How to Prepare for an SEO Sales Call

I was born a salesman. Growing up in Texas, my dad made me work at Trader’s Village, selling everything from belt buckles to hatpins (and every other knick-knack you can imagine).

You didn’t need to know much about the product. You just need to know how to haggle prices.

Selling SEO services is different. You must have a thorough understanding of the product/service you represent. And very important, you need to understand how (or if) an SEO effort can benefit the prospects you speak with.

If you’re not one of the agencies that send out a flyer to show the different SEO packages you offer, you’re trying to personalize an approach for your prospects. In my opinion, we should do some heavy lifting before we have our first calls with prospects. This article will provide some thoughts on how you might want to approach the initial call.

Initial questions to ask the prospect

First, I recommend asking your prospect to provide some initial information so you can do the homework for the initial call. It helps if the prospect has already provided you with an RFP detailing scope, internal team capabilities, and availability for the SEO effort. If they haven’t filled out an RFP, you can upload the SEO RFP to my company blog and rename/use it as a template for whatever you might want to provide them .

Instead of this kind of information, you should start by asking (at least) these four questions:

  1. What do you hope to accomplish with this SEO effort?
  2. Which competitors do you think are doing well?
  3. What kind of internal support do you have for this effort?
  4. What (if anything) have you done historically for SEO? (Maybe they have an activity going on?)

With this information, you can dig deeper and determine how you will shape the appeal.


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Do the research

I start by looking at the prospect’s website. I want to check to see if there is any oddity. Let’s call it a “mini-audit”.

Should you provide “work product” on a sales call? Honestly, I have debated this question for many years. I’ve assumed that people still don’t trust SEOs, and we need to put a little more effort into building trust (and educating). So I see it as “you must give before you receive”. It’s good karma.

What is a mini-audit? Some things:

Run a crawl on the prospect’s website

I use Semrush. I limit the crawl to 500 pages, just enough to get an idea of ​​the “breakage” of their website.

Screenshot of SEMRush Audit

Perform site queries on their domain (and for their competitors)

When you run queries on the site, if you are unfamiliar, you search Google for site:www.sitename.com and/or site:sitename.com. You will see URLs known to Google.

An example of something you might search for would be to find subdomains when searching other than www (e.g. staging.sitename.com). You may find other strange URLs or subdomains in the results, so review them with a critical eye.

Highlighting these opportunities to clean up search results and make their brand shine could lead to a new customer relationship. They will appreciate your ability to be curious.

Study their organic performance

I produce a Semrush Organic Overview report for the prospect and his competitors.

Be sure to filter to exclude any brand mentions:

Example filter

How much “traffic costs” do they make compared to their competitors? Here’s what it looks like, comparing Travelocity to Expedia:

Sample Travelocity Traffic Cost (Value)
Expedia Traffic Cost Example (Value)

The “Traffic Cost” metric is Semrush’s attempt to provide a “replacement cost” metric to show the estimated value of your organic presence (i.e., if you were to pay for that traffic through Google Ads , what it could potentially cost you, per month )

How many keywords rank in the top 10 (compared to their competitors)? Are these “good” keywords or junk?

Run a domain comparison report (I use Ahrefs for this) to determine if the prospect is competitive with these websites/domains.

Ahrefs domain comparison example

Suppose you see a competitor succeeding with their links. In this case, you should run a quick site explorer report through Ahrefs and check out some of the “top links” (sorted by domain authority) and see specific examples of how the competitor is getting those valuable links. If something is relevant to your prospect, share it on a call as an example of what they might consider doing.

Ahrefs site explorer; explore specific examples

Is there a reason why Expedia has links from CDC.gov and PrivacyShield.gov, and Travelocity doesn’t? At a minimum, you can create a dialog to find out more about them.

Your goal in doing all of the above is to help determine if an investment in SEO is viable. Suppose you notice that many of their competitors have a significant organic search presence (higher than your prospect), but their domain authority is about the same. In this case, you could say that the potential is there. They need to create a better website, create better content, or fix technical things that stand in their way.

have the call

The more clarity you can bring to an effort that many marketers consider “black magic,” the better. The more people understand how SEO works, the more they will invest in it.

If it’s still confusing, they’re more likely to choose the cheapest SEO plan (one-sheet).

For this reason, I usually host these calls through GoToMeeting. I’ll share my screen, share my research, take their questions and answer them directly (perhaps even conducting additional research on the call with them).

The idea of ​​the mini-audit is not to reveal everything. The idea is to show an example of how you look at things you might want to address when engaging SEO (and show them that you are capable of finding opportunities).

Concrete example

I recently received a request from an e-commerce company. They were sure they were impacted by Google’s main July 2021 update. I confirmed via Semrush that they had lost a significant presence in Google. I also confirmed via archive.org that they made substantial changes to their website’s navigational structure at the same time.

So, was this the Google update? Or, as is more often the case, were they unaware that the the navigation changes they made impacted their organic presence.

I gave them this free advice, hoping that they will determine that I am an honest broker and, because of this, they will want to do business with my agency.

If they don’t do business with us and take the free advice and run away, I figure they’re not the kind of people I want to work with anyway.

At least I did my part to spread some positive mojo. Give before you receive.

Summary: SEO Selling Starts Long Before the Sales Call

When selling SEO, be prepared. Preparation is one of the keys to getting new clients. How do you do this by:

  • Understand your prospect: Their wants, needs, resources, and SEO history.
  • Do your research: Find SEO issues and opportunities.
  • Demonstrate your professionalism: Your expertise, your honesty, your process and your curiosity.

Once you’ve successfully sold these SEO services, the real work can begin. Get out there and help your customers succeed!


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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About the Author

Mark Jackson is the President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, an agency founded in Dallas, Texas, in 2005 and specializing in paid search services (Search/Display/Social/Video/Amazon), local listing management and conversion rate optimization. Mark was a co-founder of the Dallas-Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association and the Kansas City Search Engine Marketing Association and has contributed to Search Engine Watch, ClickZ, Pubcon and Search Engine Strategies conferences.

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