So you’ve decided that the opportunity to offer SEO to your clients is too good to pass up. But what if you didn’t get accepted to the Harry Potter School of Search Engine Optimization? Lacking the necessary skill set, you have a couple of choices:
By doing it yourself, you get to keep all the money. That’s the good news. The bad news is, you get to do all the work. Only you know what’s best for you and what you’re capable of. Just beware of stretching yourself too thin.
If you’ve decided that sleep and a social life are overrated, there are plenty of resources available to get yourself educated, including SitePoint’s own, The SEO Business Guide.
I chose to outsource SEO when I ran my web business. The trick is figuring out how to make a dime on it. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Find someone who knows what they’re doing.
My first two experiences using SEO contractors were less than successful. With traditional advertising, at least clients could actually see the Yellow Page or newspaper ad they had purchased. With SEO, it’s all voodoo magic (“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…”) with little accountability. Since most firms refuse to guarantee results, it’s easy for them to claim, “Well, we tried, but we couldn’t get you the ranking you wanted.” From my perspective, those two firms took my clients’ money and simply did nothing. I’m not saying that’s what they did, but that’s how it felt.
<happyending>I eventually did find a SEO expert who achieved excellent results for my clients.</happyending>
2. Find someone you can trust.
Just finding a qualified person is no guarantee they’ll deal honestly with you or won’t end up stealing your clients if they offer services that overlap yours. Make sure you trust the other person and agree not to solicit each others’ clients.
3. Once you find the right person, agree who owns the client relationship.
The ideal partnership is someone who specializes in front-end design and someone who specializes in SEO. You could each sub-contract to one another and agree that whoever lands the client, keeps the client.
4. Figure out how to price your services so that each can make some money off the other.
I found it easier to charge my client directly for the first two stages of SEO during the initial design phase. Once the on- and off-site optimization was finished and the SEO entered the maintenance phase, I let the SEO person deal directly with the client (so long as he agreed not to solicit them for any services I provided).
Get a Business Partner
Another option is to form a partnership with a person or people who bring additional skills to the table. Partnerships involve risk as well as benefits, so I don’t recommend entering into one lightly. There are many horror stories of partnerships gone bad, or friends who are no longer after going into business together. Perhaps I was one of the lucky ones; the people I chose to partner with became good friends and when we split, we did so amicably and are still friends today. If you decide to partner up, choose wisely. And be sure to draft a partnership agreement with an exit clause.
As web services begin to fragment, it’s nearly impossible for a one-man or one-woman shop to offer design, programming, SEO, Pay-Per-Click advertising, social media marketing, and mobile web development and marketing. Forming a strategic or formal partnership is often the best choice.
Are you doing it a different way? Post your comments below.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.