Digital marketers and business owners often speak of getting new clients through referrals from previous customers who were satisfied with their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts but how sustainable and profitable is such a method for your business?
However, it would take a steady number of continuous, personal referrals to keep your business growing. If the referral stream stops, you’ll find yourself in a very undesirable place.
The best way to find new clients is to make sure new clients are finding you in their time of need.
But what if you’re a new business that’s just starting out?
That’s when you need to learn how to build your personal brand as a credible SEO consultant and build your agency.
When you’ve built a strong personal brand, an SEO consultant can command up to $75 to $100 per hour according to Ahrefs.
How I Started
When I was 8 years old, I started a newspaper business in my neighbourhood to supplement my measly daily pocket money.
I signed a contract with my mom for a startup fee of $5, bought 10 Sunday Newspapers at 50 cents a piece and sold door to door for 75 cents per pop.
The safety rule was to keep the shopping cart between me and the door and to never go inside a stranger’s house.
I learned after a while that if I was polite enough, people usually didn’t care to wait for me to fish for change so I would get the whole dollar.
But did I keep their change? No, I didn’t. I would get the change ready so they would just pay me on hand.
More often than not, they would insist that I keep the change and get an ice cream for my hard effort. Yes, they insisted.
Yet, I would put their change in the weirdest of places – simply because I did not want to take their money.
Not long after a loud-mouthed neighbour saw me placing the change in her slippers, I became known as the credible kid who went around the neighbourhood to sell newspapers.
I would later diversify into selling comic books (probably because I wanted to get my hands on the latest issues) and had no issue with the demand coming from the kids of parents whom I sold newspapers to.
Why? I was not only forthcoming and honest with my newspapers business, I made sure that the kids who bought my comic books kept coming back.
I refunded those who found the secondhand comic books to be dirty, have torn pages and so on – small, little services that delighted my customers (versus the grumpy old man who looked after the comic book sotre behind our school).
What did I learn from this experience? It was to build a reputation of known as someone honest, credible and reliable.
Start building your credibility as a personal brand.
Though this business was not as profitable as I expected, it taught me an important lessons.
Start building your personal brand.
How to build Credibility as a New Business
A new business has no reputation. So at the start, all credibility is on you, the founder.
For my part, I built websites as a student. One in particular – a social network for my university – had grown to thousands of active users, and was gaining a lot of popularity on campus.
I made stuff like this simply because I wanted to, and the passion showed. When you can’t find paid work, create stuff for free.
Free work is your way of bootstrapping credibility, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to earn it.
Cold Calling is dead
Inbound marketers have a tendency to recoil at the thought of cold calling our prospects. Typically, they think of cold calling as a violation of inbound best practices — but let’s take a closer look at the definition of a cold call:
Most people think that cold calling is as a violation of Inbound Marketing best practices — but let’s take a closer look at the definition of a cold call:
“An unsolicited call on someone, by telephone or in person, in an attempt to sell goods or services.”
That doesn’t mean that the person you’re calling has never heard of or expressed an interest in your product or service. It just means that they haven’t asked to be called by you.
No one likes being sold on the phone anymore.
Traditional cold calling is abrupt, invasive and often, occurs before a prospect has even heard of your brand. Traditional cold calling pushes for an immediate sale.
The bottom line: If you’re calling without context, then you’re wasting your own time as well.
Consumers today have an extremely negative reaction to having products or services shoved down their throat.
My advice is: Don’t rush this process.
Wait until the client has gotten back to you and then ask to schedule a call.
Make sure you truly understand SEO
“How to do SEO? I want to learn…”
Step 1: Read, watch tutorials and stay updated!
The best way to start learning SEO is to read. And read a lot.
When picking which blogs, books and videos to learn from, make sure to start with the absolute basics.
Because the last thing you want to be happening is realising that you have missed some basics of SEO when you’ve already started working.
Here are a few posts you should certainly read if you are a complete beginner.
Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO
The Moz blog (formerly known as SEOmoz) ought to be called the “manual of SEO”. This is where I have started and this is where you can start as well.
Moz’ beginner’s guide to SEO walks you through all the essentials you need to know, starting from how search engines work to how to track your website’s success.
We also highly recommend that you take this free 5-day email course on SEO first before buying any paid courses – such as those from Udemy or Coursera.
This was the course that I learnt powerful SEO techniques, such as how to build backlinks in 30 days without spending money, and also how to write great meta descriptions (they’ve a good list of templates) that get people to click through.
