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In today’s digital environment, having a robust online presence is necessary for successful marketing. There are many aspects to online marketing, but SEO (search engine optimization) probably offers the highest ROI (return on investment).

Negotiating service contracts can be daunting for both SEO experts and their clients. Negotiation courses can hone your skills in winning over clients and securing the best deals. Here’s what SEO consultants need to know to win more clients at higher margins.

Run an SEO Audit

Before you pitch your services, start by running an SEO audit on their online properties. Understand how well the prospect’s websites are performing.

The SEO audit should check the health of the client’s website and contain improvement suggestions. Most clients are not aware of changes to search engine algorithms and how these affect their site. A review allows you to analyze past SEO efforts and suggest immediate action. Here are just a few elements that your SEO audit can cover:

  • Keyword usage and ranking. Do the chosen keywords attract optimal traffic?
  • Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). Account for long-tail and secondary keywords usage and frequency.
  • Organic search ranking. How broad is the site’s organic reach?
  • Code analysis. Are there any codes, plugins, or widgets affecting SEO?
  • Link analysis. Are the internal, external, and back-linking strategies working well?
  • Competitive audit. What are the client’s competitors doing differently or better?
  • Content audit. Is the website’s content relevant to the client’s goals?
  • Does the site have landing pages/sales funnels that are converting well?
  • Is the client making effective use of their resources to capture visitors’ emails, and are they capitalizing well with email offerings that monetize?
  • Are they using social media to drive traffic and a blend of social signals?

Know the Client’s Business

Marketing courses emphasize knowing the nature and details of a client’s business operations. Once you’ve run an SEO audit, take the time to learn the client’s business.

Improving your knowledge of the client’s market and industry can result in more effective SEO strategies. Plus, knowing your client’s business shows not only that you care, but that your offering can be made bespoke to meet their unique needs. Some of the things to check about your client’s business include:

  • What products and services do they offer?
  • Which are the best performing products and services?
  • What are the client’s methods of product/service delivery? Do they outsource shipping? Do staff pay clients a visit at their physical premises?
  • What are the recurring concerns for your client’s customers? Are they experiencing low page speeds or late replies to emails?
  • Which are the best and worst-performing web pages?
  • What type of content is receiving most or least traction? Is their YouTube channel more popular than their website?

One example is an SEO service that was working with a packaging company. The SEO professional researched to understand the sales funnel and how companies decided to get any packaging with the SEO client. It came down to video presentations and delivery times. So the SEO expert knew they had to promote more of the video presentations and emphasize the packaging company’s competitive pricing.

Leverage Your Skills

In negotiation, leverage means knowing you hold something of value to the other side that you are willing to trade. The importance lies in realizing how highly the other side values the item, service, or skill on offer.

For an SEO consultant, possessing superior skills compared to the previous SEO provider can be used as leverage. Once your client understands their need for an SEO provider with superior skills, it’s time for you to explain why you’re the person for the job.

Make your pitch easy to understand. Avoid using SEO jargon to explain concepts. Using examples, discuss how you plan to tackle each challenge revealed in the audit. For instance, point out how the client’s keyword choice may be hurting their search rankings and how the client can remedy this issue. Other ways to gain leverage in SEO sales negotiations are:

  • Summarize facts, laws, and industry policies affecting the client’s site performance. When you demonstrate you understand the client’s position well, you increase the likelihood of a favorable deal.
  • Deal with inaccuracies. You can capitalize on your client’s uncertainties. For instance, you can point out if the client is still using outdated linking strategies that now attract search engine penalties.
  • Slow down the negotiations. When you reduce your urgency, you’re sending the message that you’re not desperate to settle. However, don’t ignore your prospect. Use the time to build rapport rather than to rush the agreement.
  • Be willing to walk away. If your client insists on an offer that could drag your bottom line down, then be ready to walk away.

Show Proof of Concept

Negotiation course leaders emphasize that your past results impact the success of your current sales negotiations. Use SEO case studies to record and present your project achievements.

Whether you’re a freelancer or an agency, proof of performance can make the difference in SEO sales negotiations. You can either create a diverse portfolio with clients in different industries or focus on niche areas.

In SEO circles, the focus is on the result. How much did you improve the search engine rankings of your past client’s web pages? Examples of measurable outcomes to present in your case studies include:

  • Performance in different search engines like Google, Bing, etc.
  • How improvements to web structure reduced bounce rates.
  • How your internal linking techniques improved site navigation and click-throughs.
  • How you reversed the negative impacts of a penalized site.
  • How your SEO service improved a client’s reputation management.

Offer Package Deals

SEO involves a lot of interrelated services. SEO service providers sometimes find that offering just one service doesn’t sufficiently improve the client’s web performance. For instance, if you’re working only on HTML tag optimization, your service may not improve the site’s rankings.

A more integrated service is more likely to provide better results. Many SEO pros collaborate with professionals in related fields, rather than distract themselves in areas that they’re not focused on. Decide whether you want to be the single point of contact for your client or if you would prefer to refer them to coders, designers, UXs, and social media spin doctors. Bundling services can enhance your SEO sales negotiations in the following ways:

  • One consultation can result in selling many services.
  • Bundling your services can increase your effectiveness while driving up the return for both you and your client.
  • Package deals provide outsized value that should be far more compelling to clients, so they are more likely to sign up – and to sign up faster.
  • Most clients prefer to deal with one service provider for multiple services.

Bundling increases your exposure to new services and new market opportunities.