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How to Start an SEO Business (2023 Beginner’s Guide)

May 12, 2021

In this article, I'll show you how to start a profitable SEO business,

From how to get clients, to designing your agency website, and much more.  

I started as a local seo business, ranking sites for small businesses.

Now I do high-level seo and rank this blog globally.

In this guide I go over how to effectively get started with SEO which is, in my opinion, the best skill set on the internet to create passive income streams 

I'll even get into the do's and don'ts of starting an SEO business by ranking sites for other people versus ranking your own sites.

Why you want to get into the SEO business:

The SEO industry did 67 billion dollars in 2018. 

And the internet is growing at a faster rate than expected

Here's the evidence:

In 2017,

it was predicted that in 2021, 

the internet's global penetration rate,

meaning what percentage of the world is on the web,

was going to be 53.7%. 

As of January 2020,

the internet's penetration rate is 59% 

(4.54 billion people out of 7.75).

The internet is penetrating the world's population faster than expected. 

Are you ready to leverage the expansion? 

Why Listen to Me? (My Qualifications)

To show you that I am qualified to write this review, 

I want to share my qualifications:

I've been in the internet marketing world since 2014 when I jumped into local, organic lead generation

The core component of organic lead generation is search engine optimization (SEO)

I've been partnering with a tree service for over 5 years

Below you'll see checks dating back to January 2015. 

and you can see for yourself that my site is ranking even today: 

Still wondering if the site is mine?

That said,

I am not a know-it-all type guru, 

just a hard-working, introverted millennial,

who's been persistent & intentionally maximizing the value of the internet since 2014. 

The Bottom line:

All I can give you is my own experience and reflections on what has worked best for my business. 

On that note,

let's dive in.

20 Tactics to Get SEO Clients in 2020

1. Get Ranked for SEO in Your City

If you want to play the search engine optimization field, 

prove your worth

Becoming a true SEO professional takes a lot of time and effort. 

You'll need to be obsessed with doing whatever it takes to break that first page.

And then creeping upward,

until you're at least in the top 3,

if not number 1. 

To be really successful at SEO,

it helps a lot if you have a deeply competitive streak to tap into. 

Start by ranking your website for your city + "SEO,"

Having your site ranked will give you the credibility to close huge deals. 

Not to mention the attention you'll garner with new prospects,

who are searching for the very skills you offer. 

You won't only get noticed,

you'll impress the heck out of those looking to have you duplicate your results on their website. 

3 Tactics to Jump Start Your Ranking

1. Watch Your CONTENT LENGTH (2,000 words minimum per page)

What I discovered is that most of my competitors (SEO pros) neglected the basic practices, 

for more flashy techniques. 

Think of it this way:

You know how in the military, 

they've got pretty advanced strategies and procedures too. 

But they still do push ups to stay in shape. 

Writing content for your website pages is foundational to the ranking of your website. 

You can push past a lot of SEO "3rd Graders,"

who were lazy and neglected to put more time into their written content.

It's a simple way you can 1-up your competition. 

Why not do it?

If you are optimizing 10 or more pages on your site for different keywords, 

I suggest hiring a high-quality VA to do the majority of the copy-writing for you,

as that's 20,000 words,

then you can just go through and tweak as needed. 

2. Increase PAGE OPTIMIZATION (a.k.a. Overall Page Load Speed)

The main tool that you'll find handy here to get your page speed as fast as possible is Google's Page Speed Insights

This tool provides not only statistics on how fast your page loads, 

but suggests different ways that you can improve that velocity through better compression of images,

adjusting your website's coding to deliver smaller JS payloads, etc. 

The more compressed your images and the lighter your payloads, 

the quicker your website will load. 

The tool is super simple to use. 

All you do is copy and paste your page's URL into the analyzation search bar and hit "Enter."


When you are looking to rank a certain page for a certain,

reasonably commonly searched keyword, 

I recommend putting that key phrase as the keyword slug in the url of your page. 

Like I did for the page you are reading now:
Organizing your url slug this way will let Google or Bing or any other search engine your prospect is utilizing know what your content is featuring.

So, in summary,  the number 1 thing to do if you want to get more SEO clients?

Prove your skills.

Rank your own site.

2. Show Prospects Their Own Site 

People are most interested in themselves. 

How to make friends and influence people - Dale Carnegie

One of the rules that an OG, 

Dale Carnegie, 

wrote in his famous self-help book,

"If you want to make more friends, talk in terms of the other person's interests"

Business owners are most interested in growing their companies. 

