How to Sell SEO Services: Tips from 28 Agency Owners

How to Sell SEO Services: Tips from 28 Agency Owners

The competition for the top ranking on Google is fierce. As search engine algorithms continue to evolve at a rapid pace, it is not surprising for businesses not to expect to reach the topmost echelons of the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). After all, how can a simple mom-and-pop store generate enough SEO juice to beat search engine competition from market giants such as Wal-Mart or Amazon, for example?

This mindset makes it difficult for selling SEO services, especially to local businesses. On the other hand, the growing importance of local SEO can pave a lucrative pathway for digital marketing agencies to sell SEO services to local businesses. Jayson DeMers, a columnist at Search Engine Land, clearly indicates “Now that the internet has become the primary source consumers turn to for local business information, not showing up in local search is tantamount to professional suicide.”

Additionally, a report published at Wordstream suggests that 72% of consumers who conduct a local search visited a physical store within 5 miles. This further helps establish the importance of geo-targeted Search Engine Optimization for businesses. Yet, whether you’re selling SEO to a local business or a national brand, selling your services as a digital marketing consultant can be a bit tricky.

This blog post is part of a three-part series, so please check out the other two as well:

Before I get into the big list of tips from other agency owners, I wanted to share a few of my own first. Hopefully, these can help give you a new perspective on selling and help you strengthen your closing game so you can make the most of your leads.
SEO agency owner making a deal with a businessman

1. Don’t complicate it too much

Being in the business for years, we’re all familiar with the buzzwords and what they mean, so it’s a natural tendency to use them when talking to clients. However, do not over-complicate things. Keep it short, crisp, and straightforward.

2. Fine-tune your value proposition

Who wants to have a rundown of 20 fluff pages exhibiting how awesome you are as an SEO agency? Rather, your sales communication should emphasize your value proposition, i.e. how your service is out-of-the-box and why a client should consider you. This goes with simply explaining how your SEO service can address clients’ search engine ranking challenges, the ability to provide customized solutions, and what benefits it can provide to their business.

For a powerful impact, your unique selling proposition should focus on the 7 Ps of Marketing:

SEO Services

3. Bid farewell to the one-size-fits-all approach

Yes; I know the mechanics of an SEO campaign are quite similar irrespective of the type of client. It is evident that when you get a prospective client, you would try to impress them in one shot with everything you know and how you are unique. But you are actually making them feel frustrated with unnecessary information even before you know what they actually want. This can be a big turnoff.

Businesses feel encouraged when you are patient to learn about their company, target customers, competitors, or challenges facing their brand online. You can then leverage this data to exhibit your SEO skills and tailor your services to fit their core requirements.

4. Consider their past experiences

You’re not the only rodeo in town, and chances are, they’ve already had past experiences with marketing consultants of all shapes and sizes, including new ones that just got started. Maybe some local, maybe some outsourced to India. Either way, it would be a good idea to ask them about their past experiences so you have a chance to differentiate yourself.

In the first batch of clients I picked up, I literally followed the trail of tears left by one company that was basically scamming their customers. It started with signing just one client up that had done business with them in the past, and then they ended up calling another company they knew that was scammed. It was a great referral.

5. Set expectations

It’s important that you set the right frame from the beginning of the relationship. For example, it can be tempting to promise quick rankings just so you can close the business, I would be careful about setting that kind of expectation unless you’re really confident in the keywords being targeted. Good work takes time, and delivering solid SEO results usually takes at least a few months. Manage their expectations from the get-go.

6. Authenticity and honesty sells

I will be honest here, the bar is set pretty low when it comes to your local competition. From the agencies I have encountered in my local area, I am surprised at what goes on. Some commit many mistakes, and some don’t even know what they are doing.
But integrity and honesty won’t just win you, clients, as they will keep them as well. Clients will be more inclined to recommend their business-owner friends. There are a lot of benefits to this approach.

