When I started doing SEO 4 years ago, it was already at a stage where everything was starting to get a bit more difficult (May Day, Caffeine and Pre-Panda era). And the way I see it now, it will seriously get a lot tougher in the coming years.
But I guess that was really the perfect time for me to start a career in this industry. I didn’t expect for me to be genuinely passionate about SEO – but I think that passion became the one main factor that really made me embrace everything about it, including its most challenging parts.
In being an SEO Consultant, there will be many aspects of the business that can really test how you think things through and on how you act on them, from:
- Marketing your service
- The actual service/process
- Managing a team
- And down to the business side of it.
Over such a short time span in this field, I surely had realized and learned a lot of things. In the earlier phase of my career, I’ve already realized how easy it is to market and sell a service online.
But eventually, I learned to recognize the most important part of what we should be doing and focusing on as SEO consultants – our products/services.
Delivering on your product/service’s promise is the real challenge.
Just imagine if you’re doing good on both ends.
The key to retention, especially in this line of business, is the ability to provide great service consistently. And this alone can directly influence your consulting business’ client acquisition process (through word-of-mouth, referrals and basically your existing clients’ vote of confidence for the quality of your service).
Invest on knowledge
Our job as consultants is actually simple. I use a very simple hack to better understand my job, whenever I start working on a new campaign. I just ask myself these 2 questions:
- What’s the goal? – having goals make it easier to have effective and aligned action plans
- What’s the problem? – knowing the problem allows you to come up with appropriate solutions
Essentially, what we do is we constantly find problems to solve. And you won’t be able to come up with the right solutions when you don’t have the knowledge. Our service heavily relies on knowledge. And that’s what’s in between the goal and the action, and the problem and the solution.
With the right knowledge, it’ll be a lot easier to determine the areas of your campaign that will yield more results (prioritization).
Processes take businesses further. And in digital marketing, it’s obvious that knowledge, people and processes are our products.
But many of the processes built and designed specifically to work on this kind of industry (which we all know is ever-evolving) is more difficult than what many people think.
And to be truly agile, a team will certainly need the right people with the right knowledge to work on the right processes that’ll be compatible with the different sites in different verticals that we work with.
This is where I think many agencies and consultants get stuck, as you’ll have to consider different priorities and opportunities to different cases and situations.
Which all boils down to the continuity of the campaign – which what makes clients stay subscribed to your service.
So in this post, I’ll discuss more of the processes and additional services you can implement to improve the longevity of your partnerships with your clients.
Build your own internal technical SEO audit checklist
Obviously, technical SEO audits, recommendations and implementations are the backbone of most SEO service providers.
This one’s really basic – and is just a reminder of how important it is to have a proper documentation for on-site auditing to streamline your campaign’s initial process.
If you’re just starting in this business, you can start off with Annie Cushing’s list as a base – and add more on to it along the way.
Typically, a full-scale SEO audit process as well as the implementation would take months to accomplish (depending on the size of the website) – along with the other tasks that will be simultaneously done all throughout the campaign (content development, link building, etc…).
A robust process in on-site optimization that is result-driven can certainly take your service in a higher level.
Don’t underestimate depth in on-site technology knowledge (and implementation), because this practice alone can do a lot of serious damage to the competition.
Other useful resources for SEO audit checklists:
- How to perform the world’s greatest SEO audit
- How to perform an SEO audit – with free $5,000 template
Keyword research/discovery + Content strategy
Identifying what keywords will help your client’s sites get found by potential customers through search is already conventional wisdom in SEO.
But what many practitioners (especially the new ones) tend to forget is the importance of aligning your data with your content strategy for the site to be able to serve better pages specifically targeted to organic search visitors.
Integrating these 2 methodologies and making it a part of your campaign’s monthly tasks (discovering new keywords to target, and adding new pages on the site that will answer these newly found queries) is certainly one of the best ways to steadily grow the site’s audience and search traffic acquisition.
