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SEO 25 min read January 15, 2018

How To Gain More SEO Clients And Not Lose Them

How To Gain More SEO Clients And Not Lose Them
Picture by: Maria Marikutsa

Christopher Grozdon
CMO/Co-Founder of DASH-SEO, an Austin, Texas based SEO & Digital Marketing Agency focused on delivering excellent Local, National, and International SEO & Digital Marketing campaigns where digital efforts are transformed into tangible results.
Running an SEO agency is a very difficult task, it requires a lot of work, dedication, and passion. Throughout this article, we hope to help you better understand some of the "ins and outs" of running an SEO agency.

Featured within this piece are helpful tips to maintain steady growth and build the SEO agency you've envisioned. Read on to learn everything from some of the basics to the more granular tips and methods to help your SEO agency stand out amongst the competition. Enjoy!

What does a 'client' mean to you?

This is often the first question you should ask yourself when on-boarding a new client to your agency. There are so many types of clients across a wide variety of niches. You can encounter everything from smaller, local SEO-oriented clients hoping to rank high in their locale, all the way to high-tier, corporate-level clients who are expecting fantastic results in the quickest amount of time to maximize ROI to appease investors and shareholders.

Regardless of where your anticipated clients fall along the spectrum, it's important to remember and reflect upon a few things when you first meet the client and discuss your offerings:
1
Initial "gut feeling."
2
High-maintenance from the start?
3
Client's anticipated goals and if you'll be able to fulfill them.
4
Client's anticipated budget and how that will best align with your
bottom line.
5
Contract duration.


#1: Initial "gut feeling"

There's a saying: "go with your gut" and it's really quite true in most scenarios. It's been proven that the gut and the brain are connected more than we ever previously thought, so if upon your initial meeting with the potential client you begin to notice an uneasy feeling where something isn't quite right, you may want to gather the rest of your team and see what their take on the potential client is.

This way, you'll be able to form a cohesive, team-based approach to the potential client while validating your team members' opinions. If the majority decision is to not involve yourself with such a client due to "bad vibes," it's probably best you politely decline to do business with such a group and move on. You may now be saying to yourself: "Turn down business?!". Yes, when you first start out as an SEO agency, it's tempting to take whatever business comes your way via inbound leads, referral traffic, social platforms, etc… but you'll soon begin to realize some clients are just simply not worth the headache.


#2: High-maintenance from the start?

If you receive a lead for a client who right from the start demands nearly instantaneous responses, price negotiations, or just an overall sense of unwarranted entitlement; you may want to reconsider even associating with this individual anywhere, let alone with your SEO agency.

High-maintenance clients can sometimes end up costing you money over time due to the constant hand-holding, after-hour requests, and the "can you just fix this little thing?" moments. After a year of that, you may look back and realize you're barely at a break-even with this client due to the dedicated, and over-extended hours provided by your valuable employees.


#3: Client's anticipated goals

Are you eager to please and become a "yes wo/man" whenever a potential client says they need XYZ solutions? If so, you may want to step back and take a seat as you could potentially be costing your agency a lot of money. Delivering on promises is one thing, but when you choose to offer potential clients everything under the sun, it places you and your agency in a particular horrible position where nobody wins.

The client becomes dissatisfied with the lackluster service in part because of your overextension. You become dissatisfied with the poor feedback and potential money lost along the way with outsourcing work for which you and your team are not necessarily qualified for.

Finally, if the goals aren't met in a timely fashion, what's the point of having a goal? Goals are meant to be accomplished, and if you end up not delivering, it decreases morale across the board. Do yourself a favor and be yourself. Don't be "everything" to "everyone".


#4: Client's anticipated budget

We've all encountered clients who are more than happy to pay you your requested fee, monthly retainer, project cost, etc. We've also encountered the overwhelmingly frugal clients who won't part ways with a penny unless they see an absolute, defined reason to. The latter of the two is something you should run away from…fast.
The penny-pincher clients are not only the worst for their unnecessary frugality; they're the worst because they're often the most demanding without realizing they're on the bottom-tier on your scale of service. Yes, every client should be treated equally, but honestly speaking, if you realize your enterprise-level client's site just went down and you also realize an entry-level budget client is requesting an extra batch of blog posts; who are you going to respond to first?

