Every business will probably agree that customer referrals are awesome! Not only do they have a much lower acquisition cost than customers obtained from traditional marketing efforts, but conversion rates are usually much higher as well. The amount of referral business you have is a good measure of success of your marketing efforts. There are numerous ways to get referrals from your customer base and the sections below will outline a few of them.
Satisfy Your Customers
It may be a simple idea, but providing a great product or service your customers love will naturally get you referrals. The idea is to have something your customers truly love. For some industries it can also be what your company stands for, such as environmentalist. If you are lucky to have a very unique product or service, you may also be able to get many of them to talk about it on social media sites. The more a customer loves your product, the more likely they will want to tell or brag to their friends about it.
After they Order or Sign Up
For many businesses, a great time to ask your customers for a referral is after they placed their order or signed up for your services. For example, our company mails out hand written thank you cards to every customer that signs up for our merchant account service. We also include a flier in the card asking for customer referrals as well. If you sell a product, you could have the person that packages it write a very short message on the packing slip asking for a referral. Not only will it show that someone took the time to handle their package with care, but also a few seconds to write a personal message.
Customer Service Issues
Let’s say you have a customer call in with a complaint or customer service issue. How can you turn this into a positive thing? If you take care of their issue and make them a satisfied customer once again, that would be a great time to ask for a referral. People can feel obligated to return the favor when you help them out with their issue, even if it is your fault. This can be done after the issue is resolved while you still have them on the phone or even with a follow up email.
Any business that sells a product online should have the ability for customers to post product reviews. A product review in essence is someone speaking out that they vouch for the product. According to some online research, over 70% of online shoppers read product reviews before buying. When was the last time you purchased something online? Did you look at the reviews to see what others were saying?
When you ask for referrals, it can be a great idea to offer some type of incentive when it is appropriate. If you offer a fairly profitable product or service, you may want to offer cash as an incentive. For example, we offer our merchants a referral fee for every customer they refer to us. Another idea would be to offer them a discount off of their next purchase.
Curtis with Gotmerchant.com has been helping small businesses accept credit cards for the past 8 years. They offer an award winning merchant account service with a level of personal service unmatched by most of their competitors.
Posted by JoannaLord
I’ve been traveling for the past few weeks and talking to dozens of SEO consultants, and you know what they are all saying? They are at their max for clients. Yup, that’s right…they can’t take on new clients. They have TOO much work! This is good for all sorts of reasons. One, it shows we are in a good place during an economically difficult time, and two, there are people out there desperately seeking out your services, with nowhere to turn.
So how do you find these clients begging to pay you money? Here are ten ways to build your client base, and ultimately make sure the clients keep-a-coming…
10. Refer a client/affiliate program
Setting up a referral or affiliate program can be something as simple as offering discounts on your prices to clients that refer new clients, or something as complicated as full blown affiliate programs with ongoing commissions for successful client signups. I find too many consultants think of this as bothering a past client, but if you offer them a kickback for mentioning your good services to their friends that need them…it seems like such an obvious double win to me. So what are you doing to leverage your current client list for a bigger, better looking one?
9. Optimize your site/resume
This is one of those "oh snap" moments. It’s such a simple idea, but few of us are doing it. As SEOs we spend our days helping people rank their sites higher, and optimize for more conversions. Well uhmmm, what about your site? I know you are doing all the right stuff to make sure you rank #1 for "best SEO consultant in the universe" but what about when they actually land on your site? Is it easy for them to request more info? How about trust signals, testimonials, and other valuable information…is it doing it’s job? Potential clients will naturally
spy on you check out your website and resume. Do you know what they are going to find? Is it enough?
8. Speak at events/hold site clinics
As we all know this industry operates, for the most part, virtually. However, when it comes to signing clients nothing can replace a potential client seeing you in person. Speaking at conferences can be a great way to reach a relevant audience and pitch yourself before having to pitch your services. You get to network, and possibly get links to help build your brand. In addition to speaking, if you can finagle it, hold site clinics at conferences. The whole room gets to see you action, and your future clients get to see exactly how you will help them…once they sign with you. Can you say cha-ching?
