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All Resources by Lindsay Halsey
As you launch and scale your SEO offering, one of the most important components is packaging.
How will you group your SEO services in a meaningful way that makes your offering easy to sell and deliver?
Learn how to create an SEO services offering that includes one-time and recurring services.
Watch the Video
Use a Model to Package Your SEO Services
Our goal is to create a single model that we follow consistently. A consistent approach makes it easy to repeatedly price, sell, and deliver SEO services.
The most common models for delivering SEO services include:
- Recurring (Monthly)
Our approach to SEO blends one-time services with monthly. It includes three offerings:
- SEO Assessment
- SEO Set-Up
- Monthly SEO
Let's explore each in more detail.
This project is an introduction to your SEO services. It’s an easy way for a prospect to get started with SEO.
An SEO Assessment is targeted towards those who don't know where to begin. They might be new to SEO altogether, or just starting a new business. They may have been burned by an SEO agency in the past.
The ultimate goal of an SEO Assessment is to identify a site’s current state and to create an SEO roadmap that will lead to growth. This project serves as a low commitment, trust-building exercise.
An SEO Assessment doesn't cost thousands of dollars. It's meant to bring new prospects into your sales cycle and help them get started.
An SEO Assessment doesn't take forever. This project can be completed in a week or less.
An SEO Assessment includes:
- Introduction to SEO: How do the search engines work?
- Website Evaluation: How does the website stack up in the areas of technical SEO, content, on-site optimization, and off-site SEO? What are the site's strengths and weaknesses?
- SEO Strategy: Where do we go from here? How do we turn weaknesses into opportunities for growth?
Note: An SEO Assessment isn't an SEO Audit. An SEO Assessment is at the 1,000-foot level. It looks at the most critical dynamics and provides an overview of opportunities to help gain traction and SEO results.
Upon completion of the SEO Assessment, the client is ready to take action. This is where our next stage begins.
SEO Set-Up is a one-time project to build a website’s SEO foundation. It's completed in a relatively short time period — one to two months is an ideal timeframe.
This project is considered an accelerator. It moves a client through the initial time-consuming tasks required to get started with SEO.
SEO Set-Up can be completed on a live website or begun in conjunction with the development of a new site. In the case of a site in development, the execution phase of work is invested in the new website.
SEO Set-Up includes three phases:
- Research & Planning: This phase includes tasks such as setting up Google Analytics, connecting a website to the Google Search Console, and creating a Google Maps local search listing via Google My Business. We also invest in keyword research, competitive analysis, and content strategy.
- Execution: This phase includes tasks completed on a customer's website platform, such as updating page titles and meta descriptions, fixing broken links, improving the alternative text, building an XML sitemap, and more.
- Results & Next Steps: We expect to see improvement in the search results within mere weeks of completing the execution step. It's now time to review these results with your customer and talk about the next steps.
Our guided approach at Pathfinder includes an SEO Checklist which includes the steps needed to deliver the SEO Set-Up offering.
Next, let's explore monthly SEO services.
Monthly SEO Services
If you design and build websites for your customers, then you’re already familiar with the need for ongoing maintenance to keep a site running smoothly. Launching a new website isn't the end of the story; any website will need regular support in order to stay up-to-date. This kind of support is best delivered via a monthly maintenance plan.
SEO isn't a “set it and forget it” marketing initiative, either. The search engines continue to evolve, and so do your clients’ businesses. SEO, therefore, requires ongoing efforts in content marketing, technical SEO maintenance, and off-site SEO. For this reason, we usually recommend that clients engage in a monthly SEO services plan.
Effective monthly SEO services require three components:
- Communication: This is the most important piece of a successful SEO effort. To be successful in SEO today, collaboration and feedback are required. A monthly phone call is a great way to ensure you’re on the same page as your client(s).
- Reporting: Each month, it's essential to deliver a summary of results and observations. Typically, this takes the form of an emailed report which combines your comments and observations with information from data tools like Google Analytics.
- Action Items: These are the exact steps we’ll take each month to drive results. Each month’s progress will build on previous months, and eventually, solidify your SEO position for the future. One key component of this step will include collaborating on content optimization and expansion.
As we package SEO services for delivery on a monthly basis, consider offering three tiers of service:
- Good: This is for prospects just getting started with SEO.
- Better: This is for prospects who are ready to drive results.
- Best: This is for prospects who want next year’s results today.
There are many ways to differentiate your tiers of service. Here are a few options:
- The frequency of calls and meetings, which increases as project engagement increases.
- Your role in content production, which ranges from delivering a plan to delivering and executing that plan.
- Your role is off-site SEO, which also ranges from delivering a plan to delivering and also executing that plan.
Here's an example:
Frequently Asked Questions
Put pen to paper and design your own SEO packages.
- What names will you use for SEO Assessment, SEO Set-Up, and your monthly SEO plans?
- What services will be included in your monthly plans?
Once you have this in place, you are ready to structure your pricing.
Then, you are ready for pricing.
Google Analytics is a powerful — and free — analytics platform. It connects seamlessly with platforms like Pathfinder SEO. And it contains all the information you need to make data-driven marketing decisions.
If you've ever set up Google Analytics or joined us for a training webinar, you're aware that it takes time to configure. The current best practice is a dual setup — two Google Analytics properties within a single account for each website.
First, you’ll create the main GA account. Then you’ll set up one property for Universal Analytics and another for Google Analytics 4 (the new version of GA). Next, you‘ll add the tracking code(s) to your website.
But that's still not all. If you want to measure key performance indicators such as how often a form gets completed or the amount of revenue from your online store, then you'll also need to configure events, goals, and eCommerce tracking.
Investing time into setting up Google Analytics is easily justified… After all, it's how we’ll know what’s working and what isn't within your current marketing plan, and that's pretty important.