More useful resources for developing a content strategy:
- 10 elements of content strategy for the web
- Guide to developing a content strategy for boring industries
This can also allow you to help your clients build a more effective content calendar for their content marketing efforts that’s supported by your data and technical expertise. Always remember that finding opportunities (that our clients haven’t tapped into) is an important part of our job as well.
Optimizing for advanced search technologies
Preparing our clients’ websites/businesses for the future is certainly a large portion of our job as SEO consultants.
Now is the best time to know more about the advanced technologies that search is gradually transitioning into (such as natural language processing, phrase-based indexing, semantic/entity-based search and one of the most popular ones these days – schemas).
These are some of the optimization techniques that you can start offering as an additional service to your clients – which could certainly exemplify your expertise in the field and somehow improve your consulting business’ client retention rate.
Start investing time on building process documentations that will cover these types of site and brand optimization methods.
Helpful resources you can use in creating your process for advanced search optimization:
Content Asset Inventory
Another process that you can use to add more firepower to your service is building on the assets that your client already has on their website.
It’s one of the quick wins in SEO where you can easily establish the value of your service.
Find and make a list of the pages on your client’s site that has the most potential to become linkable (or rank even better on search results for highly competitive search terms).
You can start finding these pages through Google Analytics (see the landing pages that are constantly generating search traffic and that have high engagement rate).
- Improving the content – visuals/design and depth of information.
- Building more internal links to these high value pages to pass more ranking signals.
- Testing and modifying the assets’ calls-to-action.
After improving the content, you can start getting links to them. It’ll be much easier to get links to it, as soon as the content can prove that it’s the best resource on the web about the topic/information it’s providing.
You can start with a linker outreach campaign – where you can find and reach out to sites/people who have linked and/or shared your competitors’ content covering the same topic in the past.
It’s also best to check if your client’s site has published content types that can easily be distributed like videos, slide presentations, podcasts, original images (infographics) and ebooks.
As these content assets can easily be repurposed and distributed widely to hundreds of content type-specific directories (ex: this list of podcast directories) – which will not just help them acquire more links to their site, but possibly grow their audience as well from these other external web communities.
As I’ve mentioned earlier on this post, finding opportunities for your clients’ business to become more profitable is an important part of SEO consulting. And this particular process can help you attain that on a consistent basis.
I’ve written a case study about this site reoptimization process last year which you can check and perhaps include as a part of your campaign’s monthly task.
Even though Google has limited the keyword data available on Google Analytics (not provided) mid last year, I still find this strategy viable, especially to sites that already have huge amount of traffic data.
Basically, the objective of this strategy relies on two key factors:
- Determining variations of search queries that are sending highly qualified and engaged traffic to the site (often keyword variations that your clients haven’t primarily targeted for the existing pages/posts).
- Re-optimizing the pages/posts to match and be ranked/served for those long-tail searches as well.
In using this process, I usually start by exporting the site’s organic keyword data available on GA. And then I sort the list by engagement (# of pageviews and avg. session duration) – then understanding the queries’ performance much better by assessing the # of sessions and new users.
The higher the sessions and percentage of new sessions are, the more it can tell how these keywords will even drive more engaged and highly qualified traffic to your client’s site once they were properly optimized.
You can actually spend 2-4 hours a month just to analyse and discover keywords that can help your client drive more potential customers to their business. So I can really say that adding this process to your service can also help improve your chances of having your clients stay longer with your service.
Proving the scalability of the campaign is one thing you can always stress to your clients if you really want them to stay longer – and of course, getting the RESULTS is the larger chunk of the reason why they’d probably stay with your business.
That’s why having a deep understanding of your clients’ business, market and customers pays off in the long run.
And these other types of search engine optimization should always be evaluated on the early stage of your campaign, since these can help you put more weight on the methods that would bring in more results for your clients’ business.
Assess your client’s (websites) traffic data deeper. Check where they are getting most of their conversions (countries, locations, devices, etc…).
This will help you find more opportunities for your clients – especially if they haven’t fully optimized their site for locations and/or devices where they are already generating conversions from.