Martin MacDonald’s excellent presentation at the London Pro Training likely earned him some new clients
7. Guest blogging
As SEO’s we know the value of guest blogging. Words like "visibility," "links," and "personal branding" come to mind. All of these make guest blogging the perfect way to funnel potential clients to your site and your services. Take this idea and think outside of the box. If you focus on SEO for your local area, where are local businesses reading information online? Get in there. If you do SEO for enterprise sites, where are those CMO’s getting their information? Make sure your byline is landing in front of their SEO-deprived eyes.
6. Sponsor events/mixers
Instead of traveling by plane to go talk SEO, why not host a local meet-up for businesses to hear about how SEO can help them succeed. You can either go formal and have a panel talking local SEO, or you could have material they can take with them. These local mixers can help attract qualified leads and build your reputation as a local SEO expert. How do you get people to come? Give away free consultations, or pick up the bar tab for an hour. Never underestimate the power of an open bar.
The SEOmoz meetup in Sofia, where we made tons of great new friends
5. Create free tools
I can’t take the credit for this idea, but I had to get it up on the list. Lots of great consultants and agencies have been doing this for years. If you have free tools that people will love, offer them up as a way to drive traffic to your site. By offering SEO-related tools, you attract a relevant audience, collect information you can use to follow-up with, and leave people with a positive sentiment. People love free stuff! It’s a great way to get people both comfortable, and acquainted with your personal brand.
Virante’s collection of free SEO tools brings them highly relevant traffic and industry credibility
4. Email blast
Much like #9 you would think this approach would be obvious, but oftentimes us SEOs forget about some marketing basics. When you are looking to add to your client base why not email friends, family, past colleagues, etc. and let them know you are taking on new clients. Make sure you list out what you specialize in so they can easily pass the email onto people that might be interested. If you are really looking to get leads, add in a free consult or audit, and make the deal impossible to ignore. Personal referrals are incredibly powerful.
Take note of that email address – it’s a handy one to have
3. Publish case studies
I know you all just collectively rolled your eyes when you read this one, because you are right, case studies involve a lot of work. You have to nail down a thesis, put together a test, collect data, and then report the results in a digestible manner. Yuck. But you know what? Case studies are compelling for just that reason. They are a thorough example of just how effective your services can be for the person reading the case study. Potential clients want to read about a similar company and the success SEO brought them. If you couple that case study with a contact form they can fill out for more information, you are sitting pretty. Trust me.
Location 3 Media’s excellent Local SEO Guide is a great example
2. Learn a niche
This may seem counterintuitive, because how can you open up the flood gates for more clients if you limit yourself to one niche, but people considering SEO want to see a consultant with relevant experience. Remember, SEO is still a bit confusing to most companies. They don’t understand best practices, they still believe that this SEO-stuff is a bit magical. If you have a few past clients in one industry, why not build out that portfolio and market yourself as such. What is your niche? Sometimes by taking on any client, you actually cannibalize your chances of owning a type of client.
1. Get active in new forums
Did I just use the word "forum?" Yeah I did. I don’t necessarily mean the forums of yesteryear (although a lot of those are still great places to network) instead I mean the new age forums. There are so many sites out there to help you establish yourself as an expert in a certain field. I mean sites like Quora, LinkedIn Answers, FormSpring and Facebook Questions.There are dozens of niche Q&A sites popping up. Don’t underestimate the power of marketing yourself an SEO authority to these growing audiences.
Sharing your knowledge across the web can result in positive client karma
So there you have it. Hopefully I’ve given you some great ideas to get started with. The key with all of this is to remember that you need to be marketing your services not just to people that get SEO, but go beyond that circle. Wander into the less Internet-savvy group, and help them understand the value of SEO. In doing so, you will help them see the value in you, and more importantly, in hiring you.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for things I may have forgotten. How have you all grown your client base?
Posted by RobOusbey
Let’s start with a sneaky tactic.
I know that SEOmoz blog readers are an internet-savvy crowd, so many of you are probably familiar with the ‘browser history sniffing’ techniques that exist. (Bear with me, we’ll get to internet marketing advice in a moment.)