But whose responsibility is it to set up Google Analytics? The clients or yours? And, if your agency is doing this work, how are you being compensated?
Selling Google Analytics Setup to Your Customers
Any time you set up Google Analytics for a customer's website, you are providing a service. This service can be sold in a number of ways:
- As a stand-alone project,
- As part of a new website build, or
- Integrated into an SEO Set-Up or Monthly SEO services.
If you decide to package Google Analytics set up as a one-time service, then it’s the perfect suggestion for right after a new site goes live and before you invest time into traffic-generating activities like SEO, email marketing, and social media.
If you’re going to integrate Google Analytics with a new website build or an SEO campaign, make sure you include it as a line item in the scope of work, and account for the time it'll take.
When selling SEO services, it's important that your customers understand what Google Analytics is, why it's important, and how many steps are required to make sure their data is accurate and insightful.
Selling Google Analytics Tune-Ups
Even if your clients already have Google Analytics on their websites, there is likely new work to be done.
Why? There is a new(ish) version of Google Analytics which requires a few hours of work per client to leverage the new capabilities, while still being able to access the historical data in the previous version.
Remember to avoid doing this work for free. Instead, take the time to educate your clients about the benefits of Google Analytics 4, and suggest a one-time project to give them a new roadmap and allow them to keep up with the changes. We call this project a Google Analytics Tune-Up.
If you don’t want to upsell as a one-time service, you could decide to dedicate part — or all — of your SEO retainer’s monthly tasks to properly configuring Google Analytics.
Google Analytics Training
If Google Analytics 4 is new to your agency, or you need to brush up on custom events and goals, we have free training available.
Access on-demand training and ensure your agency is up to speed:
It's happened a few too many times over the years: A client says they've engaged another digital agency for a service that we actually offer. We wouldn’t have minded had that client known we provided that service, yet determined we weren't a fit.
But when a client hires another agency because they didn’t know everything we offered, we feel like we’ve failed. We’ve failed to communicate with our customers about the extent of our offerings and we’ve failed to make strategic suggestions so they can take advantage of those offerings at the right time.
Do all of your customers know you offer SEO services? If you've been designing and developing websites for years, then you already have a treasure trove of potential SEO customers. These customers are the perfect first customers for your SEO services since you already know both their audience and their website.
How to Introduce Your SEO Services to Current Customers
Start with an Email
The easiest way to get started is via email. Here's an example:
Subject: Now Offering SEO Services
First, I want to thank you for being a ____________ customer for the last year. We appreciate your business and intend to be consistently helpful, serving your needs in any way that we can.
I’m writing to you today because of that intention.
If you’re like many of our customers, you’re facing these challenges right now:
- You need more business
- Meaning you need more leads
- Meaning you need more traffic
Businesses frequently hear that they need a website in order to drive online sales. But truthfully, a website alone won’t generate online business (or even leads). You need a website that can catch traffic.
Catch traffic? Yes; it’s like catching fish. Put your net in the wrong part of the lake or sea, and you’ll get nothing. Put your website out there without a way for Google to find it, and you’ll get little to no traffic.
That’s why we’ve started helping customers with their SEO. It’s a way to maximize an asset in which you’ve already invested (your website) rather than spending even more to drive traffic via paid search or paid social ads.
Organic traffic is the best way to generate new, qualified leads. But you’ll only get organic traffic if Google knows to send it your way — which is why we’re excited to help you.
Our SEO services begin with an SEO Assessment so we can identify where you are today and create a roadmap for growth. Then, we move into an SEO Set-Up where we build your SEO foundation. Finally, we offer monthly services so we can ensure your traffic continues to grow and your site evolves with the times.
Are you interested? Let’s schedule a call to talk about your business goals in 2022 and how SEO might be just the right fuel for the fire.
This might feel a bit sales-oriented for you; you can certainly tone down your introductory email to fit your own voice. But this is a way you can introduce customers to your existing services. You don’t even need an SEO page on your website yet.
Follow Up with a Call
During your next client meeting, save some time to talk about SEO services. Approach your client with a business strategy mindset and ask general questions such as:
- What are your business goals for next year?
- Are you getting enough leads/sales/revenue from your website?
- Are you happy with your website's current visibility on Google?
- What would it look like if your website received twice as much traffic from Google next year?
None of these questions have the word “SEO” in them. Why? Because ultimately you aren't selling SEO services. You're selling something bigger: business growth. And you want to sell the promise of a better business future.
As you get to know the business's goals, pain points, etc, you can begin to introduce SEO services more formally. If a customer has already engaged another SEO agency, simply let them know you’re here if/when they want a more integrated approach.
Share a Story
If SEO services are new to your agency, you may not have SEO-related testimonials or case studies to share. But you do have horror stories to share. A customer who paid too much and saw no results. A site that lost traffic after a redesign. A customer who was ghosted by an SEO agency.
In the beginning, you can use these types of stories to help sell your SEO services.
Here's an example:
“I know you had a bad experience with an SEO agency in the past and have since invested only in Google Ads. We've heard these same stories from many customers, so we decided it was time to start offering our own SEO services. We already know you, your business, its goals, your audience, and your website. And we know SEO. We have customers already getting great results, so if you'd like to learn more, I'd be happy to schedule a follow-up call.”
You can also get a lot of mileage out of a single testimonial by sharing it with current customers when you remind them that you’re offering SEO services.
Don't Miss the Opportunity to Serve Your Current Customers
Take the time to make sure your current customers know that you’re offering SEO services in-house. Existing clients are your biggest opportunities for initial sales.
It's the end of the year already, and time to plan for 2022. When it comes to the SEO services you offer, here are some things you can do to set your agency and your clients on a course for growth for the coming year.
Planning SEO Strategy for Your Clients
At Pathfinder, we guide you to take a holistic approach to SEO. A holistic approach focuses on the long game, which doesn't require large shifts in strategy as the SEO industry evolves.
