Search Engine Optimization services are always in demand. If you’re good at the technical side of SEO, understand keyword research, understand how to get guest blogging arrangements and all that stuff, then you might want to consider setting up an SEO business – after all, promoting a website is in many ways less work than ‘building it.’ If someone else is designing the great products, selling them and doing the customer service, that frees you up to focus on your side of the business – marketing and SEO.
The question is, how can you get your first SEO client? It’s hard to prove that you’re good at SEO unless you have a website that is already popular. You have a few options there.
Use Your Site as a Testimonial
One option is to use your website as a ‘living testimonial.’ After all, if you can outrank SEO professionals that prove you know your stuff. You could also start some blogs and niche sites and make those rank well, so that when people look for SEO services, they’ll see that you have evidence of the sites you helped to rank.
If you have friends and family, help them with SEO and use them for testimonials. Don’t just do it completely for free, if you can get around that, though – charge them a discounted rate so they value what they’re getting, and so that you can start working on how to price your products.
Do Niche Services
Another option to help you get your first client is to offer narrower services. Head to the freelance and job bidding sites, and start bidding on the specific job requests. When you have no track record, it’s going to be very hard to get people to trust you to deliver a full SEO package. You might find it easier, however, to get smaller contracts.
Instead of trying to take on full SEO work, start smaller. Do SEO articles, or directory submission. Offer services where you install SEO plugins for webmasters. Do keyword research and provide people with reports.
This will help you in a lot of areas – it will get you a reputation for delivering high-quality work, on time. It will help you to figure out what you should charge for different pieces of work. Once you’ve nailed all that down it will be easier for you to get your first real, independent client.
One nice thing about SEO is that it’s something that people don’t just need once. There is a lot of scope for getting repeat business and ongoing contracts.
It may take a little time to get your business off the ground, but you should resist the urge to spam people. There is some search engine optimization companies that do a lot of direct mail and email marketing, to the point of looking at lists of recently registered domains and emailing the site owners or posting letters out to newly registered companies offering their services for SEO.
You might pick up some clients that way, but they might not be the kind of client that you want. It’s important for any business to understand that your ideal client isn’t just “someone who wants to give you money.” Your most important client is the one that wants your services, appreciates your services, and understands what you offer, so they’re willing to pay the price and will perceive the price to be good value.
The kind of person who is willing to sign up for SEO services from a cold contact may not be a great client to work with. They probably aren’t informed about what they want, and that might mean that they have unrealistic expectations, and they could be difficult to deal with.
If you put effort into cultivating the right kind of client, you will get people who will not just buy your services, but who could become loyal customers in the long term and brand advocates too.
Another thing to think about is what those clients do. Are you willing to work with any company? A testimonial and a portfolio addition for a company that does drugs, alcohol, adult content, weapons, or something with religious or political connotations could be a problem if you aren’t interested in ‘taking a side’ on those issues. Some people are happy to represent their brand by taking a stance on a hot button issue. Some people are not. Think carefully about what you want to do and what your values are.
Think, also, about whether you are willing to take on multiple clients with the same target market. Most good SEO companies will not do this because it means that they end up competing against their work. Is that the sort of thing you want to address (especially if you’re operating at a local level). Price your work accordingly. If you are going to limit your job, then you need to make sure that you are charging enough to make that worthwhile.
You might want to do some social media marketing, and head out into the most popular webmaster forums to market your services there. Many webmasters are more interested in growing their content, and discussing issues of moderation, speed, content creation, affiliate marketing, etc. They don’t want to put the time into SEO because it’s such a complicated issue to deal with.
Your first SEO client isn’t going to be your last. So don’t rush into it, and don’t worry about getting the perfect client or the best price right now. Look for a project that you are passionate about, and one that you would be proud to add to your portfolio. Do the best that you can, and use it as a chance to experiment with workflows, take notes about how long things take, and spot any issues with your pricing.
If you have friends that work in graphic design, web development, hosting, or other areas of the online space – even social media marketing or PR – then take advantage of those contacts. They will be able to help you to find prospective customers. Remember that this is a two-way street, though, and you should refer business to them as well. Together, you could put together a nice loop of goodwill and repeat business.
Remember that it’s easier to lower prices than it is to raise them, so rate yourself as if you are an established, quality brand, even if you aren’t well known yet – you intend to do professional quality work, so make sure that’s the impression you give off. No-one on the Internet knows whether you’re a big company or a smaller brand that does their work from the spare bedroom. You can present an image of being a great company, and that will help you to get customers that want quality service.
Starting an SEO company isn’t going to be a path to riches, but it will give you a chance at getting a stable business doing something that is always evolving, and that will challenge you, and expose you to new topics and subjects that you might not otherwise have learned about. It is rare to find that sort of work these days, and knowledge services are the future. So, if you’re committed to keeping your skills current, and you are going into the industry knowing exactly how challenging that might be, why not give it a go and build an SEO brand?