SEO is more than just “SEO”
In the last few years, Google has rolled-out a few updates to its secretive algorithm, which have basically changed how we view SEO and how to implement certain changes.
In the past it was all about the quantity of links pointing to your website, keywords, your website’s code and much more.
Of course, this still applies today (in a much more sophisticated and unforgiving way), but SEO is now getting much more than just “SEO”.
If you want your website to rank high in search engines, then your website must be genuinely good.
What this means is that you have to provide your visitors with great, thorough content and great usability. Content that answers their queries.
This is one of the most powerful SEO techniques to learn: Having great content + knowing how to promote your content such that people will read and share it.
And this is the MAIN reason why you should learn more than just the basics.
So what do I mean with genuinely good?
You have to build a brand. A brand that people will remember as being awesome, reliable and associate it with high quality.
This could be a personal brand if it’s your personal website.
When it comes to writing content for your website you should take a look at what is called Content Marketing where we wrote an article – Everything you need to know about Digital Marketing.
Everything that you put on your website will influence what people will think about you and your brand.
And the better the content you put out there, the more clicks, visits, inbound links, shares and conversions you will generate in the end.
Reach Out Locally
Depending on the location and nature of your business, you should consider tapping into the local economy to find new, valuable clients.
While this approach is likely less profitable in a smaller town, more developed areas with larger populations and more potential clients are a perfect place for you to start.
If you operate a local SEO business, focus on consulting in your local area.
There are a few methods you can use to reach out to your local community, and your best choice depends on the clientele you are hoping to reach.
For example, if your ideal client prefers to work with someone he or she has met in person, try attending a local chamber of commerce or business networking events to meet and greet potential clients in person.
Attending local social functions, such as charity events, meetups or even social club meetings, can be another great opportunity to meet new clients.
#2 – Keep a Cool Head
It’s important to maintain a balance. You should go out to events, mingle, engage in small talk, listen and offer “help in advance” strategies.
But, don’t get sucked into prospects that claim: “we only work with people we meet”.
Over many years now, I’ve only found this to be a hindrance to fast progress and a time waster. You deliver results, and that’s what you should focus on.
This may include a speaking gig, complimentary consultations, or even free ranking work for less competitive search terms.
That’s how you convert meetings into real business relationships. Provide a low-cost offer to get a foot in the door.
For many high-value clients, making personal connections this way is the first step to ongoing business.
In building your SEO agency, for example, make sure to research niche industry conferences and register for business events in high-value markets.
How I learnt to keep a cool head and get opportunities coming
In high school I was out hunting for a summer job, walked into a bike shop a couple streets down and got the job in 10 minutes after a chat with the owner.
Looked around the garage and hanging out with low-level peeps, I though that there must be a better place for me out there other than getting my nose shrivelled with cigarette smoke every single day.
So I wandered around during my lunch hours until I found a downtown mall that had opened a few streets further down.
Though it was further away from home (I went around on a bicycle), I figured some store would hire me since it was a new locale.
So I walked inside the mall and wandered around, only to waved by a classmate who said that the department store was hiring.
I immediately went downstairs, filled out the application and handed it to the manager with my resume.
Within minutes, I was called into the office by a huge redheaded man who began to interview me with such intensity that I was thrown off-course.
Thankfully after the tough interview, he finally said that he wants to hire me to be a Sales Associate at $7.25 an hour plus 8% off the top of all sales I made beyond getting out of the red.
It was one of the best decisions I made during the summer that year.
Examples of these high return niches are:
- Home services (water damage repair, home remodeling)
- Real estate (brokers, investors)
- Health (doctors, dentists, plastic surgeons, chiropractors)
- Legal (attorneys)
You should provide a complimentary, hands-on SEO audit for them to review.
Then, schedule a call to share further details.
Use a calendar to get these appointments placed.
Search for upcoming events in your area.
That includes business-to-business (B2B) markets. Create a unique domain (micro sites) and develop content that speaks directly to this audience.
No Immediate Pitching
Make sure not to sell anything on the first touch, or talk about how wonderful you are.
The core strategy should be to listen, and provide unique and immediate value wherever possible. Let them see how you approach a problem before discussing any potential longer term relationship.
They will ask how to work with you when ready. However, it’s OK (and necessary) to follow-up with them.
Leverage education based marketing (blog posts, videos, whitepapers, emails) so they don’t forget about you. Help them subscribe to your regularly scheduled content. You are in the business of authority building and selling.
