Doing SEO for clients may seem like a tall order. You may be asking: “Where do I start?” ” What does it mean to do SEO for clients?” “How will I know I am doing the right things?” “Can I actually create value for my clients with SEO services?”
First, take a deep breath. You’ve got this!
If you build or manage websites for your clients, chances are you’re already doing SEO for them unknowingly. And, probably not getting paid for it. After all, great web design, user experience, performance, and accessibility are all the foundational building blocks of SEO.
Even if you don’t already build or manage sites for your clients — say you’re a digital marketing agency — it’s relatively easy to learn how to do SEO for your existing client list.
No matter who you are, if your clients have websites, this is the 5-step process we recommend if you want to start doing SEO for them.
Step 1 - Learn SEO Basics & Find a Website to Use as a Guinea Pig
Some people enjoy doing SEO for their clients. Some don’t. The more you are motivated by money, the more likely you are to enjoy doing SEO for your clients. After all, it pays.
But, before you start offering SEO as a service, it’s good to get a handle on what actually goes into an SEO campaign. This means you need a willing test subject a.k.a. a guinea pig website.
The most logical guinea pig site is typically your own if you have one. If you want to be offering SEO as a service, you should probably have one.
However, if you don’t, a friend or family member’s underperforming site will do. If possible try to find one with a commercial focus (a business site), and preferably not an e-commerce site. Finding one where you can make a mistake or two without ruining a relationship is ideal.
Once you have your test site, start learning about SEO and implementing what you are learning on the test site. To start learning, you can take a course and discover what goes into doing basic SEO, find a mentor, or use some sort of resource for beginners. Better yet, sign up for a guided SEO service like Pathfinder SEO that combines an SEO process with SEO coaching and essential SEO tools.
This first step is also a great time to start building out and learning how to use a standard SEO toolset.
Once you’ve been able to practice SEO tactics on your test site, you should have a good feeling of whether or not you want to extend an SEO offering to your clients. If you do, it’s time to start building out your offering.
Step 2 - Pull Together the Foundational Elements of Your SEO Offering
To do SEO for clients, you first need clients who want your services. You might be able to simply tell existing clients that you're now doing SEO and get them to bite on the offer. Especially if they genuinely trust you. If you can do this, great. You can ignore this next bit.
However, most clients will need a bit of convincing. That means you need to pull together compelling positioning, packaging, pricing, and proposals for your SEO services.
Positioning Your SEO Services for Clients
We’re not talking keyword ranking positions here. We’re talking brand positioning. As in your unique value proposition.
To effectively position your SEO offering, you need to talk about it in a way that clearly tells clients how they will benefit from it, how it will help them solve their problems, and what makes your approach to SEO unique.
Work this verbiage into your website and how you talk to clients when you pitch them. This content should probably be on your SEO services page. Here’s how to build a great SEO services page. To flesh out that services page, you’ll also need some packaging and pricing info.
Packaging & Pricing SEO Services
Pulling together some basic SEO packages and knowing how much you want to charge for them is key if you want to win SEO clients. Just about everyone you encounter who is interested in SEO services will ask “how much?” and “what do I get?”
We love helping people figure out this aspect of their SEO offering and here are the resources you will need to get it right:
Once you have your positioning, packaging, and pricing dialed in, you need to roll it all up into a cohesive proposal for the clients you’re pitching.
SEO Services Proposals
The last foundational element you need in place before you start actively selling your SEO services is a winning SEO proposal. Clients want to have this document in hand following your first discovery (or sales) call with them.
Make sure that you have a proposal outlined before your call. Then, during the call, collect any information you might need to flesh it out. Here’s how you create a winning SEO proposal. Once you have your positioning, packaging, pricing, and proposals pulled together, you are ready to start actively selling your services to the clients you want to do SEO for.
Step 3 - Start By Selling Your SEO Services to Existing Clients
The absolute easiest way to start getting SEO clients is by pitching your existing client list on your new SEO offering.
