Tips for an Effective SEO Proposal for Clients

Search engine optimization is like the brainy go-getter in high school that no one pays much attention to because she has a ponytail and wears glasses.

The rest of the marketing world is just so much more captivating: the beautiful cheerleader (PPC), the almost-as-cute-and-popular clique that hangs on her every word (social media), the captain of the baseball team and king of the prom (content), and the brilliant but outcast computer club playing Pokemon Go out on the football field (analytics).

But SEO? She blends into the background. That said, if high school taught us nothing else, it did reveal this one truism: the brainy one is always the keeper. That’s SEO for you. It delivers, but it’s often overlooked.

That’s your challenge as an SEO marketer. Clients want the head cheerleader. They want the prom king. They want the instant gratification and control that comes with seeing exactly where their money is going and what it’s accomplishing.

SEO is often far down their list of priorities.

You know differently, and your pitch needs to show them in concrete, explicit terms why they’re wrong.

SEO vs PPC


Search engine marketing (or SEM) comes in two flavors: organic (aka natural), and paid. They each have their pros and cons. Both will show up on the SERPs whenever someone searches for a related keyword or phrase.

Clients often get fixated on the PPC channel. It’s fast, immediate, and has a clear cost and return attached to it. If they increase the budget and bid, they can increase their exposure. It’s easy.

Your first task is to demonstrate the value of search engine optimization to your clients. To woo them away from a pay-per-click only mentality.

Demonstrating SEO Value


Keep It Simple

First of all, limit the amount of hard data you throw at them. There’s a lot of metrics and stats and figures you could regurgitate…but that doesn’t mean you should. Think back to your early days as an SEO sensei and remember how overwhelming it all was to you. Don’t subject your clients to that same avalanche of jargon and numbers.

The quickest way to not prove the value is to make them feel stupid. Focus on only one or two key metrics – the ones that relate directly to their current marketing goals – so you can explain them in detail and appropriately simplified terms.

Organic revenue and visits over time are two good ones to start with, and even better if you can tie organic traffic (i.e. SEO) to a percentage of overall revenue (organic search that resulted in X dollars). Clients love a dollar figure. Monitor and measure conversions in analytics and share those results.

What SEO is Not

SEO is different from PPC, social media, and content marketing because it’s not really marketing at all. Not in the literal sense of the word.

It’s a necessity in the digital, connected world we call home. With those other tactics, you’re typically promoting a specific product, service, event, expertise, or idea. With SEO, you’re just trying to get to the top of the page.

Business transactions increasingly take place – or at least start – online. But if prospects and customers can’t find you, you’re finished before it even begins.

That’s the true value of SEO.

Show Them the Numbers

Most clients appreciate the importance of generating a steady stream of traffic to their website, but many might be under the impression that PPC ads bring in the lion’s share.

That, to put it mildly, is far from the truth. Organic search accounts for as much as 64% of all traffic. The paid ads that everyone loves so much? They account for only 5-10%. A focus on paid over organic is opting to focus on only one-tenth (or less!) of their potential. SEO brings in nearly two-thirds of visitors to their online portal.

If that’s not enough to sway them, offer up this tasty tidbit: organic search-acquired leads have a close rate of nearly 15%, while paid ads on the Google Search network average a 2.70% conversion rate. And there’s more:

We click on organic search results. We trust them. Your pitch should include a few choice numbers to highlight that fact.

Show Them the Money

But many clients still want to see dollars and cents. So provide it. While it may not be possible to demonstrate as you would for a PPC proposal, you can still show them some educated estimates with expected value.

SEO is no guarantee. You’re not going to promise the top spot because there are so many variables and unknowns that can influence it.

But if you know what you’re doing, you should be able to offer an improvement. And that’s where expected value comes in.

If a client is currently ranking fourth on the first page for their targeted keyword, you can show an expected dollar amount for hitting the third, second or first spot.

You need a few figures to work this out:

  1. The keyword average monthly search volume according to Google.
  2. The average organic click-through rate for each position on the page. There are a few sources of this information available, but this study from 2014 is one of the most recent.
  3. The expected or average conversion rate based on industry studies, past experience, or best-guess estimates.
  4. The dollar value for each successful conversion.

Once you have this data, you can easily demonstrate the expected value of moving from fourth place to second, for example, using a basic 3-step formula:

  • search volume x click-through rate = potential traffic
    • potential traffic x conversion rate = potential conversions
      • potential conversions x dollar value = expected value.