7. Listen 3x more than you talk

When I am on the phone or sitting down with a prospect, I want to get as much information as I can from them. I want to know their problems, concerns, goals, desires – everything!

A big mistake that I’ve been guilty of is selling yourself too much when you’ve already landed the meeting. This is especially common, especially for those who are still trying to land their first few clients. However, expert Myles Anderson from BrightLocal recommends talking less and listening more. Don’t oversell! Find out their pain points, so you can offer them the correct solutions.

8. Do not make guarantees

The trick to selling SEO in a professional manner is to never make false promises. If your prospective customer is planning to make a hefty investment in an SEO campaign or had a bitter experience with agencies in the past, it is obvious they will expect value for money. However, you have to stay grounded and refrain from guaranteeing SEO results just to bag the client. That is because Google advises businesses to be aware of SEO agencies guaranteeing results. Rather convince the client with a focus on realistic and achievable results.

From my experience in this field, I have learned that Search Engine Optimization results cannot be guaranteed, no matter how skilled I am. And if you are practicing this approach to sell SEO, it is high time that you revamp your sales strategy altogether. It’s just not a good way to find local clients.

9. Sell the sizzle, not the steak

I see this all too often. Too many people are trying to sell “SEO” but not the benefits it gives. Don’t sell SEO. Sell increased leads and sales online via free traffic from Google. Don’t sell conversion optimization. Sell a solution that can generate more revenue for their business from the traffic they already generate. See where I’m going with this? I don’t even mention SEO when I engage a prospect anymore.

10. Brand your SEO services

In a scenario where innumerable SEO agencies are mushrooming every day, it becomes more crucial than ever to establish and make your SEO services visible. Branding plays an important role here, but make sure it is not some advertisement gimmick or hype that eventually turns off your prospects. Create social profiles and connect with your audience; share valuable content and respond to their queries. Blogging is another powerful tool to attract and engage your audience with something meaningful and establish your credibility in this field. Think of something that creates interest in your prospects. For example, the latest SEO practices or trends in local Search Engine Optimization that can benefit their business. Participate in forums; engage with your target audience constantly.

Remember, a brand that shows is a brand that sells!

11. Get yourself to the top of Google SERPs

When it comes to your credibility as a digital marketing agency, prospective clients will want to have proof of your expertise in Search Engine Optimization. Your service portfolio is a good example of how you have helped businesses attain significant SEO results. But nothing beats the impact of a high search engine ranking for your own website or blog. So, before you pitch to the clients, focus on getting your service atop Google SERPs to boost visibility and build customer confidence.

Those are my own tips. Now here are some tips from other competent agency owners.

28 unique tips from agency owners on selling SEO and other digital marketing services

Clayton Johnson from says this about the importance of transparency:
Be honest and authentic. My entire process is transparent and I have nothing that is hidden from the client. I have been told quite a few times that another sales or SEO guy wouldn’t tell them their “secrets” and that it was very off putting either during the sales process or through an active campaign. I’ve created great relationships by staying humble and leading them through my process.
Brandon Hopkins from DiamondLinks gives good advice about understanding your prospect’s needs first:
Every client has a different need. Some want more exposure while others care about a specific keyword. If you clearly understand and can communicate their needs and desires, then you’re ready to tackle the work and implement a plan that will reach those goals.
 Mick Spencer from Octocat shares an important tip on premium differentiation:
The customer can always find a cheaper supplier/agent to work with, but generally won’t receive such a good quality service. If you can offer proof of your services, that will help convince them they are making a good decision putting their faith, and business in you.
Justin Herring from Yeah Local says this about setting expectations for SEO clients:
They must understand the timeline of SEO services. Depending on the domain age and online presence currently, they need to be told over and over again the timeline of how SEO works. A link built today may not show results for a couple weeks or it could be tomorrow. They have to trust the process and you as a company.
Justin Bilyj from BantaMedia outlines a great process:

The most important thing to keep in mind when selling SEO, PPC, Content or other digital marketing services, is matching the problem with a solution that takes into consideration what the business owner finds troublesome and what his priorities may be.