(Thanks for reading; you can follow me on Twitter: @RobOusbey, and I’m pleased to be speaking alongside some of the best SEO practitioners around at this year’s Pro Training Seminar – tickets are still available.)
Posted by randfish
One of the most common questions we receive here at SEOmoz is "What’s the best way to learn SEO?" There are many ways to answer, but in this post, I’m going to cover the responses I give most often and those I’ve seen have the most success. But, before I describe each of these, it pays to understand that not all learning methodologies are the same in style, substance or where they can take you. If you’re completely new to SEO, some of these won’t be appropriate and if you’re already a veteran, others won’t teach you much you don’t already know.
Thus, let’s start with a chart of relative knowledge/experience levels (similar to this old/outdated post on levels of knowledge):
Now that we have some context, let’s dive in to the ways I recommend learning SEO. For each, I’ve provided a description of the process, the ideal starting level(s) (and where you can expect to reach via that methodology) and a list of resources with my notes.
A number of free guides, eBooks and downloadable PDFs exist on the web to help provide insight into SEO. Some are highly comprehensive while others touch only lightly on the topic. The key to being successful with this process is to identify guides that are both up-to-date and accurate in their recommendations. No council exists to regulate the dispersal of SEO information and thus, a few proprietors of free guides can lead you down incomplete or even dead wrong paths.
Recommended for: New to SEO, Aspirant, Journeyman
List of Resources:
Time Investment / Commitment Required: 1-3 hours should get you through any of the guides above
For those who like to curl up with a book, a number of authors/publishers have come out with solid resources in the past couple years. Books have a unique advantage over online guides in that they’re often better written, more carefully edited and can be more easily judged on the reputation of the authors/publishers. Conversely, they are hard to update (even in the book I wrote last year, a few links and references are already broken) and thus, don’t always contain the most up-to-date information.
Recommended for: New to SEO, Aspirant, Journeyman
List of Resources:
Time Investment / Commitment Required: The largest of these is ~450 pages, which might take between 4-8 hours depending on how fast you read
In my opinion, everyone learning SEO can garner value from discovering 3-5 favorite sources of information online and keeping up to date with each on a daily or weekly basis. Forums and blogs pump out a tremendous quantity of content, but just by browsing the headlines and reading teh stories that stand out, you can get exposure to strategies, techniques, news and trends that would otherwise be difficulty to stumble on by yourself.
Many SEOs (myself included) first learned the practice almost entirely through contributions, questions and threads on industry blogs & forums. Today, I’d suggest starting with a base from a free guide or book, then diving into the communities to stay sharp and get individual questions answered. I’ve provided a few of my personal favorite resources below, but will be working on a more comprehensive list in the near future.
Recommended for: All
List of Resources:
Time Investment / Commitment Required: 30-45 minutes per day or 90 minutes per week (if you aggregate your time into a single slot)
Many in the SEO field will say that building your own sites and practicing SEO in the real world is the only way to learn. I disagree with that message, but I do concur that it’s possibly the most crucial step to advancing your career and abilities.
My view is that if, prior to building a site and attempting to earn some rankings, you have a great mental model of the field, you can build a truly defensible strategy for your site(s). If you simply register a domain that sounds nifty and start trying to rank for a keyword you think is popular, you can get a very warped sense for how to do SEO and what matters in the short, medium and long run. At the very least, read a free guide and engage a bit on some of the online communities.
Once you’ve got a base of knowledge, building a site is the next logical step. I strongly suggest starting small and preferrably with a topic that you’re personally passionate about rather than one that just has high AdSense payouts. I’ll recommend a number of options for building/hosting below, but if you have the technical know-how to configure your own server and write from scratch, that’s a perfectly reasonable alternative (just make sure it’s not too time consuming to leave room for some actual SEO).
Recommended for: Aspirant, Journeyman, Authority
List of Resources:
Time Investment / Commitment Required: A minimum of 4-5 hours for setup and creation of initial content, and more likely 40-50 hours to produce something high quality and robust and conduct initial off-site SEO/marketing efforts.
