Nowadays, SEOs are in a tough spot.
SEO is only getting more difficult with the evolution of Google’s algorithm (think: AI) and increasing competition.
Not being able to promise much in the way of rankings, timeline and other factors makes SEO a difficult service to sell.
Yet, the demand for SEO is there.
People go to Google for answers to their questions, and they’re good at ignoring ads via banner blindness.
With an SEO proposal that communicates the right message, you can land clients for your SEO business.
What’s important to have in an SEO proposal?
Before we go over an example SEO proposal template, it’s imperative to understand what your proposal needs, and what it doesn’t. Why?
Because there’s no one-size-fits-all SEO proposal.
For instance, if you’re an SEO consultant, an appropriate SEO proposal from you will look different than an SEO proposal from a large or midsize SEO agency. The breadth of services you offer might be different, how you approach SEO might be different, you’ll have different types of clients (i.e. just starting up vs. already established), etc.
While an SEO proposal template can be a good place to start, it’s ultimately not the SEO proposal that matters—it’s what the proposal accomplishes that matters.
Let’s go over what your SEO proposal needs, and what it doesn’t.
- Solve their problem.
Welcome to marketing 101. If you want to sell anything, you need to: 1. know the prospect’s problem, 2. show them a great solution (where you’re the problem-solver), and 3. answer the question “why you?” since they could go elsewhere.
(Did you notice that this blog post is basically doing those steps? Meta.)
To really get your prospects to resonate with you, you’ll need to tailor the first step to their specific situation. Hopefully you can combine steps two and three by showing them how your solution is better than your competitors’ solutions.
- Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.
In other words: Make it clear what they’re paying you for (while not lying about it). Part of the SEO proposal is setting expectations for the future, so don’t make any promises that you can’t back up. Instead, you’ll want to give them realistic expectations.
Still, while you can’t promise something as solid as rankings, you can give them numbers—things like estimated timelines and analytics. Which brings me to my next point…
- Include analytics.
This is mainly what you have to show for your work. If you have an entire SEO proposal and it doesn’t mention any kind of metrics or what analytics you’ll be using, they’ll think you’re full of hot air.
The closer you can tie your metrics to their bottom line (i.e. cash money a.k.a. revenue), the better.
- Time and money.
If you’re an agency, it might be difficult (or impossible) to include time and money in your SEO proposal. For instance, a prospect may be working with multiple departments in an agency (SEO, PPC, etc.) which would change the overall price they’d pay.
But if you’re working solo or on a small team, setting expectations of time and money upfront can go a long way.
Once people wrap their minds around what they’d get, they need to know how much they’re paying for it and how long it’ll take to do a cost-benefit analysis. The longer you stand in between them and their cost-benefit analysis, the more irritated they’ll get.
If you’ve ever tried to buy a phone at a Verizon store where they only sell you the phone as part of a “package,” you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Which leads me to the next point.
- Don’t hide anything.
If you have anything to hide, prospects will smell it a mile away. People already have a general distrust in SEOs as it is, so better to embrace their skepticism with honesty about how things work in the wild, wild west that is SEO rather than try to pretend SEO is something it’s not.
- Don’t bother them with fluff.
Please leave the stock photos, or any inessential information, out. At best, fluff makes you look like a bad salesperson. At worst, it makes them feel like you’re hiding something, or don’t have much worth saying or showing.
If you’re thinking, “it couldn’t hurt, right?” to add something to your SEO proposal, the answer is: Yes, yes it could. Everything in your SEO proposal should have a purpose, and it should be clear to you and the prospect what that purpose is.
- Don’t underestimate (or overestimate) people and what they know about SEO.
I learned from my dad that if I ASSUME something, that makes an ASS of U and ME. Here, that’s definitely true.
If you assume someone knows SEO basics and they don’t, that might make them feel bad, and you don’t want them associating that feeling with you. If you assume they don’t know SEO and they do, then you come across as a condescending jerk.
Another common scenario is that a prospect does know about SEO, but five-years-ago-SEO, which is not today’s SEO. This segues nicely into my next point.
- Emphasize that SEO is always changing, and is getting more difficult.