- Top 20 local search ranking factors
- Everybody needs local SEO
- The definitive guide to technical mobile SEO
- The international SEO checklist
Site penalty diagnosis should already be a part of your technical SEO audit process (you can always check on Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History to verify what specific penalty hit your client’s website).
Ensuring that your clients’ websites won’t be harmed by future algorithmic updates is another process that you can also apply in your campaign, knowing that cleaning up a website has been one of the biggest changes on how many practitioners do SEO nowadays.
- Compare # of pages on sitemap vs. Google’s index. You’ll only want the important and useful pages to be indexed.
- Find URL parameters that are being indexed that could be causing page duplication – and then block search crawlers from accessing and indexing them.
- Assess site’s overall content quality (length, substance, and usability). Improve the pages that your client want to be more visible on search, but have poor content.
- Export landing pages’ performance data from GA, and assess pages with low engagement rate.
- Review site’s link data – and filter those that use exact match anchor texts.
- Segment your list by separating those that have decent Domain Authority (and see if it’s possible to modify these links’ anchor texts).
- Remove & disavow manipulative and low quality links that will most-likely harm your client’s website in the future (links that use exact match anchor texts, from low DA site, and from topically irrelevant pages).
More resources on preventing and/or recovering from Penguin Update:
- Recovery from Google Penguin – tips from the trenches
- Google Penguin Update recovery tips and advice
- Anti-Penguin link building plan
- Download the site’s sitemap in Excel and populate each listed URL with their designated Title Tags (using Niels Bosma SEO excel plugin).
- Consolidate redundant pages containing or covering almost the same topic.
- Start optimizing for entities – through brand mention building, using more nouns/affinities in your writing, and basically writing content for users (using natural language).
More helpful resources:
This process deserves a full blog post of its own, and I’ll be doing that in the next couple of weeks (and hope you guys will stay tuned).
Anyway, just a quick run-through on how I approach this strategy – there are two core parts for this strategy:
The first one is on how you will project and demonstrate your brand as an authority through the ideas, information and product/service you provide to your community.
While the second one is on how you will associate your brand with other influential entities in your client’s industry (to build relationship signals – which I believe is one of the strongest off-site ranking signals out there).
In order to effectively implement on these 2 core aspects of the strategy, you’ll definitely need to collaborate with your clients (especially on the content development part, to make sure that you can come up with content ideas that can compete with other publishers in their space).
As for the second part, I have a very simple process that I follow. And it starts with finding and making a list of the top domains and publishers in that certain industry (especially those that have high search share).
You can use Google Search, SEMRush, Alexa and/or Compete to extract this data and create a list.
Try to penetrate at least 2 sites from the top 50 domains you’ve listed – and become a regular content contributor for them (instead of trying to land guest posts on each site from your prospect list).
Because multiple links and brand mentions from a highly authoritative site in your client’s field will surely have more weight than having a single blog post published on hundreds of mediocre sites/blogs (and I’ve mentioned this many times before).
Once you’ve already established your client’s brand as a good source of industry-related information through this approach, it’ll be so much easier to pitch to other sites for getting published – seeing that you’ve already built a strong content portfolio from other highly trusted websites in their space.
Deep Broken Link Building
Broken link building has been a very popular link building technique these days. One reason why is that it’s really easy to build a process around this method.
Richard Marriot recently shared his own process on how he approaches broken link building (and I’ve personally tried and I still currently use his process, but added a few things in it, for some of my clients).
Having this whole process as a part of your SEO campaign can help you become more consistent on your monthly deliverables, especially when you’re using the right tools.
Richard mentioned some of the tools he uses for this task (ScreamingFrog, Ahrefs, Ontolo, and Excel – which can be used for cleaning up a list that you can upload on the latter part of the process on Buzzstream). Well, Buzzstream will certainly speed up the process of outreach and it’s worth the investment!
Plan and launch holiday-based campaigns for your clients’ business. It’s certainly one of the best ways to drive more potential customers to their websites, and of course, build highly relevant links to their sites (once you start promoting events, giveaways, discounts and more based on the holidays that fit and matters to your client’s target customers).