When we talk about SEO strategy, we think about each customer's strengths and weaknesses. Our goal is to focus our efforts on the most effective and productive tasks in terms of turning weaknesses into opportunities.
Take a step back to think about SEO strategy for your customers. Review your client's web presence against each of the four pillars of SEO — technical, content, on-site, and off-site.
You can score each pillar if you'd like to give your clients an idea of how they rank in each pillar. Here's a sample scoring spreadsheet. As you go, list action items that will lead to growth in weak areas. These won't always be tasks that can be completed in a single sitting or even in a single month. They will, however, begin to create a roadmap. Here are some examples:
- Technical SEO — Focus on speed and performance.
- Content — Update the content on key service or product pages.
- On-Site SEO — Scan the current title tags and meta descriptions. Draft updated copy, edit it and implement.
- Off-Site SEO — Improve the strategy for acquiring new reviews on Google Maps each month.
With big picture insights in hand, it's time for project management. Create a 3–6 month plan for each client and layout tasks in your project management system to align with the above action items. You may need to break them into smaller pieces.
Do the action items fit within the monthly package sold? If not, this may be a time to upsell your customer to a higher level of monthly engagement.
Note: Project management and this in-depth review of SEO strategy are paid engagements. They should be part of your monthly client work during December. If December’s already booked with SEO action items for clients, you can always schedule this strategic work for January.
Planning to Scale Your SEO Services
At our SEO agency, December has never been a big month for closing new business. New clients typically show up in January. But this doesn't mean that December is a quiet month on the sales front.
The sales work we invest in during December always leads to new deals closing during the new year. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to ensure your new year sales get off to a strong start:
Do all of your past and current customers know you offer SEO services? If you've been building websites for years and only recently started offering SEO services, the answer is probably no. This information gap is a missed opportunity. Your past and current customers might be looking for help with SEO marketing right now and not even know you offer it. The simplest solution is to send an email to all of your clients who aren’t yet working on their SEO with you.
Would any of your current SEO customers benefit from a change in monthly plan? Ideally, this is an opportunity to upsell. For example, moving a client from your basic SEO Maintenance plan to a higher-level plan, including content marketing and more. Sometimes, though, you may recommend that clients move down a level instead. Perhaps they needed your Action level plan for 6 months post-launch and can now shift to an SEO Maintenance plan. Reach out to any customers if you think there‘s a mismatch between monthly retainer and actual SEO needs.
Have you followed up with those leads who have recently received a proposal? At our agency, we sometimes do a great job with SEO discovery calls and proposals but fall flat in the follow-up. Drop any current prospects a follow-up email and keep the ball rolling.
When your agency first starts offering SEO services using our guided approach, you’ll follow our systems, which include Pathfinder’s SEO Checklist and Ongoing SEO lessons. You’ll quickly learn how to build an SEO foundation for your clients, as well as how to explain SEO.
As your SEO offerings grow, you'll want to continue to invest in building out your internal systems. Do you have systems that integrate SEO tasks into your project management software?
If you’re working with a team, you’ll also want to define standard operating procedures (SOPs) and/or workflows to ensure that everyone is on the same page and delivering work on time.
You might also want to leverage our email templates: make them your own, and then save them in your email account so you always have something ready to send when you need it.
Year-end agency planning includes taking stock of your finances.
As you do a financial review of your agency’s performance last year, here are some SEO-related questions to explore:
- What percent of your agency’s revenue came from SEO services in 2021?
- What's your current monthly recurring revenue from SEO services?
- What are your recurring SEO revenue goals for 2022?
- Are your SEO services profitable? If not, are you overdelivering or undercharging?
Welcome a New Year
Cheers to your success in 2021 and continued growth in 2022! Launching and scaling SEO services is a great way to build your recurring revenue which has a myriad of benefits. If you aren't a Pathfinder SEO subscriber yet, sign up today and start taking advantage of the lessons, tools, and coaching that a guided approach to SEO provides.
It's that time of year ... sale season. Here are great deals for freelancers and agencies to save on products, courses, and tools we love.
30% White Label Maintenance For Life
Take 30% off GoWP's White Label Maintenance Plan for life. Are you working nights and weekends just to keep up? Struggling to scale your agency because it's you doing all the work? Or maybe you have in-house developers, but tedious maintenance work interrupts their day. You need help so you can focus on what you do best — not fixing sites after a problematic update. GoWP can take the low-value work off your plate so you can focus on growing your agency! We've done it for hundreds of other agency owners and we can help you. Discover how GoWP can increase your recurring revenue, help you scale, and give you your weekends back.
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
My Web Audit
Get 50% off for 3 months on monthly plans or 3+ months free on annual plans.
Do you want to sell more web design, SEO or, marketing projects? Use our website audits (and 8 other kinds of reports) to stand out from the competition, build trust, deliver value fast, and ultimately close more deals.
Stop telling and start showing your leads and customers WHY they need to invest in your services. Don’t miss out on our best Black Friday deal for My Web Audit — Get 50% off for 3 months on monthly plans or 3+ months free on annual plans.
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
40% OFF for 4 Months on All Hosting Plans
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Deal Ends 12/1/2021
Last Time To Get Courses without Membership, 33% Off
Starting December 1st, this site will be memberships only. During the sale, you can get 33% EVERYTHING: courses for the last time, or the annual membership for the Creator Crew. This includes courses like Master Full Site Editing, Getting Started with Beaver Builder, and Podcast Liftoff
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
Sell by Helping
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Deal Ends 11/30/2021
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Deal Ends 12/3/2021
50% Off the Trailblazer Project Discovery Blueprint
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Deal Ends 11/29/2021
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Deal Ends 11/29/2021
40% Off - Learn Oxygen Builder Course
Want to learn how to create stunning custom websites in Oxygen?