Just walking up to a business owner and pointing out things they’re doing wrong will get you nowhere fast unless they happen to be in the market for your services. But for the 90% of business owners that aren’t ready to buy when you contact them, I adhere to the present, past, future line of questioning for qualifying if they’re indeed a lead by finding out what their current marketing priorities are, their past experiences with SEO, and what they hope to achieve if they ever thought about doing SEO is vital.

After I qualify their experience, their priorities, and goals, which will inevitably take me into some objections they may have about the service I am meeting with them about, I switch to my disposition from qualifying to educating. I then educate the prospect on what they could be doing that would help them earn more clients and increase revenue. This is the part of the meeting that provides a lot of value to the business owner because he’s essentially getting free advice. My biggest reminder to prospects and clients is, “feel free to use me as a resource when it comes to anything SEO-related (or digital marketing).”

After I educate them, I circle-back around to see what they think of the recommendations, and if they can see how they would add value to their business. If they see value, I present the solution (my service). If they don’t see value, I politely tell them that “this probably isn’t a fit, but call me if you find yourself wanting to take the next step, because you never know what the future has in store for us.”

Chris McMillin from Evolve Strategic talks about avoiding discounting to earn a customer:
Give yourself enough room to make money. It’s easy to get swayed by customers who don’t want to pay full cost, but it’s important for your business to remain profitable.
Silvan Mundorf from Sacando Group gives an interesting perspective on selling to big businesses:
Not every client expects the same from you. Make clear what they want and what you are going to deliver. Especially big businesses are very focused on charts, reports and transparency because of internal hierarchies.
Jason Feemster from Santa Fe SEO gives some good advice on taking control of the selling process:
Sell it, if you want the business and especially if you need the business. You can always find a way to deliver even if you’re not familiar with the business type or niche. Also, I always make any new potential customer fill out a discover form I send to them to qualify them for my services. I start from a perspective of it’s me choosing them, not the other way around. It puts the control in my hands and if they can’t spend 5 minutes to fill out my form and tell me about their business needs, I pass on them.
Garrett Nann from Pop Advertising Partners gives an alternative perspective regarding traffic and rankings:
Rankings and traffic mean absolutely nothing to a client. It’s all about conversions. So make sure you and the client have a clear cut way you are going to measure results.
Lee Ann Webb from Informative Energy shares the importance of building a relationship:

The most important part of a good campaign is less about the SEO strategies and more about the relationship building and understanding of the goals of the business. Without this, SEO becomes a cookie cutter exercise yielding only mediocre results at best.

Drop the hard sell and provide something of value. Learn about your customers, their businesses, their pains, and their goals. And of course, educate, educate, educate.

