By Itamar Gero
SEO is a steadily growing industry, with revenue estimated at $65 billion. Experts project SEO spending to reach $72 billion in 2018 and rise to $79 billion by 2020 – and that’s in the US alone. Meanwhile, a 2017 recent hiring trends report indicates that 44% of companies plan to hire more marketers in 2017 than they did the previous year.
Although projections can be fallible, these figures suggest significant market growth. It’s become clear that businesses are investing more in their SEO efforts than ever, leading some marketers to fear that demand for digital marketing may soon outstrip supply. For you, that means more new business, and more potential for growth.
The good news is there are ways to get ahead. Let’s break them down into four key actions:
- Using your own effective methodology
- Leveraging your personal network
- Investing in scalability
- Investing in your marketing
These steps are not only effective at winning new clients, but also at winning the right kinds of clients.
Use Your Own Effective Methodology
Many SEOs do SEO the same way. Or at least, white hat SEOs do. What you need to do is to operate on a more targeted, focused approach. At the most fundamental, rudimentary level, developing your own methodology requires understanding what a website wants and how it wants it done.
Develop Your Own Methodology
Make sure you understand when a website wants to rank in Google’s organic search results and when a web page wants to rank in the local search results. And then, understand the tools and measures it will take to reach that goal, and organize it in a way your client understands.
What will set you apart from other SEO agencies has less to do with your methodology itself, and more to do with your ability to sell and package the service in an easy-to-understand way. Remember that SEO strategies can be as unique as the businesses they’re designed to rank.
It’s more than just being the fastest ranking SEO or the most effective marketer, but being able to translate that in a way that aligns with your prospects’ needs.
Use Your Own SEO Methodology
Practice what you preach. In other words, apply your proposed SEO methodology when ranking your agency’s website. If your SEO method is effective, then it should work for your brand. From site assessment to campaign roadmap – you should be able to show that your approach to ranking your own website is the same approach to ranking your clients’. To your prospects, that encourages confidence and trust, which is today’s most important currency.
Leverage Your Personal Network
Your first few clients will be people who naturally find you, or people who naturally know you. These people make up your personal network.
Peter Theil, one of the great minds behind PayPal, is a great believer in the power of the “Network Effect”, a phenomenon where a product or service gains value as more people use it. Take the internet as an example. In its early days, Internet had very few users that mostly included research scientists and military personnel. And then, more people had access to the web, and eventually, there were more websites to visit and more people to interact with. In 2017, 3.7 billion or 50% of the global population are on the Internet.
PayPal is one of the many successful businesses that benefit from network effects. It’s convenient because it’s popular, and users find it easy to look for places that accept payments from it.
The biggest challenge in creating the network effect is getting enough initial users for the ‘effect’ to take hold. Theil recommends going after small, dense markets, as that will give you the boost you need much faster than going after bigger, wider communities.
At the very least, make yourself easy to find, and your expertise accessible. In our experience, being on the ground and establishing a local presence is the best place to start. Go where your prospects are.
Network effects can be spurred by a handshake and word-of-mouth referrals. It goes without saying that the best clients are from direct referrals by happy, existing clients. It’s one of the easiest, more sure-fire ways to close a prospect.
Attend Local Events
Your presence in local events presents opportunities to meet potential clients, attract leads, and build your reputation. There are resources that make it easier to find events expos, or trade shows in your area. Some good examples are EventBrite and Facebook.
Free workshops establish expertise and offer value to prospects outright. The workshops present a great opportunity to get businesses that are unfamiliar with the industry on board.
Invest in Scalability
True and efficient scalability allows for expansion and revenue growth while keeping increases in operational costs at a minimum. Right now – when your business is small – is the best time to invest in expertise and systems that let your small agency grow into a larger entity, while avoiding the growing pains that come unexpectedly.
Automate What You Can
Time is of the essence, especially when you’re a business that needs to focus on getting more clients. Don’t do in five hours when you can finish in 6 minutes.
