Whether you’re a freelance SEO or an SEO agency, your ability to win over new businesses with a great proposal is almost as important (and challenging) as performing the work itself. Here at UpBuild, we don’t have a designated sales team, but a dedicated team of us spends about 25% of our work week on what we call “client discovery”. Our client discovery process consists of lots of communication with new leads, with the ultimate goal of delivering the perfect proposal for their goals and needs.
Over the past six years, we’ve been refining how we build our proposals to maximize their impact when it’s time to deliver. In this blog post, I’ll share some insights on what we’ve found to be the most effective way to close new clients with a great proposal.
How Much Time Should You Spend on an SEO Proposal?
Convincing an organization to pay you money for your SEO services requires much more than a simple, generic pitch. Take the time to get to know your client contacts, their organization, their growth goals and success metrics, what SEO projects they’ve done recently, etc. Be sure to take detailed notes throughout the process.
It would benefit you to assume that you’re not the only SEO they’ve spoken to, and therefore you’ll want to go the extra mile to show that you’re not only skilled in your field, but that you know what steps to take to maximize their ROI. Do some preliminary digging into the client’s website to identify SEO issues that you plan to address. Save some screenshots of your findings that you can add to the proposal with an explanation of what the problem is, how it’s affecting the site, and what you can do to remedy it. Taking this step will go a long way in showing the client that there is a need for your services, and that you’re recommending services that will work well for their specific needs.
UpBuild’s Proposal Timeline
At UpBuild, the research stage leading up to the proposal typically takes about 1-2 weeks, depending on the client’s availability to chat with us.
Our SEO proposal timeline begins with our initial discovery call and looks something like this:
- Initial discovery call (Day 0) – Our first opportunity to build rapport with the client, ask questions, and take notes. We’ll continue to communicate via email or additional calls throughout the process. We typically record this call so we can refer back to it during the discovery process and when we’re ready to kick off the official engagement with the client.
- Team vote (+3 Days) – Something unique we do at UpBuild is our team vote. We ask everyone on the team to vote on whether or not they feel that the client is a good fit for UpBuild. The goal of this part of the process is to be able to confidently say that our team is not only capable, but excited to do their best work for the client.
- Optimization discovery (+3 Days) – This is where we spend time analyzing the client’s website to identify the most crucial issues that need to be addressed. We take our time to thoroughly understand the site’s technology stack, analytics configuration, content strategy, and other important factors for SEO success, keeping tabs of any red flags along the way.
- Proposal and pricing (+2 Days) – Using the findings from our optimization discovery and our understanding of the client’s goals, we create an engagement plan designed to address the site’s most pressing needs. We then meet internally to agree on the cost of the engagement, which mainly depends on the amount of hours our team will need to execute the projects in our plan. We also look for any discounts we can throw in here to make the decision easier for the client. Once we have that information nailed down, it’s simply a matter of aggregating it into a single document.
The Anatomy of a Great SEO Proposal
Time to take a deeper look into the proposal document itself. This is the output of all the work you’ve done in preparation to make your pitch to the client.
Here’s how we recommend structuring your proposal:
- An engaging title page.
A good title page should introduce your brand’s look and feel with a font and color scheme that can be used throughout the document. Include your logo and organization name, their organization name, the date you plan to send the proposal, and a sentence or subheading that summarizes what the proposal is about (example: “A proposal for 6-months of SEO consulting.”).
- A concise proposal overview
Create a bulleted list or table of contents that outlines what will be covered in the proposal. This page should summarize all of the important details of the proposal, including the scope of the project, length of the engagement, engagement cost, and how you plan to work with the client. Providing this TL:DR page at the beginning will ensure that even the busiest of decision makers on the client’s side can digest the key information you’ve put in the proposal without having to spend much time with it.
- A thoughtful optimization discovery
Here’s where you’ll include your analysis of the client’s SEO shortcomings and how you plan to address them. Choose 3-5 key findings and dedicate a full page to each one, providing an explanation of how these issues are affecting the site and how you plan to fix them. Include screenshots where appropriate.
- A detailed engagement plan
The previous section will provide a nice segue into the engagement plan, where you can show the client exactly what projects you’ll undertake to optimize their site. Be sure to include details such as the timeframe for deliverables and what issue they will target on the site.
- Lay out expectations
Setting expectations about how your partnership will work is a great way to help the client understand what the day-to-day experience will be like. Let them know how frequently you plan to communicate and provide updates, how you plan to reach out to them (email, Slack, etc.), how much time you plan to spend on each phase of the engagement, and what you’ll need from them to get started. This will help things kick off without a hitch once you get a signature.
- Talk about what sets you apart
Provide an overview that highlights your strengths and expertise. This is a good place to point out any unique qualities or skills that you and your team can bring to the table that will help the client achieve their goals.
- An easy-to-read pricing table
Now it’s time to tell the client how much the engagement will cost. Use a clear and organized format to break down their investment.
- Outline the terms of the contract
Treat this section as the binding agreement between you and the client by laying out all of the terms and conditions of the partnership. Include the length of the engagement, invoicing terms, how you wish to be paid, late payment penalties, costs that will be the responsibility of the client, and any other important details.
- Give them a place to sign
Create a page at the end of the document with signature blocks for you and the client to sign. At UpBuild, we use Adobe Sign to collect signatures here. The contract is considered to be effective once both parties have signed.
- Tell the client what happens next
Wrap up the proposal by showing the client what happens after they sign the agreement.
Create an SEO Proposal Template to Save Time
Once you’re happy with the proposal you’ve designed, you can anonymize the document and save it as a template for future use. Some sections like the optimization discovery and pricing table will obviously need to be customized for your next client, but you’ll save yourself loads of time by creating a document that can be copied and reused any time you’re pitching a new business.
SEO Proposals Are Not Written In Stone
Remember that many clients will be open to working with you on the proposal if your first draft doesn’t quite match their expectations. We always present our engagement plans knowing that we’ll likely need a bit of back-and-forth with the client to get it fully dialed in, and it’s important to make that clear in the proposal process. Also, building in some flexibility to your contract terms so you have room to pivot to address changing client needs.
They Said Yes! (Hopefully)
Having a solid proposal strategy in your back pocket will undoubtedly strengthen your sales efforts as an SEO. Keep an eye on your close rates and the feedback you receive and revisit your proposal template every now and then to see where you can make improvements.