How often has it happened that you’ve spent hours working on a SEO proposal for a new prospective client, only for it to result in no deal? It can be frustrating and hard to take the time to come up with a customized SEO proposal for each client and then for it to not get the desired response.
So what we’re doing here is:
1. We’re going to show you how to pitch better such that you get higher conversions
2. We’ll be including a sample SEO proposal template you could use as inspiration
Step 1: Pitch Better
If you do a Google Search for the perfect “SEO agency pitch” or “SEO proposals templates for clients“, you get over 3 million search results all claiming to have the magic formula for the ‘perfect pitch’. Being an ex-agency man myself, I can tell you that there’s no such thing. Successful pitches are done by agencies that don’t do one thing extraordinarily well, they do 10 things better than the competition. Here’s what we recommend.
To start with, here’s what a pitch typically looks like from both parties p.o.v.
Even a fresh-faced intern can see the difference. I’ve seen agencies put in tremendous effort in developing the pitch. Collecting every scrap of information possible and spending agonizing hours on revision after revision only to lose the pitch in the end. So what’s going wrong? Is data not important?
Well, the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, data is crucial to a pitch. It outlines where the problem areas are and leads to what the agency plans to do to correct it. A few good SEO agency teams will also go into how these corrections will benefit the client’s bottom line. But what separates the great agencies that win pitches consistently and the good ones that have a few wins punctuated with many hard losses?
The difference is in the intangibles.
Before you start creating your own pitch or even collecting the data, ask yourself these 3 questions:
Question 1: Have you dived into the client’s true problem? If a client is asking for a website redesign, have you asked “why” a minimum of 5 times? Once you get to the root of the problem / opportunity, you can design the pitch around that.
Question 2: Have you put in sufficient planning into how to sell your approach? Agency types tend to forget that clients are in fact people too. Any rational and logical person is going to ask for details – what was the thinking behind your recommended approach? On more than one occasion, I’ve dismissed agencies solely for not putting enough thought behind a ‘recommended’ solution and instead pushing it out of convenience which, it turns out, suited them.
Question 3: Is there a commonality between the potential client and the agency? Have you looked at their Chemistry? Their Culture? Their Values? Are these compatible with your own? It’s worth remembering that people make decisions from two centres of the brain. The Logical centre evaluates the SEO proposals (the reptilian brain deciding whether to flee or engage) and then the Emotional centre makes the final decision. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seen pitches won on pure emotional compatibility and gut feel – you could feel the passion the winning agency brought to the table and they focused on that far more than their credentials or past work.
Step 2: Choose the right format and create your own signature style
We were once in the middle of changing agencies and one of the agencies asked to pitch had a reputation for truly memorable ones. When it was their turn to take the floor, they did away with the traditional pitch deck and instead brought in palettes of money to show us how much we were losing and how much we stood to gain by using them. The money was fake of course, but it did far more to engage us than a deck could ever hope to do. The image of our daily losses being put in perspective through palette after palette of money being wheeled in is forever burned into my memory.
Granted this worked for them and I urge you to find something that works for you, but nonetheless, pitch decks offer a fair degree of individuality and I’ve included one of the best SEO proposal templates we were able to find which you can use for inspiration / reference while making your own.
Step 3: Get your Data Right
This is where most agencies stumble. Through SEO tools like Mondovo, it’s fairly easy to accumulate large volumes of data for a client pitch. But ask yourself, would you sit through a presentation where the presenter went through slide after slide after slide? Same concept.
Typically when accumulating data for a pitch, data from these reports will prove invaluable as the foundation – answering the ‘What’s the problem’ (and the how is my competitor doing) aspect of the pitch.
- A Ranking Report
- A Website Audit
- A Link Research Report
- A Social Media Analysis Report
Let’s quickly look at what data can be highlighted through a sample pitch to an online accommodation booking company www.booking.com.
What’s most important when presenting Rankings is showing Keyword performance and how well the URL is faring in the rankings.
Rankings Summary –
Next, show the side by side comparison to the client’s competitors to get a sense of where the company stands currently online.
Competitor Rankings –
Assuming you’ve done your background research correctly and the list of competitors are relevant to your client, this should outline the case for affirmative action quite nicely.
If you’ve been pro-active in tracking the rankings for a couple of days before creating the SEO proposal and if, by chance, you noticed a dip in their search rankings in the recent past, you could highlight them in your pitch.
Once you’ve established the cause for concern through the Ranking Monitor, the next step you can move to is establishing the various causes. Here’s a good rule of thumb that we’ve found holds true in most circumstance. ‘Even if the website is agency designed and developed, chances are there is scope for optimization’. We’ve seen hundreds of websites – some good, some woeful – that are agency designed, developed and maintained. Over half of them on an average have areas of improvement that the incumbent agency has neglected to correct. A badly optimized website affects rankings which affects traffic. Since web traffic to the site has a bearing on conversions, these errors have real world implications that are costing the site owners money.
Here’s what you need to be highlighting while making the SEO proposal from the Website Audit of the clients’ URL. It’s standard industry practice to compare this with a site audit of a competitor as well and then highlight the difference in performance. You can find below a sample of our website audit, for reference.
A Quick SEO Web Audit Overview:
Summary & Meta Issues –
Linking & Content details –
Next a quick peek into On Page Optimization issues – in this instance, the home page:
SEO Factors passed –
SEO Issues to be fixed –
A recent article in Moz highlighted how clients are looking at analytic toolsets, and by extension companies, at evolving into insight generators. The good thing about the Mondovo reporting engine is that it provides that insight. As the screen captures above show, every on page analysis is accompanied by detailed information on where the problem lies and what needs to be done about them.