If you’re hungry to learn SEO in person, see real life examples and hear stories from the front lines (as well as meeting the practitioners and evangelists), getting out to events is an excellent next step. The last few years has seen an explosion in the quantity and variety of events in the field and many have different foci and target audiences, so be sure to choose the right one for accomplishing your goals. Many of the large conferences are focused on drawing out discussion around topics, advancing the discourse in the field and promoting networking while some smaller events are more specifically geared to pure education or intimate networking.
Recommended for: Journeyman and Above
List of Resources (in order of upcoming dates):
Time Investment / Commitment Required: Typically 2-4 days plus travel time
The online online learning series I’m familiar with in this category is Market Motive, but they’re impressive enough to warrant both a category of their own and a recommendation. Founded by Michael Stebbins and John Marshall (who previously founded & sold ClickTracks) along with Avinash Kaushik, Todd Malicoat, Bryan Eisenberg and more, the staff is a who’s who of Internet marketing. When this many great brains get together, the results are smashing. Market Motive combines webinars, phone calls, coursework and more into a comprehensive curriculum. They end the series with a dissertation defense given over the phone and only passing candidates earn certification.
I’ve personally been on a few calls with early entrants and master certification candidates and been seriously impressed. Since I’m recommending them so highly, I connected with the folks at Market Motive, and they’ve put together a discount for moz readers. You can sign up for MarketMotive using the code "SMZ6TOOLSMC" and get 0 off their master certification course + 3 months of SEOmoz PRO membership FREE. But, make sure to do it in the next 5 days as the upcoming master certication course starts on July 19th.
Recommended for: New to SEO, Aspirant, Journeyman and Authorities/Gurus seeking formal, recognized certification
List of Resources:
Time Investment / Commitment Required: Over the course of 90 days, this is a 10-20 hour per week commitment, possibly more when cramming for the dissertation.
The field is certainly much richer with options than when I began, but as we know from the science of conversion, more choices don’t always indicate more actions. Hopefully, the recommendations above have helped to give you a starting point. I’d love to hear from you in the comments about where and how you learned SEO and what you’d recommend to others.
Posted by Danny Dover
Want happier website visitors and higher rankings? This week’s Whiteboard Friday is about how and why to speed up your website. It is more technical than previous videos so I tried to spice it up with an ode to one of my favorite canceled TV Shows, Pop-up Video. Can’t stand the content? At least the added commentary is entertaining. (It is the perfect plan ;-p)
The following are seven proven techniques well known websites use to boost their site speed.
Gzip is a open source compression algorithm that can used to compress your website’s content before your server sends the data to a visitor’s browser. This makes your servers job easier and makes pages load faster for your users. You can learn how to enable Gzip here.
Minify is the process (and software) for removing unnecessary formatting characters from code. This makes your files smaller and your visitors happier. You can learn all about this process here.
CDNs are systems of interconnected server resources that spread content and assets around the globe to shorten the distance between server and prospective user. They are commonly used by the Web’s most popular websites. You can find a list of free CDNs here.
You can take advantage of the countless man hours that have been devoted to image compression and make your users happier by simply saving your images as the appropriate type. As a very general rule of thumb, I recommend saving photos as JPEGs and graphics as PNGs.
When a browser requests a website from a server it can only download a set number of files of the same type at any given point. While this isn’t true of all file types, it is a good enough reason to host applicable files on alternative subdomains. This is only recommended for sites where the pros of speed will outweigh the SEO cons of creating a new subdomain.
While redirects can be extremely useful, it is important to know that implementing them does force your servers to do slightly more work per applicable request. Always avoid redirect strings (301 -> 301 -> 200 or even worse 301 -> 302 -> 200) and use these tools sparingly.
The most straightforward way to speed up your website is to simply use fewer files. Less files means less data. My favorite method of doing this is utilizing CSS sprites. You can read how popular websites are using this trick here.
Fueled by the massive potential of the Internet, Googlers are working on many projects in their attempt to speed up the Web:
If you have any other advice that you think is worth sharing, feel free to post it in the comments. This post is very much a work in progress. As always, feel free to e-mail me if you have any suggestions on how I can make my posts more useful. All of my contact information is available on my SEOmoz profile under Danny. Thanks!