This is just the truth, no matter which SEO consultant or agency a prospect decides to go with. While you don’t need to literally show them that SEO demand is up and returns are diminishing, you do want to include the idea that SEO is changing (which can make it difficult) in your overall message to set expectations.
For instance, you can briefly mention algorithm updates and how you adapt to them, how and why keyword tracking is practically obsolete, and talk about the danger of over-optimizing. Showing your understanding of these things and how you respond to them can earn you kudos.
If they seem interested, you can go more in-depth. If they’re more of the “that’s what I’m paying you for—I don’t need to understand all of this mumbo-jumbo” type, then keep it light and make yourself look like the internet-ninja-turtle-magician that you are.
- Clearly lay out the next steps.
This will prevent awkwardness. Sure, you can do this in an email if you want, but make sure to include it somewhere. Don’t make your prospect figure out what to do. It’s your job to make their job easier.
- Practice and time yourself for presenting.
But actually do it. Maybe even record yourself (*gasp!*). This will make sure you come across as confident, that you don’t go over the time you allotted, and can make or break your presentation.
I recorded myself practicing, and was surprised by how monotonous I sounded. I recorded many more times, trying to sound less monotonous each time. By the last recording, it was surprising to me how cartoonish I thought I sounded, but how much better I actually sounded on the recording. Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.
Pro tip: Try standing instead of sitting.
- SEO tools.
You don’t need to tell them the full recipe to your secret sauce. If they seem to have some knowledge of SEO tools and ask about it, sure, you should be prepared to tell them what tools you use and why. But if they’re hiring you to do SEO, they likely don’t, so it’s not worth getting into in the SEO proposal.
- Social proof.
You don’t need to awkwardly show social proof in your SEO proposal. If you’re at the stage with them where you’re going over an SEO proposal, they should’ve already seen your social proof at this point—on your website, as part of an email, etc.
Don’t beat a dead horse. Your SEO proposal shouldn’t be about you, it’s about them.
- Team photo.
Again—not about you. Unless you have some real user data telling you otherwise, save it for your “About Us” page. This is just my opinion, but I feel like this is akin to someone showing you photos of their kids while you’re trying to make a big business decision.
- Explaining SEO.
If they’re looking to hire someone to do SEO, they already decided that there’s value in SEO. Part of what they’re paying you for is to be the expert, so you don’t need to give them a crash course that will just leave them feeling overwhelmed. And as mentioned before, if they do know SEO (or, think that they do), this will just come off as condescending.
SEO proposal Q&A
Here’s a quick Q&A on common Q’s before we dive in:
Q: Should I use Google Slides to make a presentation-style SEO proposal, or Google Docs to make a document-style SEO proposal?
A: It doesn’t matter. Not. One. Bit. Whatever you like better.
I think presentations can appear friendlier with their bite-sized slides of info, but pdf documents can appear more professional (and perhaps even conservative, relatively), so it may depend who your prospects are as well. As long as it’s easy to understand and clean-looking, you’re good.
Q: How long should my SEO proposal be? How long is too long?
A: Any length will do, as long as you can present the entire thing in the time that you said that you would, whether that’s half an hour, an hour, or however much time. It’s better that you finish early with some time for discussion rather than going overtime.
Take a look at a generic version of Portent’s 66-slide SEO proposal. I’ve also seen him (hi, Ian!) use some of it in a marketing presentation to introduce his company and himself (yes, the slides with those rats!).
His SEO proposal is able to be so long because the first group of slides go by very quickly, which are used to make the important point that Portent helps businesses grow (tying himself to their bottom line like a smart marketer).
Q: Do I really have to present it? Can’t I just email it instead?
A: If you’ve had success without presenting, more power to you. But if you’re reading this right now, chances are that’s not the case.
Yes, you should present your SEO proposal, even if you have mostly electronic communication with them in the future.
It’s your job to make their life easier, and going through an SEO proposal on their own may be foreign to them. You want to make them feel confident in saying “yes” and handing you money, which includes knowing you’re a real human.
Plus, they probably won’t understand a lot of what they’re looking at. When you present it, you get to choose how to frame things and quell any worries (or answer any questions) that they might have.
That being said, definitely email them a pdf version afterwards for them to look over in your follow-up email.
