Table of Contents
Decide on your SEO niche & service offering
Tips for generating SEO leads with blog posts
How to research and qualify SEO leads
The importance of qualifying SEO leads
How to follow up with SEO leads
What NOT to do when reaching out to SEO leads
Tips from top agency owners on how to generate SEO leads
Have you gone through the hard work of setting up a new marketing agency, only to run into the challenge of how to get SEO leads? If that is the case, you’re not alone.
The SEO industry is competitive, and this is true across the globe. It doesn’t matter whether you’re based in the US, Canada, or even Shanghai; chances are that you have tens of thousands of other digital agencies competing with you, and fighting for a slice of the same pie.
The good news? There are certain tried-and-tested strategies that you can use to generate more SEO leads for your company. These strategies are actually pretty straightforward once you get the hang of them.
If you want to learn to close more SEO clients, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll walk you through:
- How to get SEO leads and as a result, land more clients
- How to qualify SEO leads before reaching out to them
- Best practices for getting in touch and what not to do with your SEO leads
- SEO lead generation tools
By the time you get to the end of our guide, you’ll be an expert on generating SEO leads and converting them into paying customers.
What is an SEO Lead?
An SEO lead can be defined as someone (a business) who has shown interest in your SEO services. The types of SEO services a prospective client might be interested in include the following:
- On-page optimization and improvements
- SEO site audits
- Local SEO
These potential clients can discover your SEO agency on their own via search results, paid advertising, word of mouth, etc. Or you have to actively reach out to prospects and pitch your services to them.
Image source: Hubspot
How to Get SEO Leads
There are plenty of ways in which you can get SEO leads for your digital agency, but all of them fall under either outbound or inbound marketing. Outbound marketing deals with the manual efforts an agency uses to reach businesses outside of its current list of customers.
Whereas inbound marketing is all about creating content, resources, and tools to encourage people to come to you.
Examples of outbound SEO lead generation include:
- Conducting manual outreach via social media.
- Attending SEO, web design, or general business meetups.
- Finding poorly optimized websites online, and reaching out to them.
- Buying leads or emails, if necessary.
Examples of inbound SEO lead generation include:
- Word of mouth and referrals.
- Publishing high-quality blog content.
- Creating an authoritative SEO group or community.
- Using your website to generate leads.
- Creating a PPC campaign to serve ads to a specific audience.
We’ll walk you through each tactic in detail, and discuss the specific steps that you can take to uncover potential SEO leads for your agency.
Decide on Your SEO Niche & Service Offering
Before you even think of how to get SEO leads, you need to get a crystal clear idea of your SEO niche and service offering.
This is an essential step in the SEO lead generation process because it will determine the tactics and strategies you need to use going forward.
Simply just stating that your SEO agency offers SEO services to any type of business is ignorant and won’t get you very far.
This is because SEO in itself is a huge field. There are different disciples to SEO, including keyword research, link-building, local SEO, YouTube SEO, technical SEO, etc. As an agency owner, you need to decide on what service you’ll be offering.
Additionally, you should also have a clear idea of the type of businesses and the industries you want to work in. It’s not uncommon to find SEO agencies that only work with law firms, dental practices, etc.
So, first decide on the primary SEO service you’d like to offer and what industry you want to target.
And don’t worry about running out of clients or prospects to reach out to. Almost every business needs SEO services to grow, so you’ll have a huge pool of potential SEO leads to target.
Outbound SEO Lead Generation
Outbound lead generation is the process of finding SEO leads that don’t know anything about your business or who haven’t heard of your brand. Hence the name “outbound”, because you’ve got to go out and find these prospects.
Conduct Manual Outreach on Social Media Platforms
The first way of getting SEO leads is to join LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups that are relevant to website performance, business growth, and SEO. Make sure you participate actively in these groups and share your expertise.
While you’re doing this, keep in mind that most groups do not allow members to outrightly plug their businesses (eg: “If you need to improve your website’s SEO, please get in touch with me”).
However, what you can do is mention your experience handling SEO projects when you’re interacting with other members, and talk about the results that you (or your colleagues) have helped your previous clients achieve.
In due time, you might get members messaging you and asking you for your help or opinion, and that’s when you can upsell them, and convert them into paying customers.
