Why Getting Clients for Your SEO Agency Has Become Difficult

It is getting harder and harder to get clients for SEO projects.  SEO industry has become “murky” and has developed a bad reputation after the algorithm updates as old school methods that don’t work are still being sold online to unaware clients.

The industry is full of a ton of misinformation. Backlink providers who are selling “powerful links” that promise SEO boosts but effectively do nothing.

Marketplaces like Fiverr have cropped up where these link sellers prey on clients who know little. Most of the sellers on these marketplaces don’t know one bit about SEO – but see others selling links and join the easy money train.

A quick recap at the historical trend of doing SEO over the recent years, will show you why this is so.

Initially, before Penguin, Panda and Rank Brain came along – anyone could rank sites without learning too many skills to do so.

Ranking websites was easy and all you had to do was purchase a tool like SENuke, GSA SER or any other bulk link building tool – and master how they worked within a day or two.

Alternatively, you could hire low skilled VAs real cheap who could help you build mass backlinks on forum sites, web2.0 sites, .edu links etc.

Back in those days, mass link building methods worked like a charm.

It was pretty easy to achieve good rankings for client projects you took on by using these mass backlink tools without having to focus on other factors like site speed, on-page optimization, user experience etc.

The monthly recurring money was “easy”

I was in that boat – so I do know from first hand experience. We had a team of about 80+ people full-time in our organization and all they did all day long was build links for our clients… which gave them results (in addition to the monthly reports we sent them as per the package they purchased).

Clients got their monthly backlink reports. They also got their monthly ranking reports and saw traffic increasing on their websites which resulted in growth of their business. And,  SEO agencies got their monthly money for giving these reports and producing easy results.

Everyone was happy 🙂

Until the Penguin update came along, followed by Panda and then RankBrain and yada yada yada… and ruined the party!

Countless businesses and real people lost rankings overnight.

Nothing much could be done – other than submit link disavow requests (for which you could charge clients) or submit a manual reconsideration request for your site.

What’s more important is that the SEO game changed forever.

No more was it easy for anyone to get in and start ranking sites overnight after reading some blog post about a SEO tool that could spam the web and rank sites in a few days.

Client’s were getting frustrated slowly with their outsourced SEO partners as their rankings dropped and were not recoverable even after their SEO agency tried everything they could.

Client’s who were making massive ROI’s by outsourcing their SEO, were now losing money. They were becoming desperate as the agency kept them hanging on month after month.

These mature SEO clients (who knew exactly the high returns good SEO would bring them) – were now desperate and started scrambling around for another SEO agency who could deliver results. They already had a taste of SEO money and just wanted the results back.

So, they’d go around hunting for another SEO agency.

The thing is, 95% of agencies did not change their SEO methods with the updates.

They were (and are) still selling backlinks in predefined “monthly packages”.

Many SEO agencies are still doing this.

They do it – because “uneducated” clients believe it these monthly backlink packages work. It get’s the agency the project (AKA monthly money). Unfortunately, most clients thing cookie cutter packages still work for any niche or industry. The tougher the niche the bigger the monthly pack the client subscribes to.

Clients are not clued into the new developments of SEO. They just don’t have the resources or time to go into depth on certain basic SEO fundamentals post Penguin and Panda.

There is also way too much misinformation about SEO out there.

The whole SEO industry has become “murky”. Links are being bought and sold for $$ and 90% of them don’t do any good for the sites.


Freelance Marketplace Gigs add fuel to the fire

Then, there are the freelance “gig” marketplaces like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour where you can find countless freelancers selling monthly SEO packages and backlinks. 9 out of 10 gigs on these marketplaces are not effective. I say that from experience. What they promise to do would have worked before 2012. Not anymore.

In fact, a lot of these gigs that build mass links could get your site de-indexed.

You need to be careful… if you’re doing SEO now.