Vince Garson from 917 Marketing tells us to sell results:
Sell results and manage expectations. Sell measurable increases in; traffic, list building, leads, revenue, income using simple, easy to read and understand graphics and formulas. Manage expectations by being very conservative as to when results can be expected.
Marie Ysais from Ysais SEO gives some sage advice about respect:
It’s important to remember this is how they feed their families so show them the same respect you would show for yourself. Helping a small business grow is what makes this business so great. Respect their domain and never practice on a client.
Bennie Stander from Pretoria SEO reminds us not to sell on price:
Do your homework before the time by doing a short audit on the site and comparing it to 2 or 3 competitors. Never sell price. When a prospect client starts talking price too early in the sale, I walk away…
Jacob Hagberg from Orange Fox shares the difference between selling local and national brands:
Your agency must understand and sell them what they need. Expectation setting is critical. You are not there to build their entire business. You are not the full-stack marketing department.
Local and National brands need different levels of services. National brands need ongoing SEO management, link acqusition, content strategy and technical implementation. Whereas, local brands may only need a few title tags and meta descriptions to be successful.
Keith Baxter from Baxter Digital Marketing gives some thought-provoking advice, hmmm:
Trust. People don’t trust you when you approach them. Create situations where they must approach you.
Mark Valderrama from Velvet Cloud One gives some insight into handling a national client:
Either build a presence in the niche you are selling services to or establish a local presence. For national campaigns, PBNs are pretty much taboo. You will get a lot of local SEO guys tout PBNs as a easy way to build links, but If you have a national client that is paying you a ton of money every month for results PBNs can be risky. If a national client gets penalized and pissed off enough they have big enough funds to sue you and destroy your reputation. If they are national, they should have a big enough presence for you to build links without PBNs anyway.
Aaron Luther from WP Management Co tells us how to communicate the benefits of SEO in simple terms:
You can sell quite well by telling them what increased rankings & traffic will do for their business, then getting into the details just enough to make them realize it’s not something they want to take on themselves and then finish with re-iterating what the results will do for their business.
Jason Lockhart from Mogul Mindset Consulting talks about the importance of differentiation:
When selling SEO services you should keep in mind that they have most likely been hit on a number of times by a number of different companies to do their SEO for them. So make sure you have services they help you stand out from the crowd and you most also have proof of concept. Many clients want to see that you are able to do what you say you can do and if you are able to have refer excess they can check with then you will be in an even better position to land that project.
Sam Borica from Coflex Marketing shares some insight into breaching the knowledge gap between consultant and client when selling:
It’s important to keep in mind when selling SEO to local businesses that they don’t care how SEO works at all. All they care about is getting more sales or more clients. You need to talk to them from a different perspective and don’t sell them on SEO. Sell them on the fact that they’re going to get X number of new clients or new sales for their local business. Don’t talk to them about any of the specifics of what you’re going to do like “I’m going to build 5 new backlinks a month” or “I’m going to rank 15 keywords on the first page of Google”. They don’t care.
Shonda Rogers from SEO is Local gives tips on over-delivering and collecting testimonials:
Make sure you paint a realistic picture of what type of results they can expect and how fast. Over deliver and under-promise and regular follow up with results/activities performed will keep the lines of communication open. Also, don’t forget to start collecting your own testimonials from the beginning – they will help you sell your services down the road.
Ed Holtzman from Artful Pussycat has some wise advice on positioning:

MANY people have a negative impression of people offering SEO. Either from a prior bad experience or anecdotal second-hand stories of someone having been scammed in the “SEO” arena.

Focus on the growth potential instead of the negative “Scare Tactics”

Daryl Osborne from Wynquest Technical Solutions talks about differentiation, especially for national clients:
You need to stand out and be different, listen, listen, listen, and understand that 10 other ‘vendors’ have pitched to them that week or that month – you need to be human, and connect with them on a personal level. For national, even more so, be different, always do what you say you are going to do.
David Castro from RankRabbit talks about setting expectations before getting started:

Always define the expectations. It important to be very clear on the goal of the project before getting started. You want to clearly define what success looks like because the better you can define what a successful SEO campaign looks like to your client, the more you can expect to have a successful working relationship with them. Clear expectations leads to less questions and resistance from them throughout the relationship – freeing you up to focus on delivering for them.

You also have to keep in mind that the management of expectations goes both ways. Your client should set expectations for themselves and meet those as well. If they can’t deliver on their end, how can your agency deliver on your end?