This is why it's ideal to have dedicated teams to each tier of clients, so the clients themselves feel the same compassion and care your high-tier clients feel.


#5: Contract duration

Contract duration is a tricky thing, especially in SEO. It's often difficult to have companies commit to a 6-month (or longer) contract without some pushback. The often received response is: "Can we just try it out for a month or two?" to which you should reply with a strong, yet persuasive "No."
It's important to educate potential clients on the average time they'll need to invest in an SEO campaign to start seeing tangible results and real ROI. This is typically 6 months at a minimum, especially for larger, more competitive niches.

If a client has heavy hesitation with committing to 6-month contract, you may want to reconsider doing business with their company as they may breach the contract early (believe us, it can happen) due to believing SEO should equate to an overnight success story.

All in all, lay down the guidelines in an easy-to-digest format and whatever you do, don't guarantee results. It's not only unethical to guarantee results in SEO, it'll make your agency look bad if you don't meet those expectations.

How to obtain new clients

Receiving an organic, inbound lead is one of the best feelings you can have as an SEO agency owner. You're beginning to see your hard work come to fruition and result in the form of a potential client. Yet, what are some of the methods to obtain clients at a more rapid rate and with greater success? We're glad you asked:
1
Incentive-based offerings.
2
Complimentary SEO audits.
3
"Applying" to job postings you believe would work well with your agency.
4
Ranking for your local SEO search queries.
5
Providing real value in roundabout ways.


#1: Providing real value in roundabout ways

Providing an incentive for people to engage with you is a basic, psychological principle which many SEO agencies overlook. Creating something as simple as an email newsletter which provides SEO tips and methods for visitors to subscribe to can go a long way in passively converting potential clients into real clients.


#2: "Applying" to job postings

There are many job search engines which provide an amazing number of new job postings every day. Yes, you may encounter companies who treat you very poorly when you send them a cold-pitch, but for every 100 "No"s you receive, you could score a few response with an astounding "Yes!".


#3: Ranking for local SEO queries

It's important to treat your own SEO agency's site as a "client". What we mean by this is to invest the same amount, or more, of time you would make for a high-paying client into your own site and you'll begin to see fantastic results with ranking for local search phrases pertaining to SEO. Everything from "SEO company near me" to "best SEO company in [city]" to "[city] SEO agency". The possibilities are nearly endless and you should attempt to capitalize on all of them!


#4: Providing real value to users

When you provide real value to users, even if it's something not directly related to SEO, you can begin to see some great results. At DASH-SEO, we developed a guide on how to buy DOGEcoin, the alternative crypto-currency based on the famous meme. We just thought it would be fun to create a guide, seeing as there wasn't a great amount of information on how to easily purchase the said coin. It's now ranking on first-page results for a number of DOGEcoin related queries, and we've received some interested user inquiries curious about all things DOGEcoin.
Now this isn't to say you have to write about something as random as DOGEcoin, but think out of the box and maybe create a local guide for your city with a specific niche intermingled throughout the post. An example could be "Best Bike Trails Throughout Portland, Oregon" if you want to attract a healthy, active crowd who may very well happen to be startup owners looking for SEO services. Once again, the possibilities are nearly endless and if you become creative with your ideas, you'll be able to garner in some great, new traffic.

What to charge clients for your SEO services

Pricing is always a touchy subject, not just for SEO agencies, but business all around the world within all niches. People think pricing is their "sales leverage", which is really a backward mentality established during the mid-century, "Mad Men" era. Nowadays, if you want to be successful, you should have to price somewhere on your site. It doesn't have to be front and center, in your face, but it should be embedded near a "services" page, or possibly in an "about" section.

SEO agency pricing should be something which is derived from the following:
1
A set of goals.
2
Your average cost-of-living.
3
Future employee projections & salaries + benefits.
4
Brick & Mortar location pricing.
5
Annual Software pricing.
6
Cash on hand.
7
Lawyer & Accountant fees.
8
Miscellaneous expenses.


#1: Goals

What do you want to gain from your SEO agency? Do you want to help create jobs and be a vital component of your local economy? Do you want to see a branded empire eventually form? Or do you want to build it up as quickly as possible and sell to the highest bidder willing to buy you out?