SEO tools are plentiful, and each one offers an opportunity to speed up a monotonous task. The following are some of the best tools you can use to make your job faster and easier:
- Keyword Planner (AdWords)
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Screaming Frog
- OpenSite Explorer
- Majestic SEO
- PageSpeed Insights
- Think with Google
Remember that as a rule of thumb, it’s strategy first, technology second. Establish your strategies, and then let that determine the tools you’ll be using. Every time your team performs a task, think of ways you can refine and streamline that process, so you can do it faster or you won’t have to do it twice the next time around. Implementing SOPs also establishes a company standard and a consistent SEO methodology for all future applications.
Build Your Team (With the Right People)
According to SEO guru Neil Patel, “a business is scalable, only when it has the right people on board.”
When the time comes, you’ll have to start building and adding to your in-house team to handle the workload. Don’t be afraid to spend money on the right people and hire people who are necessary to the operation.
These are people that can do what tools and software can’t. That’s what automation is for – it allows you to maximize human output and avoid wastage of human efforts.
Second, the right people are those with great ideas and aren’t afraid to go forward with them. Sometimes, the value of an employee is not just defined by the work they put in, but the ideas they can bring to improve business processes.
Lastly, invest in employees with multiple skill sets. In a small company, one person might have to perform two or three tasks. The presence and contribution of a multi-skilled employee could be worth more than his or her pay.
The key is to bring on the right person for the right reasons – not simply because you need another presence in the office.
Invest in Your Marketing
As do all SEO agencies, you have firsthand knowledge and experience of the role that digital marketing plays in bringing in leads and driving revenue. But despite helping small and mid-sized businesses with these processes, some SEO agencies fail to invest enough in their own marketing efforts. SEO and content marketing– these two tactics remain as your biggest toolkits to increase visibility in the marketplace and get clients (which also need SEO) to sign up.
Believe in SEO
In a 2015 survey by BrightLocal, 28% of small businesses said word-of-mouth is the most effective way of bringing in new business. It drives home the point that basic business components, such as a good brand and a good customer service, are still very effective even as you venture into online space – and not to be neglected. Because these things will get you your word-of-mouth referrals.
On the other hand, 20% of businesses said SEO was most effective in getting new leads. Sixty-eight per cent of the businesses surveyed did their SEO in-house, while 18% used a consultant or agency, and of those, 76% were satisfied with their agency’s performance.
This reveals two things: one, a portion of small businesses find SEO as a profitable marketing channel; and two, most of those that outsourced their marketing strategies found value in letting other experts do their SEO for them.
Invest in Content Marketing
Best-selling author Seth Godin once said, “Content marketing is the only marketing left”. And not just any content. Invest in original content, whether in the form of a blog post, a webinar, or a video. In these content pieces, create a human connection by adding a personal touch to your posts.
Use content as an opportunity to showcase your expertise and authority in the field, and to prove that you’re as good as you claim to be. There are many ways to do these: infographics, webinars, case studies. These could all be part of an over-arching, extensive content strategy. Some brands and marketers have learned to leverage unconventional channels – such as LinkedIn – to grow their content marketing strategy.
Whatever marketing initiative you have in place right now – PPC, social media, or SEO – integrating content marketing only serves to enrich it. Content marketing gets along well every other marketing tactic, so it stands to reason to allot plenty of attention and marketing budget to your content marketing strategies. Now, more than ever.
To summarize, growing your client base is possible through:
- Effective methodology that you developed and currently use
- Leveraging your personal network
- Investing in scalability
- Build Your Team
- Investing in your own marketing strategies
- Put your faith in SEO
- Allot more in content marketing
Building your client base is no overnight endeavor. Like in other agencies, it’s going to be a long, hard trek. But with the right balance of strategy, people, and value proposition, you will soon find those enquiries pouring in.
Itamar Gero has been on the internet since it was still in black and white. Born and raised in Israel and now living in the Philippines, founder of SEOReseller.com and an avid programmer and investor.