For some marketers, the prospect of selling SEO can be intimidating – especially if it’s a brand new offering for your agency. But it may be comforting to know that even the most seasoned SEO sales stars get “stage fright” every now and then.
As you prepare to sell white label SEO services to your clients, you’ll want to think like an actor. It’s not enough to memorize only your own lines; you’ll also need to learn the “scene” to anticipate what the other players feel, think, and say.
Of course, you’ll still need to employ your active listening skills and be quick on your feet. But if you do the prep work and have a clear idea of what’s coming, you can deftly respond to any SEO sales scenario with an award-worthy performance.
In the same way that “No Fear Shakespeare” breaks down the Bard’s most classic stage plays into digestible, modern language, we’re breaking down your clients’ toughest SEO questions so you can understand their motivations, speak to what they actually care about, and outshine the competition. Our role play exercise even features some cameos from Semify’s own all-star cast. With their help, you’ll master the craft of SEO sales and win over your audience every time. (While we can’t guarantee a standing ovation after every SEO pitch, we believe rave reviews will come your way!)
Without further ado, let’s set the scene with some client SEO questions and answers.
You can cast yourself as both Semify Account Manager Katie Battaglia and Senior Account Manager Kevin Moore – as well as some special guest stars like COO Chris Scott and Director of Marketing Jeff Shipman – in these scenes. Follow the scripts below and use them when these SEO sales scenarios present themselves.
Places. Curtain up!
SEO Questions Scene 1: Keywords
You’re meeting with a prospective client who’s a great fit for your agency. They don’t have a lot of SEO experience, but they understand that ranking on the right keywords is important for traffic and sales. They’ve done a little research on their own and already have a keyword they want to rank for – but it’s way outside their budget.
CLIENT: My competitor is ranking for this keyword! Why can’t we target it?
KATIE: It’s not that we can’t. It’s more about whether we should. We use our keyword research tools to forecast the competitive nature of the keyword versus what we call “the power of the plan.” By that, we mean how plausible it is to rank well for that keyword using the monthly plan tier you’ve chosen. If our research shows us that the keyword will be too competitive (i.e., too expensive for your monthly budget to show progress), we’ll recommend against targeting it. You’ll get more bang for your buck, so to speak, by selecting keywords that are still highly relevant without being overly competitive. Those are the ones that will drive rankings, traffic, and conversions.
CLIENT: Okay, but how do I know that you’re going after the right keywords in the first place? How do you decide which SEO keywords are the best choice for my business?
KEVIN: We use a number of different strategies as part of our SEO keyword research. We use third-party software platforms, like SEMRush and Ahrefs, to gauge where opportunities exist in specific markets. It’s also important to identify your client’s target outcomes (like site conversions, email opt-ins, traffic metrics, etc.) and match those when developing strategy. We consider key factors like monthly search volume, keyword competitiveness, competitor backlink profiles, marketplace trends, and any existing keyword rankings when doing our keyword research so we can advise resellers and end-clients on the best approach.
While some business owners are quick to assume that a higher monthly search volume = a better keyword, that’s not always the case. Although it won’t typically benefit your clients much to target keywords with virtually zero search volume, you also won’t move the needle with a $500 per month SEO budget if the keywords you’re targeting receive 50,000+ monthly searches. Small businesses typically need to get more specific with their keyword targeting to compete and reach their true audiences. That may mean targeting slightly less competitive keywords – but in most cases, that will actually result in better-quality queries, more traffic, and more sales.
Ultimately, keyword selection comes down to more than just the client’s budget and the term’s monthly search volume. Search intent matters just as much, if not more, when deciding which terms to target.
CLIENT: Wait, what’s search intent? Why is that so important when choosing keywords to target?
KEVIN: "Search intent" refers to the specific goal of someone who types in a search query. Some web users are just looking for information, while others want to make a purchase immediately. You’ll need to know where someone is in their buyer’s journey in order to provide the right kind of conversion-driven content to satisfy their needs at any given point. There are several types of keyword search intent, including: Informational (a user is simply seeking knowledge); Commercial (a user is investigating and comparing brands, products, or services); and Transactional (a user is ready to purchase).
Some businesses may want to target customers in every step of their buyer’s journey with their content (and, therefore, their keyword selection). Alternatively, they may already have a good amount of informational content but lack transactional ranking keywords. As their SEO provider, you’ll want to evaluate which kinds of keywords align with both the client’s audience and their goals to create a strong, personalized keyword strategy that goes beyond monthly search volume.
