Jul 9, 2020

How to write a winning SEO proposal in 10 steps

8-MINUTE READ | By Sneha Jagtap

SEO Analytics

[ Updated Jan 16, 2023 ]

If you offer SEO services as a freelancer, consultant, or an agency, you’ve probably noticed that convincing people to do business with you is not always a walk in the park.

So how can you create such a compelling SEO proposal that your prospects will want to buy from you?

All I can say is: hold on to your hat, because you’re about to find out. ?

Step 1: Ask your prospect some questions

Funnily enough, the first step in the proposal writing process has nothing to do with writing. Instead, you’ll want to ask your prospect a bunch of questions.

The goal of this step is to figure out what your prospect really needs help with. 

1. What do you expect to get out of SEO?

You might hear something like: 

  • More leads
  • More sales
  • More good quality traffic to your site
  • More email/phone inquiries
  • Greater ROI

And note here that if the prospect lists a bunch of vanity metrics like SERP position for certain keywords or increasing organic traffic without any relevant business goals (aka leads, other conversions, or sales), they might need some education before they sign the dotted line.

2. Who is your ideal customer and what are their biggest pain points related to your product/service?

You’ll get:

  • The key demographics, psychographics and/or firmographics of their ideal customers
  • Their challenges and/or pain points.

3. Who are your top 3 competitors?

You’ll get: A list of websites they consider their fierce competition.

Three is a good number, but if they consider more websites as their closest competitors, ask them to include others as well.

4. What are the keywords your prospects should type into a search engine when they’re looking for your business?

You’ll get: Their top keywords.

5. Have you ever had any SEO done on your website, or is this your first time?

You might hear something like:

  • “Yep, I’m a pro at buying SEO services.”
  • “Nope, this is my first time.”

The best way to create a successful SEO proposal for your prospect is by tailoring certain parts of your proposal to their needs. But speaking of tailoring…

Step 2: Don’t reinvent the wheel every time

We all know that writing a great SEO proposal can take hours. And if you’re still looking to write a unique proposal for each of your prospects from scratch, then sorry pal, I’m afraid it’s not going to work. It’s simply not practical to reinvent the wheel every time.

Instead, you should concentrate on building an SEO proposal template that you can quickly edit whenever you want to pitch a new client. The template should include (at least) the following elements:

Step 3: Write a killer executive summary 

Now that you’ve learned about your prospect and accepted the hard truth that not everything in your proposal should be customized, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get writing.

Ready? Here comes the most crucial part of your SEO proposal: the executive summary. 

You know your prospects are busy. Maybe the executive who makes the final decision has no time to read the entire document. Hence the executive summary: it ensures that you give them a concise overview of your proposal.

Copy the following structure to write a powerful executive summary:

The problem/need/goal

You should begin your executive summary by highlighting the prospect’s pain points. You should be able to convey that you understand their business and you’re aware of the goals they’re trying to reach. 

This is a great opportunity to open with a bold headline stating something like: “You deserve higher-quality traffic to your website.”

The expected result

Here, you’ll want to describe the impact of solving the problem you identified in the first section. But remember that this is not the time to go into too much detail. 

Instead, you should focus entirely on what goals they will be able to achieve by incorporating your SEO solutions to their business. For example, “Once we’ve optimized your site with valuable content and relevant calls-to-action, you’ll be able to achieve ~30% more leads”. 

Approach overview

It’s now time to fill in the specifics of your strategy (but again, be brief):

  • If their goal is to increase organic flow to their online assets, define how you intend to achieve their objective.
  • In just 2-3 lines, give a prospect a rough outline of the tactics you’re suggesting. For example, you can mention things like content production, meta tags, backlinking, etc.

Close with a clear call-to-action

Outline the next step in the buying process already, in case this is the only page the decision-maker reads.

Step 4: List your deliverables

This is where you’ll get into the technical details of how your SEO services will help the prospect’s business. In this section, you’ll show them that you really know how to solve their core pain points. 

Lay out the specific services that are included in your offer:

  1. Initial audits: content audit, link audit, keyword audit, site audit, etc.
  2. Keyword research: break down the entire process of keyword research and keyword research tools you’ll use.
  3. Competitor analysis: describe the process that you’re going to employ to track the client’s competitors and their SEO strategies.
  4. Content writing: quickly walk through your approach to revamping the client’s website content to optimize it for organic search.
  5. Link building: explain the process you’ll follow for link building, the tools you’ll use for backlink analysis etc.
  6. SEO reporting: explain how often your team will be sending out SEO reports and whether or not these will be reviewed together in a recurring meeting. 

Step 5: Show them that you can get the job done

What’s the best way to demonstrate to a client that you can achieve their business goals by developing and implementing a kick-ass SEO strategy? 

Simply by showing them some examples of the work you’ve done before. And this section is all about that. 

This is where you can demonstrate how your experience would fit their needs. And this can come in the form of customer testimonials, or examples about how you’ve guided clients to improve their sales, leads, and organic traffic by X% in the past with your SEO services. 

Here’s a simple structure you should follow to highlight your past work:

  • A simple introduction of who the client is. (Pro tip: choose a client from a similar industry, but not a direct competitor.)
  • A short description of the client’s situation, difficulties, and frustration before you started working for them.
  • A rundown of the customized SEO solutions you offered to solve the problem.
  • A description of the end result: before and after.
  • A customer testimonial telling how they achieved more leads, more sales, and/or greater ROI with your SEO services.

Step 6: Build a timeline

This is the part where you set expectations on how quickly different tactics will start paying off.

SEO is not a quick fix or a silver bullet. In fact, it might take a few months until you get any real results — even if you’ve done everything right. 

And that’s why drawing a realistic timeline can set you up from competing proposals.

For example, split your timeline between one time activities, such as setting up a Google Search Console account and recurring activities, such as developing healthy backlinks, content writing, optimizing keywords, and so on. 

Step 7: Make an offer they can’t refuse

This section is guaranteed to get almost as much attention as the executive summary.

Instead of calling it “pricing”, you can highlight your value by referring to the section as “engagement fees” or “investment”.

You might also want to offer several different “packages” to make sure that your client can pick and choose exactly what they need. You can present this information in a table so that it’s easier for the prospect to compare and weigh the different alternatives.

Step 8: Don’t forget the legal fine print

Neglecting this less sexy part of your SEO proposal may get you in trouble. Which is why you need to have your own back by adding a “Terms and Conditions” section to your proposal. 

This way, your clients won’t get an opportunity to go back on their word, and you can rest assured you’ll get paid for the work you do.

Step 9: Don’t make them guess what they have to do next

Communicate clearly on what happens next if the prospect decides to close a deal with you. This could be in the form of any of the following:

  • Sign the proposal digitally with an e-signature.
  • Pay the first half of the invoice.
  • Arrange a call to discuss further steps.

Step 10: Send out your awesome proposal ?

Wow! Your proposal is finally ready and it’s time to send it out. Now that you know what goes into a winning SEO proposal, you can create yours in a matter of minutes by using a customizable SEO proposal template.

About the author

Sneha is a Digital Marketer at Freshproposals — A Proposal Software. She’s passionate about SEO, digital marketing, email marketing, meeting new people, and … Singing.

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