Attending Web and SEO-Related Meetups
Attending relevant meetups is a tried-and-tested technique that many agencies fall back on. Get to chatting with the folks at these events, and see if they’re in need of any SEO services.
Now, be sure to tailor your pitch to each person you meet here. If a particular attendee is working with a tight deadline and wants to confirm their SEO vendor ASAP, then there’s no harm in telling them more about your agency.
But if you’re speaking to someone who’s still learning about how SEO works, then pitching to them right off the bat is likely to turn them off.
So, what’s the best way to reach out to leads who aren’t ready to buy?
Simple — offer to send them a white-labeled SEO report of their website with recommendations on how they can improve their search rankings. To do this, you’ll need to ask for their email address.
From there, it’s a matter of staying in touch and adding value to your lead, so that you’re the first person that they think of when they’re ready to buy.
Finding Poorly Optimized Websites Online
Let’s imagine that most of the clients you serve are in the healthcare industry, and you’re looking to get more SEO leads in this specific market.
You can simply do a Google search, and navigate to the 10th page or so. Now, take a look at all the websites listed on this page; you’ll probably find that most of them are either poorly designed or poorly optimized, which means that they could benefit from your agency’s services.
From here, it’s simply a matter of getting in touch with the relevant companies, and pitching your agency’s services to them.
If you can identify a few things that they can do to improve their website in your email to them, this will make for a pretty convincing pitch:
Image source: Hubspot
Purchasing Leads from a Database
If you’re really struggling to get SEO leads for your agency, you can always fall back on purchasing leads from a database, although this is probably the last option you should explore.
Now, we know that most agencies prefer to generate their own leads (more on this in a bit!) rather than purchasing leads. When purchasing leads, check the following:
- Purchase leads from a reputable vendor, and
- Purchase selectively (ie: only buy leads that are a good fit for you, instead of buying 1,000 email addresses and spamming them with cold emails).
First and foremost, make sure you’re buying your leads from a reputable vendor that guarantees a certain level of accuracy.
For instance, LeadCandy guarantees that no more than 5% of the verified emails they charge their customers for will bounce, and should a customer’s bounce rate exceed 5%, they’ll gladly refund the credits charged for those emails.
Another tool we like is UpLead, which verifies its leads’ email addresses on the spot, before releasing the information to its customers.
On top of purchasing your leads from a reputable vendor, it’s also important to purchase selectively. Bearing this in mind, choose a vendor that allows you to filter their database using various criteria, so that you can hone in on the specific leads who are most likely to convert.
For example, UpLead allows its users to filter its database of over 30 million contacts using 50 different criteria, including business industry, location, number of employees, sales revenue, etc.
This makes it easy for you to build highly-targeted lists, and reach out to leads who are a good fit with your company.
Use Job Sites to Find Opportunities
Companies often use job sites and LinkedIn to find and hire SEO professionals.
You can use this as an opportunity to pitch your SEO services to these companies and explain the benefits of hiring an agency compared to hiring a full-time employee.
If a company is actively advertising an open position in their SEO department it means that they are willing to pay someone for a long period to help them with search engine optimization. This immediately qualifies a business as a good SEO lead.
Inbound SEO Lead Generation
Inbound lead generation refers to generating leads from prospects who discover your business by themselves instead of you reaching out to them.
Generally, inbound leads convert at a much higher rate than outbound leads. This is because inbound SEO leads are actively searching for agencies or freelancers to assist them. Whereas, with outbound leads, you’ve got to convince prospects that they need your services.
Get Listed in Digital Agency Directories
One of the ways that an agency can get more SEO leads is by getting listed in relevant agency directories. This includes sites such as Digital Agency Network, Clutch, Top Digital Agency, etc.
Getting listed in digital agency directories is free (in most cases) and the users who visit these directories are very motivated to find a marketing partner to help them with their needs.
Because of the higher level of motivation, these leads are easier to close and convert.
Not only should you create a profile on these agency directory sites, but you can also use websites like Craigslist, Yelp, and Yellow Pages to increase your agency’s online reach and visibility.
Word of Mouth and Referrals
The best form of inbound marketing is through word of mouth and referrals from current or previous customers.