How About Your Own Event?
You can create and schedule an event at your headquarters, or rent space at a hotel for half a day.
Invite potential local clients whose business you would appreciate and can help.
Offer an incentive, such as a gift bag, a free book, and a complimentary consultation (real and honest value), to get those individuals through your door.
For example, host a free “Your Industry CEO Roundtable” while you provide massive value and solution options that they care about. Be sure to allocate time for networking and a chance for them to speak with others.
A Note About “Selling.”
If hosting your own event, it should not be intended as a “sales-fest”. It’s not a default permission to pitch.
Provide enough value, and they will raise their hand when ready. If they like it, they’ll advocate for your business themselves.
You’ve to understand that clients want to know the 4-step process of SEO, and how you can help them achieve that.
Let them know that if they provide quality referrals, you can help them build and run online campaigns for free, or at a much-reduced rate. This can be a steady stream of new referral clients for you at no/little extra cost.
Other local clients can be reached through newspaper and magazine interviews as well as local online (Adwords, Facebook) advertisements.
Many businesses stop campaigning for new clients after a few contracts are in place. Don’t ever stop. Get a feature article in your local newspaper, continue developing online blogs and get established links from authority domains by reaching out.
When you can provide specific and personal information about yourself and your services, you are much more interesting and attractive to businesses that may want to work with you.
Form a Mutually Beneficial Alliance
Some people balk at the idea of working with another business, but forming a mutually beneficial alliance can be an excellent method of bringing in new clients.
For example, if you are an SEO agency, you likely do not handle all the graphic design needs of your clients.
Therefore, without hurting your own business, you could partner with a firm that does graphics and design.
They will often provide suggestions of contacts who are looking for a trusted SEO team.
This way, you already have an in-road with the potential new client thanks to your graphic design partner’s recommendation. You could do the same with another agency that is in your field.
Keep the communication open and transparent.
Choose a partner agency that is larger than your own, perhaps more like you wish your business to become someday, and offer to take on any work that the larger agency decides not to complete.
Some of these big businesses do not have the time, resources, or interest to work with all their potential clients.
They often refer those clients who they refuse to someone else.
This is where your own business can move in and take over the work, potentially earning a new, profitable client. This works extremely well.
To get started with this approach, hire an intern or use your existing team to mine data from LinkedIn, websites, and blogs in the niche and local area.
Follow thought leaders and potential partners on Twitter and Facebook, and learn more on what they care about. This will help formulate personalized, targeted outreach programs.
Always work on brand authority building for your agency.
When partners or prospects show interest and visit your pages, they’ll see your level of professionalism and feedback from others.
Be sure to stay updated with SEO and keep a list of powerful SEO techniques to use for your clients. These are the sort of Whitehat SEO techniques that you use to show results.
Some examples of powerful SEO techniques:
Learning how to do SEO for your website or to learn more about SEO? We’ve used the following technique countless times during our SEO site audits for clients.
Keep a list of sites where you can submit guest post articles + Maintain that relationship with the Website Owners
Guest posting is one of the more powerful SEO techniques (think: Off-page SEO) where you daily write a blog article related to your business and post it on someone else’s blog
It is not a difficult task to find websites that allow guest posting – we do accept guest posts as well where you can check out our guidelines.
To start guest posting you just need to follow some steps:
Search for a list of top blogs based upon your blog topic
You can search following terms to look for the site which accept guest posting
- “Guest post” + your niche
- “Write for us” + your niche
- “Become a guest author” + your niche
- “Submit guest post” + your niche
- “Become a contributor” + your niche
Identify high-quality sites for guest posting
After deciding a topic, you need to look for the high quality sites. There are many low-quality sites with dubious website layout and poor user experience – these are not the sites you want submit guest post.
To learn more powerful SEO techniques, we highly recommend that you take this free 4-day email course on SEO first before buying any paid courses – such as those from Udemy or Coursera.
When the lead becomes highly qualified, invite them to fill out a simple application to work with you.
Create a limited time access and exclusivity engagement (that is real). They should go through a formal onboarding process.
If the prospect doesn’t follow your instructions, they are likely not a good fit anyway. If they didn’t complete the steps, connect on the phone and find out why.
Make a Bigger Technological Push
Maintaining your business website to be up-to-date and functional is an obvious necessity today if you want to keep and attract new clients.
However, there are other opportunities online and through mobile technology to catch the attention of potential clients.