One of the simplest techniques I used to get the attention of my SEO clients was to send them short (3-10 minute) videos of their site versus their competitor's site. 

It's very simple to do.

5 Steps to Making a Screencast Video:

SCREENCAST STEP 1: Download a Free Screencast Recorder.

Over my years on the internet, I have used several, but the free versions have pretty much everything you need. 

Remember: As long as the equipment works, you're golden. The most important thing is to make the videos very informative to your prospect.

Screencast-o-matic is good #notanaffiliate

(it's the main one I use these days)

but there's a lot of others out there as well,

like TechSmith

SCREENCAST STEP 2: Making the Video: (A few Do's and Don't's)


do not speak in technical terms,

like "back-link" and "citation flow," 


explain why their site is not ranking as well as their competitors

by visually showing them with a tool like Majestic or Ahrefs, 

(I've used both of them)

the metrics of what their site needs to jump over the competition,

using illustrations: (Here's 3 examples)

-like electricity:

"Back-links are the voltage that carries your website to the top of the search results"

-like plumbing:

"Back-links provide the PSI that pushes your site to page 1 of Google"

like politics:

"Back-links are the votes that make your site win over other sites"

(I'd pick one and use it throughout, as more than one illustration would likely be confusing)

Your goal of using an analogy is to give them something to relate to your seo services. 


say their name (if you know it, if not, say their company name). 

Dale Carnegie,

the OG of making friends,



"Remember that the person's name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language" to your prospect. 

Think of it this way:

When people you don't know say your name from across the room,

it peaks your attention. 


if you say your prospect's name 2-4 times throughout your seo video,

you just might snag their attention like a wriggling worm on a hook gets a fish

(specifically a large mouth bass, but that's beside the point lol). 


The important thing you need to do when 

starting your business is to take (imperfect) action. 

Make it a goal to make 10 screen-cast videos each day for 2 weeks to your potential clients (anyone on pages 2-5). 





This imperfect action taking took me a little while to get on board with. 

You see, I went through most of the US's education system that trains you to think that an effort is not worth it unless it's a grade A,


100% quality. 

You will, as I did, need to change your mindset from perfection to action if you want to be a successful business owner, 

an entrepreneur,

instead of a person who just wishes for a better life. 

To sum up this step:

Strive to do a pretty good job on the video,

but don't worry if all the details aren't in a row. 

Just get out there and do it. 


P.S. If you want more motivation, 

check this passionate-plea-to-action article

**Warning: It's not for the faint of heart**

SCREENCAST STEP 3: Make a Business-related gmail address to send your videos

If you haven't set up your agency site yet, 

and you are short on cash,

you can prospect on the cheap using Gmail. 

Just make a gmail address like ","

and send them using that. 

Key Takeaway:

It not as important to have a professional email address as it is to provide valuable information and position yourself as the expert in search engine optimization during the video.

SCREENCAST STEP 4: Writing and Tracking Your Email

Heads Up: The second part is easier than the first. 

Part 1: Tracking Your Emails: 

When you send out emails,

you'll want to track them somehow so then you know whether or not they were opened. 

If they were opened,

then you know to send a follow up email. 

If your email wasn't opened,

then you'll know to send one similar to your introductory one,

but maybe with a different subject line that grabs their attention in a different way. 

Part 2: Writing Your Prospecting Emails

Composing your emails is a bit of a game.

Each email has 2 main parts:

1. Subject Line

2. Body

Part 1: Subject Lines

The first goal is to get the recipient to open the email.

This means that you need to try out a few different subject lines to see which ones work better than others. 

4 Tips for Subject Lines:

1. Keep it short 

(Most people open on Mobile, so less of subject line is visible)

2. Include their name if possible

(same logic as before: their name is the sweetest word in their language)

3. Use Brackets: "[LIMITED-TIME-ONLY]"

4. Be a LITTLE unexpected

5 Sample Subject Lines:

  • "[2020] Should I do Business with (their name)?"
  • "Promotional Offer for (their name)"
  • "Here's 50% more clients"
  • "Yes, this is a prospecting email [an offer is enclosed]"
  • "(their name) I like your website, is it new?"

Part 2: The Body of Your Email

The 2nd goal of your email is to keep your prospect interested enough to read through some of the content

(make it skimmable)

You want the body of the email to be short, 


and straight to the point. 


people's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. 

