How To Make Your SEO Business Sustainable

By October 20, 2014SEO
growing a sustainable seo company with personas

It’s came to my attention that many readers of this blog are actually aspiring SEO’s themselves. Psst! I have a secret I want to share with you…we’re in a crowded industry.

Despite the roughly 8.9 million results returned by Google for “Death of SEO”, there’s an ever growing number of people pitching SEO services to businesses large and small. While that’s great for consumers, it might not be great for the sustainability of your SEO business.

So how do you combat that?

One thing to do (or several things, depending on how you look at it) is to try your hand at emulating a few (admittedly clichéd) personas. Hey, it’s good to get out of character once in a while! Besides, personal growth often times occurs after you’ve been forced into unfamiliar territory and suffered a little pain. Business growth is much the same. Doing things that range from “uncomfortable” to “downright painful” can help ensure your company not only survives, but thrives in this ever-crowded world of SEO. With that said, consider incorporating some of the traits of these six personas into your day-to-day business habits:

  • Emulate a drug dealer: I’m guessing many of you have never interacted with a drug dealer (and if you have, nobody is judging you). Let me elaborate. Often times, neighborhood dealers will offer their illicit goods for free in small doses. The hope is that users like what they have, and will come back for more time after time. The first hit is free, but after that everybody pays. There’s a lesson to be learned here that can apply to how you operate your SEO business. Have you ever considered offering your know-how and capabilities to someone for free (but just once?) This may take the form of on-page technical clean up, providing a free backlink audit, or doing competitive research and analysis. No matter what it is, give them the first hit free. Once they’re hooked, they can’t help but return. It may take a good-faith offer to “do something” for a prospect completely gratis initially to get them off the fence. This can also give you a leg up on other firms who bill for everything, including their initial time.
  • Emulate a Good Samaritan: Help people. Do it with no intent of every being repaid. This can’t be faked, but if you enjoy helping others…let it shine through in your daily business operations! If you’re being paid for local SEO but you can also help your client improve their email marketing, than do it. If you know a thing or two about PPC and they are trying to run things in house, clean up their negative keyword list as an added bonus. This has been done for years under the guise of under promising and over delivering, but if you look at it from the standpoint of helping other people and their business however you can, you will ingrain yourself to them in ways others just can’t. Being paid fairly for your time and expertise is important. Managing scope creep is also important. If you’re giving an inch and they’re taking a mile, you may have to re-evaluate your relationship. Regardless, if you’re always helping others (especially those in need), your churn rate will decrease. This is a fact.
  • Emulate an attorney: Attorneys love contracts. You should too. Litigation is rare, but it can be devastating for your SEO company. Make sure you are under no circumstances held liable for the success or failure of any of your clients. Never promise rankings or results, even verbally. For starters…nothing in our industry is guaranteed. Secondly, even verbally stating that you will do X, Y or Z is considered a binding contract in many states. Always have strong language in your contracts that keep you legally safe. It’s an unfortunate truth that we live in a litigious society, always keep this in mind. Another important result of emulating an attorney would be ensuring that you have the rights to share your work. There’s no point in having a great story if you can’t TELL that story to anyone. Have this conversation early, get it in writing. Work it into your contract language. You should be able to share the results of your work, and if not, you should know that up front. Clients should be proud of their relationship with you and vice-versa. Screenshots of traffic increases, case studies of lead and conversion improvements, and detailed posts about the nuances of any given vertical are all tools to help you promote your search business.
  • Emulate an insurance salesman: Try and get two referrals from your satisfied clients. Ask them to connect you with their network. Most business owners know other business owners. You’d be amazed how many plumbers know a roofing contractor that needs help, or how many dentists know a chiropractor who could use a leg-up in the market.You don’t get these if you don’t ask. So ask! There’s a great layer of implied trust when successful business owner says “I gotta guy/gal that can help you market your business online.” These will be some of your most loyal SEO clients, and they’re waiting for you now. All you have to do is tap your existing network.
  • Emulate a carnival barker: There is NOTHING wrong with a little self-promotion. Shameless or otherwise. If you aren’t talking about yourself, why would others talk about you? I don’t mean standing on the street corner and hollering at strangers that they’re missing out on money by not letting you rank their site. However, how often do you let people know what you do, and that you’re fantastic at it? You may be shocked at how many of your friends and family don’t really know what search engine optimization is, or how you help businesses make money. Nobody likes “selling” to their friends, and there’s something to be said for keeping business and family separate…but these are your strongest advocates! Get them talking about your expertise and what you do for others, and much like above, there will be a powerful network of prospects with a layer of implied trust already built in!
  • Emulate an aspiring writer: Let’s face it content marketing is here to stay, despite the current debate on sustainability or if “content shock” is real or not. Great content wins. Often times, great content starts with great copy. Sharpen your writing skills, and don’t worry about the droning-on of people saying that guest posting is dead. Sure, spammy guest post networks are dying, but getting your content shared on larger (or varied) platforms, expanding your reach and building your company brand? It’s a no brainer. Regardless if there’s link value or not. There’s brand value, and that matters even more. Many of your clients will value your ability to write for them, even if it’s just to clean up existing copy on their site or communicate their market position more effectively. You will need to write your backside off to sustain your business, even if you outsource the content function of your business. Good outreach turns great when you are well-written. Increasing the success rate of link acquisition campaigns will likely be core to your success for a while, so work on writing more clearly and with more passion. Even if you don’t like to write.

Through it all though…don’t forget to emulate yourself at the end of the day. Introvert, extrovert, tech nerd or artsy writer, let the real you shine through. Keep your online personality out in the open from the very first time you talk to a new prospect.

As a parting shot I offer you this consideration, slightly off-topic from the rest of this post, but paramount for all of us to consider:

SEO is a term that has a negative connotation to a lot of people. You have a chance to re-shape what people think of our industry every time you talk to them. Think about that as you’re out there in the marketplace having conversations. The long term sustainability of your individual business (and the entire industry) may very well rely on improving the image of our craft in the public eye. SEO is a digital marketing tactic that you may want to outsource if you are reading this and, in fact, are not an aspiring Search Engine Optimizer.

Author Dan Foley

Dan is a content marketing and social media marketing expert with more than 5 years of experience working with B2B and B2C brands all across the United States. His clients include dentists, real estate agents, auto dealers and online retailers.

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