SEO Client Acquisition method that allowed me to sign 14 clients on my second month since official launch.
I know, client acquisition can be one of the most tedious parts for an SEO, specially when starting out. Hundreds of methods being promoted by gurus and SEO users. Hundreds or thousands of emails sent without response.
Although not relevant, I'll introduce myself. I've been in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for 6 years now, long enough to humbly consider myself really good at it. Going into it, many made it look like it was super difficult and fair enough, there's a lot of information to digest, learning basic coding languages and understanding many things in regards to analytics, the ins and outs of a search engine, Content Management System (cms)… but all in all, once you learn it, you have to be aware of algorithmic changes, update your knowledge regularly and keep doing what you do best. I started as a technical but soon became a "fullstack" as I like to call it and learned how to do it all, not to do it all but to know how to. In my previous role I worked as an SEO & Pay Per Click (PPC) Manager for a super large Digital Marketing Agency and learnt so much, I also learnt that perceived notions are enough to set a price. We were doing a hell of a job but the clients could've gotten the same for 1/10 of the monthly fee, they were paying for the company delivering the service, rather than the service.
In <year> I quitted, the job was great, the salary was pretty awesome, so were the working hours and freedom… I was a bit tired of filling the pockets of the Agency knowing that having a background in d2d sales, Telesales, Pay Per Click (PPC) (email marketing too..) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), all I needed to learn was business management and I was ready to launch my agency. I took 3 months just to understand the ins and outs of running a business, built my site properly and got the monthly organic users to a respectable number, gathered some case studies I had from my own ventures while on a full time job and began outreaching.
It was tough and I was rusty. I was only one week in, 10 hours a day and it was exhausting. I had one of those "it'll be easy" mindsets and I was wrong. I began doing research on the best way to acquire clients as a small business. I refrained from cold calling and began sending FULL SITE AUDITS for free. Yes, I know… not automated from SEMrush or anything like it. Did them all myself. Hours and hours and hours of work without any guarantees that I'd sign the clients. I spent many hours a day just on audits. I did about 26 audits with my voice narrating everything in an easy to understand manner in one month, the next month, I sent them all over, got a response from 20 businesses and closed (signed) 14 of them, I felt goosebumps all over my body. Some of them were a bit on the fence, so I got on the phone with them and was very transparent, prepared an Return of Investment (RoI) estimate presentation. I told them who I am, what I do, who works with me, our mission and the plan for their business. Most of them are baffled that someone would take the time to do it with no guarantees of a reply.
Apparently, most emails they receive are a basic copy and paste sent to 1000 business owners emails hoping it works, and what stood out was the actual intent behind it. I closed those business owners for an average of £3500 per month give or take. Was it exhausting? Absolutely. Very exhausting and repetitive, was it worth it? Yes. Sometimes less is more. In the beginning I had to do everything myself, now 1 year and a half into the Agency, we currently have 23 clients, we lost some, we gained some, but we work with many day ones and none has anything negative to say as we set realistic expectations and tend to under promise and over deliver.
I work with 6 other guys who are frankly amazing on the deliverables and I transitioned into Client closing and managing it all. I too sometimes get involved on deliverables as it is fun but love how things are going, we'll soon add PPC in our service list as that's my bread and butter too and will have a performance based model. No monthly retainer. All performance, it is risky indeed but the guys I'll be working with have done some amazing things and if the standards haven't dropped, 5-10 PPC clients could overtake the whole revenue of the SEO side of the business. Don't lose hope guys. Learn, adjust and patience. That's all you need.
I too have received emails offering services and now I understand what those business owners were saying. Stand out.
Thanks for sharing this man. If you don't mind me asking, what types of businesses were you pitching? What made you choose those businesses/websites over others?
Initially local businesses was our whole shtick. Easy to work with, we understand their demographic as we know the city very well… I'd look for very specific long tail keywords and go to the 7th, 6th, 5th… page of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). I'd input their URL into SEMrush and find their organic users monthly volume. I'd then check to see how their reviews are. More often than not, they'd have great reviews and were doing the right things, just not enough of it.
I have a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s for each industry to know whether we can elevate them and wouldn't reach out to anyone I wasn't sure I can help. That method worked wonders. Deep research and on your audit you'll be hitting each of their pain points. Lots of competitive research, very thoroughly explaining why the competition is ahead of them and how we will change that. It works. If it is indeed true, lying wouldn't work but evidence is all you need.