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Deal Ends 12/1/2021
Josh Hall Co LLC
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Deal Ends 11/30/2021
100% Termageddon - auto-updating website policies
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Deal Ends 11/29/2021
Service Provider Pro
2 Months Free On Agency Client Portal Software
Fix your systems, processes, and project management with SPP.co so you can scale your agency. Get 2 months free on any plan, no credit card required.
Deal Ends 11/29/2021
$50 Off + Free Advanced Promotion (a $149 total value)
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Deal Ends 11/23/2021
WP Care Market
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Deal Ends 11/30/2021
40% off all Funnel Packs
We're offering a 40% discount off all Funnel Packs for our Black Friday promotion. This reduces our very popular 5 Pack Offer to the lowest ever price of $352.80, as one example. There are other offers as well such as the brand new Nurture Bundle (Funnel Packs & Nurture Copy together) and the Future Bundle 2022 (where people can pre-order our next three Funnel Packs).
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
Special Yearly Discount (12 months for the price of 8)
We're offering a yearly discount where customers will get 12 months for the price of 8. For monthly customers, there is a 10% discount.
There's a $10 taster option, where people can try one month of Nurture Copy for only $10. Finally, we have the Nurture Bundle - Buy Nurture Copy and Funnel Packs together for a special price.
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
Umbrella Digital Media
The Website Identity Framework (The WIF) 50% Off
The must have white-label web agency toolkit to stop website projects waiting on content from clients (50% off) thrive.
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
Amplify Content Academy
Lifetime Access to the Amplify Content Academy (At a discount!)
The Amplify Content Academy is the home of highly effective content marketing. We teach how to write less often, and leverage content assets via high conversions, distribution and more.
Always being updated, the special offer gives you lifetime access to the academy and all future courses, at a bargain price.
Deal Ends 12/24/2021
Foundations of Website Accessibility Course + $2,500 in Bonuses
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Get the Foundations of Website Accessibility course plus $2,500 in bonuses when you enroll before November 30, 2021. Total value: $3,500!
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
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(Normally $120, save $25 and get the complete Quick Start Roadmapping for $95 as part of this BFCM event.)
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
25% Off Your First 6 Months & All Services at Pathfinder SEO
No matter who you are - agency owner, freelancer, or site owner - improving your SEO is critical to your growth. The good news is that there’s no better time to sign up for a guided approach to SEO with Pathfinder. You pay less than ever and start seeing results right away.
Deal Ends 11/30/2021
The newest version of our guided SEO platform is here! Take a 60-second tour:
The New Platform
Technology changes. And the first versions of our software were without the thoughtful leadership of dedicated designers.
In this new platform, we bring all of the features you’ve become accustomed to in a guided approach to SEO with an improved user experience.
Here's a look at the highlights.
Streamlined SEO Checklist
Taking a step-by-step approach to SEO has never been easier with our easy-to-follow lessons.
Built-In SEO Tools
From keyword research and rank tracking to monthly reports and Google Analytics integration, our SEO tools are simple and actionable.
One of the best parts about guided SEO is that it gives you access to your very own SEO coach. Meet with this coach every month to assess your performance and stay on track.
A dedicated resources section with everything from how-to documentation to templates for freelancers and agencies who offer SEO services following our guided approach.
We are also grateful to our customers for their feedback and encouragement as our product has evolved over the years.
Schedule a Demo
You may not know this but this is the third version of our platform. We’ve come a long way and we’re still just at the start of this journey. Schedule a demo to learn more.
When you prepare for a call to pitch SEO services, it's easy to follow into a trap — investing too much time and energy into the evaluation of a prospect's current SEO performance.
It's a trap for two reasons. First, you haven't been hired yet and time is money. If you invest an hour into assessing a site in the sales cycle, that is lost time. Second, if you spend too long getting ready for the call, you are more likely to overwhelm your prospect with a laundry list of to-dos during your SEO discovery call.
In this post, you'll learn a 10-minute process to evaluate a site during the sales process.
10-Minute SEO Evaluation
Does the website rank for its own brand name?
This is SEO 101 — a website should be easily found when searching by brand name. This isn't a given. Sometimes a business has a generic brand which makes it competitive to rank for its own name. Other times, a site might be brand new and not yet on the map.
Go to google.com and search for the brand. Assess how visible the site is and how much real estate the business owns via additional assets such as a Facebook or YouTube profile.
If the business is local, check to see if the Google Maps listing appears in the right column of the search results.
Key Takeaway: If a site doesn't rank for its own name, then this is likely a significant pain point and where you'll want to start with SEO.
How big is the website?
Next, explore the scale of the site. Stay on google.com and do a search for site:thedomain.com. This tells you how many pages Google has indexed on the domain.
Is the site small, medium, or large?
Key Takeaway: This helps you to gauge future effort. Smaller sites generally are less time-consuming when it comes to tasks like keyword research and on-site optimization.
Is it easy to convert into a lead or a customer?
Go to the website. Evaluate the calls to action and usability. Can you find the contact page within 5 seconds? Are there calls to action to help a visitor become a lead or a customer?
If you are going to focus your attention on driving traffic to this website via SEO, then you want to make sure that traffic can generate sales. Otherwise, your work will have no impact on the bottom line.
Key Takeaway: This helps you determine if the site is ready for new customers. If not, you can still invest in SEO. You'll want to invest in usability and conversion rate optimization in parallel.
Who is the website trying to reach?
This question is all about the audience. Spend a minute looking through the main navigation and homepage content. Can you tell who the website is trying to reach? You might not be 100% sure (and this is a great question for an SEO discovery call), but you should be able to get some clues.
Does the site represent a business with a local, national or international audience? What problem does the business solve for this group of people?
Key Takeaway: SEO is all about positioning a site in front of the right audience. This is typically easier for local businesses in low competition spaces such as an architect or a salon. It's typically harder for larger audiences such as a vacation rental company or insurance brokerage. This can help you answer questions about when a client can expect results.
