How to use competitive intelligence to more effectively pitch SEO services to clients

I bet you’ve read countless articles about pitching. Just a quick search of ‘how to pitch SEO services to clients’ offers you over 1,630,000 results. And the subject has been covered in various articles by the brightest minds of the industry  all there for the taking. So why am I writing another article like that?

If it wasn’t for the terrible pitches that are still deliberately hitting my inbox, I wouldn’t have considered writing about it.

I wrote this article to help those looking for professional guidance to become more confident in pitching your services to your potential clients. I hope I don’t need to explain why you want to have a strong pitch. But just in case, a well structured pitch can significantly improve the number of your closed deals. Besides that, the approach I’m sharing in this article will also help you set the right tone of your conversation with a client from the very beginning.

You only have one chance to make a good impression and stand out, so do it right the first time. Show that you are a true expert who knows their industry inside out, even though you will spend anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour on piecing together metrics described below.

Understanding the Competitive Landscape

Even if you see that your client’s site overshadows its competitors, there’s still room for advancement. Do you know why? Because unless they are either Google, YouTube, or Wikipedia, there’s some traffic that they are missing out on. Also, they have their own competitors who might as well be beating them in a lot of aspects. It’s all about data visualization.

For instance, let’s take a look at the digital marketing landscape for searchengineland.com. Here’s what SpyFu shows for Search Engine Land’s main organic competitors and their monthly traffic:

spike of SEL rankings for organic keywords against competitors

This graph reports that SEL receives the highest number of users from organic results. But there’s a trick you can do to see if your potential client is dominating the current landscape:

  1. Go to SimilarWeb and find out what’s the industry of the site you’re analyzing. You can find it by simply generating a free report that can be found on SimiliarWeb’s main page. In the Overview section, you’ll see a Category Rank that shows you the site’s industry. In our case, it is ‘Internet And Telecom > Online Marketing’.
dashboard showing traffic from similarweb

The next step will be checking which sites show up as the industry’s top websites. Find them and add them to SpyFu’s dashboard.

  1. If you don’t think you can find anything useful in SimilarWeb, then you can rearrange SpyFu’s visualization chart a little bit by making it look something like this:
competitor share in a chart

Yes, SEL is still dominating, but it’s less aggressive. Judging by the fact that its monthly traffic in January is less than 50% of the overall traffic across the competitive landscape, it definitely presents less threat to its competitors. So don’t let yourself be fooled. It’s all about how the data is visualized, and how you can present and interpret it to your potential client.

In this case, you can say that, yes, your site performs a lot better than your competitors, but it can do even better because it currently owns less than 50% of traffic across the entire competitive landscape. It’s important to stress out the fact that the monthly traffic trend of the sites we analyzed is stable (except for Wordstream’s traffic). We can also conclude that the rest of the domains don’t really invest in their SEO. This gives your client a unique opportunity to take advantage of this situation!

 

Competitors’ Brand Popularity

It’s a well-known fact that your SEO visibility depends on your brand’s awareness. Brand awareness, in turn, consists of several factors:

  • The number of monthly searches that a brand name has
  • The number of users that visited your site by typing in a site’s name directly in their browser (e.g. direct traffic)
  • The number of brand mentions that is happening on a daily/weekly/monthly basis

 

What you need to do is to simply build graphs to compare your client’s brand against their competitors.

To get the number of monthly searches, you can use SpyFu. After that, build a graph that will openly point out to the company you’re pitching to that they could have done a better job of their SEO, and that they should keep up with their rivals. As an example, I selected 3 well-known travel search sites:

 

Expedia – 7,4M monthly searches

Kayak – 3,3M monthly searches

Orbitz – 1,8M monthly searches

 

Clearly, these numbers tell us that Orbitz is muddling through with the volume of its traffic. But it is really so? In order to be able to say that Orbitz is the least popular brand, we need to take a look at direct traffic of all three brands.

Analyzing Traffic

When it comes to analyzing traffic, SimilarWeb should be your go-to tool. What’s cool about this tool is that it shows you channels that attract traffic for any site, along with what actions users take while they are browsing around a certain website. A free version of SimilarWeb also allows you to build graphs. On a chart below you can see that Orbitz has 5-6 times less direct traffic than its competitors.

see where traffic comes from via similarweb

Brand Mentions

Last but not the least, you need to check the monthly number of brand mentions a particular brand has. For that I use Moz because it allows me to access historical data. Being able to see the timeline of events, how things have been changing over the time, is always beneficial. On a graph below you can see the number of brand mentions that Expedia, Orbitz, and Kayak gained for the past four weeks. And again, Orbitz appears to be weaker than its competitors.

web mentions

What you need to do is to simply combine all these graphs in one document and sent it to your potential clients with a brief explanation of how to interpret this data. It’s always good to emphasize that brand awareness can be easily enhanced by increasing the number of links a domain has and by making SEO and PR work together.

 

Content Pages Performance

 

Because I mostly work with PR and content marketing, I use this strategy quite often. To begin seeing results, you need to use a combination of tools like SpyFu and BuzzSumo. However, if you want to find tools similar to BuzzSumo tools, refer to one of my recent posts  where I list several options.

A Combination of Tools

In SpyFu, you can find how well content pages are ranking in Google. Buzzsumo is really good at revealing the data about the number of social signals and referring domains each content page has.

 

For example, here’s the most viral posts that were published on SEJ within the last 6 months:

most shared posts

As you can see, their most viral posts also have a lot of referring domains. By the way, I noticed that 3 out of 5 of their best performing posts are happen to be roundups. So if someone ever tells you that a roundup is a dubious type of content, show them this screenshot.

Export and Summarize

Moving further, you need to export this data from BuzzSumo so that you can add two other metrics to each content page the number of keywords it’s currently ranking for in Google and its traffic volume to get a full picture. To obtain these two important metrics, you need to export a report from SpyFu that has all keywords and pages for which this domain is showing up in Google.

 

Usually, I make a brief summary of my findings that uncover the most burning issues. For instance, you can calculate how many posts have:

  1. No traffic from SERPs. Based on the data sample I selected, out of all posts that have been published on SEJ for the past 6 months 362 of them have zero traffic. And that’s 30% of their content which is a substantial part of all posts being published!
  2. Less than X organic visitors. Depending on your data sample, it can be any number. For example, among all of SEJ posts there are 644 articles that attract less than 50 organic visitors per month. That’s 55% of all pieces I’ve analyzed.
  3. Indicate how many articles can potentially rank better after they are optimized. I prefer to share content pages that appear in SERPs for some certain keywords, but not on the top 20 pages.

 

Time To Pitch

It’s time to take these pitching ideas and make it happen! Competitive intelligence tools have been created for a reason, and if you’re not using these tools yet you are missing out on scoring new deals with clients. Look into the three major metric I covered competitive landscape, competitors’ brand popularity and content pages performance and leverage the power of competitive intelligence. Questions, comments or suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Alexandra Tachalova has worked in digital marketing for over six years. She is a digital marketing consultant, helping others to open new markets and boost sales. Alex is a frequent speaker, and you can find her at major search industry events.