How to Get Quality Clients*

There is a lot of talk about how to get traffic or how to increase conversions. The highest form of SEO seems to be ROI driven. So you can measure how much money you earn for each dollar you invest. That’s all fine. In reality it’s different though.

When offering SEO or any kind of high complexity services it’s not only about getting as many eyeballs as possible and converting them to clients.

You also can’t measure the ROI by simply subtracting the money it costs you to get that client from the expected revenue based on the sum you agree on when you sign the contract. In the long run it’s about the feasibility of the project and how the clients either implement the advice themselves or assist you to get the work done.

As everybody knows there are so called difficult clients.

I don’t want to focus on the difficult clients today though. My focus lies on getting the “quality clients”. I know that it might sound strange to refer to the quality of people like they were products but there is no obvious alternative I can think of right now. Please add yours in the comment section.

Let it be said the the difficult clients in most cases cost you more money along the way than you really earn. So you should aim at getting the right clients from day one, quality clients. I have been working with clients for a decade now so I have noticed some patterns. So how to get the quality clients who support you while you take care of them?

Clients that know who you are are of higher quality

In the early years of my SEO career I had to compete for generic search results. So people would find me by searching for SEO related keywords, like e.g. “search engine optimizer”. I ranked #1 for the German term for a few years. It was low but steady traffic, enough to get leads on a regular basis. These people have been searching for anyone and I just happened to be on top of that list.

So whether it was me or someone else, nobody cared. I often encountered problems with those people. They didn’t know me so they didn’t trust me enough. The trust didn’t suffice to implement the often substantial changes to their sites. They were like “here comes this guy we have never met until a few weeks back and wants to tell us that we need to rebuild our site from scratch?”

Focus on (personal) branding instead. Get your name out there. Publish a blog and guest write for other publications. Show your level of expertise. When clients know who you are before approaching you the foundation to implement changes is more solid.


Clients from referrals are even better

Clients referred from other satisfied clients are far better than those who find you via generic keywords on Google or on Google at all. They already knew that I was to be trusted because their friends or industry peers have recommended me based on their positive experience. There are even recommendation chains possible. I got a client I worked with for 6 years based on a recommendation. Then this client recommended me again to another client I work with ever since, more than two years by now.

Focus on making few quality clients happy and those will recommend you to others.


Out of town clients are less time-consuming

At the beginning I was trying to get some local clients among others, I optimized for [SEO + city] for example. I got mostly difficult clients that way. People seeking a locally rooted SEO specialist did it because they did not trust strangers they can’t meet. Even after a meeting or two they didn’t trust me enough. They wanted to meet me again and again, sometimes sit around and talk for hours even before the contract was signed.

Later I focused solely on national and international clients.

Not only didn’t they want to meet me and waste time on being friendly with each other, they were also more trusting. So in case I had to implement a major change it wasn’t a problem or a reason to sit around in a meeting. Clients from out of town do not look for a service provider to feel cozy but one they consider to be an expert.

Focus on clients from everywhere, even abroad, do not limit yourself to local clients you can meet in person. Limit the number of meetings, especially before the contract is signed.


Clients seeking very specific services are of higher quality

In my early years I made the mistake of offering a service for people seeking “search engine submission” that is all those still new to the Web who didn’t know you don’t need one. It was a tiny offer I wanted to implement for one client a week or so, a quick way to earn some additional money while helping lots of people. It was a blunder.

The service was very cheap so entry level webmasters asked for it: these clients were so uneducated about the Web that they did not understand what SEO was about and what I was doing despite minute explanations on my website. One even threatened to sue me because I “didn’t do anything” while they failed to check the Google index and to look below the hood.

Focus on quality not price. Do not offer cheap services. Offer very high-level specific services like “Android market optimization” for example.


Mid-size clients are easier to handle than tiny or huge clients

I have worked with one man show businesses and international corporations throughout the years. Of course I worked with small businesses of all sizes as well. Working with a tiny company with two or three employees can be as frustrating and fruitless as working with an international brand. In both cases you don’t have the access to the decision makers. Either the bosses are doing everything themselves so that there is no time left to talk to the external service provider or the company is so large that you do not even get to speak the person actually responsible.

Mid-size businesses ranging from a few employees to several dozens are the best to achieve something. You need to have the ability to talk to the owner but also someone dedicated you work with on a daily basis.

Make your services affordable but not cheap. Do not work with clients that are too important or busy to talk to you.


Clients approaching you directly are to be preferred

There is an awful concept called outsourcing. The only thing it succeeds at is cutting short term costs. So some clients I have worked with were actually not my clients but clients of someone else. I talked with that person not the client themselves. By now I don’t do it anymore, I learned the hard way. It takes weeks until your feedback reaches someone and you get a reply if at all. You can not change anything yourself even if the tasks do not make sense.

A client has to speak to you directly. Everything else is low level.


Clients who seek you out beat those you run after

In German you say “client acquisition” for cold calling businesses and similar tactics to run after potential clients. I never believed that could really work so I only cooperated with the people who approached me. Even some of those expected me to persuade them they need my services.

I refused to convince undecided clients after the first few tries.

Why? These people haven’t decided whether they need you or your services and want a consultation for free. I told them to think about what they need and come back. They didn’t come back in most cases but they didn’t waste my time either while I worked with those who knew what they wanted. Imagine someone going to a barber shop wondering whether to get a haircut or not? Who in their right mind would try to convince them?

Focus on the few people who really know what they want and when. Tell the others where to research. Refuse to explain yourself.


Clients who ask for results not techniques rather succeed

There is a big difference between a client who says “I need SEO” and one that asks you to improve their website or to help them sell more online. The first one is convinced that SEO is the way to go even in case it isn’t. When you tell them it isn’t you lose them. So either you have to do what the client says whether it helps or not or you have to give up. The second client doesn’t ask you for acronyms or techniques but just wants their site to perform better.

So whether you use SEO, CRO or UX doesn’t matter as long as the outcome is right.

A business person with a clear goal, like increasing sales sounds more difficult at first but focuses even more on the goal and not what exactly you need to to to accomplish it. Maybe you do not even have to touch the site and some email marketing will help for example? The more open-minded the client is and the more you can choose your techniques yourself, the better.

Imagine someone approaching a mechanic and telling them which tool to use or what exactly to repair. It suffices that the client knows what’s broken or rather what they want to achieve (make the car run again). The mechanic knows better how to fix that.

Focus on the people who don’t know better than you what you have to do for them. You are responsible for the solution, not them. They have to know what they want but not tell you how to do your work.


* What I see on when searching for [seo services]