This post isn’t about how to sell more SEO or close more sales, it’s about how to sell SEO professionally so that you don’t make any silly mistakes, which could be costly to your business.

Upfront checks

It’s pretty important to check the current situation of a website before promising results to a potential client or, indeed, signing a contract. As an SEO agency, you need to do a thorough check of a website to make sure you can deliver.

There’s no reason why you can’t charge for this discovery phase as it’s of value to the client and they should respect you for your professionalism.

Check for Google penalties!

Very important these days and something you don’t want to discover halfway through an SEO campaign.

Check to see if a penalty has occurred or may occur in the future. If there is an issue, then you’ll need to discuss it with the client and adjust the plan accordingly.

As an SEO agency, you need to do a thorough check of a website to make sure you can deliver

Check for manual Google penalties in Google Webmaster Tools. These are the best types of penalty, as you know they’re definitely in place and also know when they’ve been successfully removed.

Check for algorithmic penalties (e.g. Panda & Penguin). Not so easy to detect, but you can get a pretty good idea from Google Analytics and reviewing Google’s algorithm updates. If you suspect an algorithmic penalty, then you’ll have to deal with the unknown, which isn’t easy to budget for.

Other checks…

Check for spammy/low quality back links using tools like Ahrefs.com. If you suspect they’ve a poor backlink profile, you may need to clean it up ASAP to prevent a future penalty from occurring.

Use website analytics to check for obvious signs of issues. Have there been any big changes in traffic that could suggest a previous problem?

Check for website coding issues. You’ll no doubt need to make some changes to the website for your on-site optimisation, but are there any fundamental issues which will need to be rectified and does the web team have the budget and time to implement the changes to fit your SEO campaign timeline?

Check for duplicate content problems as this could hinder progress, especially if content has been pinched from other websites. Make sure the content is unique by using services such as CopyScape.

Check the quality of the website – is the website worth promoting? Will the additional traffic actually convert into sales or enquiries? If not, you may need to suggest they invest in the website to make the most of any traffic they get.

Ask the client if they’ve had any SEO work done before and insist they’re honest with you. They need to understand that if they hold back anything now, it could harm the campaign and ultimately waste their money! Try to get hold of backlink reports and the like to check that what’s been done before isn’t going to cause any problems.

Be Transparent

SEO historically has been a bit ‘cloak and dagger’. Clients saw they were getting results, but had no appreciation as to how it was happening – it was magic!

SEO historically has been a bit ‘cloak and dagger

These days professional SEO agencies should be completely transparent when it comes to the actions they perform.

All links you generate should be reported to the client. E.g. if you’re using private networks or similar, then you should explain why and they should agree to any techniques that may not be 100% white hat and understand the pros and cons.

Trust and the client’s online reputation

The client must trust you to publish content and promote their site. If everything you do has to be approved by a committee before it can be used, you’ll never get anywhere. Make sure they can react as quickly as you need.

Case studies of good work you’ve done and testimonials go a long way to reassure clients you’ll only publish quality professional content.

Set Expectations

You need to make it clear that no matter what your agency does, you cannot guarantee results – because you don’t control Google!

If a client chooses to use you, they do so based upon your previous experience, case studies, and testimonials. They trust you to do your best and expect you’ll get the best return for them based upon the situation. It’s important you communicate this and they understand.

Don’t offer guarantees, don’t offer pay-for-performance, and certainly don’t sell links at $x per pop!

However, you should communicate what they should expect in terms of traffic and how long you envision it will take to deliver, and when results will start to happen – again with the disclaimer of this is what we expect, but nothing is guaranteed.

Educate the client

Some clients have no interest in what you’re doing and others will want to know every single last detail. Clients may ask random questions like “why aren’t we using directory submission services?” or “why aren’t we doing this or that?”

Clients may ask random questions like “why aren’t we using directory submission services?”

The latter can be a drag and drain on your budget, whereas the former seems great at the start, but then suddenly they’ll start to ask questions later down the line and it can become awkward.

So, no matter which, make sure you educate the client as to what you’re doing and why. Budget in time for questions and make sure the client is aware of this budget, so they know they can’t pester you every hour of the day and still expect the same results.

Also, by doing this, you’ll often find that the client can contribute and make your job a lot easier by providing resources and time.

Reporting

It’s important to report and it’s also important to report at regular intervals. You need to show what you’re doing is of value and also have the opportunity to adjust the campaign.

Monthly reporting is typically the best as it gives you a chance to make an impact and test ideas. It also means you’re not wasting valuable budget on reporting.

Be aware of what I call ‘flapping clients’! These clients are impatient and want to know what’s going on all the time. They’ll question everything, wonder why you’re not doing X or Y, and generally become a royal pain in the backside!

“It’s been a whole week and our positions haven’t changed, what’s going on??!!”

As well as setting expectations, make sure they’re aware of the budget assigned to the campaign and what percentage is for reporting. If you get lots of questions and requests for updates, you can politely mention that the scheduled report will be sent over in x days and if they wish to have more frequent updates, the budget will need to be increased. However, you want to avoid this as SEO takes time and we don’t want to keep reviewing and adjusting the campaign before anything’s been given time to take effect.

Remember to report not only SEO results, but also in business terms. If you’re ultimately trying to increase sales – monitor the website’s revenue. Consider reporting on business KPIs that include costs vs. profit so you can show a true return on investment (ROI). No client is going to stop using you if you’re making them money!

Contracts

A necessary evil, contracts are important for SEO campaigns. We all know SEO can take time, especially in competitive niches, and we also know clients can ‘flap’ and lose their bottle and pull out of a campaign – even when their expectations were set upfront!

So when selling SEO, don’t sell the service… sell the campaign.

SEO contracts are there primarily to ensure clients see a campaign through. If a client bails 3 months into a 6 month campaign, not only do they feel bad that they’ve spent money and achieved very little, but also you didn’t get the result for them and your reputation takes a knock.

So when selling SEO, don’t sell the service… sell the campaign. Insist the client agrees to a campaign which gives you enough time to get the results they’re after.

It also, of course, gives you the security to invest in the extra resources you may need to implement the campaign – it works both ways, and make sure they understand this.

A typical contract may be for an initial 6 months and then rolling monthly thereafter, with a 30 day notice period. Of course, you can set your own terms, but just make sure they can’t cancel before the initial campaign is complete.

Also make sure the contract specifies what the KPIs are and what search engines you’ll be optimising for. Don’t assume anything when it comes to contracts.

Getting paid

The contract should also make it clear when you will be invoicing and the terms of payment. Consider using Direct Debit if in UK/Europe or recurring card payments elsewhere.

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