The reason why this form of inbound marketing is so powerful is because these leads are highly motivated to find an agency that can help them with SEO, which means you’ll have very few problems converting them into customers.
Image source: ReferralCandy
Additionally, since customers have essentially “vouched” for you by referring their network of acquaintances to you, these SEO leads already know you can deliver good results.
So, how do you get current customers to refer you to their business acquaintances?
It’s quite simple, all you need to do is deliver exceptional results for your current customers. This will already get them talking to their friends.
Once you’ve delivered these exceptional results, then just ask them for referrals to help you grow your SEO agency. You can also offer discounts to customers who send referrals that sign up for your services.
Creating High-Quality Blog Content to Attract Leads
We also recommend that you invest time and energy into creating blog content to attract SEO leads.
While some of the outbound lead generation tactics may be unsustainable in the long run, inbound marketing is one of those things that can continuously drive results.
For instance, if you produce a high-quality blog article today, this could bring you traffic and leads for months and even years down the road.
Bearing this in mind, you’ll want to work on your content production strategy. Here are some options to consider:
- Publish blog posts on your own website
- Guest blog on marketing and SEO sites
- Create infographics to publish on social media, more specifically Pinterest
- Create a lead magnet and promote it
- Create YouTube videos
- Create a webinar or a series of webinars
- Launch a podcast featuring different guests in the digital marketing and SEO industry
- Answer questions on Quora or Reddit
So, how will creating blog posts help you get SEO leads? Well, if you’re able to create blog articles that successfully rank for relevant keywords, then you’ll be able to generate targeted traffic to your website.
Think about content ideas that will solve some of the problems that your ideal buyers may be experiencing in their businesses.
Here’s a useful example of this. TheDentalSEOExperts, an SEO agency for dentists, regularly publish useful blog content on their website. The content aims to assist dentists with growing their practices’ online presence.
Creating an Authoritative SEO Group or Community
The next strategy to get SEO leads is to create your own SEO group/community. This can be in the form of a Facebook group or email newsletter.
Creating an authoritative group will take time so don’t expect new SEO leads to come in from day one. The idea behind this is to create a group that business owners can join. The group should be an active space where business owners can find SEO news, actionable tips, and strategies to grow their businesses.
You can also promote your blog posts in this group and feature guests from other niches such as social media management, customer support, etc.
Host a Webinar
Hosting a webinar offers you a great opportunity to showcase your knowledge of the SEO industry. Not only that, you can show attendees case studies of previous customers who you were able to help.
Now you don’t only need to cover SEO topics in your webinars. Think of your target audience and what pain points they may be experiencing in their businesses, and try to create a webinar that aims to solve this pain point.
For example, if your ideal buyer is a startup that’s still raising cash, you could host a webinar on financial management for startups featuring a guest that has experience with this topic.
Using Your Website to Generate Leads
An SEO agency can use its website to generate SEO leads. This ties in nicely with creating blog content to attract targeted visitors, but this is more related to optimizing service pages by using SEO best practices.
Let’s look at an example of this in action. If you search for “seo agency in montreal”, you’ll notice one of the results is from Thrive Internet Marketing Agency.
By clicking on their search result, you’ll be redirected to their “Montreal SEO Company” service page.
This page is heavily optimized to rank for relevant search terms and is a prime example of how to structure a location page for local SEO.
Not only is this web page getting a ton of targeted, organic traffic, but you’ll also notice that it features a form where visitors can submit their details to get access to a free SEO audit of their website.
So not only is this SEO agency getting targeted traffic and improving online awareness, but they’re also able to convert that traffic into SEO leads through the use of a lead generation form. (More on how you can add this to your website later)
Creating a PPC Campaign to Serve Ads to a Specific Audience
Another type of inbound marketing that you can use to get SEO leads is by creating a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign targeting your ideal audience.
With this form of marketing, you’re able to set up ads that target users in your ideal location, searching for your target keywords.
PPC campaigns can yield immediate results when implemented properly, but they can also cost a fortune if you don’t know how to set up the right targeting, bid strategies, and keyword matching.
If you know how CPC marketing works and you’re able to target the right people at a cost-effective rate, then this can be very effective to generate SEO leads every month.