It’s easy to get caught up in what a big competitor is doing or get stuck on the importance of certain search terms. But in this case, what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. As you learn more about how to sell SEO effectively, you’ll find that a mom-and-pop store shouldn’t target the same keywords as a global corporation. And fortunately, with SEO, they don’t actually have to in order to succeed.
SCENE SUMMARY: When looking at search volume and selecting a client’s target keywords, less is usually more. Terms that have a reasonable monthly search volume and are more aligned with the client’s target audience will typically help them reach their goals more effectively than the broadest, most popular search terms within their industry. Because they’ll have a better chance of ranking on those more specific keywords, they’ll be in a better position (literally) to drive sales and traffic – and that’s really what everyone wants!
SEO Questions Scene 2: Link-Building
In this scene, you’re making an SEO pitch to a prospect who’s probably done some SEO in the past, but who isn’t necessarily a total expert. They’re looking for more in-depth guidance on link-building, which gives you a chance to flex your knowledge and build trust. The challenge? You’ll have to counter their inherent skepticism and outdated misconceptions in a disarming way to build trust.
CLIENT: Why should I care about backlinks anyway? Even Google says they don’t matter!
KATIE: Google has told us that backlinks have a less significant impact than they did in the early days of Search – but they still matter. Google now uses hundreds of ranking signals, including backlinks, to determine a website’s value. Remember: A backlink from a website is basically an endorsement. We know that quality matters more than quantity here, which is why we focus on acquiring industry-specific, high-DR backlinks for clients. Quality endorsements from a few highly relevant sites will create a stronger backlink profile and help your site be seen as more valuable than a site with thousands of low-quality backlinks pointing to it.
CLIENT: Wait, back up a second. “DR?” What’s that?
KATIE: DR, or Domain Rating, is a calculation that tells us the strength of a website based on its backlinks. It’s a metric that was developed by Ahrefs to rank websites based on the size and quality of their backlink profiles. By acquiring backlinks from a variety of relevant, high-DR websites, this strategy will diversify your own backlink profile. And that can actually help your website rank better in search results. While DR isn’t actually a ranking signal itself, it can give us valuable information when developing a link-building strategy so that your website is perceived more positively by association.
CLIENT: I’ve heard that Domain Authority is a better metric to use than Domain Rating. Why don’t you use that?
CHRIS: Neither DA or DR is officially used by Google, so both are really an estimation of what different companies believe matters to search engines. In the Domain Authority vs. Domain Rating battle, we’ve chosen to use DR because it’s far more transparent.
CLIENT: How so?
CHRIS: Domain Authority uses a proprietary algorithm and a bunch of mysterious factors to rank websites on a 100-point scale, while Domain Rating uses only a site’s backlinks to give its scores. Google’s John Mueller has stated on numerous occasions that Domain Authority doesn’t really align with any of Google’s current ranking factors. There’s also an argument to be made that Google ranks based on specific pages instead of whole domains, which means DA’s complex domain-based rating system may not reflect Google’s priorities.
CLIENT: It sounds like some of that is just conjecture.
CHRIS: Well, it might also help to know that DA scores don’t always provide sufficient accuracy for newer websites, even when those sites have already acquired valuable backlinks. And perhaps most importantly, there isn’t much evidence to show a strong correlation between Domain Authority and search rankings. A website can have a great DA without getting a whole lot of traffic, which can give a false impression of overall value. We use Domain Rating because we feel it’s a simpler, better reflection of what Google actually cares about.
CLIENT: Okay, but why should I care about backlinks if they’re not directly driving leads and sales for my business?
KATIE: While your customer may not directly follow a link from another site back to yours, that doesn’t mean backlinks won’t impact your traffic and sales. Having a diversified backlink portfolio allows Google to “trust” your website more. Gaining Google’s trust allows your website to be displayed more frequently and increase its visibility in search results. Ultimately, that means your site can boost its overall traffic (not just direct traffic from the backlink itself!) because Google views your site as reputable. It’s an indirect effect, but it’s a powerful one!
SCENE SUMMARY: Backlinks can be a hot-button topic for both white label SEO resellers and business owners. But the more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be at explaining the nature and nuances of backlinks to your clients. They certainly don’t need to know every minor detail about link-building – but showing them what makes a good backlink and the impact those links can have can assure them that link-building is an essential part of any SEO strategy.
