Chances are if you’ve been building websites for a while – you’ve heard people everywhere talking about SEO & content marketing.
More than the web design world, the SEO industry is full of misconceptions.
Why? Well, simply because there’s so much attention around SEO and everybody is trying to make money off of people interested in SEO. Yes, it is a sad truth but the SEO industry is full of scammers and so-called gurus. Some have even called it a minefield of dodgy practitioners. Aside from this, it’s riddled with people that over-promise and under-deliver.
In this post, we’re going to put those misconceptions to rest and talk about SEO & how it relates to web design agencies.
- What is SEO & Content Marketing?
- Use SEO To Generate Leads
- Use Content To Qualify & Attract Your Ideal Customers
- Offering SEO To Your Agency’s Clients
- Conclusion – How Do You Already Use Or Plan To Use SEO?
A general way to understand what SEO & content marketing is and why it matters is they help you do three things: (1) attract potential customers, (2) build trust, and (3) convert potential customers into buyers.
Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a website to rank higher in search engines (like Google). Fundamentally, this can involve anything that will help a website rank higher, i.e. performance optimization, design, on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. Buzzwords aside though, how does this really matter to web design agencies?
Well, put it this way – the most successful freelance web designers and web design agencies out there have a system that generates inbound leads for them as opposed to having to constantly send outbound emails (cold emails) to potential customers. Not that outbound marketing doesn’t work or can’t be a part of your strategy regardless, it most certainly can, but SEO & content marketing are far more scalable customer acquisition strategies for a service-based business (such as an agency)…
Every agency solves a specific problem for a specific set (or subset) of people.
Sure, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other agencies that might be capable of designing a website just like you can, but what sets you apart from other agencies? How is your approach different and what makes a certain type of customer the ideal fit for your agency as opposed to any other agency?
Asking yourselves these questions will lead you to the answer to one fundamental question that you really should have the answer to if you want to be able to market yourself – what is your unique value proposition?
Once you have the answers to the above questions on hand, I’m sure you’ll start to see where we’re going with this. You’ll naturally start to see a trend of what sets your agency apart that are all perfect content ideas.
Over time you can get even more granular and start prioritizing with SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, etc. but to begin with exhaust the ideas that are specific to you & your agency…
Now let’s dive into some examples of another agency doing this in practice.
- Lonely Viking’s – How Much Should You Pay For A Logo?
This type of content is evergreen. Shane (the owner of Lonely Viking) may have invested a short amount of time to put this post together but over time (if it attracts enough backlinks), he’ll start ranking for a keyword with a decent amount of search volume in a competitive industry.
As a company that does logo design for businesses, you can see the value of this. Once they earn a searcher’s click – they then have a chance at converting the people that land on their page.
- ScaleMath’s – When Does Content Marketing Make Sense?
This post alone attracted thousands of visitors of which it generated a couple dozen qualified leads (and continues to without any additional money or time being invested). Of which an even smaller percentage converted into actual customers (obviously not every client is an ideal fit), but even if say just 2 became customers for an SEO & marketing agency that would mean > $10,000/month in added monthly revenue.
- Andriy’s Post On Successful Membership Site Ideas
Andriy is a freelancer who recently started turning his personal website’s blog into the home for everything he’s learned from working with membership site owners over the years. This is yet another perfect example of somebody taking advantage of the insight that they specifically have to create content. While obviously, it’s still very early stage – similar to the examples above, these posts don’t need to attract tens of thousands of visitors to be worth it. They just need the right visitors which can convert into five or even six-figure deals.
To emphasize: Note that as an agency where one client can lead to tens of thousands in revenue (if not hundreds of thousands in revenue), you don’t need millions of visitors or readers. You just need the right people to find your content. So the effort (time investment) if you’re doing this yourself or financial investment is extremely easy to justify if you already know who exactly you can help.
There are obviously easier ways to find customers. SEO & content marketing are not the easiest and should almost always not be the very first methods you use because they not only take longer, they’re also more expensive – which is why it’s a customer acquisition channel that only makes sense to invest into later in your agency when you know that it will yield great results.
The purpose of SEO is to get this content in front of billions of people that are searching for answers & resources every single day.