The SEO Proposal That Gets “Yes, I Do”s (Plus Free Template)
You can use this SEO proposal template as a guide, but remember: It’s sending the right message that matters the most, so go through the essentials above when creating your own SEO proposal.
Hopefully you already recognize this colorful theme from Google Slides that I’m using as an example. Customize appropriately to your own brand style and colors.
IMO the colors in this example template are a bit much, and the font isn’t the easiest to read, so don’t take this template as an example of good styling for an SEO proposal (I just chose it for funzies). Keep the font readable and the colors not-blinding (and your own, because branding).
Always include a title slide. You’ll want it to say: what it is (SEO Proposal), who it’s for (X Company), and who it’s by (Y Company/Fabulous You).
If you’re doing the document version (pages rather than slides), you can add a screenshot of their homepage for some personalization and color.
You can also put your logo on every page, starting with the title page. While putting the logo in the lower right is common, studies show that logos in the upper left on websites have the most effective brand recall.
Table of Contents – what to expect
Take one slide to lay out the road map for the rest of the SEO proposal. You want to manage their expectations upfront, and make it easy for them to find specific information later.
Our Approach to SEO – how we’ll do it and why
Take as many slides as you need (3-6 should be sufficient) to explain why your way of performing SEO witchcraft is better than others’, and why.
Here’s where you answer the “why you?” while also giving them a warm-up for all the SEO-patois coming up. Save the nitty-gritty details for later—analogies and light storytelling are welcome here.
These slides should be fairly easy to make if you’ve got a website that explains why you’re a special SEO-snowflake.
If you aren’t sure, use the Socratic method on yourself to find out, i.e. Why do I do these SEO-things in this particular order? Why do I focus on this over that? What has showed me SEO success in the past? How have I adapted to changes in SEO? Why would I choose me over other SEOs?
Another way to think about it: What type of SEO company or consultant are you? Are you a luxury brand SEO consultant, a budget SEO company, or an industry-specialized SEO company? Know your audience and what’s important to them to help inform these slides (hint: They all care about cash money).
If you’re a one-person SEO show or a small team, you could touch on the fact that you’re able to adapt in the face of torrential SEO winds. Many agencies—because of their bureaucracy—are unable to adapt to changes nearly as quickly as their smaller competitors.
You could also touch on the danger of over-optimizing (and make it clear that you don’t do that).
If you have case studies (and the permission to use them), you can use them here to explain what you did and actually show it was successful. If you had business data (i.e. sales metrics), that will come off stronger than showing an increase in organic site traffic, or other SEO metrics.
SERP Landscape – what we’re up against
This is something I haven’t seen in any templated SEO proposals online, but that I decided to add to my own proposals after some experience with prospects and clients in recent years.
Take it or leave it—it may be too much for the type of clients you’re working with. But for my situation as an SEO consultant, giving prospects context for what we’re dealing with helped me give my clients better SEO services.
First, I use some slides to briefly explain that SEO is always changing and that there’s more than one SERP per search query. This helps them understand that rankings are pretty much impossible to track since page A might rank #1 in location X, but page B ranks #1 in location Y.
It can also help them see that trying to rank for one, specific keyword is pretty pointless (if you’ve ever had a client with one-itis for a specific keyword, you feel my pain). Rather, it makes more sense to focus on ranking for a group of keywords that have the same user intent.
Here are some slides I copy-pasted from an SEO proposal I’ve used IRL into this example template (for a small, local-ish business).
Then I use a few slides to show a few SERPs that are relevant to them, i.e. search queries they’d like to (and possibly could) rank for.
Unlike the last slides, which were demonstrative in general, these slides are personalized to them and their situation. I briefly go through what’s showing up on SERP (PAA boxes? Scholarly articles? YouTube videos? A bunch of paid ads?) and the quality of the ranking domains (Domain Authority).
The point here is to show that we may need to be creative and open-minded if we want to rank.
For instance, I can create an amazing page that ranks #1 organically in some SERPs, but if that’s underneath a bunch of paid ads, news and scholarly articles, maybe there’s a better way (or, a better keyword).
This not only helps set expectations, but it also primes them to want to help you help them (say that five times fast).
In other words: It helps them see from your point of view. This could get their wheels turning, and make them more open to more ideas, like making a YouTube video.
At the very least, it reminds them that no SEO can decide how things show up on Google, and that there’s a lot of SERP features, new and old (featured snippets, PAA boxes, paid ads), to be aiming for and competing against.
To win the SEO-game today, it often takes participation and open-mindedness from the client (rather than dry, old-school, cookie-cutter SEO).
Current SEO Overview – audit sampler
Now, you want to show them some places where you’ve assessed they’re weak, and how you’d fix them. Have one slide that introduces or summarizes the next few slides, which each show a specific weakness in their current SEO.
To make this section even more powerful, you could connect some of these to stages in their user funnel. I personally like Pirate Metrics (AAARRR). Showing them you’re thinking not just about SEO, but how what you’re doing fits into their user journey, will get you extra kudos.
The point of these slides is not to show them everything that needs fixing on their site. Rather, you just need to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing, what you’re talking about, and that they could use your help.
This should be a sampler of the kind of work you’d be doing, and more importantly, why you’re doing it.
Remember: They care more about the effects of the work than the work itself, so don’t bother going deep into these slides. You can emphasize the benefits of SEO over the long run, and tie these fixes to their business goals.
SEO Tasks – what we’ll do
Here’s where you’ll go over what you do as an SEO.
Different SEOs have different ways of categorizing SEO tasks—offsite vs onsite, content marketing vs content and SMM, backlinks vs. influencer outreach, etc. However you bucket SEO tasks, here’s where you can touch on each bucket.
This part of your SEO proposal can be generic and used for multiple SEO proposals. It shows the general breadth of SEO services that you could do for them and why. You can have one slide that introduces or summarizes the next slides (up to 10-ish, but really, it’s up to you), which each explain a different SEO bucket of tasks.
Format this in whatever way makes most sense to you. Don’t forget to include analytics here, though you could also put that info in the next section when you go over reports if you want.
The Process – how work unfolds
Take a few slides to set expectations for how work will be done. Go over the deliverables they’ll get (reports at the very least!), how often they’ll get them, and in what format (presenting vs. email-only).
You can also talk about things like getting their approval to make changes on their site before you do it.
Some businesses are ready to hand over all their logins and let you do whatever you want, making this a non-issue. Others might need some time to build up trust before they let you start getting your grimy hands (hopefully they’re not too grimy) all over their site. If they fall in the latter camp, here’s where you can quell their fears.
You don’t have to get too detailed here, but you do want to give them a sense of a regular workflow so there’s less question marks in their minds about how this is actually going to work.
Timeline – when we’ll do it, and for how long
Take a slide to give a timeline for the work you’ll be doing for the first few months or so, and summarizing what’s beyond that.
You may have to combine this with your pricing slide if you have different “packages” that include more or less work. You can also include ranges of time if that makes more sense with your pricing and workflow.
This doesn’t have to be set in stone. Again, this is more about setting expectations. This slide in particular could also be used to provide a sense of urgency. You’re showing them their *shiny* near-future—but only if they decide to hire you.
Pricing – how much it’ll cost
Use another slide to explain all of the costs, however your pricing structure is set up.
People like options, but it’s best to keep it simple. I prefer monthly retainers, but many SEOs do project-based pricing. However your pricing is set up, make it clear here, and don’t hide any costs.
Here, write up what the next steps are. Let them know who should be hearing from who, and in about how long. You can include contact info here if you want, but they should already have it at this point.
Like the timeline slide, this can be used to provide a positive sense of urgency, but keep it genuine and not sales-y. For instance, you can verbally say that you can get started on their SEO “by next week” if they got back to you in the next few days.
SEO proposal takeaways
Try making your SEO proposal off of this template, then run it through the essentials and inessential checklists above. It’ll take some work upfront, but can be used again and again (only a handful of slides are personalized) in the future.
The #1 thing to remember is that your proposal isn’t just about SEO, it’s about how SEO is going to help them with their business goals (*cough* making money *cough*).
While it’s important to show that you know your stuff when it comes to SEO, remember that they don’t really care about that stuff. They just care that you know it, and that it’s going to help their business.
Show them those two things in your SEO proposal, and you’ll be hearing “yes.”