I sold SEO services for over ten years as the CEO of The Ocean Agency, a digital marketing agency in Chicago, IL.
Over those ten years, my agency became so successful that is was successfully acquired in late 2014.
Today, I help SEO agencies all over the world generate an astonishing amount of quality SEO leads and sales through my new startup.
In this exclusive blog post, I’m going to show you 10 mind-blowing ways I generated 1,000’s of high-quality SEO leads and sales at my former agency.
Before I get started, it’s important to note that paying for our agency’s SEO services was a top priority for many of the businesses and big brands we worked with. The sales I generated were extremely high quality.
In my last 5 years as CEO, our clients, on average, each paid between $5,000 per month to $25,000 per month. The smallest we ever sold was $2,500 per month, but it was rare and for very specific circumstances.
The Ocean Agency HQ in Chicago, IL
Now for the fun stuff. In this exclusive post I’m doing with The HOTH, I’m going to show you how I generated so many leads which led to a huge and successful total acquisition of my agency.
1. Get Google Rankings For City + SEO
Before you sigh and think to yourself, “duh”, let me explain. I fought like crazy to get my agency’s website ranked on page #1 of Google in the 3rd largest market in the U.S., Chicago Illinois. But, I always stayed ethical and never did any unethical SEO techniques. This is extremely important to note, because everyone on page #1 of Google for the top keyword, “chicago SEO” knew each other or knew of each other.
One particular company’s CEO was a good friend of mine. He made it to page #1 a few years after I did, and even held the #1 spot for a while. For those couple of years business was booming for my friend and fellow CEO. However, to stay on top of Google he soon resorted to unethical link building techniques, which eventually pushed him down to page #3 and page #4 of Google. To make a long story short, he is literally no longer in business.
Ocean bounces back and forth between #1 and #2
So, let me explain how I achieved to the top position for the hardest and most competitive keyword in Chicago, “chicago SEO”.
- Specific Page Targeting
As a digital marketing agency, we offered more than SEO services. We also offered web design, development, social media marketing, PPC, and more. Because of this, it’s extremely important to dedicate a top-level web page to each service you’re trying to rank for. Do not target all keywords to the home page, and do not target the same keyword on multiple pages.This confuses the hell out of Google.
For example, Ocean’s SEO page is ocean19.com/chicago-seo. Your SEO page would be youragency.com/cityname-seo. If you need to change your URL after reading this, please do so, however, be sure to 301 redirect your old page to your new page.
- Exact keyword in the URL
Please notice how ocean19.com/chicago-seo uses the exact target keyword in the URL. This helps Google clearly understand which page to connect their users with, should they search “chicago SEO”. Once I did this, I saw this page soar to the top in a matter of a few days.
- 2,000+ Words
This is a simple trick that many SEO experts simply don’t do. Aim for 2,000 well written and thought out words on the target landing page. This will give search engines plenty to read, helping them better understand your target page. Don’t just throw content up there. Make sure you write natural and organic content. Also, break it up and make it easy to read so users stay on the page longer.
- Internal Links
I naturally linked from other pages throughout the content of our own website to the target landing page using the target keyword. In addition, I didn’t use generic words like “services” in the main menu or content. Instead, we always naturally used specific targeted keywords that would help Google understand our target page better, like “SEO”, and “our SEO services”.
- My Secret Sauce
There’s actually a lot more that I did than the above super important tasks, Those are just the key ingredients to my “secret sauce”. Well, it isn’t actually a secret anymore. My secret sauce can be found when you audit a landing page on MySiteAuditor, my startup I mentioned earlier in the post. Our audit tool audits any landing page and determines how optimized that specific page is for a target keyword or phrase. Our audit looks at over 60 signals that I determined over the years are the most important signals Google uses to indicate relevance and quality. You should note: we update those signals regularly and whenever Google updates their algorithm.
2. Offer a Free Audit Tool
One thing we noticed at Ocean, when reviewing our traffic analytics, was that we had a ton of traffic and relatively very little conversions through our contact form and phone number.
Thousands of potential customers were finding and entering our website through Google search, but we were only getting a few leads per week.
This troubled me for a while. On average only 1% of people who visited our website would contact us for services. 1% is also the average conversion rate for all contact forms, according to a study by Formstack. The remaining 99% of our visitors would leave, and never contact us at all.
Why was this?
I spent hours racking my brain on how we could get more visitors, who were already on our website, to give us their contact info before they left. That’s when I came up with the idea of a free website audit tool in exchange for contact information.
So we built a free website SEO audit tool around 2008. Our visitors could instantly scan their website and see how optimized it was for search engines; however, in order to use our free tool, visitors would have to enter their contact information.
Leads started pouring in! It was insane!
I initially spent around $5,000 building a very basic audit tool that looked for 15 red SEO flags like missing metadata, robots.txt file, H1 tag, and a few other signals.
Our free website audit tool had about a 10-15% conversion rate, while our contact form was getting only 1%. Think about that. Instead of 1 out 100 people contacting us on our site, we were now getting 10-15 people.
After experiencing a few years of insanely huge success with our free website audit tool, I noticed that about 99% of SEO service providers didn’t have an audit tool on their site.
Being the entrepreneur I am, this was just the gap I was waiting for. To help my fellow industry professionals out, I launched a startup, MySiteAuditor.
MySiteAuditor is a lead generating website audit tool that can be easily white-labeled and embedded on any SEO, web design, or digital marketing agency’s website in 20 languages around the world.