Content Issues & Keyword Optimization –
With a site such as the one we’ve chosen i.e. www.booking.com, the number of pages would typically run into the thousands. Don’t allow yourself to get data drunk and include every snippet of information on every single page in the pitch deck or the presentation booklet. Instead highlight the problem for a few key pages and outline your strategy (like SEO, PPC, Social, etc.,) for rectifying the problem, assuming that similar issues might exist for the inner pages.
Ending the Website Audit section of the problem, you can now show something from the Link Research section
Backlink Summary –
The next step would be to run a Social Competition analysis, in this case an analysis of the Facebook presence Booking.com vs three other competitors and highlight the differences in their posting & engagement strategies, fans etc… Here again, Mondovo differentiates itself by not only reporting the facts but offering insight as well.
Competition Summary –
Overall Likes & Engagements –
Engagement of Admin posts –
Just to summarise:
When compiled together, the data section of your report should succinctly outline and highlight the problem areas of the client vs the competition and leave you more than enough room to promote the intangibles (discussed in the beginning of the article).
Just to reiterate and hopefully emphasise on its importance, more often than not, the winning agency isn’t the one with the most awards or the cheapest. It’s the one that forms an emotional connect with the client. The emotional aspect of the equation is as important as any data (a standout SEO proposal). In some instance, even more so.
Now let’s dive into what a good pitch document is supposed to look like.
Here is the basic flow of a pitch document, according to the feedback we received from our survey of our 2000+users
1) Executive Summary
2) Why you? (your company)
3) What’s at stake
4) Proposed Solution
5) Analytics & Improvement
We’ll now go into each section in greater detail and provide you with a sample template that can be easily modified to fit your needs and purposes.
This is where you outline the reason for the pitch. Where you highlight the insight that your discussions with the client have yielded. Where you differentiate yourself by showing a greater understanding of the problem beyond merely what the client has requested.
Things to include in this section are:
- Business Challenges: Listed in bullet points, highlight the problems faced by the client from a business standpoint. Link these problems to your SEO services by mentioning how they are most often caused by the issues that cause the website to underperform in search results for target keywords
- SEO Challenges: Also in bullet points, mention the factors that are directly contributing to the low position of the site in SERPs. Remember: these are issues that you have to directly address later with your recommended solutions
- BaseLine Metrics: Here’s where you show the current state of things i.e. the metrics of the client’s site and if possible a quick mention of a close competitors site as well (just to prove a point)
- Goals: Identify and outline the end goals that your agency is aiming for and link them to the business challenges (customized goals).
In this section, state the value proposition of your SEO services. It’s where your core competencies and how they will help achieve the client’s goals comes into focus. If you refer to the beginning of the article, we would advise not focussing on the tangibles such as how many clients you have or how many awards you’ve won. Instead, here is where you show you’re human side and try to make a connection with the human side of the client as well (95% of clients are human remember?)
What’s at Stake?
Nothing helps a prospect realize the importance of your services better than seeing how much more revenue he could be generating or losing if he just ranked better for the target keywords (remember the palettes of money example? Same thing). Put the perspective in money if possible using simple math and provide the client with an estimate of the ROI that your agency can bring to the table. Here’s what you’ll need to do that:
- Prospect’s target keywords (2-3 will be enough just to make a point)
- Avg. search volume of target keywords based on the target market location
- Google click-through rates according to position
- Website’s current conversion rate
- Average dollar value per conversion
Most of this data can be found easily using tools such as Mondovo. To calculate the SEO driven revenue from each keyword, you can download the SEO driven revenue calculator from the below link:
Here’s what it looks like – Just enter the details highlighted in the red columns and the formulas will handle the rest.
A point to note: be sure to make it clear to the client that you’re making this estimation on current market data. Market trends, product seasonality, promotions and other factors could affect the revenue projections in your SEO proposals.
Your SEO Proposal
In this section, state your agencies recommendations that will address each issue identified under the SEO challenges section. We also recommend using text & images to get your point across and help the client understand the end goal. This section is intended to justify the techniques you’ll be using and investments that you’ll be asking them to make.
You would also define the scope of work here and make clear what you are going to do and what you’re not. This is very very important so that no future issues arise. Under this section, some of our users have also highlighted having explaining the rationale of how you (your agency) intends to operate through subsections such as:
A. What fundamental changes your agency will need to make to overall processes such as the client’s inbound marketing model
B. Recommended actions that included the specific ones you’re going to take for the SEO process – such as a technical audit of the site, blog creation, develop & build a link strategy etc…
Analytics and Improvement
This section, as the name suggest, identifies the metrics that will allow the client to judge the performance and progress of your efforts on a month to month basis. This will allow for both the client and the agency to have visibility on what’s working and what’s not. Committing to this data lets the client have some sense of control over the overall proceedings and makes them feel ‘in charge’. It also allows for the important aspect of transparency.
Much more than a basic outline of how much time the entire project will take, the timeline contains information on the sequence and timing of the tasks that you will be performing throughout the contract’s duration. Things to include here are items like the name of the task, the person responsible, start and end dates etc…
Having a predetermined timeline also shows some sense of organisation and planning forethought and also contributes to the overall transparency of the agency client interaction.
This section is where you list down the resources that the prospect needs to provide when he becomes your client. Access to the CMS, access to their web analytics data, their Google Webmaster Tools data, cooperation from their development team, and of course your monthly retainer should all be listed here.
You can download a sample SEO Proposal template by clicking on the below link. To be noted, this proposal has been taken from Glen Dimaandal’s blog post out here and slightly edited to include a few more bits.