As an Internet marketing services agency in the US MidWest, we are cold-called and email spammed every day from domestic and offshore companies trying to sell us our own services, or soliciting to become a reseller of their search engine optimization services. Truth be told, it doesn’t make sense for an SEO company to outsource any SEO work to third parties – especially when it comes to any form of link building. We as an industry are much more accountable today for the services we sell, which is why virtually all tactical SEO work done on behalf of clients should be done in-house. The SEO industry just got another reminder from Google this week with their roll-out of Panda 4.0.
It’s hard to believe in the Panda & Penguin era that companies still use aggressive, spammy and misleading tactics to get new business. Our industry is suffering from reputational issues on two fronts: sleazy marketing and penalized client websites.
Below is an example of email spam that we get every day (you know you get them too!). All of these spammers use a similar “spray and pray” style, with no website address, phone number, branded email handle or example client sites. There is never anything personal in the message. These emails always reek of offshore boiler room tactics. Yet, spamming must work to some degree, or the spammers wouldn’t be doing it. After all, Google is the second largest company in the United States and is creeping up on a $400 billion dollar market cap. Yet, this type of aggressive email marketing does a lot of damage to our industry. Further, what company would buy SEO services from a spammer? Or from a misleading “…we’re calling from Google” robo-call? If they are using tactics like this, what kind of SEO will they be doing on behalf of your company or your clients? As SEO service providers, we spend enough time these days explaining that SEO is not dead, but these types of sleazy marketing tactics to not help our cause.
Our firm does virtually no direct marketing and absolutely no telemarketing of any kind. No offline marketing or print advertising either. We sent out a flyer ONCE last year because we have a printer client and they convinced us to try. We did pick up a great client from that mail-out, but not enough of an ROI to try another campaign. We acquire new clients in one of these three ways:
A. Organic search engine optimization with a touch of pay-per-click.
B. Existing client referrals.
C. Highly selective email marketing, sent one email at a time, and only for highly sought after ‘ideal’ clients – the subject matter of this post.
Some of our best web design and SEO clients were (and still are) acquired by our own style of highly selective email marketing. It involves sending a highly personalized email to the owner or chief executive of the targeted business. We also include free information in the email, which is a page right out of John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing book regarding lumpy mail. In our case we are creating a ‘lumpy email’ with free SEO data in the message.
For this method to work, you should send the email to email addresses that you can verify & prove are listed publicly on the Internet. For example, finding the site owner’s email address on a Whois site and using it for marketing purposes is typically prohibited; BUT you can use a Whois search to find an email address and then run a search of the email address to see if it’s publicly posted somewhere else on the Internet. If an executive’s email address is listed on a public web page, the email address is fair game for marketing purposes. Some will say sending an unsolicited email is risky, but if you can prove an email is publicly accessible then it truly should be fair game. If you craft a highly personalized introductory email the right way, most business owners will be intrigued by the content and perhaps even impressed.
As a disclaimer, this type of email advertising works best for local or regional SEO firms that are in close geographic proximity to the prospective client. Here’s how it works:
1. Identify the target client company. We look for competitive keywords with both high participation in AdWords and weak organic positions. Obviously, this combination shows a real online marketing budget with ambitious online visibility goals.
2. Find out the name of the company owner or CEO. This can be found on your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) website or on the company’s website, or just with some creative Google searching.
3. Find the executive’s email. This can be done many ways:
a) Run a WhoIs search. Many times the company owner’s email is listed in the Whois results, BUT as mentioned above you cannot use WhoIs contact information for marketing purposes. You can, however, use this information to run a secondary search to see if this email is tucked deeper in the Internet on a public website. On many occasions we’ve found CEO email addresses in PDF files for business license or construction permits or within other publicly available PDF files.
b) Sometimes the local Better Business Bureau or even a Chamber of Commerce site will have the business owner or CEO’s owner’s email listed.
c) If you cannot find a direct match, try running a Google search with the owner’s last name and the likely email handle: lastname “@companyname.com”. Many times the email address pops right up in the search results.
d) Use a verification email service with some trial and error searches. Try common email structures like [email protected], then test to see if the mailbox exists.
Sometimes you are not going to find an email address. Depending on your ambition and tenacity, 9 times out of 10 you will find a decision maker’s email address.
4. Verify the email address. Once you find a likely email address, you should verify it on one of the many free online email address verification websites. Here’s one:
5. Send a mind-blowing introductory email to the company owner. Explain how you found them and their email address, and that you are local to their market. Make your email highly personalized. This is so IMPORTANT. Offer search data and free advice on about their site. Say who you are and where you live. Provide your LinkedIn profile page. Provide a local telephone number and your mobile phone number – anything to distinguish from ‘scrape and spammers’. Here’s how we do it: start with a specific email title: ie “Inquiry from Kansas City MO”. Follow with a highly personalized and informational email, with actionable advice and information…here is some sample text that has worked for us:
My name is [Your Name] I am the owner of [Your Company] right here in [Your Location City]. This is my direct telephone phone number: [Your telephone number]. We found your email listed [here].
I noticed you have a highly visible AdWords pay-per-click campaign. As you already know, AdWords pay-per-click advertising is a great way to reach new customers online. You may be able to benefit from an organic SEO campaign as well. Only about 10%-20% of people click on pay-per-click advertisements. The vast majority of consumers do not use Google to find advertisements – they want they to see the organic results as the top ranking websites are perceived to be there based on merit, reputation and overall success. You may be missing out on a larger segment of the online search market. Below is a keyword analysis with top organic search phrases and their competitive values as well as your company’s page and position for these same phrases:
[Insert Keyword Analysis]
Your company is a market leader in our community – there is more we could do to make your company the market leader online as well. If you would like to meet in person for a free one-hour consultation, please let us know.”
[Your local cell phone number]
If you use this method and include highly personalized information from a local source AND include some actual custom research data, we’ve found most business owners to be highly receptive with a high response rate. Despite reports to the contrary, you can still get free keyword data from Google Adword’s Keyword Planner. While many website reporting tools require a paid subscription, there are also free SEO reporting tools you can use to provide prospective customers with useful information. This kind of approach takes more effort, but it’s the personalization of the content and the fact that you are giving valuable information for free that makes this method less spammy – with a drastically higher conversion rate than mass email spamming.