How to quantify SEO to clients and...


DMG

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...make clients feel like they understand the value of what they're getting?

I find that SEO companies fall into 3 major categories:

1. They do nothing (or close to it).

These companies are generally large-scale remnants of the yellow pages era, or build outs of some non-SEO corporation. Typically, they bill around $300/mo.

2. They do rudimentary things, such as citation consistency checking every month. Maybe generate a blog post which no one ever values, reads, shares, links to. These companies typically bill around $300/mo, as well.

3. SEO thought leaders and legitimate companies who stay cutting edge and generally make things happen. These consultants and companies charge upwards of $10k/mo.

You would think the third category would have the easiest time quantifying deliverables and the value therein. I think not. I think it's incredibly difficult to explain the value of a link that took you 3 years to earn, versus 100 citations that took you one Yext subscription payment via debit card.

Throughout all of this, there is risk, trust, and market forces which are constantly changing. How does it all pan out? I'm beginning to wonder if our industry isn't completely impossible to manage.

How do you help clients understand what they're paying for, and why it's valuable?

How do you get away from the "I'll build you 10 authoritative links per month" model of quantifiable SEO deliverables, to a more natural rhythm of just doing for the client what you'd do for yourself?
 

Kyrton

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

I myself am a small business owner of a SAB and currently shopping for a SEO firm, if I can afford one of the caliper I am wanting. (probably can't)

I am also in a similar world, every business in my field has different overhead prices and different pricing structures. We compete if you will against the "trunk slammers". These are typically very low skilled individuals, working out of the back of their family vehicle and hold no trade or business license. Similar to your #1 and #2.

Now for the rest of us, how do we compete and win clients? I as a 2 man operation need roughly 30 new clients a month as I don't have subscription based services. We all turn our screws the same, all should know our trade the same, all have to be licensed and insured.

How do we stick apart?

Branding, referrals, reviews to show credibility, being the authority of our trade, over promising and over delivering services. That's needed just to get them to call you for a consultation.

Now that they have contacted you, what do you do? For me I do evaluate their particular situation and see what options I have for their situation. I go over each of the options and educate them on each one as to how they work. I'm sure you find a lot of your clients don't know squat about your trade, neither do mine.

Think as though you are the client looking for a SEO company and what is important to them. For me, if I am paying someone to handle my SEO and inbound marketing I need solid Leads to measure success. I don't care about clicks, ranking, SERPs, citations, back links. Show me the money. Like all marketing expenses for a company, we have to calculate our ROI. It's a lot easier to calculate when the monthly fee is so low.

Share a story about a client and how you helped their website. People love stories and can relate to their own situation.
 

DMG

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

Good points. I find that the primary challenge in SEO is when I have to explain that the gameplan has changed.

For instance, say I'm building links directly to my client's website by writing articles for industry leading websites.

Then, John Mueller comes out and says that's a footprint.

So I have to invest the next 3 months rounding up writers and collaborating with them, to allow us to cite supportive resources for our articles.

It took 5 years just to get to the point that I could do that in 3 months.

How do you bill for that on a monthly basis? You've done literally no link building for 3 months!

So, you continue to link "build" (whatever that may mean), even knowing that it's mostly busy work. Or maybe build tier two links form one article to another, each article being supportive of the next.

It's all technically white hat and effective, but there are these periods of time where you just can't show much (other than a firm understanding of what will work over the long haul).

It requires an immense amount of trust. Especially when you HAVE to charge a premium in order to produce elite work that will last the client (and never put them at risk).

Just a rubrics cube that 90% of SEO cookie-cutter companies don't want to solve. You might see similarities in your industry, it seems. How do you deal with it?
 

JoyHawkins

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

DMG,

I completely agree with your first two points. I would categorize myself in the third one but I don't think you necessarily need $10,000 to drive results. My minimum is $2000/month for SEO/SEM.