The problem here is that these SEO providers are preying on innocent clients who are new to the world of SEO and have little or no clue on how it works and what kind of updates Google made etc.

They visit a few marketing forums and learn its about backlinks, or edu links and yada yada yada. They think getting a link from an .edu site will get them to page 1 rank #1. So, they buy 10 .edu links. Little do they know these links don’t even get indexed by Google or that they are forum profile links – that could prove to be toxic and work against them.

On the client’s end we have…

  • “mature clients” who know how the algorithm has been evolving and are struggling to find a trustworthy provider.
  • “fresh clients” who have just setup their online business or who are relatively new to the world of SEO and want to rank their site ASAP

The sheer number of new clients entering the space is massive. And, most SEO providers are simply preying on them with cheap “monthly SEO” packs. No SEO analysis is done on a project to project basis. Every client order gets a cookie cutter series of steps that are executed by low skilled but highly efficient manual work force working in “link building sweat shops”.

Clients are kept in the dark as SEO providers promise them results after 3 to 6 months.

Money is collected month to month. It’s easy money for old school SEO providers… all they need is a good sales pitch that lists a whole bunch of backlinks coming from a large variety of sites etc etc.

But, things get shaky, when client’s start seeing no real benefit after about 3 months. It’s obvious at this point of time that their investment is not going to give them returns and they realize that the SEO provider is “fake”.

The SEO industry is now in this phase… predominantly with the bigger companies and established businesses.

These businesses have matured in their understanding of how SEO works and are doing careful due diligence before bringing SEO experts or SEO agencies on-board to work on their SEO.

The smaller business and one-person ventures are still struggling as they grapple with jumping from SEO provider to SEO provider or from one Fiverr Gig to another.

It’s virtually impossible for anyone outside SEO to learn how to do core SEO that works unless they are involved in it full-time.

If you want to do SEO effectively, you can’t simply read a forum posts and fire up a tool and press the magic button to see your site ranking on the top. Things have changed, and the industry and methods have matured. There is a lot more that goes into ranking sites now.

If you want to do SEO today – you have to do it full-time… unless of-course you are a “poser”. In which case, you really don’t care less about your clients rankings and just want their money… for how many every months you can pull it off. You know a few words and some industry jargon… and you’re simply taking client money and spending it on “arbitrage” and buying cheap gigs that are ineffective and white labelling them as reports back to your clients.

The trick with doing effective SEO today is understanding how the algorithm has evolved and how it works. Then listing out all your tactics that you can apply to projects you get and finding SEO experts who know how to effectively execute only that one tactic that you want done.

So, essentially your goal is to end up having a list of say 20 experts (whom you find on marketplaces mostly)… who are each good at just one thing.

Example 1 – you find one freelancer on PeoplePerhour who specializes in getting Wikipedia links. He charges you $20 per wikipedia link and does an amazing job because he is active on Wikipedia every day and anything he edits – sticks longterm.

Example 2 – you find another freelancer who owns 3 to 4 technology websites with good traffic and that ranks for some good keywords. You can now use his sites for guest post links for your tech niche clients.

Example 3 – You find a freelancer who submits your ebook PDF to 50 doc sites for $10. Thats a bargain, and this method can work well if done right (you make ebooks from good blog posts on your client sites)

Of course you don’t have to be a master for each tactic yourself – but you will have to know exactly how to they work and how to scan and evaluate deliveries made by the freelancers for effectiveness. Otherwise, you will be bringing on freelancers in your “arbitrage” process whose work is ineffective and results in no real SEO benefits for your client projects.

This is where we stand as an industry at the moment.

It’s also why I chose to be an SEO consultant in addition to building out an agency. While I have my own in-house team that i train for specific tasks but, due to the matured nature of SEO – I do go out and find SEO experts who specialize and excel in specific areas (and modular tasks) within SEO. 

I do believe this is how the SEO service industry (and perhaps others) are evolving.


UPDATED: March 2020

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