Is the website mobile-friendly?
This is a quick check. Go to Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Drop in the homepage and check to see if it passes Google's bar.
Key Takeaway: Mobile-friendliness is a must. If the site isn't responsive, then upgrading to a modern design needs to happen before you invest in SEO.
Does the homepage have content? Is the blog regularly updated?
Spend a minute reading exploring content. Does the homepage even have content? If so, does it include keywords? Does the site have a blog? If so, when was it last updated?
Key Takeaway: Regardless of industry space, quality content is a must. Get a quick sense of if content is a strength or a weakness for the site.
Does the brand engender trust?
This is a first-impression question — would you trust this website? If it took you a minute to find the contact page and the blog hasn't been updated in a year, then you might say no. Alternatively, if you are greeted with testimonials and trust symbols from third parties, then you might say yes.
Also, note the quality and quantity of reviews on Google Maps or Facebook. What are customers saying about this business?
Key Takeaway: You want to work with businesses that are good at their jobs. If a prospect has 1-star reviews on Google Maps, they may not be a good fit for your agency. Also, Google is looking to trust symbols such as review counts so it's helpful to have an early impression on trust.
Does the website have authority?
A great website won't perform well on Google without domain authority. Get an early understanding of this measurement via the aHref's Backlink Checker.
What makes “good” authority depends on the industry space. The more competitive the industry, the higher the domain authority for the top-ranking sites. You can add a few competitors into the tool to see how your prospect stacks up.
Key Takeaway: Think of domain authority as a website's neighborhood. You are doing a quick look to see if it's in a good neighborhood. The site may not be in a neighborhood at all (a low domain authority) or it could have spammy backlinks from past SEO work that are of concern. Your goal here is to get a big-picture feel for the site's authority so you know what you are starting with.
Create a list of your key takeaways. These can be high-level talking points during a sales call. For example:
- Solid brand results. “Your website has great visibility for brand-related keywords. This is a great baseline. Now, the site is ready to get more traffic in the non-brand keyword space. We can really amplify your traffic by going beyond the brand.”
- Not mobile-friendly. “I noticed your homepage isn't mobile-friendly. This means it doesn't have good usability on smaller devices. Is this something you are already tackling? Perhaps you have a new site in development?”
- No domain authority. “I noted your site doesn't have any links pointing from other websites to your website. Google uses these links to understand your business's authority in a space. I've seen this many times for brand new websites. Is your site new? If so, we can really jumpstart growth by focusing on high-quality link acquisition.”
- No homepage content. “Your homepage is the most important page on the site and I see it has very little content on it. We'd want to start here by expanding the content on the homepage. This is SEO 101 and it'll have an immediate impact on results.”
During your SEO discovery call, avoid reviewing a laundry list of these takeaways. Instead, use one or two as conversation starters to help ask good questions. The SEO discovery call is all about asking good questions and listening carefully.
You are ready for the call! Happy pitching!
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When should I start thinking about SEO for a new site? Will I lose my rankings on Google when I redesign my website? What are 301 redirects?
These are just a few of the questions our coaches answer frequently about SEO for a website redesign. In this post, we'll cover the steps needed to position a newly designed site to perform better than an old site in search engines.
The action items are broken into four sections based on when the tasks are best accomplished. Timing is everything when it comes to SEO and a website redesign.
SEO Checklist for a Website Redesign
WHAT TO DO NOW
1. Set up Google Analytics and the Google Search Console. Before you invest in a new website, it's important to collect baseline data about your existing website performance. The two best portals for this are Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Both are free tools from Google.
Google Analytics provides you with general website performance statistics such as how many sessions your website receives, what traffic sources are responsible for, and how each page on the site performs. Here's how to get started with Google Analytics.
Google Search Console is an SEO-specific platform. It helps you understand what keywords are driving traffic to your current website and what pages are most important. It also is a communication channel with the search engine as it provides you feedback on how your site is being crawled and indexed. Here's how to get started with the Google Search Console.
2. Analyze your current organic search traffic. Now that you have Google Search Console set up, it's time to understand the keywords that drive traffic to your site and what pages or posts they correspond with.
Log into the Google Search Console and navigate to the performance section. Look through the list of top-performing keywords. Make notes or export the list.
Change your view so you can see what pages these keywords map to you. You want to make sure to preserve the top-performing pages on the new website. For example, if all of your organic search traffic comes from blog posts, then you'll want to ensure the new site has a blog and that you migrate your old blog content to the new site. Alternatively, if you have strong traffic to services pages, then you'll want to make sure you have a page for each of these services on the new site.
The information you gain in the Google Search Console will inform the site map for the new site.
3. Crawl the live site with Screaming Frog. We want to create a list of all of the pages on your existing website along with pertinent information such as the title tags and meta descriptions. The easiest way to do this is with a tool called Screaming Frog. The free version is sufficient for most websites. Download the tool, scan your website, and export the HTML information. Store this for future use.
4. Dial in your keyword research. We started thinking about keywords in step 2, but now it's time to expand on it. The goal is to have clarity around what keywords you will incorporate into your copy.
Keyword research can be overwhelming. If you aren't already familiar with it, follow the step-by-step process at Pathfinder SEO. We break keyword research into small lessons with actionable assignments. Learn more here.
5. Start tracking your keyword performance. Now that you have a list of the keywords that are important to you, start tracking your rankings. SEO software such as Pathfinder SEO allows you to track your keyword performance over time. We want to start tracking this data now so we have a before and after picture. Learn more about rank tracking.
6. Plan your URL structure. Once you have a site map, you can start thinking about URL structure. You want to ensure your URLs are concise and keyword-friendly. This is an art and a science. Use a spreadsheet to organize your work. Think about nesting similar content into sub-folders to give your website structure.
For example, perhaps all of your blog posts live in /blog/, all of your services pages in /services/, and all products are in /products/. Define the URLs for all of the pages on your website. For frequently updated content such as blog posts, you can follow a standard permalink format like /blog/post-title.
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ONE WEEK BEFORE LAUNCH
7. Create 301 redirects. The search engines have indexed all of the pages on your existing website. They will keep going to these URLs and expect to find the pages intact. These pages also have authority and we want to pass that authority to the pages on your new website. An essential step in successfully launching a new website is creating 301 redirects.
A 301 redirect sends a visitor and the search engines from one URL to a new URL. For example, if your current contact page is at /contact-us and on the new website the URL will be /contact, then we need to redirect /contact-us to /contact.
You have a list of all of your existing URLs from the ScreamingFrog export. Use this list to determine what URLs will be changing. For every URL that changes, select a corresponding new URL that maps nicely.
Once you have your list, you can implement the 301 redirects into your development site. If your site is built on WordPress, Yoast SEO Premium offers easy redirect management. There are also stand-alone plugins such as Redirection that work well. Other platforms such as Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix, have built-in redirection management.
Be sure to have your 301 redirects in place before the site goes live. Here's more information about 301 redirects.
7. Create your title tags and meta descriptions. These are fields in the header HTML of each page on your website. They are utilized by the search engines when they market your pages on the search engine results pages.
Draft your title tags and meta descriptions in a spreadsheet and then implement them on your development site. Here's more information about title tags and meta descriptions.
8. Dial in your alternative text. Alternative text is the written description of an image. It is first and foremost a principle of accessibility. The alternative text on each image is what a screen reader uses to describe the contents of an image.
It is also helpful to search engines. If you haven't already, go through your Media Library and update the alternative text on each image to meet SEO best practices. Here's more information about alternative text.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER LAUNCH
9. Add Google Analytics to the new site. Use your existing Google Analytics account. We like using Google Tag Manager to implement Google Analytics.
10. Verify the site with the Google Search Console. If your domain stayed the same, then likely you'll just need to update the verification method.
11. Create and submit an XML sitemap. This file acts as your website's resume. It includes a list of all of the pages on your new website that you'd like the search engines to crawl and index.
If your site is built with WordPress, you'll want to use your SEO plugin of choice to create and configure your XML sitemap. Here's how.
If your site is built with Squarespace, Shopify, or Wix, you have a built-in XML sitemap. Simply navigate to the help section of your site and search for XML sitemap to get detailed information about how to access it.
Once you have your XML sitemap URL, log in to the Google Search Console and submit it.
12. Test your 301 redirects. Go to google.com and search for site:mydomain.com. This will pull up all of the URLs that Google has indexed. Start clicking on each URL to test to ensure you don't hit any page not found errors. If you do, note it and add a 301 redirect for it.
If you have a small website, this is quick and easy as there aren't many pages to test. If your site is large, then this could be time-consuming. You don't have to test all pages. Just test the top 50 links and look for a pattern. If you only hit one or two page not found errors, then your initial work on 301 redirects was thorough and you're all set. If they are all page not found errors, then your initial work needs additional follow-up as those redirects may not be working properly.
WEEKS AND MONTHS AFTER THE LAUNCH
13. Keep an eye on the results. You have Google Analytics, the Google Search Console, and rank tracking set up. Watch the data on a weekly basis to look for trends. You can expect to see some volatility in a week or two after the site launch. Then, your rankings should stabilize (ideally better than they were before).
14. Communicate with your team. As you watch the results, communicate regularly with your team. If it's good news, then it's fun to celebrate the win with all. If you have cause for concern, it's better to be in front of this. Note what you found and what you are doing in response. For example, maybe you found a rapid increase in page not found errors in the Coverage report of the Google Search Console after launch. Let your team know and get back to work on your 301 redirects.
15. Keep writing content. A new site launch is a time for celebration, but it's not the end of the road. Now it's time to keep evolving. Content is one of the most powerful forms of ongoing evolution for your website. Content is how you share your expertise and it's this expertise that Google values. Learn more about blogging and keep writing.
Follow a Step-by-Step Process
In this post, you've learned a 15-step process to successfully navigate a website transition in the search results. If you are looking to learn more about how to complete each of these steps, consider taking a guided approach to SEO. It includes a series of short, easy-to-follow lessons.
Guided SEO also includes the tools you'll need to do keyword research and track your rankings. And the best part is coaching. Subscribers meet with their SEO coach each month. Get your questions answered and get advice tailored specifically to your business. At $99/month, this can't be beaten.
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I remember it well, my first client call as an SEO account manager. I was new and had been warned that a few of the clients that were now in my care weren’t happy with their past service.
One such client asked a reasonable question, “why am I not seeing results?”. I froze. My initial response was “how am I supposed to know? It's my 4th day on the job.”
Instead, I paused. I put myself in the client’s shoes.
I responded, “I understand that you aren’t happy with your results to date. My job is to turn this around. Much like a ship in the ocean, we can’t change this direction overnight. I will spend the next week researching your website’s past performance and putting together an action plan. Then, we’ll execute the plan and measure results along the way. Are you available for a call every other week to review strategy and results to make sure we were on the same page?”
In many ways, I didn’t answer the question as I didn’t know why. But, I listened to the question, acknowledged the client’s concern, and mapped a plan of action. This laid the foundation for a partnership built on trust.
How to Answer Client Questions about SEO
If you are starting to offer SEO services, you may be worried about moments like this. What if a client asks a question and you don’t know the answer? What if you don’t have good news to share? Here are a series of frequently asked questions along with tips for answering them successfully.
When will I see results?
This is one of the first questions asked in the sales process. Your answer sets the expectations for the project.
Don’t over-promise on results or timelines. Often, those promises aren’t intentional. It’s easy to get swept up in the energy of a sales call.
Note where you expect to see immediate results (local search) and where it will take months (competitive keywords).
Explain that SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. Initial results occur within a few months and over time the results compound.
Share the ingredients that will speed up the timeline. For example, if you are going to rely on your customer to write content for a blog, explain to them that much of the pacing of success will depend on their delivery of content.
Lastly, note that SEO services are a partnership. You won’t be operating in a back office and delivering results in a vacuum.
Why is my traffic dropping?
The best way to answer this question is to get in front of it. When you are running a monthly report for a customer and you note declining traffic, sales, or rankings, call it out immediately. This builds trust with your client as they know that you will share with them the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When it comes to SEO, not all news is good news. Sometimes rankings drop. Sometimes traffic and sales decline. Rather than covering up such news, always be honest.
Note the decline, estimate the cause(s), and include any action items you are working on in response.
Sometimes a decline is caused by elements in your control — a blog that hasn’t been updated in years or a recent site migration that lacked proper 301 redirects.
At other times, a decline is caused by external factors like a drop in the demand in search volume for a product or service. Turning those declines around may be out of your immediate control. It’s important to differentiate between internal and external factors. Sometimes it's a combination.
How are you different from other SEO agencies?
This is another common question during the sales process. It may not get asked in this direct manner, but rather by the prospect telling a story of being burned by an SEO agency in the past. The prospect wants to know how/why it’ll be different this time around.
Then, note that you understand they have had a poor experience with SEO in the past. Let them know you’ve heard of many experiences like this.
Next, describe your process in easy-to-understand language. Describe the partnership you create and the terms of your agreement.
Talk about your commitment to communication. How quickly do you respond to email? What’s the cadence of ongoing meetings?
A tricky question.
If you get asked a question that you simply don’t know the answer to, that’s OK. SEO is a vast field. You don’t need to know everything on the spot. When asked a question you don’t know the answer to, let the client know you’ll research the question and get back to them.
It’s important to define a time range for the response and then deliver on it. This is where SEO coaching at Pathfinder is invaluable. Simply schedule a coaching session and review this challenging question with our team. We’ll help ensure you get the right answers and you don’t have to spend hours researching.
What is SEO?
When you first start working with a client, don’t assume they know what SEO is. Whether this question gets asked or not, be sure to cover the basics. Take the time to break SEO into its component parts using the 4 pillars of SEO framework. Use easy to understand language that isn’t packed with SEO jargon.
Your client doesn’t need (or want) to be an SEO expert. You don’t need to get into the details of XML sitemaps, robots.txt files, or even page titles and meta descriptions. Instead, they need to have a big picture understanding of how the search engines work and what steps to take to grow traffic.
Does my website need a blog?
Many customers have heard that blogging helps with SEO. They might have been blogging for years without seeing growth. It’s time now to pause to determine if your client needs to blog and if so, how often.
Before investing in blogging, we need to consider the costs and benefits. Here are additional resources about blogging:
- Does my website need a blog?
- How often should I blog?
- How long should a blog post be?
- How to think of blog post topics?
Schedule several calls with your clients to talk about SEO. Note what questions they ask and start creating documentation for your agency so that you and your team are equipped. You’ll quickly find comfort in answering questions about SEO.
You’ll also find value in meeting with our SEO coaches. During your monthly one-on-one coaching sessions, you’ll hear an expert answer your questions. In turn, you’ll get better at answering your client’s questions. Schedule a demo to learn more.
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You might have heard the often-cited statistic that the average 1st-page result on Google has over 2,000 words. As a result, many content marketers have focused on “Definitive” and “Ultimate” guides to nearly all topics in an attempt to seize the number one spot on Google by sharing exhaustive content.
But, if you’ve ever read a “Definitive” guide, you likely walked away exhausted. These posts have multiple takeaways. As a result, you have a long list of action items. This actually causes inaction because you don’t know where to start.
Good news, it turns out that many blog posts perform well on Google with fewer than 2,000 words. These posts are digestible for your readers and less time-consuming to write.
How Long Should a Blog Post be in 2021?
Like many things in SEO, it depends. Target 800 — 1,200 words as a good standard. An 800 - 1,200 word blog post is:
- Long enough to cover a specific topic thoroughly.
- Short enough to write in 1-2 hours.
- Easy to read in 4-5 minutes.
Of course, there are times when you will write fewer than 800 or more than 1,200 words.
A how-to blog post is a great example. Some how-to guides are short because the task only includes a few steps with little nuance. Others will be longer as the task is more complex or lengthy. At these times, your goal isn’t a specific length, but rather getting the job done. If you find a how-to post is getting exceptionally long, look for ways to narrow your topic to make the task more specific.
What about Google and Blog Post Length?
There was a time in SEO when the length of a blog post made it stand out from the crowd. Google rewarded this long-form content and the weight of the word count of the post was dominant in the search results.
Then, everyone started writing massive posts and we were back to competing based on domain authority.
So what does a blogger do?
Focus on specific topics. Write more often.
Tackle a Topic from Multiple Angles
The best way to differentiate your blog is to tackle a topic from multiple angles. This post is a good example. I could have written, “The Definitive Guide to Blogging”. You can imagine that this would be a 5,000 - 8,000 word post because I’d need to cover so many different subtopics.
The post would be cast into a high-volume keyword space for keywords like “blogging” or “how to blog”. Turns out, that high-volume space is also highly competitive. Our site likely wouldn’t rank well.
Instead, I’ve broken blogging into a series of topics and written an 800 - 1,200 word post for each one.
- Does My Website Need a Blog?
- How Often Should You Blog?
- How To Think of Blog Post Ideas
- How To Create a Content Calendar
- How To Outsource Blogging
These smaller topics hit on more specific keywords like “should I blog” or “how often should I blog”. My site is perfectly apt to rank in this less competitive keyword space. As a result, our website receives more traffic than had I written a “definitive guide”.