As far as how you quantify that to an SMB owner, I just focus on leads and ROI. I track everything and that's the main highlight of the monthly reports - how many calls or form submissions did you get as a result of Google. I wrote an article on more specifics here: How to Show ROI from Local SEO - Moz
 

DMG

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

The $10k figure is more a generality, I tend to charge less than $5k/mo as well. I just think that most business owners will let $500 go without any second consideration for 10 months. But, ask for $5k upfront and they all of a sudden have the world's most grandiose expectations.

I had a GoDaddy paypal subscription for around $30/mo which I barely noticed, even though I never used the service. I never bothered to turn the subscription off (until last night). As I'm cancelling the subscription I notice the total I paid to GoDaddy was almost $500!!

There is definitely something to the psychology of the subscription model. An actuarial pursuit that I feel would be worthy of an article unto itself.

Has anyone wrote an article on this topic, before?

DMG,

I completely agree with your first two points. I would categorize myself in the third one but I don't think you necessarily need $10,000 to drive results. My minimum is $2000/month for SEO/SEM.

As far as how you quantify that to an SMB owner, I just focus on leads and ROI. I track everything and that's the main highlight of the monthly reports - how many calls or form submissions did you get as a result of Google. I wrote an article on more specifics here: How to Show ROI from Local SEO - Moz
 
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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

I think the way you show value is by bringing new ideas and showing progress each time you meet. Don't do what everyone else is reading about; do what you've tested and found works.

Even the guys charging $10k/mo may not have the best solution for a particular situation a client (or potential client) could have... at least not without extensive time testing and figuring it out. First way of quantifying results is to show case studies of similar industries.

The next is to try and tie your work back to their bottom line. Understandably, the link that took you three years may not have a direct impact on their revenue. Most people understand what a billboard is, know they may not get direct results, yet still buy those. How can you explain the hard work in getting a powerful link in terms they can understand?

Quantifying SEO and helping someone understand the value is always tricky, since this is "magic" to some people. Break it down into more tangible things - traffic reports with detailed explanations (in lay mans terms) what is happening, the potential audience exposed to the brand, the number of leads they are getting each month, etc.

What sort of activities are you working on for clients? Maybe we can help with some ideas.
 

DMG

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

I think the way you show value is by bringing new ideas and showing progress each time you meet. Don't do what everyone else is reading about; do what you've tested and found works.

Even the guys charging $10k/mo may not have the best solution for a particular situation a client (or potential client) could have... at least not without extensive time testing and figuring it out. First way of quantifying results is to show case studies of similar industries.

The next is to try and tie your work back to their bottom line. Understandably, the link that took you three years may not have a direct impact on their revenue. Most people understand what a billboard is, know they may not get direct results, yet still buy those. How can you explain the hard work in getting a powerful link in terms they can understand?

Quantifying SEO and helping someone understand the value is always tricky, since this is "magic" to some people. Break it down into more tangible things - traffic reports with detailed explanations (in lay mans terms) what is happening, the potential audience exposed to the brand, the number of leads they are getting each month, etc.

What sort of activities are you working on for clients? Maybe we can help with some ideas.
The new ideas are a double edged sword. On the one hand, being ahead of the curve provides a competitive advantage. On the other, the kaleidoscopic deliverables can leave some skeptical clients nauseous.

This is why it boils down to trust. I try to educate my clients as best as possible before signing the dotted line. I want to set their expectations for them.

A small percentage of my clients tend to recalibrate what deliverables they want to see, over time.

Although only a small percentage, it can feel like herding cats. Constantly re-establishing trust as the most recent "SEO is dead" article crosses their path like a laser pointer, or some cheesy half-baked website "audit" tells them I didn't optimize their alt text enough.

Fortunately, I specialize in SEO for dentists.

This ties our SEO efforts back to the bottom line in amazing ways. Even beyond traditional tracking, I'm able to provide insights the lay across the entire market spectrum. For instance, I can help them find the right software for patient SMS appointment reminders. With many choices in the market, I have become familiar with which ones are the best fit for any type of practice.

Like you mentioned, new patients (bottom line) are paramount.

I guess this post is partly cathartic, partly to see if anyone else feels the same way, and partly looking for tips for that monthly phone call.
 