Create a Podcast
Like webinars, podcasts offer SEO agency founders and managers the opportunity to discuss various topics related to SEO and business. Podcasts can be hosted more frequently than webinars since they are easier to produce.
For example, NerdBrand is a digital agency that hosts a podcast on all things marketing featuring guests with unique insights on various discussion points.
3 Tips for Generating SEO Leads with Blog Posts
Blogging can be exceptionally effective in driving leads — but that’s assuming that you put the time and energy into producing high-quality, valuable content.
Want to maximize the leads that you generate from your blogging and content marketing strategy? Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Add a Call To Action at the End of Every Post
Since you’re looking to generate SEO leads from your blog posts, be sure to add a relevant CTA at the end of each post. CTAs you might use include:
- Sign up for our newsletter
- Sign up for an SEO site audit
- Sign up for an SEO consultation
- Request for a non-obligatory quote
The more specific you are with your CTA, the more effective it’ll be. For instance, instead of simply saying “Sign up for an SEO consultation”, you might say:
- Sign up for a free SEO consultation worth $299
- Sign up for a free 60-minute SEO consultation
Remember, it’s all about the context.
2. Offer PDF Downloads for “Ultimate Guide” Articles
We all know that long-form content is more engaging and shareable than shorter and more generic articles.
In fact, here’s an A/B test by Neil Patel that illustrates exactly how much more effective long-form content is in generating social shares:
The solution is obvious, stop writing 500-word articles that are generic, fluffy, and don’t add value to your readers in any way, and start producing more “Ultimate Guide” type articles that are rigorous and substantial.
Now, other than adding your standard CTA to your articles, here’s another genius way that you can use these articles to generate leads: offer a free PDF download of the article, and capture your readers’ email addresses in the process.
For instance, check out UpLead’s Growth Handbook, which outlines 230+ Customer Acquisition Tactics:
At the start of the blog article, UpLead embeds a form that allows readers to input their email addresses in order to receive a free PDF of their Growth Handbook.
It isn’t easy to get through 230+ tips or tactics in a single sitting, so we’re betting that they drove a ton of sign-ups (and leads) using this form!
3. Focus on Quality AND Quantity
As we’ve just discussed, we know it’s important to produce high-quality, valuable content. But this doesn’t mean that you can focus on quality at the expense of quantity — both these things have to go hand in hand.
In other words: if you don’t post regularly and consistently, it’ll be tough for you to generate a significant number of leads from your blog (and that’s even if you produce some of the most amazing content that the world has ever seen).
So, how often should you be blogging? The answer is, as much as possible.
According to HubSpot, companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month get a lot more leads than those that publish 0 to 4 monthly posts.
Image source: Hubspot
How to Research & Qualify SEO Leads
As you improve upon your lead generation, you’ll have a long list of SEO leads to whom you can reach out to. But before you reach out to them, you’ll want to take some time to research and qualify them.
More specifically, you should conduct research on the following aspects:
- Company structure and key decision-makers
- Their digital presence, more specifically their current search engine performance
First and foremost, read up on the company, and try and find out who the decision-makers are.
Apart from learning more about the company and how it’s structured, you should also take a look at its digital presence across the web. For instance:
- Look at their website to see if it’s updated. Are there any design or UX problems with the site? Are there any SEO problems? Is the site mobile-friendly?
- Look at their off-page SEO such as keyword rankings and backlinks, and benchmark them against their competitors to see if there’s room for improvement.
- Look at their social channels and assess their social strategy. Are they posting regularly? Is their tone consistent? Do they have a decent following and engagement level? Are they replying to the comments that they get on their posts?
The goal is to have a solid understanding of their situation and the current challenges that they’re facing so that you’re well-equipped to provide them with valuable insights when you speak to them.
The Importance of Qualifying SEO Leads
Qualifying your SEO leads is all about working smart. If you make the effort to identify and sift out high-quality leads right off the bat, this means that you’ll waste less time talking to people who won’t convert further down the road.
Now, take a second to think about what sort of SEO clients can afford to pay for your agency’s services, and are willing to do so.
Ideally, you’ll want to get in touch with clients who:
- Are in an industry with a decent profit margin
- Aren’t a solo entrepreneur
- Are working in an established company that’s been around for a few years
To go one step further in assessing whether a potential client is a good fit, use tools such as Spyfu to identify if their company is spending on PPC.