Is it an exact science? No, and it shouldn’t be presented as such. But for the currency-conscious client, it does provide a concrete number to work with when considering a proposal. Would they be willing to spend $1000 for an expected value return of $2100? Probably.

Show them the money that’s being left on the table.

The Proposal Building Blocks


The exact contents of your proposal depend, of course, on what you’re able to do and provide for them. There is no cookie-cutter template for everyone.

A good proposal is going to present in explicit terms:

  • The offer (what specifically are you going to set up, monitor, tweak, and do for them?)
  • Your background (what are the credentials and experience that make you the best choice for the job?)
  • The terms (how long is the agreement, what’s the cost, what’s included and excluded?)

Your offer should discuss all the elements of a comprehensive SEO plan – social media, keywords, link building, content, and on-page optimization for their website or blog.

A great proposal is also going to include all of these, too.

SWOT Analysis

A robust strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis puts the client in context to the market, with their target, and against their competition.

In it, you identify everything working well in their current plan, the problems and issues as you see them (and suggested solutions), areas to expand their keyword focus (where their competitors are falling short), and areas to invest more time and effort (where their competitors are beating them).

Website Audit

A thorough website audit of both the potential client and at least one of their competitors is the foundation of a powerful SWOT analysis. You can’t have a proposal without it.

Show them what’s working, where they’re killing it, and where you can improve their performance. Support your claims and ideas with concrete evidence and stats provided by your audit. SEO is hard to conceptualize without it.

Tools to collect this data include SEOptimer, Screaming Frog, Raven Site Auditor, Crawl Test, CoolBison, WooRank, SE Ranking Website Audit, and more.

Use whatever your tool of choice is, and crunch those numbers. Disseminate that data.

Ranking Report

Clients will already have a set of keywords that they’re targeting. Your job is to analyze how well they’re doing it, and to identify new keywords to introduce to the mix.

Show some select keyword performance and URL ranking for key terms as they relate to the client’s goals. Use a side-by-side comparison with a main competitor to emphasize your plan of attack to increase their market share.

You might use Ahrefs, SEMrush, Rank Tracker or AWR at this stage.

Are there any unusual dips to account for? Consider the Mondovo Rank Drop Quadrant to categorize them and draft a plan of attack.

The SWOT analysis, website audit, and rank report will serve as the baseline to measure your performance. This data makes it easy to see just how much you’ve improved their overall optimization down the road.

Should the client approve your proposal – and if you follow the advice here, they most definitely will – you’ll have everything in place and ready to launch.

In the teen movies, SEO and content (the brainy one with the heart of gold and the most popular kid at school) always end up together because they’re a perfect match. Clients already love content (it’s king, after all), but they still need a little convincing about SEO.

So convince.

What does your current proposal include? Have we forgotten anything here? Leave your comments below:

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Aaron Agius

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

7 thoughts on “Tips for an Effective SEO Proposal for Clients”

  1. Very well written Aaron. Good points about what SEO is not. Typically small businesses don’t understand exactly what SEO is and they think it’s a catch-all for the items you listed. Making it clear from the beginning is very important when framing clients.

    I am definitely going to use this for my next proposal as a pseudo-checklist to cover all my bases. Thanks

  2. 100% agree with you. A lot of businesses don’t understand SEO and what they are paying for. It is good to lay out what they should expect and that SEO is a long-term investment in the proposal to frame your client before any problems come about in the future.

  3. SEO for clients is extremely necessary if they want their business to continue to thrive in the next 10 years. One thing that most owners seem to forget is SEO is like all other forms of advertising where we CAN’T make promises on conversion or calls into their business. When someone buys a radio ad or billboard there’s no guarantee that they’ll receive ANY business off of that investment. However, unlike those other advertising means, SEO works 24/7 and brings in traffic as long as your ranking and you own the website, so long term the ROI is much higher.

  4. Very well said Aaron. I like to include CRO (conversion rate optimization) and A/B split testing in the seo proposal as well so the client understands the importance of not just getting leads but putting effort into making a better website. Clients understand conversion rates and the more effort you put into converting leads, the less the client will need to pay for PPC and SEO in the long-run. I like to mention how website recording software can identify trouble spots and be used to improve conversions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *