How to Sell SEO in a World Dominated by Scam

selling SEO services

You know what, selling sucks.

Trying to find new clients in a world where so many people think you’re nothing more but a con artist sucks.

But then again, what else are these people supposed to think? Just last week out of the blue I logged in to my old company’s gmail account. 87 out of 91 emails I found there were along those lines:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Get Google Top Ranking!!

Is your Site Optimized with the Google latest methodology called LSI to Rank High?? 

Does your Site Rank Low??? Do you have less traffic on your site??? An end to this entire question we provide a complete solution for your Online Business need.

Now tell me, how hard it is, upon reading countless emails like this one not to start thinking that there must be something wrong with this whole SEO thing?

Do all people think SEO is scam? 

No, I don’t think so. But many do.

If you were to ask businesses in your neighbourhood what they think of SEO, I guess many would confirm that they heard about it and know it can be useful. Some have probably tried it, some of them would claim it’s a business saver (while the rest might say it’s not worth much).

But there might also be many that will warn you about SEO. To them it’s nothing else but a scam to get your cash (and possibly damage your sites rankings forever).

And these people talk. They spread the information about their misfortunes (and no, I don’t think that falling for scam is their fault. If any, it’s ours in not doing a great job at educating people how to spot shady companies. That’s something for another post though).

And so the word on SEO gets out.

But what makes a scam company?

Have you ever wondered what are the characteristics of shady SEO companies?

Overpromising, definitely but legit businesses make this mistake too. Using low key tactics? Yes (although this is almost impossible for an average client with no SEO knowledge to tell). Giving the impression of SEO being all smoke and mirrors? Certainly. In fact, it should be the first warning sign. But of course there is more.

Knowing that, you shouldn’t have a problem to sell yourself as a legit provider. All you’d have to do is avoid making those mistakes, right?

Unfortunately not.

How To Sell SEO In A World Dominated By Scam

There is a number of things you should consider when trying to win new clients.

Your Credibility

In sales, trust is everything. As the old sales adage goes: “if they know you, believe you and trust you, then they MIGHT buy from you”.

And there are 4 levels of trust in selling:

  1. they don’t know you
  2. they know you
  3. they trust you
  4. they buy from you

To sell your services you need to raise your profile to the 3rd level. Below that you have no chance to win a client. So, the first step is to make yourself trustworthy. And you do it by building credibility.

In SEO you can do this through number of ways:

  • Referrals – A referral is the best confirmation of your credibility you can get. Every time a customer refers you to someone two things happen:
    • He or she confirms who you are and that you are worthy to work with.
    • He or she passes their own credibility on to you too. This means that gaining referrals from influencers in your region or industry will increase your credibility even further.
  • Online presence – When your prospect comes across your name every time she looks for information, she has no choice but to start thinking of you as a credible resource.
  • Conferences / local events – likewise, the same happens when she hears your brand associated with business events.
  • Columns in local or industry publications – often, especially at the start you might have very little opportunity to build credibility through referrals or events. In such situations, your local press or industry publications come handy.
  • Professional associations – being a member of relevant professional associations (i.e. for us here in Ireland) also adds credibility.
  • Business accreditation – lastly, becoming accredited by organisations like your local chamber of commerce, Better Business Bureau or similar ones is a sign of credibility in professional circles.

How You Make The First Contact

You can’t find a new client without somehow connecting with them for the first time. It can be personal connection, made at a networking event for instance or impersonal email.

Most, if not all shady companies rely on impersonal methods. It makes sense – you don’t have to interact with anyone. Email is also scalable, many more or less sophisticated tools allow to send mass emails and even guess companies email addresses by putting random strings of words together.

And thus, email has become synonymous with scam (and spam) SEO.

Therefore, you should focus on making a personal connection as often as possible. Here are some ideas:

Local Market

Firstly, I’d start with a local market. It doesn’t have to be your immediate neighbourhood but anything that would make your prospects relate geographically to you is an advantage. After all, where else would you have the strongest connections that in your nearest location?

Availing of local market is quite easy, you can do so through:

  • You are most likely a member of a local Chamber of commerce or similar organisation and can access their networking events
  • There must be some local networking groups (like your local BNI chapter for instance) through which you could develop powerful business connections
  • Not to mention businesses you could drop by and introduce yourself too

Personal Connections 

You should also try to leverage personal connections and these would include your clients too.

  • Reach out to your family and friends for introduction
  • Develop a referrals program, offering your current clients (and associates) incentives for referring you to their circles. The most common way to do it is by offering a percentage of sales but there are other ones too, like bartering for instance.

Business Associations

Lastly, business associations can provide an opportunity of formal but controlled business introduction. On a global scale, Linkedin is one such place, however I am sure there are far better organisations where you live that could connect you with local buyers.

How You Present Yourself

Eventually, if you successfully establish credibility and make the first contact, you will have to prove your worth to a prospect. This usually happens during a sales presentation.

A sales presentation is your opportunity to shine – show your passion for SEO, your knowledge and convince your prospect to hire you. My best advice is to follow those simple rules:

  • Simplify and demystify SEO – On one hand, it’s easy to intimidate prospect into a sale by speaking technical language they don’t understand. At the same time, it’s equally easy to scare them away by doing so too. And the more companies realise that this approach is a warning sign, the harder it will get. So to differentiate yourself, do the opposite. Simplify and demystify all aspects of SEO. Tell prospects exactly what it is, what each piece of data is and what realistic results they should expect
  • Show your previous experience – as in any sales process, a presentation is also a time where you need to firmly establish clients trust. Use previous experience for this. Show your prospects who you have worked with, be specific though, “we have worked with top brands in your industry” won’t really make it. If you can share data on your achievements, do that too. It will be invaluable to your sales process.
  • Use percentages – Vague statements rarely sell but percentages and data are hard things to argue with. If you can, use data from past client work and industry surveys to present your points.
  • Show prospects their business in context – if possible, gather all data about your prospects business – including their current rankings for what you think should be their top keywords. This way you will present them their business and any other data you show them in context of their company.

How You Ask for Sale

Even to many sales people asking for sale is intimidating.

Approaching and presenting to a prospect is one thing, quite difficult in itself. But asking her to buy is anther. It feels pushy. Because of that, many leave out this element, waiting for prospect to take over.

Don’t be like them. Every time you present to a prospect, try to close the sale. Use closing questions, indicators that help move prospect to either make the sale or let her intentions towards buying from you known, for that.

Here are few handful ones:

  • Is there anything that would prevent you from buying now?
  • Can you see how SEO will help you to _____?
  • Is this the type of a solution you’d be looking for?
  • Are these the results you’d be looking for?
  • What haven’t I covered that’s important to you?
  • When do you want to start?

Each of those questions should reveal to you if your prospect considers buying from you. Based on their answers you can steer them into making the final decision to buy.

Other Ways To Get Clients

Are local market and personal selling the only ways to gain clients? No. They are, in my opinion the most effective ones in today’s world but not the only ones. There are few other things you can do to sell SEO:

  • Develop strategic alliances. Part of success in sales is to understand your prospects buying cycle. Depending on the industry, they might never look for any form of standalone online marketing service though. Instead your prospects might be more interested in getting a one size fits all package from their developers for instance. Therefore, developing strategic alliances with web houses might prove a viable way to win clients. You can do it on a freelance basis or through a referral fee you’d pay them for every client they send your way.
  • Blend SEO with other services – Similarly, you can either join forces with another consultant or look for other ways to blend SEO with other services, offering them together as one entity. The difference of this method from strategic alliance is that here you would be one of the entities pitching for work, instead of having it referred to you. The pros of this approach is that you have a much greater control over the sales process. The con? Well, you have to do the sales work, or at least part of it 🙂

How do you look for new clients? Let us know in the comments.


Creative commons photo by Niels van Reijmersdal

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