Nice work and congrats on going solo!
If I may, what kind of advice will you have given your younger self if you had planned to get into the SEO industry with little to no knowledge?
I'm 24, I started in sales when I was 16 until I turned 18. That's when I transitioned from conventional Marketing to Digital marketing. I actually got into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) from an online course while I was studying, thus, I don't know if I'm qualified to give you advice on the matter as that's the path I took. Take courses from SEMrush, LinkedIn Learning, read books for fundamentals, the Moz Blog and YouTube Channel… soooo many resources. The only thing that separates an SEO Manager and a business owner is the fact that one gets a salary and the other one a profit margin. One works on deliverables and the other one on expansion. I'm currently doing less hours than I was when I was a manager. The first 6 months were brutal but now everything is done by the specialists and Manager. I oversee the operations and focus on business growth and acquisition. I have very standard systems and procedures and study 2 hours a day, 4 days a week as I still have a bit of Imposter Syndrome.
Other than that, I'm just a guy who knows SEO, did audits, showed business owners why we're good for their business and sent contracts their way in exchange of a service for money.
Well deserved! All the best again, man! Cheers!
Thanks a lot!
Thank you for this posting. I've spent my time, since the start of the pandemic, learning SEO (I started at a much later age, 39, but i've spent 20 years in IT and consulting). In fact, i'm doing the audit for free thing now. Here's my question to you – how did you find businesses to audit and not come off as cold calling? I'm literally just asking around people i know and if someone has a website and business I make and audit and present to them. My concern was that by auditing strangers they wouldn't' even look at it.
You are right. And if I may answer your question, cold email is the way to get to them. Which is another skill by itself. OP is free to add in his 2 cents here if there is another better way.
Your transparency is inspiring. Thanks for sharing this with the sub. This has been a quality post and this is the reason this subreddit is not trash. Insightful and very promising first real hands down experience.
Can I ask where are you based? And where are your customers from mostly?
Thanks a lot! I'm based in London, I've got 2 international clients and every other client is UK based at the moment
Thank you for your post, again! That is indeed a competitive turf!
One of the most competitive ones. Hence why standing out was the most important thing
I do have one perhaps tough question, though. If you picked up 14 customers in the first month how do you only have 26 now? Is that not only 2 months work for someone of your caliber?
No such thing as caliber lol. We lost and gained clients like literally any other SEO on the face of earth. Some have stayed for an average of 3 months and others are still with us to this day. Sometimes it isn't even about how well or not well you do the job. A few saw great improvement and although we already spoke about it, they subconsciously had an unrealistic expectations that didn't happen on that timeframe as SEO takes time.
The intensity I did put in those months, wasn't the one I put now. Nowhere near. I'm happy with steady growth.
How did you know who to email?
Relevant keywords, SERP, 7th page, input URL on SEMrush, check your own KPIs, if they align to what you consider optimal for your business, contact them.
I launched last week and am deep in the weeds of creating audits and sending them out. No answers yet, but it's reassuring to see that this approach paid off for you.
I have a few questions if you don't mind:
• Seems like some of my emails are landing in spam. How did you overcome that? I'm following best practices: customizing each email, providing value, keeping the copy free of any spam-triggering phrases, not using attachments or link shorteners…
• Did everyone respond after your first email or did you have to follow up to get the conversation started? If so, what did the follow up(s) look like?
• Who did you reach out to in the firms? My focus is content SEO so I'm reaching out to the editorial teams, but not sure if that's the right call.
Thanks a lot!
• Seems like some of my emails are landing in spam. How did you overcome that?
Are you certain of that?
2. Did everyone respond after your first email or did you have to follow up to get the conversation started? If so, what did the follow up(s) look like?
Absolutely not, as I mentioned on the post, I did call some business owners after no answer as I felt like they were missing out but most did answer to be honest. Every business I emailed wasn't a coincidence. I made an excel file with personal names, emails, website, monthly organic visits… "Rocketreach" became very useful to avoid admins and gatekeepers.
3. Who did you reach out to in the firms? My focus is content SEO so I'm reaching out to the editorial teams, but not sure if that's the right call
Decision maker. ALWAYS! Don't waste your time on any other person.
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