All of these options are perfectly acceptable and rational goals, it's just you should focus on choosing one and sticking with it. This way, your goal will more easily rise to fruition and you'll generate a stronger sense of accomplishment, thus leading you to become inspired to take on new and exciting projects throughout your life.


#2: Average cost-of-living

If you want to have your SEO agency in Austin, Texas rather than San Francisco, California, you'll most certainly notice the immediate benefits of the significantly reduced cost-of-living.

However, with that reduced cost-of-living, there are certainly trade-offs to anticipate. The local talent pool may not be as qualified, the fun things to do around the city may not be that fun after a few months, and it may end up costing you more in the long run by inhibiting your overall growth and potential success being isolated in a smaller, lower-cost city. Alternatively, it could be the best decision you'll make with setting up shop in a lower-cost city.


#3: Employees, salaries, & benefits

It's often said that the most expensive part of any business is employing people. This is very true in the SEO agency environment. It's important to have the perfect balance (it's different for every agency) of employees to clients to expenses where everyone is satisfied.

This will, of course, be developed over time and fine-tuned all along the way, but it's good to have a periodically updated game plan of how many employees you'd like to bring on each quarter and how that correlates with your anticipated quarterly growth.


#4: Cost of a brick & mortar location

Brick & Mortar locations are more of an ego feature than anything else nowadays. SEO agencies are similar to banking institutions in the sense that nearly everything can be accomplished online and remotely. The brick & mortar location is merely there to provide presence, brand awareness, and an overall sense of "we did it!".

There is something really special about having a physical location, but if it's purely to appease others and you don't see much economic benefit from it. If you decide to go remote, set up some virtual offices with registered agents in your locations and have a small office presence for location purposes and mail and you'll be good to go.

Remote workers, if they're right for that style of work environment, often perform much better than your 9-5, cubicle-stranded office workers. This is primarily due to the fact they're able to choose their favorite style of work environment. Whether that be on their couch, their favorite coffee shop, or in the park. It really doesn't matter as the long as the work is being completed and the employee morale is high.


#5: Software pricing

This is a relatively minor expenses in the grand scheme of everything, but if you're not careful, you can definitely end up signing up and being locked into some SEO software programs which you may realize you don't necessarily need. This is why it's important to take advantage of free-trials and test run some demo versions of your SEO software before fully committing, because the costs can creep up on your budget each month if you're not careful.


#6: Cash on hand

What we mean by this is not wads of cash in the literal sense, but cash in a checking or savings account which can be used as an emergency fund if something comes up. Just as it's always important to have a personal emergency fund with 3-6 months of expenses socked away, it's equally important to have at least the equivalent of 3 months of expenses of readily available cash for your business. This can be used for anything such as stolen/damaged hardware, building issues, loss of clients, etc. This will ensure everything is flowing steadily while you address the issue at hand.


#7: Lawyer & accountant fees

Don't skimp out on these expenses. It may seem to be a good idea in the short-term to try and handle accountancy or legal matters by yourself, but it will almost always end up costing you more in the long run when you should've consulted a professional from the start. This is the equivalent of what you preach to your potential clients as an SEO agency, but in a different industry.

If everyone did their own SEO, yes, some would succeed, but the majority would fail and end up costing themselves more than just their time and effort. Do yourself a favor and invest in a reputable accountant and lawyer to have on a retainer or on an on-call basis depending on your needs. You'll thank yourself later.


#8: Miscellaneous expenses

These can add up quickly and eat into margins at some agencies who can't control spending. The common scenario is fulfilling a void. What we mean by this is once you're in a good place as a company, financially speaking, you'll begin to naturally seek out ways to optimize your company, your employees, your office, etc. This can be anything from offering your employees fresh, green smoothies at $8 per smoothie every day to having artwork installed to create a nicer ambiance.

None of these are true necessities and most SEO agencies, and companies in general, who offer an overwhelming amount of perks are not the best places to work for when you remove the shiny exterior due to overcompensating for everything from excessively long hours to poor management. It's the equivalent of the neglectful parent not showing up to your sporting event as a kid and buying you a materialistic gift the next day. Don't be that company.

