Earlier this year, I conducted an online survey of SEO agencies. I found that nearly 30% of these firms had fewer than a quarter of their business coming from Google Search. Besides online search, the most popular marketing channels among SEO agencies were word of mouth referrals, content marketing and direct marketing (cold calls, cold emails, etc.)
Finding new sources of SEO leads has been an industry on to itself for a long time now. Quite a few people have white-labeled websites offering SEO services and the sole purpose of these websites is to gather leads that can then be resold to digital marketing agencies. Another chunk of the marketers sends out thousands of emails every day to small business owners soliciting SEO services. Even if a fraction of these recipients reply in the affirmative, it makes for a good number of leads that can be sold.
Acquiring leads from such dubious sources can be risky. The main reason is that you do not know if the lead you buy is sold only to you or if there are multiple recipients. Also, do you really want to spam thousands of business owners to acquire new customers?
There are a number of legitimate alternatives that you can use to acquire new leads for your SEO business. Here are ten of them to begin with. (If you have more tools to help find SEO leads, mention in the comments and they will be included in the article)
The first and foremost channel to acquire new customers for SEO is through freelance marketplaces like Freelancer.com and Odesk. Dozens of small business owners post on these marketplaces everyday and it can be a great place to start. However, there are two downsides to this. Firstly, there are a number of 'get rich quick' like projects published on these websites and it takes some effort to filter out these projects. Secondly, with millions of registered freelancers, the competition you need to out-do is immense; especially if you are new to the place and do not have many reviews against your name.
Trick to succeed : The trick to getting conversions on freelance marketplaces is to target projects where you can identify the owner through their website name or past projects. With this information, if you can identify their email address, write a personal email to them with your bidding. This way, you can avoid the rat race within the freelance marketplaces and be seen much more effectively.
One place that is quite ignored these days while scouring for SEO leads is Craigslist. This website is still on top when it comes to local businesses posting advertisements for SEO consultants. One downside however is that since publishing ads on classifieds is a two-way street, you will find a massive discrepancy between the number of posts seeking SEO consultants and ads from agencies seeking new clients. So in a way, you can be sure that a number of businesses may have already sent out an enquiry to agencies who have advertised.
Trick to succeed : There are two tips here. First, regularly post ads about your agency on Craigslist. You will not believe the number of business owners who still look up there. Secondly, while scouring for new leads, use a service like SearchTempest to do a nationwide search rather than doing it city-by-city.
There are few websites dedicated to SEO lead generation as LeadJoint today. The concept behind this service is simple - the website monitors search positions for thousands of keywords on Google and tracks down websites that have fallen for their major keywords. The conversion rate among such leads is much higher than cold calls.
Trick to succeed : Although LeadJoint is available only to paying subscribers, you can access the first hundred leads for free by entering your email address in the search results page. Test the effectiveness of the service before making the purchase.
If you follow internet marketing forums, you are likely to frequently come across panicked business owners whose websites have just dropped from the top of Google search. Such businesses, like it is with LeadJoint, are pretty attractive prospects for SEO consulting. You can set up a Google alert for keywords like "website traffic dropped" so you can be alerted every time there is a discussion around this topic.
Trick to succeed : Google Alerts has been accused of being broken by several regular users. If you are not seeing results, you can use an alternate paid service like Talkwalker that monitors the social media for you.
Organized industry meetups are pretty common across the world, at least in the cities. This is a great platform to find new contacts and establish a personal or business relationships. Find out local meetups for various industries and participate in them. You can also take part in web designer and PPC advertiser meetups to find partners who you can refer clients with.
Trick to succeed : Always give before you take. To succeed in meetups, talk to the organizer and arrange for an 'ask me anything' session with the participants. This way, if you are participating in a carpet cleaners' meetup, you can answer all their questions about Google ranking in the session. This helps you build an authority among the audience which can also translate into actual business.
This is a pretty effective tactic if your target is the local business owner. Few such business owners actually understand how Google Adwords operates. As a result, they lose a lot of money advertising on keywords and locations that do not matter. This a target group that is ideal for SEO prospecting because not only are these business owners already spending money to acquire customers, they are also doing it inefficiently. By pitching SEO consultation as an alternative with a relatively higher return on investment, it is easier to find leads that are interested to listen to you.
Trick to succeed : One trick to get a foot in the door is to provide helpful advice to the prospect about their Adwords campaign. For instance, I found a bunch of Australian local businesses like roofers and plumbers who showed up on the ads when I searched for the relevant keywords from India. By providing these helpful tips, you can start a conversation that can often lead to new SEO business for your agency.
A significant number of business owners still consider YellowPages to be the holy grail. However, with Google doing a better job in listing commercial businesses, YellowPages today is solely a legacy system. That has however not stopped businesses from spending money on advertising there. Many times, these business owners tend to be non tech-savvy. You can approach these business owners with an SEO proposal.
Trick to succeed : The key here is educating the business owners on the pros and cons of YellowPages versus Organic listing. It is a good idea to set up an appointment to provide free consultation. This gives you the opportunity to educate the prospect which is an essential first step before clinching the project.