Now that we’ve covered how SEO & content marketing can be used to generate leads, this is the next step. Beyond just attracting leads, once you already have top-level traffic – content marketing is the perfect way to qualify clients and educate them at essentially every part of the customer journey. Yes, even post-purchase.
Let’s use ourselves as an example for this one.
WP FeedBack PRO – which is slightly different as we build software to make web designers’ lives easier – frequently publishes blog posts where the primary focus isn’t client acquisition and is instead revenue expansion.
The general concept behind this is that if we give our customers the resources (and tools) that they need to be able to grow, they’re going to become bigger/more successful (and in some cases, also more profitable) for our agency/business…
Another type of content that works really well is showing people how you work. Often for high-ticket services, people are not ready to invest because they don’t know exactly what the process of working with an agency like yours would (or could) look like. If you invest time into creating content that showcases how your agency works with clients, examples of past clients, and why you do it like this – people that are interested in working with you because of your process be more inclined to reach out or convert (if they’ve already reached out to you). out.
Why You Should Consider Offering SEO To Your Web Design Clients
Doug Seidl of Straight-up Digital Marketing who was kind enough to take the time to contribute to this post has been a professional web designer for 20 years. For the first 15, he was quite happy doing the design and development aspect of building websites. The “craft” of being a web designer was what got him into doing this for a living, to begin with, and so he became comfortable focusing on that aspect of the work…
Within the last 5 years, however, he has deeply immersed himself into the world of SEO and higher-level digital marketing. Simply put, times have changed. When Doug first started, being a web designer was rare compared to how common it is today. As most of you know, as time and technology have progressed, the barrier to entry is much lower and there are more people than ever that can throw together websites of varying quality.
Doug had a realization & asked himself “now what?“.
What more could he offer clients that makes a meaningful impact and helps him differentiate himself from the average web designer/developer that just puts together a website?
This led him to realize that if he would simply be able to not only build them a great-looking site but also one that functions well & helps them achieve their business goals – this is, in turn, also more valuable to the client.
For your clients, aside from satisfying their requirements by building a website that achieves their goals – you could take this a step further…
Have you ever thought of improving your service as a web design agency by taking it beyond just design and development?
Aside from understanding your clients’ needs so you can build them the best possible website – you could consider taking this a step further.
Once the website is live, why don’t you offer two additional services:
- A technical SEO audit
Some believe this should be a core part of all web design/development work, but the truth is that some of the best designers and developers out there can (accidentally, of course) not take into consideration certain things that have a huge impact on SEO.
A great example is a website’s navigation.
This has a huge/measurable impact on the performance of your website because pages that appear on your website’s navigation are considered (by search engines) to be top-level (more relevant) pages.
A second is page depth (or click depth) which is the number of clicks that it takes to get to a page. If a page is almost impossible to find for a real user, search engines deprioritize this page and may take this as a signal that the page is not as relevant/important as other pages that are linked directly on the homepage and easily accessible to users.
Taking these things into consideration in the early stages when planning a website design or redesign could be something that you upsell to customers.
Since it is a highly specialized service that will lead to a project taking longer, I believe it makes sense to charge for (or at least explicitly feature in your web design proposal). While on the other hand, if the business you’re working with has in-house resources that understand technical SEO – they would obviously be able to coordinate with you early on in the process…
2. Helping them plan a content strategy
Depending on the type of businesses that you work with, the chances are they have the money to invest in the resources to execute a marketing strategy but often don’t really know where to start on strategy. The result is that a VP or CEO hacks together something that they think makes sense, but it typically fails to really drive results because they don’t understand what it really takes.
Before offering this as a paid service, we recommend putting a strategy into practice on your own website to validate the concept, or partnering with a consultant/agency that could allow you to offer this to clients without increasing the complexity of your agency’s operations further…
There are a lot of agencies that go too far to close a sale. In SEO, you can’t directly control how quickly or how well something is going to work unless (in most cases), so don’t overpromise that you’ll start generating 200+ leads or 10,000 organic visits per month if that is unrealistic based on the client’s budget.
Technical changes will have a minimum impact on traffic if there is very little traffic already there. You are very unlikely to see a technical change (made as a result of an audit) to move the needle from 0 organic visitors per month all the way to 10,000. Content is everything.
Note: There is a distinction between content and copy. Copywriting is a service that it makes sense for web design agencies to offer/handle for clients since it is relevant to the website itself.
