It doesn't matter if you are just starting out as an SEO consultant or if you are already an established agency looking to grow - leads are the holy grail for the growth of any business. There are dozens of strategies, tricks and tools that can help you identify new leads for your SEO consulting business.
The objective of this article is to comprehensively cover all the strategies and tools to find new SEO leads. But in case it doesn't cover a trick or strategy you personally use, feel free to comment or message me and I shall add your trick or tool to the list.
Let's get started
This is the first place you should start. Freelance marketplaces like Freelancer.com, Odesk and Elance have hundreds of small and large businesses seek bids for their SEO projects. It gives you are a ready list of businesses who are ready to spend money NOW to improve their search engine profile.
There are however a couple of downsides to this - for one, depending on where you live, you may find that the rivals bidding for the same projects are grossly undercutting you. That is expected considering that Asian and East European bidders often price themselves lower than American bidders.
Also, such marketplaces have ratings and reviews for providers which are often an influential factor among buyers. As a new user, you may face the prospect of being rejected due to zero reviews.
Trick to success : Do not bid on each and every project. Instead, identify websites that you think you can win, and write a personalized note that is probably much more detailed and actionable than other bidders out there. If the project owner has provided a link to their website or has specified the industry/location, make a thorough analysis of the industry or website and make a grand pitch on why you are the best person to do the job. The conversion rate for such bids are vastly higher than using a cookie-cutter bidding template for all projects.
Classifieds are another place to seek out businesses looking for an SEO consultant. Craigslist is the first thing that comes to mind. Depending on your market, the other popular classified listing websites are Gumtree, Olx and Kijiji.
Trick to success : For Craigslist, use an aggregator like SearchTempest to get SEO job postings from multiple cities and locations on one page. This is an easier way to look up new job postings from the classified service.
There are different categories of businesses seeking SEO consulting. The first category is of new websites that want to set up a search engine presence. The other category is that of businesses that are already established and ranking on top, but have dropped out of the first page due to various reasons, including penalty.
LeadJoint caters to this second category of businesses. The service monitors thousands of Google keywords for changes in search rankings and digs out potential SEO leads - these are websites that have dropped out of the first page of Google for their major keywords and are hence potentially looking for an SEO consultant.
Trick to success : LeadJoint provides its subscribers the ability to monitor 2000 of their own keywords. Use this quota to add keywords pertaining to local businesses from your town or suburb. Businesses that post on Craigslist or Freelancer websites often have dozens of bids from other SEO agencies. By narrowing down the LeadJoint list to businesses in your local suburb, you can aim for fewer competition and thus a vastly higher conversion rate.
This is by far one of the most effective channels to get new businesses referred to you on a consistent basis. Web designers, developers, copywriters and social media marketing agencies work with clients who may regularly need help with search engine optimization as well. Reach out to such businesses in your city or state and propose a referral commission for every business they send your way. One thing to keep in mind is that such agencies work with clients with drastically different budgets and resource requirements. So it is always a good idea to partner with an agency who deal with the kind of customers that you can cater to with your level of expertise and bandwidth.
Trick to success : Emailing such complimentary business services is a good start. However, a better way to do it is to attend local events and meetups of these various industry segments and networking with them. Since this is a win-win partnership, the web designers and development agencies should be as keen as you are to partner up.
When you are starting out with your SEO consultancy, it may seem like anybody who is not ranking on the first page of Google for their keywords would be a hot candiate for consulting. But that is not the case. A lot of business owners are happy growing organically through word of mouth referrals. Others are interested in new growth opportunities as long as it is free. Very few business owners actively seek to grow bigger and one of the avenues they seek to achieve this is advertising. People advertising on Adwords or YellowPages are already spending money to acquire new customers. This segement of business owners is more likely to listen to your SEO pitch compared to someone who hasn't spent a dime on getting new customers.
Trick to success : Tools like ISearchFrom help you quickly view Adwords advertisers for various keywords from different geographies. For instance, if you are from NYC and want to know the advertisers for the keyword 'roofing contractors' in Los Angeles, you can do so in a couple of clicks. This helps you instantly build a list of leads you can reach out to.
Other Promotional Campaigns
Advertising is not the only way businesses seek to grow. A number of local small business owners run promotional campaigns, give out fliers, discount vouchers and market themselves on websites like Groupon - all of these indicate a business owners' mindset that is open to seeking growth opportunities.
Reaching out to these businesses with an SEO proposal that will seek to fetch them better returns than their current marketing campaigns can potentially bring you new clients to your SEO business.
Trick to success : There is no doubt that such businesses have a great potential for conversion. However, when you reach out to them, context is key. A plain-vanilla email that pitches your SEO agency would be deleted as quick as any other spam. Instead, if you call them and talk to them about their Groupon or flier campaign, understand the costs involved and then pitch your SEO campaign as a more effective yet cheaper alternative, then you are more likely to convert.
Lead magnets are essentially "products" that you give away in order to get new leads for your business. In the case of SEO consulting, your target prospects are mostly business owners or marketing managers looking for advice on ranking on Google. You can target these prospects through giveaways like a free ebook on SEO tips or build an online tool to audit their websites. Make sure to capture emails of your website visitors who want to access these lead magnets so that you can reach out to them with a proposal. MySiteAuditor has a paid service to embed a site audit tool on your website that you can use to capture new SEO leads.
Trick to success : There are entire books written on this topic that it is not possible to explain all the tricks to success here in one step. However, in short, content marketing is key to success here. Find interesting topics that people like to talk about in your industry and write blogs or reports on these topics. With proper distribution across online social media and discussion boards, you can aim for traffic to your blogs. Provide lead magnets like useful Excel tools, research reports or PDF ebooks to this visiting audience to gather leads that you can reach out to.
An affiliate program is basically an arrangement where you pay a commission to an intermediate for referring new customers. This can either be your existing customers or a complete third party who has the means to reach out to your target audience. If you are already an established agency, the right way to launch this program is to introduce it to your existing customers. Most agencies regularly receive word of mouth referrals from their existing clientele. By monetarily rewarding your clients for referring new customers, you can convert your goodwill into a financial gain.
Having said that, affiliate programs, if not managed properly, can result in spam and frauds. Be sure who you are recruiting as affiliates for your business.
Trick to success : Affiliate management is a lot of work. To start with, only provide your customers with unique referral codes so that it will incentivize them for word of mouth references. Open it up to the public or a third party affiliate network only when you have sufficient resources to handle the mess that comes with affiliate marketing management.