Here's one that grabbed a few receptionists attention

(and got me a couple of very green appointments, if you know what I mean)

 5 Points to Sum up Step 4: 

Make the Body of the 

Make the Body of Your Prospecting Email:

  • Short
  • Sweet
  • Straight to the Point
  • Soaked with an Attention-Snatching Bounce

SCREENCAST STEP 5: Sending Your Email

Over the years, 

I've gotten the full spectrum of responses from businesses I've sent screen-cast videos:

from angry "F*** off - never email me again" replies

to relieved, happy responses like

"yes, we've known we need this for a long time. When can we talk more?"

Prepare yourself. 

You never know how the person on the other end will receive your email,

if they get it at all. 

If you sent out 5 screen-casts and get no replies, 

don't be discouraged. 


Because maybe there's a reason that Google put them in the spam folder? 

Maybe the person is out of town on vacation?

Maybe they are in a hospital recovering from the coronavirus? 

Maybe they simply aren't interested at this time?

Who knows?

Send out more. 

Here's what my mentor's lead gen coaching program taught me: 

"The only limit to how many you can catch is how many lines you cast."

image with the following quote: "the only limit to how many you can catch is how many lines you cast."

3. Social Media

The next way to get clients is through social media.

Most businesses that are successful using social media have the following posting strategy:


Pick a few types of content (listed below),

and run with them. 

If you are a writer, 

write blog articles,

if you are more of a graphic designer,

put together amazing infographics 

that have some "stop-and-look-at-me," 

attention-grabbing characteristics. 

All that said, 

Here's a list of content types that you can post on social media. 

Written Examples:

A. Blog Articles

i. Niche Blogs

Everyone has a personal interest. 

Some people are really into travel, or finances (budgeting, saving, investing, credit cards, etc.), decorating, cooking (baking, grilling, etc.), and that's only to name a few. 

The point here is you can build a blog around what personally interests you,

as long as there's a substantial amount of others who have a bit of interest in the topic as well. 

Your blog could center on SEO or you could be more general, doing something broader, like digital marketing. 

ii. Collaborative Blog

You could build a collection of online articles written by other people 

(you ask them to write and they agree. For the love of god, don't plagiarize)

At the start it will be hard,

but once you get some momentum,

you'll be amazed as things start taking off faster than you could ever imagine. 

Get other bloggers to help build your blog and offer them some incentive,

if your site is already pretty popular you might offer the ability to get a back-link. 

iii. Free Resource Blogs

This kind of blogging is all about having people come onto your website to receive some kind of free item, be it a unique PDF, a classy eBook,  a shiny picture, or a helpful info-graphic like this one: 

Insert Image

iv. Lesson Teaching Blogs

Know a lot about a particular subject that others are interested in learning?

Got an engaging teaching style? 

Let 'er rip!

Put your knowledge out there into the public marketplace! 

See what happens. 

For example,

Patrick Bet-David launched his YouTube channel "Valuetainment" from sharing his knowledge about business.

Since its inception,

Pat has expanded it into a podcast with guest interviews.

Additionally, he has also written several books on the entrepreneurial lifestyle:

specifically how to grow to become a successful business person. 

Now look what he's become:
It shows what you can do when you put your head down and focus. 

B. Case Studies

You can also build your social media following using clients as your example 

(with their blessing of course)

Show what their website had behind it before you showed up and then what it's metrics were afterward. 

(I wouldn't show what exactly you did, but share enough to prove that you did it)

Key Takeaway

Think of a case-study like an in-depth testimonial

I frame my case-studies this way:

Basic Outline of a Case-Study:

PART 1: Their Problem

PART 2: My Solution

PART 3: Their Results

Simple Example of an SEO Case Study:

1. THEIR PROBLEM: When I first met Client ABC, they had problem XYZ

2. MY SOLUTION: I showed them how I could correct XYZ through my unique SEO strategy involving optimizing their on-page content through reducing the size of the images and a few other things as well as obtaining votes from several other sites that would help their site win over their competitors. 

3. THEIR RESULTS: 12 months after I began working with Client ABC, they contacted me to let me know that they received 58.3% more (calls, form-completions, page views, etc.) than the same month the year before. 

Here's a recap of how a solid case study can be structured:

Are you wondering how to do a case study for your digital marketing business or project? Take these 6 points to be the synopsis of what you need to cover.

Conclusion of Case Study Section:

As you build a base of satisfied clients, 

keep an eye out for who might be willing to be your case study subject. 

C. eBook

If you'd put together a digital book on how every-day business owners can build up their site's back-links or 

better optimize their content,

you'll earn more credibility with your audience. 