Nick Ponte from tells us to avoid technical jargon when talking to clients:
I like to stay focused on communicating the benefits of SEO. Tons of consultants talk about technical jargon with clients that they never understand. All a client really wants to know is what your service is and how it will make them money.
Chris Casarez from Exact Latitude reminds us that not everyone will be ready to buy immediately!:
Definitely know your market. Develop buyer personas and cater to different stages of the buying cycle.
David Krauter from Websites That Sell tells us not to sell rankings:
Don’t just sell rankings! While SEO is all about rankings and every business wants to see their site on the first page never just sell rankings. The ultimate thing you need to sell is more customers, increase in traffic conversions and yes the rankings can be part of the reporting as well. But don’t make your SEO all about rankings.
Matthew Holmes from chmstrategy gives some tips on pricing:
Mind your margins and pick the right clients. It can be tempting to try to discount to get more business by lowering your prices. While you’ll probably always get pushback on price, the reality is that businesses that push you heavily on price tend to be the type that expect everything for almost nothing. They’ll chew up your time and resources, and you’re better clients will suffer. Always price to protect your margins and spend some time defining your ideal clients and aim for those.
Joe Sayles from Envy Digital Solutions shares some great advice on sales strategy:
When selling SEO services to local or national businesses, it is important not to be too “salesy”, but to help provide a solution to their pain spot (low sales, clients, leads, etc.) and make sure you provide the client with the answers to “WIIFM”, What’s in it for Me? (the client) This entails speaking to the client in a language that they understand, making sure they understand the time frames for when the results will begin to be noticeable, and showing them what can result by remaining consistent with the service.
Scott Gallon from Digital Boss stresses a win/win relationship when selling:
Take the time to investigate the value of what a new client is worth. SEO services need to be priced so that the relationship creates a win/win for you and the client. Understanding the lifetime value of a client allows the SEO agency to get the correct value for the service provided.
Scott Pollington from Smart Traffic emphasizes quick wins and proving ROI:

It’s all about the dollars. Everything you do must be about putting more money back into the clients pocket, whether that is for a local or national business. Show them how you will do that for them by growing online visibility, traffic, enquiries and then sales.

If you focus on the quick wins first; get the website tidied up, check redirects, optimise the pages, add relevant content, tidy up the citations so they are consistent, reclaim any lost link weight both external and internal etc, then all of these can show really quick movement and move terms several pages. This helps build trust with your new clients in the early stages where they are still unsure about the value of SEO.

Scott Allen from Breakthrough Dental Marketing doesn’t use the term SEO anymore (good call):

Honestly, we shy away from using the term SEO or calling it search engine optimization. Business owners get inundated on a daily basis with massive amounts of emails, typically from overseas, that make outlandish claims about “Guaranteed 1st page rankings”. The SEO industry doesn’t have a high level of trust in a lot of peoples minds.

We tend to call it online marketing or digital marketing. We explain that SEO is a part of the process, but its not the end all -be all.

Jason Holmers from Oxsome prefers to offer an affordable solution:
Keep pricing affordable and you will have clients for life vs short term gigs. After a sale, Map out a plan and stick to it.
Mike Khorev from I Know SEO
We always get the best leads from organic search traffic. If you an SEO company work your way up in Google SERP for “SEO” keywords to showcase your experience and knowledge in latest trends and ability to rank websites. Also, our Google Maps location that appears before organic results helped us drive 30% of our traffic, so make sure you optimize and maintain 5 star rating.


These expert tips (including mine) are just the tip of the iceberg. Selling SEO services is complex because the algorithm patterns are ever-changing. However, if you have in-depth knowledge of Search Engine Optimization, you are better off delivering quality services and getting more clients in your portfolio. A simple trick is to under-promise and deliver more that exceeds the expectations of your customers.

Do you have your own advice to add when it comes to selling SEO or digital marketing services? Leave a comment below!


  • Andrew David Scherer

    My name is Andrew David Scherer and I've been involved in digital marketing since 2006.. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about marketing your local clients online, I'm always happy to help and share what I know. I've built local businesses from 0 to 6 figures in sales. Leased, sold, and rented a handful of them. And I've had hundreds of them as clients. Marketer's Center gives digital marketing consultants the ability to easily scale their local marketing agencies in a way that isn't labor-intensive and still very profitable. If you want to get my "6 Month SEO Plan" please request a free reseller dashboard account here. You'll also be able to download a price list for all of the services we offer. You can connect with me via Facebook in our Local Marketing Freethinkers group, or via Twitter and Linkedin.

  • Lorenzo Gutierrez

    Solid article! I’m a marketing consultant and I found several of the points you mentioned were spot on!

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