If they are, this is a good indication the company has a sizeable marketing budget, and that they understand the importance of marketing.
How to Contact SEO Leads
Once you’re done researching your SEO leads and their company, the next step is to reach out to them.
In this section, we’ll walk you through the best practices for emailing and getting in touch with your leads.
1. Keep your Subject Line Casual
Most marketers and sales reps employ formal language when writing sales emails — so an easy way of standing out is to keep your tone casual.
For instance, instead of using a subject line such as: “Want to improve your SEO and rank on page one of Google?”
You could do something along the lines of:
- I’m going to help you get on page one of Google (for real)
- If you want to rank on Google, here’s what you should do
- I just Googled you, and here’s what I found…
As a general rule of thumb, the more your subject line sounds like it was written spontaneously and by an actual human, the higher your open rate will be.
If possible, try and incorporate urgency and curiosity in your subject lines, and personalize your subject lines as well.
Image source: WordStream
2. Make it Easy for Your Lead to Take the Next Step
If you’re hoping to land a face-to-face meeting with your lead, it’s important to frame your request in a way that makes things easy for your lead.
Here’s a bad example: I’d love to set up a meeting so that I can explain our SEO services to you in detail. Could you propose a couple of dates and times in which you’re available, and let me know what location works best for you?
And a good example: I’d love to explain our SEO services to you in person. Shall we meet at your office sometime this week? You can choose a date/time that suits you best using this link.
See the difference? The easier it is for your SEO clients to follow through, the higher your chances of converting your clients.
3. Keep your Email Short and Sweet
According to statistics, if you want to get a reply with your email, you should aim to have your email be between 50 to 125 words.
Remember, you’re not actually selling to your lead in the first email to them — so you don’t need to ramble on about the advantages of working with your agency.
You’re just trying to hook them and get them intrigued, so keep it short and sweet.
How to Follow Up with Your SEO Leads
Marketers and sales reps dislike doing follow-ups for a number of reasons.
Some folks find it difficult to remember to follow up. Others might be afraid of coming across as too pushy or aggressive, and yet others might mistakenly believe that follow-ups aren’t effective.
Well, here’s the thing, follow-up emails can actually get better response rates than your first email.
According to a study, first emails get a 30% response rate on average, fourth emails get a 13% response rate, and sixth emails get an impressive 27% response rate.
So, does that mean all sales reps should devote 2 hours per day to sending follow-ups to their SEO clients?
No, that’s not necessary. It’s fairly simple to automate your follow-up emails, even if you don’t have access to a fancy marketing automation platform or system.
To do this, simply use Mailshake or a similar tool that plugs directly into Gmail.
What NOT to Do When Pitching Your SEO Services to Leads
Make sure you steer clear of these mistakes when you’re pitching your agency’s services to new SEO leads.
We all know that there are a ton of factors that influence a company’s SEO ranking and that these factors are constantly changing. This makes it pretty much impossible for an SEO agency to guarantee rankings — regardless of how capable they are.
Bearing this in mind, don’t rashly promise your SEO leads that they’ll rank within a certain period of time, even if you’re confident that your company can achieve this for them.
You don’t want to overpromise and land your company or colleagues in hot water.
2. Wait Before Reaching Out
When’s the best time to reach out to your lead? Well, given that most leads do business with the company that contacts them first, the answer is: as soon as they enter your system.
Image source: SpeedToContact
The above infographic says it all — if you want to have the best chances of doing business with your SEO leads, then be sure to contact them within 5 minutes of hearing from them.
3. Pander and Grovel
It’s important to be courteous and polite to your leads, but you don’t want to go to the extreme, and bend over backward to please them.
Why do we say so? Well, if you pander too much when communicating with your leads, they might take this to mean that you’re not confident in your agency’s services, or that you’re desperate for their business. Obviously, that’s a huge turn-off.
Tools for SEO Lead Generation
If you really want to scale your SEO lead generation efforts, then you can use different tools and products to assist you with the process.
The first tool that you can use to get more SEO leads is SEOptimer’s Embeddable Audit Tool. This tool allows agency owners to generate more leads and sales from their websites by simply embedding a form on their websites.
