How SEO Experts and Agencies Win New Business [Survey Results]

Where can you find new SEO business opportunities and customers?

Maintaining a steady stream of leads and inquiries to keep your pipeline steady is essential to the growth and success of your SEO agency and / or career.

In our current State of SEO survey, Search Engine Journal gathered insights from 2,830 SEO professionals with different salaries, experience levels, and specializations.

And in this article you will find essential insights into how SEO freelancers, consultants and agencies generate new business and acquire customers. You will learn:

  • Which channels are most effective for generating new business?
  • How lead generation and marketing results differ for B2B vs. B2C and agencies vs. freelancers.
  • Which worked for SEO pros looking to get new clients and grow the business.


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What is the Most Successful Channel to Propel New SEO Business?

According to 45% of SEO respondents, their personal or corporate website is one of the top three channels for generating new business.

Google search is also a popular lead generator for SEO professionals (no surprise), as is a dedicated sales team.

New Business Channel percentage volume
1 website 45.2% 1195
2 Google search 28.0% 740
3rd Dedicated sales team 27.4% 724
4th Google Ads 24.7% 653
5 Personal professional business networks 22.8% 603
6th Paid advertising on social media 18.9% 502
7th Recommendations from your network 18.2% 481
8th Social media not paid 15.2% 402
9 Cold calling 10.9% 289
10 Paid recommendation platforms (e.g. Credo) 9.9% 262
11 Online job boards 9.0% 238
12th Upwork or similar platform 8.6% 227
13th Speeches at conferences 6.0% 159

(Question asked: What is the predominant new business channel for you or the company you work for? Up to 3 options can be selected. Open to all respondents, the results were filtered to 1,241 who worked directly with clients through an agency (875) or as freelancers (366). 51% worked in B2B, 41% were B2C and 8% fell into an unspecific “Other” category.)


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Of course, keeping your website updated and optimized is essential for most SEO professionals and agencies.

Izzi Smith von Ryte finds out, for example, that organic search delivers the lead, which it can then convert through content.

“Organic search brings the most traffic, but it’s mostly informational sessions that don’t always result in direct conversions,” said Smith. “In order to convert these into business opportunities, we use high-quality content (webinars, e-books, etc.) to promote your journey and guide you from problem-conscious to solution and product-conscious.”

Personal networking and conferences continue to be effective

Despite last year’s limitations, face-to-face networking is still an effective and popular channel for new business development.

Personal professional business networks are still one of the top three business building channels for 22.8% of respondents.

However, speaking at conferences comes last on the list, at just 6%, despite the fact that it can be so effective at building brand awareness and building a company’s authority.

Public speaking is not for everyone and can be an investment of time. It’s also not a scalable process.

But for the small percentage that invests in speaking, it pays to raise your profile.

Barry Adams, Founder of Polemic Digital, has invested heavily in his personal brand by being active on social media and speaking at conferences.


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“Most of my new business comes from referrals, some coming through my email newsletter and conference calling,” said Adams. “My personal brand as an expert in a certain niche plays a big role in attracting new leads.”

When we are out of the pandemic and trust begins to build, we expect conferences to become popular places for networking again as people want to re-establish social contact.

How is Marketing Strategy Different for SEO Agencies and Freelancers?

While each agency or consultant’s marketing strategy is completely unique to them, we’ve seen some trends in how different types of SEO professionals drive new business.


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Perhaps unsurprisingly, an SEO agency (32%) is more than twice as likely to have a dedicated sales team as its top channel as an SEO freelancer (12%).

Freelancers are more likely to use a marketplace like Upwork, as stated by 18% of SEO freelancers compared to only 7% of those surveyed by SEO agencies.

Freelancers also reported greater success in attracting new business through referral from their network, with 31% choosing this channel as their top channel, versus 22% of SEO agencies.

When it comes to the differences between B2B and B2C, we’ve found that almost twice as many B2C SEO pros (14%) chose paid referral sites as their top channel, compared to just 8% for B2B.


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We also found that 30% of B2B SEO professionals use a dedicated sales team to generate new leads compared to 25% of B2C professionals.

What works to win new business in SEO?

The results of our State of SEO survey underscore the importance of:

  • Keep your website up to date.
  • Participation in personal events.
  • Invest in your network.
  • Use Google Ads and Social Media Ads to reach new prospects.
  • Receive referrals, whether organic or paid.

Freelancers are more successful with job boards and marketplaces, while agencies tend to have more budget for dedicated salespeople, cold calling and other contacts.


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More resources:

Download your copy of the full report to access all of the data from the Search Engine Journal State of SEO Survey 2021.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita / Suchmaschinen-Journal

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