On the other hand, content – while it may seem appealing to upsell as an additional monthly service – comes with a whole range of other complexities when you start doing it for anywhere above 4-5 clients all at once. Diversifying income is great, but diversifying your specialization will lead to being just “ok” at everything as opposed to being known for being truly capable of turning around incredible websites for the type of businesses your agency works with…
If you’re set that offering SEO is something that you’re fully capable of and ready to venture into, here’s how I recommend structuring your offer as a web design agency:
Instead of selling a monthly general SEO retainer which is very common & difficult to deliver at scale: create actual deliverables that you can sell at a small additional cost and are easy to deliver at scale.
Keyword Research / Content Strategy
For example, once you have a solid keyword research process for a certain type of business in place – offering this for $500-1000 on top of web design as a service afterward is relatively easy to deliver for you.
Technical Site Audit / Website Quality Audit
Similarly, the technical site audit or website quality audit side of things can be built into your initial web design proposal. Depending on how you price your web design service, this could either be built into the cost or charged separately and be completed once the website has launched/been redesigned. Either way, since for many business owners that web design agencies work with, the main concern will be to convey value – on your proposal/invoice I would feature this as a separate line item (even if the value of $500 is brought down to $0 because it’s included), that way they can see what they’re getting for the amount of money that they’re investing to work with you.
Landing Page Design & Development Included w/Monthly Care Plan
Whether or not this will be a hard or an easy sell for the businesses your agency works with will heavily depend on who you typically work with. However, for a number of businesses – spinning up new pages as new locations become available, or as new features become available could be incredibly valuable.
Each landing page theoretically has the opportunity to rank for a new keyword. For example, a bakery originally based in New York that opens a new location in Los Angeles could and should aim to rank for the search term and variations of “Los Angeles bakery”, etc. These types of businesses often don’t have in-house development/technical people so a care plan that is priced in such a way that it accounts for the sudden need to spin up pages and handle other maintenance issues would definitely be well worth it. And if positioned correctly, the true value of this could be conveyed to the business owner…
And that’s really just the beginning of what you could offer & do when it comes to SEO for a local business such as the example above.
The reason this is incredibly valuable to do is that it often helps sell the core service because clients know that you’re truly considering the performance of their actual business as opposed to just hoping to turn around their website and get rid of them as quickly as is humanly possible…
But now, let’s dive into how an actual web designer/developer is able to successfully (and profitably) offer SEO to his clients:
A Real Example Of SEO In Practice
Let’s go back to using Doug’s situation as an example for a moment. Most of his clients don’t come to him looking for SEO help – this is really important to note. The type of clients that web design agencies/freelancers can help with SEO & digital marketing typically only come looking for help with their online presence in general.
This usually ends up meaning a new website or website redesign. This initial engagement with the client is how you build trust & relationship (i.e. offering lower-value services like websites, SEO audits, etc.) and then work towards moving them up the “value ladder” to higher-value services such as an SEO retainer.
Once Doug onboards a new client, here’s what comes next:
- Gather information such as technical info, exact NAP, business description, etc.
- Run analysis/audit on current website
- Do keyword and competitor research
- Look for ‘low-hanging-fruit” and quick-wins (important in early stages)
- Set up basics like Search Console, Analytics, GMB, etc.
- Build citations (local and niche relevant), and build “social media fortress” if needed.
- Setup in KPI tools to measure success over time.
As you develop better processes, you can start outsourcing certain parts of this process – the same way Doug does for link building – so his time can be spent on high-level activities.
Offering SEO To Clients – Best Practices
- Communicate with your client often, and be transparent.
- Don’t overpromise.
- Be honest.
- Take the time to educate them in terms they understand (no industry jargon).
- Warn them upfront how long things can realistically take (many prospects have unrealistic expectations).
- Think about content, as this is one of the quickest paths to SEO gains.
- Low competition keywords can be one of the best ways to start out.
Last but not least, we want to emphasize that while there are ways to offer SEO services to your clients that are relevant to their website (if you are a web design agency), we don’t want this to be confused with the concept of becoming an “everything agency”.
How do you plan to incorporate SEO & content marketing into your agency’s service offering? Or are you already doing so? Let us know! 💬