Adam Potaznik

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

This is why I don't do SEO. Trying to explain even basic concepts to business owners involves such a high degree of education into things that they are not prepared to invest their time into learning.

Many business owners can only relate to physical things, and by extension the components of SEO which are visible, such as a website. This is why I sell 360 virtual tours. Most business owners will be more impressed if you jazz up their website than if you add 1000 high quality backlinks.

Explaining that just having a website is like a billboard in the desert, and that you need a proper digital marketing strategy which will cost $10k / month is hard to sell.

Personally, I can't just see a way to sell SEO by itself. I am moving into the direction of becoming a digital business consultant at large. I will work with a small client base. If you want to use my services, it will cost you minimum US$3000 a month but for that you get the full service - a digital marketing strategy involving Wordpress site, SEO set up properly at the beginning with tags and schema, regular content including text/photos/videos, but most importantly it is all tied up into Zoho One - the all-in-one business suite.

The more I dig into Zoho, the more I see it as a way to show true ROI because it improves internal workflows and will be used on a daily basis. Using SalesIQ, live chat becomes part of your omnichannel strategy, you can hook the CRM up to Google Analytics to track users Google Analytics Extension for Zoho CRM and the campaigns module has been updated to make it easier to run email marketing. If you tie it into your PBX with Phonebridge you can get analytics that way, you can also run SMS campaigns with Nexmo.

Of course training people to adopt a CRM and new software is just as hard as explaining SEO, but I will be building a product to help with that. Or charge for direct consulting.

Anyway I know most people reading this aren't really considering becoming CRM consultants, but for me it makes sense, if you can learn SEO you can learn CRM and every business needs a modern software stack to fix their internal systems otherwise the SEO is just siloed to the marketing person/department anyway.

Silly comparison but just did it for fun, last five years, search trend for Zoho has tripled, Moz and Semrush staying stable:

cache.php?img=https%3A%2F%2Fpreview.ibb.co%2Fgiyimb%2Fzoho.png
 

DMG

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Re: How to quantify SEO and...

This is why I don't do SEO. Trying to explain even basic concepts to business owners involves such a high degree of education into things that they are not prepared to invest their time into learning.

This is one reason why I prefer working exclusively with dentists. They are smart, and the kind of dentist I attract wants to learn. My biggest issue is when they drift their expectations based on outsider information, rather than what we originally discussed.

Different, but similar issue.

Many business owners can only relate to physical things, and by extension the components of SEO which are visible, such as a website. This is why I sell 360 virtual tours. Most business owners will be more impressed if you jazz up their website than if you add 1000 high quality backlinks.

Bingo! I have to constantly re-evaluate the way I explain the magnitude of backlinks. "When is the last time you endorsed a dental website with a link?," I'll ask them. Getting them to empathize with the authoritative linking party is critical. It's a tough nut to crack, honestly.


Explaining that just having a website is like a billboard in the desert, and that you need a proper digital marketing strategy which will cost $10k / month is hard to se.l.

My pet peeve is having to explain that the website is worth less than the new patients you get from a ranking. It's practically a matter of common sense. I don't know why this sort of thing needs to be said out loud. But it's because you're right. In the tangible vs. intangible contest, the "real" always wins.

Personally, I can't just see a way to sell SEO by itself. I am moving into the direction of becoming a digital business consultant at large. I will work with a small client base. If you want to use my services, it will cost you minimum US$3000 a month but for that you get the full service - a digital marketing strategy involving Wordpress site, SEO set up properly at the beginning with tags and schema, regular content including text/photos/videos, but most importantly it is all tied up into Zoho One - the all-in-one business suite.

I find there are cases where a dentist only needs a certain thing to solidify their success. Offering all the digital marketing services is nice, in theory. It's not something I currently offer because I feel I'm not the best at everything. Maybe one day I'll have a team big enough for that. However, when they're looking for SEO, that can involve a TON just by itself. A new website that's on-page SEO is better, and RankBrain friendly, for instance.
Adam, I'd like to learn more about your 360 tours. I think these might be a great service for dental offices. Feel free to PM me.
 
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