Here's a guide in the form of an e-book that a popular marketing business is using to build their email list:

make a free ebook to attract more seo clients to your services by showing the value you bring to a relationship before they even meet you. use these ebooks to build your email list as well as to increase your social media following

When you click on "Download Now," 

you come to a giant contact form,

asking for all kinds of information:

this is the opt-in form in order to receive a guide from said popular marketing agency

while I don't recommend having this many fields and options on your contact form 

(some will decide the guide isn't worth it and you'll lose them),

having such a formidable opt-in can be advantageous, 

as it eliminates those who aren't really that serious about optimizing their website for the search engines. 

To sum up,

You can use the eBook as an incentive for interested people to share their email with you,

so you can further share value with them from their inbox. 

It's a pretty easy way to build a following on the Internet in 2020. 

D. eCourses

If you've been in the digital marketing space for over 6 months,

you've likely seen something like this:

this is an example of a free mini course email opt-in as of February 2020

You put in your email and you receive 5 days worth of value

(and on-going marketing for their larger product)

The e-course options for SEO are endless.

Here's a couple possible E-Course titles:

1. "Get Your Site Ranking Today Using SEO: A simple SEO tactic per day for 2 weeks!"

2. "How you can optimize your web pages in 5 simple steps (takes only 20 minutes a day)"

3. "Trying to Show Up on Google? Start Ranking using these 7 Daily Lessons!"

Miscellaneous Examples

E. Infographics

If you combine the idea of the eBook and designing high quality info-graphics, 

you could have a very appetizing reward for those who opt-in to your email list or

to simply share on social media,

either on your page or in applicable groups. 

For instance, 

I recently completed a Comprehensive Guide to Amazon FBA 

(essentially it's a step-by-step blueprint to building a private label business using Amazon's fulfillment services)

and I made this infographic to visually explain how you can build a profitable company on Bezo's giant platform. 

It clearly shows the cycle of as a seller optimizes their Amazon Sponsored Ads (PPC), 

Amazon rewards the seller's sales and additional listing traffic with a higher organic ranking,



creates even more sales.

Those additional sales enable the seller to continue their PPC optimization. 

And the cycle continues.

Take the time and put together high quality content to show the quality of your service,  

you won't regret putting the time in. 

The more you put into your design upfront, 

the more you'll be able to get out of it later.

F. Photos

Here's a photo showing how crazy it can be run a business in 2020. 

There's paper everywhere,

multiple electronics,

2 cups of coffee,

receipts all over the place,

and hard to read spreadsheets. 

I think that photo would make a good advertisement for a digital accounting service like 

What do you think?

I'd use images like that one as the header to a blog post in order to grab more attention. 

In conclusion:

To further build out your following on social, 

use images like the one above to garner the attention of scrollers who,

without the image, 

wouldn't be scrolling through your blog post. 

G. White Papers

This image shares the purpose of a business's whitepaper as a persuasive, indepth, report on a specific subject that presents a problem and provides a solution. Marketers create whitepapers to educate their audience about a particular issue, or explain and promote a particular methodology. They are advanced problem-solving guides.

Rather than pitch a business's need for SEO, 

a different tactic you could use is constructing different whitepapers for each industry that you service. 

For instance,

you could go and do your homework on how a certain tree service tripled in size after investing in an seo expert's services. 

The report would focus more on the methodology that you employed to get said site the number one position. 

If you focused more on the business itself

that would be considered a testimonial

H. Testimonials

Testimonials are often sought by the seo community from their clientele to show prospects that the seo professionals actually do bring results. 

(there's a lot of faker's out there)

Testimonials are the social proof of the excellence of a service or coaching program

Here's an example of a recent one I pulled from Facebook:

Notice how the testimonial shows a person taking action on lessons that a course on digital marketing (specifically organic lead generation), 

and how "Tam" scored a deal with an HVAC company

and will get 500 dollars for every system replacement that the business gets through the prospects that he sends their way.


in review, 

what are the characteristics of a great testimonial?

3 Components that Extremely Convincing Testimonials All Have

1. VOLUNTARY: It must have a specific person who voluntarily gave it. (non-compensated)

2. RESULTS: It must show specific results that the person achieved using the methods (or services) he or she learned (or received). 

3. DATE: It must show a specific date that the results were received so that viewers can see that it's current. 

I. Comparisons

If you want to see an excellent example of a comparison, see my Wealthy Affiliate vs. Lead Generation post.  

In that in-depth article,  

I do a detailed analysis of an affiliate marketing education program and how it compares to a lead generation coaching program,

showing the pros and cons of affiliate marketing,

my experience in the business model as well as 

how much money their top performer is making, 

and more. 

