Is selling SEO services getting harder or are SEOs just not good at it?

In light of recent survey data from BrightLocal, columnist Myles Anderson shares tips for local search marketers looking to acquire new business.


Is selling SEO services getting harder, or are SEOs just not that good at it?

I ask this question this because I’ve recently had a number of conversations with SEOs — freelance and at agencies — and almost all complained about difficulties in pitching and converting SMBs.

It’s well-documented that business owners get bombarded with calls and emails from SEOs trying to convince them that they need their services and that they can deliver the moon-on-a-stick.

From our 2014 SMB internet marketing survey, we found that 35 percent of SMBs are contacted every day by an SEO selling their services, and another 22 percent are contacted every week.

How many times per week are you emailed/called by an internet marketing or SEO company wanting to sell you their services?

This means that over 50 percent of SMBs are pitched to by SEOs every week.

Now multiply that over four years (50 percent x 52 weeks x 4 years), and it’s reasonable to assume that every business owner has been pitched SEO services over 100 times!

Given that figure, it’s not surprising that it’s hard for SEOs to get SMBs to listen to them, let alone sign up and pay for their services.

SEOs need clients, however; so they need to pitch and sell their services. What can they do to improve their chances and close more sales?

Simple ideas to help SEOs pitch less & win more

Selling effectively isn’t rocket science. But it does take practice and understanding to get really good at it. Here are five useful, practical and proven ideas to consider and validate your sales approach against.

1. Listen more & talk less

Once you’ve managed to get a potential customer on the phone, you might feel under pressure to talk quickly and give them as much information as you can. You want them to know what you do and how you can “help” them, after all!

But in fact, all you’re doing is overloading that person with information before you know much about them. This is a real frustration for business owners — and an instant turn-off.

Business owners know a ton more about their business and market than you probably do. So you need to encourage them tell you about their business, their customers, their competitors and the challenges they face. Then, you can use this information to showcase your knowledge and tailor your services to meet their individual needs.

From our 2014 survey, being “Prepared to listen and learn” was one of the most important factors cited by SMBs for choosing which SEO/marketing consultant they worked with.

most important factors factors for a consultant

2. Educate, don’t sell

The objective here is to give “value” to a prospect before you try to sell to them.

Local business owners may know a lot or a little about digital marketing — but as a specialist, you should know more than they do. That means you’re in a great position to help educate them.

Search marketing moves at a rapid pace, and most busy SMBs struggle to keep up. But you can help educate them on the changes, best practices, bad practices and what channels work best in your experience working with other clients.

By sharing your knowledge, you’re helping a business owner become more aware and informed, which is valuable to them. In the process, you showcase your experience, earn their trust and put yourself in a much better position to sell to them.

Meet-ups & events

A lot of smart SEOs arrange local meet-ups or offer to speak at local business events so they can reach multiple businesses at once and share their knowledge with a room full of potential customers.

In our 2015 Local SEO Industry Survey, we ask local SEOs which marketing channels were most effective in attracting new clients. “Local Biz Groups” and “Local Meet-ups” were the third and fourth most effective marketing channels, respectively, behind SEO and Word of Mouth.

which channels are most effective for attracting new customers to your company?

3. Leverage your reputation

A good reputation is vital to the long-term success of every business, including freelance SEOs and agencies.

It gives customers great confidence to read positive reviews from other business owners or, even better, speak directly with them about you and your services.

As an SEO, you should do everything you can to maximize your relationships with existing customers.

  • Ask them to recommend you to other business owners they know.

  • Make it easy for them to leave a written review.

  • Create simple video testimonials.

  • Ask them if they will vouch for you with prospective customers.

All these can add weight to your reputation, which will help you convert new customers more easily.

From that same 2014 survey (see first chart above), you’ll see that “Having a Good Reputation” was the third most important factor for SMBs when choosing which SEO to use.

4. Show evidence of your success

This one is pretty obvious.

If you’ve achieved success for other clients, then share the details of that success with your prospects to give them confidence in your abilities.

The more specific you can be — with figures and details of work delivered and gains achieved — the better. You can make the client anonymous or obscure the figures on the charts, but be prepared to be as open as possible if you want to earn their confidence.

5. Become an industry specialist

Building up a specialty in one or two industries takes time, but it has huge benefits.

SMBs voted “Relevant industry experience” as the fourth most important factor when selecting an SEO/marketing consultant. But only 16 percent of SEOs say they specialize in one specific industry.

Working with just one or two sectors enables an SEO/agency to build up a very detailed knowledge of the business models and marketing channels and the lexicon used by professionals in those sectors. If you can talk to a customer in the language they understand and show that your experience of working with similar clients will help them achieve success faster, then nine out of ten times, you’re in!

Don’t get trapped into the low-cost cycle

You will have seen in the first chart that the number one factor for selecting an SEO to use is “Low Cost.”

Quick caveat — in a survey like this, it’s the easy and most obvious answer for a participant to choose, so the results are probably more skewed than in the real world.

However, there is a perception by many business owners that SEO = free promotion.

Add to this the huge number of SEOs in the market, all selling to the same customers, and the end result is a driving down of costs and a squeeze on tasks and time that an SEO can spend on each client.

If you want to be in this business long-term, you should do everything you can to avoid being trapped in a low-cost, high-volume selling cycle. It’s long hours for little reward, and it will burn you out.

It’s easier said than done, I know. But if you can achieve solid results for one or two clients, and then use that success to build your reputation and generate referral customers, then you can justify higher fees.

Choosing you over “LowDollarSEO” becomes the smart move. Many SMB business owners have been burned by bad SEO work in the past, so you can use that to your advantage in your pitch.

[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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