Since launching, MySiteAuditor has generated over 180,000 leads for SEO service providers around the world.
Please visit The HOTH Partners page for discounts for MySiteAuditor. (Limited Time Only)
You can regularly convert 30% of your visitors if you set up your lead page correctly.
3. Give Away Free Resources
After the success of our free seo audit tool, we decided to offer other free resources and tools as well.
However, we took the time to think about what would be most helpful to our exact target market and if they’d be willing to give us their contact information in exchange for those free resources.
Some we offered for free, some we offered in exchange for a share, and some we asked for contact information.
Here’s what we came up with:
- Free SEO checklist PDFs (High quality ones)
- Free NDA generator (People were always asking us to sign them)
- Free webinars on how to launch your first website
These are just a few of the free resources we offered. We would get so many email addresses and contact information that we couldn’t respond to everyone.
We eventually used Constant Contact to start an email list where we sent out email blasts with website and SEO tips. On a regular basis, people on our email list would inquire about our services.
4. Make Strategic Partnerships
We called almost every web design, online PR, social media, and IT company we could find in the area and offered them 10% off any SEO business they’d send us. This worked great.
Some of these digital marketing agencies didn’t provide SEO services, but they were asked about SEO all of the time. It was easy money for them to make, simply by referring a customer.
We would clearly explain and show our partners that we had a very good reputation and that we would immediately send them a check for 10% of the initial contract.
This worked so well that we eventually started sending our partners business for services we didn’t offer, like IT services, and they would send us 10% finder’s fees as well. Easiest money I ever made!
5. Offer Customer Referral Fees
We also created a referral 10% finders fee document for our customers. This document offered our customers a 10% finders fee if they sent us a referral that turned into a sale.
Here’s how we made sure our customers took it seriously. We made it seem extremely official and intriguing as possible by doing two things.
I personally signed every referral document we gave out. It made it seem more official and legit.
We also gave examples on the document of how much money the referral fee was if we sold the referral on our different services. In other words, we clearly showed that signing a $20,000 referral would result in a $2,000 finder’s fee when we got the down payment.
6. Answer Questions on Quora
I remember landing a huge, big brand client that paid us $20,000 per month for our services, and it stemmed from answering a question they posted on Linkedin Answers.
We simply gave a helpful answer to a question they posted and a few days later, they reached out to us for a proposal.
We didn’t pitch them our business in the answer: we just always tried to be as helpful as possible by answering their question, and that led to $20,000 per month and work with a big brand.
Of course, LinkedIn answers doesn’t exist any more, but you can use Quora instead.
Remember, be helpful by answering questions. Don’t pitch your services. If a potential customer reads and follows your profile to your website, awesome!
7. Tag Websites You Work On
I added a clause to our contracts that would let us add a link to our agency’s website in the footer of all our client’s website in case anyone of our customer’s visitors wanted to find us. That worked great for gaining new web design customers and generating SEO leads.
Here’s an example of how we generated a big SEO lead and sale:
One of the biggest real estate agencies in Chicago reached out to us one day to inquire about SEO services.
They were mesmerized by how we got a small, private real estate agent’s website to the top of Google for the keyword “Chicago condos”, arguably the hardest keyword to target in the Chicago real estate market.
When we asked them how they heard of us they explained how they saw a link to our agency’s website in the footer of the small, private real estate agent’s website.
That HUGE lead and sale led to a few other major SEO sales in Chicago’s real estate industry and led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for our agency.
Disclaimer: Do not try to get link juice from this type link; otherwise it could hurt your ranking with so many site-wide links. Make sure those links are no-follow links. Think about it like this; you are simply signing your art work so new customers can find you, not to get ranked high in search engines.
8. Add a Live Chat
Remember how annoying live chats were in 2005? They would always pop-up on websites like an annoying mosquito buzzing in your ear. They eventually faded away along with things like chat rooms.
But guess what? They’re back and way better than ever.
We used Olark to live chat with our website’s visitors in real time, as they were navigating our website. When I asked my sales team how Olark was working, I remember one guy on our team specifically say, “oh ya, it’s working!”
They tracked several sales directly from leads they generated through Olark on our site.
9. Offer Web Design Services
We got so much SEO business through the other services we offered on our website, especially web design.
Right after we built a website for a business or a microsite for a major brand, the next logical step was to ask them about SEO services.
For most businesses, it made perfect sense to immediately start doing SEO. Otherwise, they’d have a website up and running with zero traffic.
They were the easiest leads to turn into sales.
10. Contact Horrible Website Owners
Here’s one more lead generation trick that combined old-school sales techniques with new-school sales tactics.
During our sales team’s downtime, I would have them find and email horrible websites that ranked on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th pages of Google in different industries. This actually worked extremely well.
We explained how close they were to page #1 and we could help get them there. We only did about 20 per day though.
Here’s an example of the email we would send.
According to Internet Live Stats 3.5 billion searches are performed each day in Google, and there are almost a trillion websites currently online.
That’s endless amounts of SEO business.
If you focus on these 10 SEO leads generation tips over the next year, I promise you a HUGE boost in leads and sales. You and your sales team have to commit to real change.
There is so much business out there and I really hope this helps your agency double or triple in size.
Don’t forget to read my next post where I discuss 10 fantastic ways you can retain your SEO clients.
Editors Note: If you like this article please share it! What have you found works for lead generation? Let’s hear it in the comments!
Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.