Posted by randfish
As many of you who read this blog know, I’m a terrible self-promoter. I actually feel guilty writing about, linking to and promoting the products and services that make payroll for the amazing SEOmoz staff and allow us to conduct cool research, produce awesome guides and build out spiffy office space. But, every few months, I manage to crawl out from under that shell. This time, it’s by request.
I’ve been hearing from a lot of our PRO members that they feel both overwhelmed and confused by all the offerings in PRO. I know it’s tough when there are 30+ pages on which unique types of PRO content exist and even the dashboard doesn’t link to all of them (that’s our fault for bad organization – I promise it’s getting better by the end of summer). Hence, this post is all about what to do in your first 15 minutes inside PRO to get lots of value that can actually move the needle on your SEO actions and search traffic.
When you run a report in Open Site Explorer, click to the "top pages" tab and browse through the list of the most-linked-to pages on your domain. You’re looking for two things – any troubling codes (302, 40x, 50x) and pages that have lots of links, but aren’t targeting competitive keywords for relevant search traffic. In the former instance, you want to get those pages up and pointing to the right place. In the latter case, you need to run that page through OSE, determine who’s linking to it and with what anchor text (there’s a tab for that, too), then see if you can put together good content to match the links & ranking ability. You can do all that, later – for now, just export the list to CSV, or make a note to revisit.
Elapsed time: 3 minutes
The new Custom Crawl Prototype will mimic a search engine spider and crawl up to 3,000 pages on any domain, then email you with a CSV of the results in 24 hours. It identifies duplicate content issues, HTTP headers, missing titles & meta descriptions, and many more potential SEO pitfalls. Get a report on a site or two and dig into the results tomorrow.
Elapsed time: 3 minutes 30 seconds
How tough, relatively speaking, are the keywords you’re chasing and where might easy opportunities exist? Keyword Difficulty can help answer this question and provides a terrific CSV export of the top 25 sites/pages ranking for any query with metrics for each. Often just a report or two can help you identify keyword targets where small quantities of links or optimization effort can take you a long way. They’re also ideal for showing management/clients exactly how far you have to go to catch up with the competition.
Elapsed time: 7 minutes
Tom Critchlow and I call the Link Intersect Tool "cheating," because it’s just too easy to find good link opportunities. Plug in your site and at least 2 (up to 5) competing sites (or just sites that you think have relevant/acquirable links) and it spits back a list of sites, pages and metrics that link to 2+ of the competitors but don’t link to you. It’s like shooting links in a barrel! (that’s a thing, right?)
Elapsed time: 11 minutes
I’ve personally run a dozen 60-90 minute webinars for our PRO members on topics ranging from "reverse engineering the SERPs" to "competitive link building" to "actionable analytics" and more. The feedback we get on these is overwhelming positive and we’re running two each month (one with a specific content focus and another reviewing members’ sites). The webinar archives contain video+audio downloads of the presentations plus a link to register for upcoming ones. If you like a more interactive/participatory learning environment, these are a great option.
Elapsed time: 12 minutes
My recommendation is to Track Rankings for 10-20 key terms you’re targeting, a handful of mid-range "nice-to-haves" and a healthy helping of long-tail keywords to help give a sense of how you’re performing across the keyword demand curve. When traffic fluctuates, it’s great to be able to see if rankings were the cause, or if other factors (demand, downtime, errors, analytics capture problems, etc.) could be the culprit. The best part about the current rank tracking system is the ability to choose between multiple engines on any TLD (and to select "entire subdomain" so it catches any page from your site in the top 50 results).
Elapsed time: 15 minutes
OK, your quarter-hour is up, but so are your chances for a lot more search traffic in the next few weeks and months. When you’re ready to devote some more time, you can install the mozbar, check if any deals in the Discount Store are relevant/useful, distribute some PRO Guides to your compatriots, give Trifecta a spin, watch some PRO Whiteboard Videos, ask a question in Q+A, review the hundreds of PRO Tips, leverage the Link Acquisition Assistant to find some sexy new link opportunities, dig around in Labs, well… you g
et the idea.
And, as a tease, here’s an early comp of what we’ve been busy with in 2010:
ETA: Late this summer