You can also check this list of holidays around the world, to see which ones you can start preparing a campaign for.
Make a list of the holidays where you can launch a campaign (by giving away discounts, contests, giveaways, etc…) and the possible or ideal events that you can launch around these listed dates.
Just to give a brief sample of this approach, I have a client who’s in the online casino industry, and majority of their customers are people who are between 30 – 70 years old. So picking the holidays where we can launch campaigns on was easier, like for instance, I chose these holidays where we can have promos and events:
- July 27 – Parents’ Day
- August 21 – Senior Citizens Day
- September 7 – National Grandparents Day
- October 1 – The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Older Persons
- November 11 – Veterans Day
It’s just like having that one very exciting part of your overall campaign that you can do every month – which of course will fill in a large gap in the continuity of your strategy.
Once you already have your holiday list and projected events sorted out, you can start building a list of prospects for blogger outreach (where you can promote your upcoming events).
As for the example I’ve shared above, we’ve focused on blogs that have a history of promoting giveaways, discounts, contests and other form of online events targeted to the audience we are also aiming to acquire through this type of campaign.
For this prospecting task, I only used Google Search, SEOQuake and Excel to generate 700+ highly targeted prospects in under 15 minutes (you can check this tutorial out on how to use SEOQuake for link prospecting).
I also used Ontolo’s Remove Duplicate Hostnames tool and Ahrefs to clean up the list (in removing duplicate domains, as well as the pages from highly authoritative sites but clearly are irrelevant for the task, such as pages from Facebook and popular news sites).
Then you can also use Buzzstream to speed up the blogger outreach process in promoting your upcoming events.
If your consulting business is in for the long-haul, then investing on building quality niche sites (targeted to the market/industry where most of your clients are in) may also be a good route.
Building your own web properties that also intends to help your future clients get more leads to their business can also benefit your own service in so many ways, as these niche sites will be able to make a few aspects of your process easier, such as:
- Penetrating the blogosphere where your client’s business is in.
- Building relationships with other publishers in that specialized field (via crowdsourcing, curation, interviews).
- Build hard-to-replicate links for your clients.
- Earn extra income through ads (but don’t sell links).
- And can also be a business asset/service you can easily sell to future clients (just imagine if you have high traffic and high domain authority sites in real estate, technology, travel, business, and more, right?).
But of course, this approach will require massive amounts of resources to get it built, sustained and steadily grow.
One of the best additional services you can offer (but I think only a few agencies do) is to actually build relationships for your clients.
It’s a form of service that can really transform your business into a whole new dimension, which can certainly improve your chances of retaining your clients, since you’re doing more for their business than what they have originally paid you for.
Whether the branding opportunities that you’re providing your clients are through content partnerships or business partnerships – it could still make your job seem more valuable to them. And this is something that I’ve personally experience while working closely with Affilorama.
Fortunately, relationship building is already a big part of what we mostly do now (outreach, content marketing, and link building), it’s just that most of the time, we don’t put too much emphasis on how these relationships could be beneficial to our clients in the future.
Start building relationships for your clients, because the more your job becomes valuable to your clients, the more you’ll be able to retain them.
There’s one line that got really stuck with me for a very long time (heard this one from Juanito “Cell” Jacela) – “in our industry, we are only as good as our last report”.
We can pretty much consider that our “reports” are our tangible product as SEO consultants, since these show the results of what we’ve done for our clients.
But knowing that we are in a very complex industry, reporting on what we have done may sometimes not just be enough, as we also have to consider including the things that we can still do (include future action plans along with your current results).
Other things you can add to make your client reporting more robust:
- Creating a dashboard where clients can see the progress of the campaign in real-time. I use Trello, but you can also create your own dashboard that will be able to display all the necessary metrics to your clients anytime (like one from DashThis). You can read more on this recent post by Aleyda on how to create your own custom SEO dashboards for clients.
- You might also need to start working on your internal KPIs to show off better and data-driven reports to your clients that are really aligned with their business objectives. You can also check out the slide deck below from Gary Viray on how to choose killer KPIs for SEO campaigns.