Low Budget SEO: How To Approach Clients About SEO That Have No Dough

Only 17% of small businesses invested in search engine optimization in 2017. Yet, I’m certain that a large percentage of those remaining 83% of businesses are aware of SEO as a strategy and are curious about the impact it could have on their business.

The issue, largely, is money. Compared to larger organizations, small businesses lack two key resources: time and money. They not only have to be strategic about what tactics they implement and spend time investigating, but also how much they invest.

Many small business owners attempt to handle their digital marketing efforts, including SEO, by themselves, which may offer some clues as to why so few of these individuals invest in SEO. With the abundance of terms and tactics within the realm of SEO, it can be a swampy morass of confusion for a non-SEO mind to wander through.

As soon as they start hearing things like backlinks, keyword research, on-site optimization, meta tags, anchor tags and the like, they may quickly decide that this SEO stuff is a little over their head, and wallet.

For these reasons, a small business client can be hard to approach as an SEO expert. Even worse, they may have already made up their mind that SEO isn’t a fit for their business. This means you get stuck with the near-impossible mission to dispel these thoughts and convince them that SEO is not only the right fit, but one that they can afford.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some key tips on how to approach an SEO client that’s working on a tight budget and help them produce the results they’re looking for.

Start With A Free Consultation

Bare in mind, you’re approaching someone that has likely done some digging into the SEO world themselves and possibly came out discouraged.

They have already been approached by several “someones” about SEO services. In fact, a BrightLocal report found that 35% of businesses were contacted by and SEO agency/expert every day.

They’ve not only heard the classic SEO pitch before, but they’ve heard it a few hundred times!

People naturally have their guard up against the traveling salesman and that’s exactly what you are to them, but more like a cyber traveling SEO. Your first step is to disarm some of their apprehensions by using their favorite, four-letter word: free.

By offering a free consultation and/or initial SEO audit, you’re not just getting a foot in their door, you’re also gaining a clearer picture of where their business lies on the spectrum of search optimization.

This will help you craft the later stages of your pitch and personalize all of the information you’re giving them with data straight from their own site.

The benefit of the free audit is really two fold: you’re getting them to open up to the idea of investing in SEO and you’re building a stronger, client-specific pitch based on what their site needs.

Avoid Jargon and All That Mumbo-Jumbo

As best you can, you need to explain what you are offering and what you can do for their business, without any SEO-specific terminology. As listed above, we’ve got a lot of it and it can quickly confuse the non-informed. Even if the term seems obvious, try to use simple definitions instead and be specific about what you’re talking about.

For example, if you mention “content,” then be specific about whether you’re talking about blog content, website copy or otherwise. Instead of using terms like anchor text or backlinks, just explain what these are:

“I’ll link to your site from other sites using phrases that relate to your business, which will help you website appear higher in Google search results when people enter those words.”

SEO people love to talk about all things search, from this year’s trends to the latest update to Google, new favorite tools, annoying issues, and so on. Small business clients do not care about these things and the more you talk about SEO, the further away you’ll be from securing their business.

If you’re good at what you do, then one day this new client will be as excited as you are about SEO. So, contain your excitement for now and get to the point, clearly.

Keep It Simple And Start Small

In the same vein as avoiding jargon, you also want to keep your initial SEO plan simple and small. Start with just one or two SEO tactics that are part of a larger strategy, rather than presenting the whole circus all at once.

While you may think that your whole list of offerings sound impressive and showcase your wide range of SEO expertise, the client just sees dollar signs adding up and questions what they really need and don’t.

Remember, you’re building a relationship with a client, not giving it all up on the first date! Your SEO offerings should scale with their needs and their level of comfort.

As the client grows more familiar with SEO and your work, they’ll be more open to talking about additional strategies. So, wait a few months and a few reports later before you break out the entire menu of what else you can offer them.

Ask A Lot Of Questions Upfront

While your initial primary objective is clearing up the client’s views on SEO and its cost, you also want to get to know the client and their business.

Ask questions about their current goals, what marketing strategies they’ve found to be successful, what customers have to say about their business, what would they hope to get out of investing in SEO, who handles the website and so on. This will give you great insight into what you’re in for, if you begin working with this client, and how much work needs to be done.

Asking questions also creates a much more natural conversation and puts the prospective client at ease. Even if you’re breaking down SEO terms into simple definitions and avoiding jargon, the other party needs a break to process what you’re saying and hear their own voice.

If you’re talking at them the whole time, then it really isn’t a conversation and that traveling salesman vibe is going to come across strong.

Share Past Experiences

Unless the client has some background understanding of search, then this will only overwhelm them. If you want to showcase your expertise, talk about your work with past clients and the results you were able to provide.

You want to focus on the work for other businesses that share similarities with this new client. The best case scenario is that you’ve done work for someone in the same industry because you can relay that you already have experience providing SEO to, for example, a flower shop. Having relevant industry experience is one of the most important factors that small businesses look for when choosing an SEO specialist.

In the more-than-likely chance that you don’t have another client working in the same space as your lead, there are other ways to draw similarities. You may have another client that had similar goals in mind or was working with the same, small budget.

These connections will allow you to convey to the person that you’ve worked with other people in the same (or similar) situation and have been able to effectively provide SEO to improve their business.

And Finally… The Cost

Every yin has its yang. We love the word free, for as much as we hate its also-four-letter counterpart, cost. The small business clients that you approach are particularly allergic to cost because of their limited budget. They are going to ask what the cost of your SEO services are and they’ll ask it within the first few minutes of talking.

This is one of the toughest questions that you’ll have to answer. On the one hand, you don’t want to undersell your services; your time is just as valuable as the client’s.

Reaching an agreeable cost is a big reason why it is better to start with a small and simplistic plan. The client isn’t expected to pay a lot and your workload is comparable for the smaller workload. As their company and SEO needs grow, you can scale your costs to meet these higher demands.

That said, you’ll inevitably run into a hard decision with regards to cost. These will be the clients that you really want to work with and help develop their business, but the money just isn’t there.

You may have already had one of these experiences. Again, you don’t want to sell your services for less than they are worth to you. However, it may be worth it to you to accept less money if you feel that there is a lot of room for growth.


You’re not going to win over every small business client, but these small tips will help the small business owners approach to open up to the idea of investing in SEO.

Even if you receive a rejection at first, don’t be afraid to leave your card or send another email several months later to check in and see if the idea has grown on the prospect at all.

About Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward is the Founder of Madhouse Marketing, a digital marketing agency in San Diego, specializing in content and social media marketing. Speaking both internationally and throughout the US, Ashley regularly teaches workshops and speaks at conferences like Pubcon, BrightonSEO, SearchLove, Digital Summits, Retail Global, and the prestigious SMS Sydney. Ashley has also co-authored the best-selling book “The Better Business Book V.2” and is a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.

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