Start with the clients that trust you and know that you do good work. If you have a history of doing great work for your clients, your SEO services pitch should be relatively easy to win.
What we recommend you sell is a paid SEO assessment, an SEO set-up, and ongoing monthly SEO services all together in one nice little bundle.
In terms of how to sell your services, we’ve created a guide to selling your SEO services that’s definitely worth checking out.
At this stage, you might also want to learn how to perform a 10-minute SEO site audit. Quick site audits aren’t paid for by the client, but help you gain a high-level understanding of a site’s strengths and weaknesses from an SEO standpoint.
Whatever you do, avoid pouring hours into an unpaid site audit for a client that may — or may not — choose to work with you. We recommend only offering in-depth site assessments when they are paid for by clients.
When your prospect says “We’re in!” it’s time to deliver the value you pitched.
Step 4 - Deliver Your First SEO Project
Once you get your first official SEO client, you need to deliver some results. How easy it is to deliver those results will depend on who the client is, how competitive their industry is, and how good their site and its content are.
Start by intentionally onboarding your clients with a new SEO client questionnaire.
Then, the key thing to remember when it comes to delivering your first SEO project is that you need a strategy for that particular site and a process to follow. And, in a perfect world, you’ll also likely want to have an SEO coach or mentor looking over your shoulder to make sure you don’t flub it. Here’s a free training we put together to help you deliver that first SEO services project.
If you need a strategy, process, and coaching, we are more than happy to provide you with all three.
Remember that your first SEO project is likely to be the hardest one you will ever deliver, so don’t get discouraged. It’s normal. They get much easier with practice. It’s fine if you end up investing extra unpaid hours in this first project. What is important is that you deliver a product that you are at least modestly proud of.
Once you start getting into your second, third, and fourth SEO projects, start refining your SEO delivery systems and tracking your time to ensure that you aren’t working for $12/hr.
Finally, make sure that you are creating roadmaps for your clients’ ongoing monthly SEO. These will help you prioritize all the right monthly tasks for your clients in an orderly way.
While you’re delivering this first SEO project, jump back into the sales and marketing process and start getting more SEO clients into your sales pipeline.
From there, there’s one key thing left to do — scale your offering.
Step 5 - Scale Your Offering
What’s the key to scaling your offering? One word: systems.
Why? Because you don’t want to be the person executing SEO strategy on behalf of all your clients on a daily basis. Sure it’s fine (and even recommended) for you to do all that work for your clients when you first start offering SEO. However, it’s not a model that is conducive to growth. That’s because your growth potential is limited by how many hours you can work.
To scale, you need to bring in other people to help you do SEO work and that means you need systems and standard operating procedures for them to follow.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, hits the nail on the head when he says “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.”
Start by getting to know — and love — a project management tool like ClickUp or Asana, even if you are working on your own. Then start developing and using systems that streamline your execution of SEO action items.
Here’s a great example of how we recommend you use project management software and a system to manage monthly SEO action items for your clients.
But, don’t stop there, create systems for every task related to your SEO offering that will need to be repeated on a regular basis by someone besides you. We’re talking monthly reporting, client billing, social media promotion of your services, etc.
If you feel lost when it comes to systems, don’t hesitate to get some professional advice from someone like Kelly Azevedo at She’s Got Systems. Or, enroll in a digital agency growth program like Out of Office Entrepreneur or ScaleTime.
Hopefully, after reading this you have a pretty solid understanding of how to do SEO for your clients.
While this article has covered practical ways to do SEO for your clients, you also need to consider how to set up the administrative side of your SEO offering. Check out this article on how to start an SEO business that will cover some of the more business-oriented considerations you’ll want to address.
If doing SEO for your clients is something you’re keen on, we highly recommend you get some support from a trusted partner. Pathfinder has been that partner for hundreds of agencies getting started with SEO services. Schedule a demo and learn more about Pathfinder’s guided approach to SEO.