seo services if your own site isn't ranked. Lets say for instance, you're promoting your seo business in Sydney, and lets say that you’re currently ranked back at page 12 for “seo services Sydney” That’s not going to look so good to potential clients that might be considering hiring you. You might want to do this ahead of other promotional methods like car stickers and business cards, as I know first hand that prospects will usually Google you first, before calling.
19. Social networking
Instead of sitting on facebook all day chatting to your friends, think about how you can leverage 800 million users to your advantage. Social media is definitely the way forward in terms of online business, so get started! Go on, do it now. Just be sure you measure the time you spend socialising as opposed to actually selling.
20. Freelancing sites
My thoughts on freelancing sites are varied. Whilst they can provide a relatively quick and easy way of finding work, the issue that I was always faced with was pricing wars. Not only was it difficult to secure jobs, but as a result of high competition I found that I lowered my prices significantly in order to compete. This may not be the case for everyone of course, but be mindful that this method introduces its own problems. Many still prefer this method as a means of securing work, and I think this is mostly due to the amount of work that is readily available.
21. Tv and radio
Without a doubt, some of the most powerful means of generating business and building a client base – television and radio. The advantages of this are of course the sheer coverage that both mediums provide. Just one short television advertisement can be potentially seen by millions, as is the case with radio. Just a short 30 second ad, given the right timing, might be heard by millions also. The disadvantages however are cost. Both mediums whilst very effective are quite expensive, so this method might be more suited to larger, more established firms.
22. Taxi advertising
Without doing any specific research on this myself, I do know that in my part of the world, all of our taxi services provide advertising opportunities for businesses. Typically this is done by way of providing rear vehicle signage, that showcases, whats called a ‘creative’, in which you can provide details of your services. Whilst I haven't tried this one myself, I can only imagine that the coverage, given the number of taxis everywhere here in Sydney, would be substantial.
23. Exceed expectations
Im not sure if you’ve ever heard this expression, but apparently theres a saying that goes “If your client is happy, they’ll tell 5 people. If they’re dissatisfied, they’ll tell 20”. So what can we do to encourage clients to tell more people about our services? The answer lies in exceeding the clients expectations. If you say the task will take 3 weeks, do it in 2. If you promised ranking 10 keywords, rank 15. It's little things like this that will have your clients thanking you and sending more referrals your way.
24. Pay per click advertising
Without a doubt one of the fastest ways to not only generate traffic, but also build leads is paid advertising. Whether it be Google Adwords or another network, pay per click advertising can help you build a client base fast. Of course the only downside to this is the potential costs involve, and of course your ability to offset those costs through way of monetizing your leads.
25. Perform audits on prospects sites and email it to them
This is one of my favourites. This method involves performing a website audit on a website of interest, then emailing a detailed report directly to the site owners. The effectiveness of this method is that you can immediately address any issues with the website and then provide a proposed action plan, which outlines how you can help improve rankings and potential site revenue. Given that you’ve provided something tangible that the site owner can actually look at, its more than likely that this would stir up a bit of interest and possibly lead to an enquiry.
Click here to read Part 2