If you haven’t already, start brainstorming blog topics with this concept in mind. Here’s how to think of blog post topics. Then, get writing!
STILL HAVE A QUESTION?
Schedule a call with one of our SEO coaches.
As your business evolves, you might want to change your domain name. Such change typically fits into one of the following scenarios:
- You have a new brand. It’s time to update your website to reflect the new brand name. That includes changing your domain.
- You’d like a shorter, simpler domain name. A better domain name is now available and you’d like to utilize it.
While changing domains is easy, it is an important time to pause and plan to preserve your organic search traffic.
In this post, we’ll share with you the necessary steps to take to make a smooth transition in the search results as you change domains.
Does Changing a Domain Name Affect SEO?
Yes, changing a domain name can impact SEO. The search engines have indexed the pages on your existing domain. The change throws the search engines for a loop.
Moreover, your current domain has an established track record. This track record is in the form of authority. It is your current domain’s authority that helps propel your content to the top of the search results.
The good news is that you can safely change your domain name and preserve traffic by following a series of steps that communicate the change to the search engines and your website visitors.
How to Change Domains without Losing SEO
1. Make sure the new URL is sound. If you are going to make this move, you want to fully understand the history of your new domain. If you purchased an entirely new domain, then there is no history. You can move to step 2. But, if you are purchasing a domain from a third party, then you want to understand its history.
A big part of a domain’s history is its backlink network. Other websites might link to this domain. You want to make sure that the domain has a solid backlink network and hasn’t been red-flagged for suspicious activity such as low-value link building.
To do so, go to the aHrefs Backlink Checker. Explore the list of backlinks along with the authority of the domain. Make sure that this new domain is a good one.
2. Migrate the site to the new domain. When you are ready, you can migrate your site to this new domain. You’ll want to coordinate this change with your hosting provider and web developer. Be ready immediately after this change to delve into the SEO-specific tasks highlighted in the steps that follow.
3. Redirect your old domain to your new domain. This can be coordinated via your domain registrar and/or your hosting provider. Your goal is to make sure that each old URL such as www.myoldsite.com/cats redirects to a matching new URL such as www.mynewdomain.com/cats.
In this example, the redirect passes along the path information so that each page on your old site matches the same page on your new site. If your old domain was secured via HTTPS, you also want to make sure that the HTTPS version of the links redirect properly. This step is domain change SEO 101. It’s essential.
4. Verify your new website with the Google Search Console. The Google Search Console (or GSC) is your communication channel with Google. By verifying your new website with the GSC, you can be both webmaster and marketing director. The GSC platform includes information about the keyword performance of each page on your website and a myriad of technical SEO feedback around the crawling and indexation of the site. Start here to verify your new domain.
5. Update all mentions of the old URL. Start with those entities you control such as Google My Business and your business profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Then, reach out to partners and other site owners who might link to your website. Ask that they update the domain in any links pointing to your site.
6. Update Google Analytics. Your existing Google Analytics property has settings within the admin portion that are matched to your domain. Log into Google Analytics, go to Admin and update all mentions of the old URL.
7. Monitor the results. Anytime we make a sizable SEO change like a new domain, we want to keep a closer eye on the results. You can do this in both Google Analytics and the Google Search Console.
Congratulations! You’ve migrated your website to a new domain and communicated this change effectively to the search engines.
Be sure to maintain ownership of your old domain for the years to come. And be sure to keep forwarding it to maintain the authority signals via the redirect that is in place.
The timing is good to invest in evolving your site’s SEO foundation. Our guided approach to SEO shares a step-by-step process that you can easily follow. It also includes built-in SEO tools and one-on-one coaching. Schedule a demo to learn more.
STILL HAVE A QUESTION?
If you have more questions about this, feel free to reach out.
Not everyone likes to write. And you may not have time to blog. For these reasons, you may look to outsource blogging for your business.
There are three options to consider:
1. Outsource Part of the Process
Blogging is a process that includes several phases — writing, editing, publishing, and promoting. It's possible to decrease the amount of time spent and avoid completing an unwanted part of the process via outsourcing. There are a lot of great content delivery services such as CrowdContent that are available to execute your blog post strategy. You provide the content calendar. They write the content and edit it. You review and revise it. They publish it.
This is often the most cost-effective way of taking work off your plate. You remain in the driver’s seat of your blogging strategy while a team of outsourced writers delivers the final product.
2. Hire a Content Marketing Agency
There are great agencies that focus on content marketing. Content Journey and Audience Ops are our favorites. You can outsource the entirety of your blog to these teams. They'll start by getting to know your audience to craft a custom strategy. And then, they'll execute the repeatable process of writing, editing, publishing, and promoting your content.
The quality of the final product from a content marketing agency is exceptionally high. They also know SEO so your posts will be search engine friendly out of the gate.
3. Hire your SEO Agency
Because SEO and content are related, SEO agencies often offer content marketing services. If you already have an SEO agency of record, this is a great way to keep all of your services under one umbrella. Your SEO agency already knows your business after all.
Just like hiring a content marketing agency, the quality of the content from an SEO agency is exceptionally high. They already know your audience, they know your keyword strategy, they know the gaps and opportunities within your space that warrant blogging.
How to Outsource Blogging
The biggest challenge with outsourcing your blog is subject matter expertise. Google values your expertise. If you outsource your blog, then you are one step removed from sharing your expertise.
This challenge can be overcome with each of these approaches. You can overcome this by providing great content briefs in option #1 or by partnering with great agencies in options #2 and #3.
If you are going to outsource your blog, take the time to vet prospective partners. Take a look at examples of other blogs they author. Ask for a client referral so you talk to a fellow customer to see what their experience has been like.
The most immediate value to you in outsourcing your blog is time savings. Outsourcing your blog leads to consistent content creation which is invaluable for your business. The long-term value of consistent blogging is increased traffic and sales.