Spend some time creating detailed custom reports, in-depth research and share in social media.
I assume you already have a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile (and company page) and a Facebook page for your business, but do not stop there.
You will use the people and industry research from earlier to reach out via a cold email.
This first email should be short, personal, relevant. Don’t pitch anything! Explain that this is something you do because you care about, and provide great value to your industry niche.
Reminder: create real content and awesome value.
I receive daily sales emails (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL accounts) that state a report, tool or an SEO audit is available. It’s normally a pitch in disguise and with bad grammar to boot. Don’t do that.
Also make sure to never advocate anything about Blackhat SEO – these are the shady SEO practices to stay away from.
Instead, utilize targeted advertisement options like Facebook ads, Google Adwords, or BuySellAds to get your business out to more viewers.
Create a custom landing page, a video sales letter and test different versions of pages for best response rates.
Use the advanced Twitter search option to look for tweets from businesses seeking help in your field.
Convert those tweets into clients by sending them to a relevant opt-in landing page that aims to solve their problem.
Add a blog to your website and develop a complete and current social media presence with your own and curated content.
Build your blog with high-quality and useful posts that provide helpful insights about your niche and that offer further assistance by working with your business.
Your blog can make you into an expert consultant in your field, a credential that will attract more and valuable clients.
A similar option, especially if your blogging becomes popular, is to write and publish an eBook that you can give away or sell for a nominal fee on your website in exchange for email addresses and subscribers who will become part of your business network.
Have your website ready
Your website represents you, your brand and your company so it’s important that you optimise it for your potential clients to see. That’s their second moment of truth – their second touch point after meeting from you.
Hence, it’s important that you optimise your Onpage SEO of your website with these 10 On-page SEO Techniques that you can use right now.
It’s also important when creating your website to beware of having SEO content silos – you want people to find your site and get the value from the information that you’ve spent time creating!
Make sure your website appears on the first page of Google
To make sure that people are able to find your website online, especially with regards to local consumers and businesses, you will want to rank on the first page of Google.
This means that you need to invest in a proven backlinks formula, where here’s a quick fix – 10 Off-page SEO Techniques that you can use right now.
However, you’ll want to learn the proper method that SEO consultants and professionals use, where we learnt our skills from the SEO Forest Academy course.
You can also offer an online course in your business field that can help provide basic information but offer your services to be hired directly for more one-on-one assistance.
Although you may have some people who take the course and move on, if you impress them, you may gain several new clients as well.
What are SEO Best Practices?
There are 3 types of SEO categories where there are best practices for each category.
By informing your clients about these best practices, the process of learning how to get SEO clients becomes a routine one that gets refined over time.
More traffic = more leads = more sales.
On-site Search Engine Optimization (also known as Onpage SEO)
Now that you have everything in place, you are ready for on-site search engine optimisation.
If you are just starting your website, make sure that you follow the guidelines for SEO.
If you are already have a website, but you want to know if the content is SEO friendly, you will have to use SEO audit tools for this purpose.
These kind of free tools analyse the content and point out which aspect need optimisation.
Make sure you’ve the following in place:
Off-site Search Engine Optimisation (also known as Offpage SEO)
Having finished the off-site optimisation, you are ready to improve your website’s performance using external assets.
Here are some suggestions for this part of search engine optimisation:
Directory Submission :
Directory Submission is continuously working to build quality back links. Prefer an effective directory and select a correct category.
It takes pretty some time to deliver good results, but these results stand out over a longer time period.
Social Media Engagement :
A most important Off-page SEO technique is social media engagement. If you want to make your company, website or blog popular, engage with people on several social media platforms.
Social media charisma will help grow your business and also help you get more back links.
Social Bookmarking Sites :
Social bookmarking sites are solitary of the best platforms to endorse your website.
When you bookmark your webpage or blog post on well-liked social bookmarking websites, you put on high traffic to your webpage or blog.
A blog is an outstanding content and SEO method that allows websites to fabricate their brand, traffic, and reputation.
When you frequently update a blog, you have an excellent platform to produce fresh and high-value content.
This will keep visitors on the page, boosting rendezvous and therefore ranking.
Question and Answer :
One of the superlative ways you can get high traffic is from question and answer websites.
Join high DA question and answer sites and search for questions related to your industry, blog or website and give clear answers to these questions.
Provide a link to your website which will help in bring you more visibility.
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This is part of our series on Everything you need to know about Digital Marketing.
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