The conclusion I came to after long hour of search was this:

wondering about Wealthy Affiliate? read this article first. It will show you the pros and cons of the affiliate marketing business model as well as a better, more effective alternative (local lead generation)

In our day and age, 

it's really important to provide accurate, up-to-date information as well as fair, apples-to-apples comparisons, 

because most internet content consumers are sensitive to arguments that are really "straw-man" fallacies. 

What is a straw-man fallacy?

Here's Wikipedia's definition:

That's the one area that I'd caution you in if you decide to make comparisons to other forms of marketing (ie SEO vs Paid Ads)

that you make sure you are being honest about what is true about SEO, but also being straightforward about the good and the bad of PPC Advertising. 

4. Develop Relationships with Other Marketing Agencies

Since you are specializing in SEO, 

that means there's a variety of other kinds of digital marketing that you don't do:

like social media marketing

website building

pay-per-click advertising,

just to name a few. 


one way I've gotten referrals is by connecting with others in other digital disciplines.

How do you meet these folks?

You can go to networking meetings (like BNI or MeetUp)

You might login online and search local business groups on Facebook or LinkedIn

A majority of businesses aren't aware of the distinctions between an SEO biz and a PPC business, 

and therefore, 

you might get leads from people looking for other services besides SEO. 

At that point, 

you have a choice to make:

A. Ignore the Request (I mean, you can't directly help them, so there's no money in it right?)

B. Take Action (call up the lead: "Hey Prospect, I appreciate you reaching out, I know a guy who can help you and really take care of what you talked about in the message you sent me. Let me connect you guys!)

What that can do is start to build a relationship between you and that other agency,

as they have another chance to satisfy another business (and put some money in their pocket as well). 

5. Offer Rewards for Referrals

Another tactic I have got a couple clients from is from making it public that I would give 20% of whatever business they brought my way (the first month's worth). 

Be willing to give a little to expand your network. 

It's one of the investments that you can make if you are really hungry to grow your SEO business. 

I mean, 

who wouldn't want to help refer prospects to a business that would pay them 400 dollars to do so?

(The average SEO service I sold back then was 2000 dollars.)

You can publish that referral reward offer in different places so that it becomes known by other businesses. 

Basically, having a reward for referrals keeps them coming. 

6. Answer Questions on Public Forums like Quora and Reddit

If you want a tactic where you can stay behind your computer and still get a bit of attention,

answering seo questions on common online forums is a way to do that. 

For example, 

On Quora, Arsh Singh put together a fairly lengthy article focusing SEO strategies for small businesses.

He's been ranking there since July of 2018. 

Here's the start of his post:

The same can be said of Reddit:

One SEO professional happily proclaims that they finally outranked REI with their guide on how to select a backpack (yeah, they admitted their keyword choice was not much of a money-maker). 

But after 5 years of hard work, 

they accomplished their goal to beat REI on google search rankings.

Explanation of above infographic:

On the right is my recent google search.

On the left is the Reddit post. 

7. Let Prospects Know You Were There

Lansing limo footer Ippei Leads

As you do client work successfully,

you might do as I do, 

and put your company name and link to your website in the footer of the website. 

What this citation does long term

is 2 things:

1. First, it can help the organic ranking of your site,

as you have another back-link. 

2. Second, if someone is wondering who worked on the site,

the prospect has an easy trail to follow. 

As an SEO professional who runs his or her own business, you are not merely trying to get your client's site to rank well, but you have to be constantly out there, getting attention to your unique skill set.

And then me tell you,

there's a lot of shady SEO's out there, 

who really don't do much for their client's sites,

so when you contact a business owner about ranking their site,

what they are going to wonder,

"Is this guy an actual expert?"

"Can they actually help me?"

people trust advertising professionals as much as they do car salesmen: not much

Business owners want to see that you can actually bring something of value to the table,

as they are very conscious of their limited marketing resources (their budget). 

That's one of the reasons I like the local lead generation model,

as I can approach businesses and immediately offer them something of value

(a list of prospects to call back),

so they can make some money,

realize that I do bring value, 

then we can make a mutually beneficial deal. 

I used that exact strategy with a tree service in Grand Rapids, MI. 

They've been steadily paying me since 2015. 

That's why the rank and rent process remains,

in my experience,

the best online business model for those wanting to leave their 9-5 and live a lifestyle of freedom. 

8. Be Present on Your Agency Site through Live Chat