How much time to allocate to your clients

Time is a truly limited resource which you can never regenerate without sacrificing something in the future. When you're running an SEO agency, you'll realize there are really never enough hours in the day.

However, there are ways to optimize your time:
1
Implementing time management skills.
2
Balancing between over-performing and delivering solid results.
3
How to not experience the dreaded "burn out."


#1: Time management skills

Time management is crucial in any aspect of life. If you wait and wait and wait until the last minute, you'll be consumed with stress and inevitably crumble under pressure or produce poor results.

When you implement time management skills, it can be something as simple as choosing to stick to a strict deadline, no matter what. It can also be as advanced as placing a time distribution monitor on your computer to track where you have moments of distraction and what caused them. It's completely up to you how analytical you'd like to be with it, but the bottom line is that you should always be conscious of time; it flies by.


#2: Balancing act

Many SEO agencies, when they first start out, are extremely eager to please and will go well above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to producing results for their clients. Over time, better processes are put in place and you'll be able to have a more refined determination of what is "overperforming" and what is "just making the cut". It truly depends on your niche and employee productivity levels, but as long as you continue to reopen the performance case studies, you'll begin to realize what is holding you back and what is helping you excel.


#3: How to avoid "burn out"

There are really only so many productive hours in a human being's work day. After a while, you just simply lose a majority of your productiveness and perform at a relatively lower level than during the peak of your day. This is completely natural and a good thing. It's a sign to take a break and go outside to smell the roses, socialize with some friends/colleagues, and take in life for what it is; a beautiful thing.

Being a workaholic is initially ideal from a financial perspective, but it may end up costing you more than money in the long run if you're only focusing on work and neglecting friends, family, and health; and what good is money if you have nobody to share it with?

How to ensure your clients remain happy

There are many ways to ensure your clients remain happy. Obviously, the most important is customer service. Customer service trumps everything in comparison. If you have your customer service down to a tee, you can use the following to enhance the overall client experience with your SEO agency:

  • Custom, Monthly reporting.
  • Conference calls.
  • Follow-ups.
  • Clear communication.
  • Maintaining that level of happiness.
  • Providing excellent customer service.


Custom, monthly reporting

With custom, monthly reporting, you're able to showcase your excellent efforts to your client in a presentation they'll be able to identify with on a personal level. Instead of just regurgitating data and information, choose to place a personal touch on your monthly reports and you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd.


Conference calls

Conference calls are good to have with your client and their team periodically to ensure everyone is on the right page. This will also help your client identify the weak links on their side if there happens to be any.

A "weak link" can be anything from a disgruntled salesperson who hates the idea of SEO (they're out there, believe us) and would prefer to cold-call 1,000 people every day, to the graphic designer who thinks 1990s color palettes are going to make conversions skyrocket.

These conference calls are able to help in more ways than one, and the only way to find out is to start scheduling them with your clients.


Follow-ups

Following up on the occasional, larger task makes a huge difference. Your client is parting with their hard-earned money, so the least you could do is send them a follow-up message to let them know the status of their project or campaign. It goes a long way.


Maintaining that level of happiness

Keeping a relationship 100% happy and fulfilled at all times is virtually impossible, but it's important to be adaptable and learn to roll with punches. If your client had a bad month due to an algorithm change, it's important to relay that information in the appropriate manner to said client. This will most likely produce a positive effect when they notice you're a no-BS type of person and are just giving it to them straight.


Providing excellent customer service

Any business will nearly always have spectacular success if they have excellent customer service with a quality product or service to back it up. That's all you have to do at the end of the day. That's really all there is to it. It sounds easy because it is easy. Just do a great job and give it your all and you'll be just fine.

The SEO industry is just as big as the number of websites out there and we all know that is nearly an infinite number of potential clients. So don't worry too much about your competition and just focus on your awesome SEO agency and you'll begin to see success over time.
There are many ups and downs within any business as any entrepreneur will tell you, yet hopefully, with this guide, you'll be better prepared for said ups and downs while being able to handle the day-to-day operations of your agency. Running an SEO agency requires a lot of work, dedication, and passion; but we know you can do it! Believe in yourself, see things through, and grow your agency at a steady pace and you'll begin to see the true, positive effects of being your own boss.

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