SEO Questions Scene 3: Results
In this final scene, you’ll be meeting with clients who want to get down to campaign brass tacks. You can explain the technical side all day long, but what they really care about is results. To avoid confusion and frustration later on, you’ll need to know how to set proper expectations at the onset. In the event that that initial expectation-setting doesn’t do the trick, you’ll also want to prepare yourself to diffuse any heated situations related to results. In most cases, client frustration can be countered with responsiveness, accountability, and active listening.
CLIENT: Okay, I think I want to get started with SEO services. How long will it take to see results?
KEVIN: Unlike pay-per-click ads that can offer nearly instantaneous results, SEO is a long-term game that creates a lasting impact on organic search traffic. Google makes constant adjustments to website search result positioning by surveying the market as a whole; this process involves crawling sites, indexing pages, and ranking sites accordingly. Any time we add SEO or make other changes to a website, it’ll take anywhere from 90 to 120 days to be accurately measured.
CLIENT: So it’s going to take nearly four months to see any changes? How can I trust that my investment will pay off?
JEFF: In highly competitive industries, it can sometimes take longer! I know taking that leap of faith can be tough. But SEO is meant to be “slow and steady.” We’ve created an ROI of SEO calculator that estimates what your return on investment might look like and when you can expect to start seeing results. (Note to SEO resellers: We have a white-labeled version of this resource you can send directly to your clients or show them on a call!) While SEO isn’t an exact science and we can’t guarantee a precise timeline, this long-term approach has real staying power.
Semify's ROI of SEO calculator shows estimated returns in Month 1 vs. Month 18
CLIENT: What do you mean? Why should I have to be patient when other marketing strategies show immediate results?
KEVIN: Unlike other forms of digital marketing, SEO has the unique benefit of compounding growth month over month. If you put in consistent effort today, you’ll see substantial and lasting results months (or even years) from now. And because SEO is affordable, you can combine those efforts with paid search and social media advertising – which often deliver faster, less enduring results at a higher price point – to cover all your bases.
CLIENT: Do you mean I just have to wait and hope what you’re doing is working?
KEVIN: While patience is a virtue with SEO, you won’t ever have to take our word for it! We measure and report on results by tracking specific metrics like domain rating, total keywords ranked, keywords ranked within the top 10 positions, client-specific target keyword rankings, impressions, clicks, organic search users, and organic search sessions. We use those baseline metrics to analyze website status, develop monthly reports, and provide quarterly business reviews. We also use a client-specific lens when evaluating campaign success, as what’s considered a “successful” campaign will vary from business to business.
CLIENT: What if I want to get more extensive insight into my campaign performance?
KEVIN: You can access your analytics at any time and we'll always keep you in the loop via regular calls, check-ins, and reports. Because we’re constantly monitoring your campaigns for improvement opportunities and for necessary changes, you can essentially get in-depth insight at any point during your campaign. You play an invaluable role in this process!
CLIENT: What if I’m unhappy with my campaign’s progress? Can you promise me that this will work?
JEFF: Because there’s so much that’s outside our control (like how frequently Google updates its algorithm or how long it takes to index and rank websites), we can’t make specific promises. If you talk to an SEO provider who pledges to get you ranking on page 1 within a month... RUN. At best, they’ll overpromise and underdeliver by a mile. At worst, they could be using black hat SEO practices that can hurt your site!
CLIENT: I definitely don’t want that. But what kind of reassurance can you give me?
JEFF: We know what works (we've got the case studies to prove it!) and we’ve compiled an incredible team of experts to set your campaign up for success. While results aren’t going to be immediate, you will see progress if you stay the course with a reputable SEO partner. Of course, we’re always here to discuss your campaign’s progress and make recommendations based on your goals, budget, and industry. We purposely don’t make promises because there are just too many factors that vary from campaign to campaign and client to client – and ultimately, Google has the final say. But we play by Google’s rules and put our expertise to good use, so you can feel confident that your investment will pay off.
SCENE SUMMARY: Setting realistic client expectations is key with any marketing strategy, but especially with SEO. By driving home the importance of SEO without overselling its capabilities, addressing anxieties about an elusive process with an emphasis on transparency, and reassuring your clients that you’re fully accessible to them, you’ll get them past the initial SEO sales hurdle and forge long-term relationships that won’t be shaken by a slow start.
Understanding how to sell SEO packages comes down to more than mere technical knowledge. To impress the critics, you’ll have to lead with empathy, set proper expectations, and have an innate understanding of the SEO questions your clients are most likely to ask. By diligently doing your “scene study,” you can go into SEO sales calls feeling unstoppable – and ensure you’re met with a cry of “Bravo!” rather than a chorus of boos.