When someone adds the necessary information to all the form fields that you require, the tool will generate a custom report of their website’s SEO. These white-labeled reports can be completely customized according to your SEO agency’s branding and color scheme.
The tool will run on autopilot in the background without any involvement from you, and you’ll get new SEO leads delivered straight to your inbox whenever a report is generated.
Once you start scaling your SEO lead generation you’ll need a place to organize and manage all of your leads. Hubspot is a sales CRM that can help you track and manage all of your leads.
This lead management tool can help your sales team visually see where new leads are in the sales pipeline, set up workflow automation, create reporting dashboards, and more.
Intercom is an on-site messaging service that enables you to engage with website visitors. Through Intercom, webmasters and agency owners can set up a chatbot that can help to funnel new website visitors to a lead generation form.
These chatbots can be completely customized according to your specific needs. For example, you can create a chatbot that asks visitors what services they might be interested in, and then redirect them to those service pages within the Intercom chat.
If you’re running any paid marketing campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, or Google, then you need to constantly be monitoring campaign performance in order to get the best out of your marketing budget.
AdEspresso is an advertising tool that gives users the ability to create, manage, and analyze their advertising campaigns in one convenient dashboard.
This tool makes it easy to test multiple variations of an ad to determine which ones to pause or boost. AdEspresso also features a white-label report creator that creates reports of a client’s paid marketing campaigns.
Tips from Top Agency Owners on How to Get SEO Leads
If you want to know how to get SEO leads then you should probably learn from individuals with skin in the game. For that reason, we’ve got some valuable tips and insights from top agency owners on how they get SEO leads for their businesses.
Sam Browne – HARO SEO
“Establish an astounding referral program that converts traffic into leads. Referral practices help your consumers to bring you additional leads if you provide a powerful incentive for them to do such.
For example, you may provide clients with a discount if they suggest your products or services to their personal connections. It’s imperative to note that you must simplify it for clients to easily market your company. You may make reference advertising to your advantage by providing them with distinct referral links.”
Marcus Clarke – Searchant
“One way to make lead generation easier is by using automation tools. These can help you track your leads and automate many tasks, such as sending emails or creating landing pages.
Another approach is to use automation tools that connect with third-party APIs. This allows you to quickly pull in any relevant data from other sources, such as social media. Whatever you choose, remember that lead generation takes time and patience. It will not happen overnight and should not be rushed.”
Andrew Clark – DAVID.MARKET
“At my agency, one of our go-to tactics is utilizing Craigslist, and other locally-focused platforms to source leads. Specifically, we seek job listings or RFPs from businesses looking for digital marketing services and pitch DAVID.MARKET as a better option than hiring in-house.
Our selling points include being a dedicated team of marketing experts that can hit the ground running, the breadth of our skills, and potential cost savings related to not needing to offer the usual employee benefits.”
Scott Maclver – Scalable Media
“Something that a lot of niche agencies are missing out on is the power of webinars. We are utilizing webinars to our advantage to generate leads. But in order to make sure those are highly targeted leads, we do webinars with industry experts to which our audience can relate.
This not only allows us to generate more traction and leads but also helps showcase our authority in the SaaS niche.”
Grant Covault – Marketing Essentials
“People desire a human connection more than ever in today’s highly-digitized world. To that end, our agency has seen great success with what might seem like an old-school technique: Direct mail campaigns.
Why do I think this has worked so well lately? There are a few reasons. First, we’re sending to a narrowly targeted list – not a purchased one. We’ve already done research on the prospects we want to send to, so we’re confident they’re in our target audience.
Two, we tailor the messaging and design specifically to their needs. And three, we create a seamless user experience with QR codes and tracking links. It’s a highly-targeted, tangible piece that helps prospects learn more while we can monitor engagement and make improvements for the next send.
We’ve found that email inboxes are often full, but physical mailboxes are empty. The bottom line, it’s not always about chasing the newest social platform or tool. It’s about being aware of the market and your customers enough to offer what they need, when they need it.”
This concludes our guide on how to get SEO leads. Follow the tips and suggestions that we shared to generate, qualify, and communicate with the leads you generate.