touchscreen interfaceStarting any business venture is difficult, but SEO is an even more challenging profession. While the market is more receptive to SEO and investing in online marketing than it was a few years back, the competition has grown to astronomical proportions. From huge firms to freelancers, many companies have become real forces to be reckoned with.

SEO, however, will continue to grow in importance in the future, as more businesses establish their online presence. However, if you are to succeed in your venture as an SEO entrepreneur, then you must run a tight ship, and focus on creating a brand that will last long after you’re due to retire.

There is no doubt that you will learn from your own mistakes. Furthermore, you should try to learn from other people’s mistakes, because so many have paved the way before you. Below is a collection of some of the most important lessons in marketing from successful SEO professionals.

Your business is a business

As an SEO professional, you want to save the internet world. Sure, you should concentrate on building your skills as an SEO professional.  Yes, stay current on the latest techniques. But make sure you don’t neglect your business skills.

Stay on top of your sales and revenue, and practice pitches and reporting.

Here is what you need to remember as you sell your pitches: after promising the moon and complete turnarounds in rankings, the guy signing off on the contract will be cautious of the figures. Instead, change the message of your pitches from rankings to revenues. Once you talk revenues, you will start landing the big contracts. Figure out how much a prospective client is getting from the online marketing plan they have now – search engine traffic and conversion rate metrics can help you calculate this.

From there, determine how much more traffic you could get for the company, with estimates for cautious, normal and vigorous efforts. Break this down including methods you will use and possible time ranges within which these results might be realized. Then let them know how much more quarterly revenues would result after your intervention, and pitch it against what you’re charging.

Everybody pitches rankings; you have to bring something different to the table if you want to change the game.

Getting clients is much harder than keeping them

A common mistake among many SEO start-ups and young businesses is to devote most of their time towards acquiring new customers. Getting a new client to sign with you is a mammoth task, instead you need to concentrate more of your energy towards the things you can more easily control, like keeping clients.

By devoting most of your time towards keeping the clients that you have satisfied, you will improve the quality of results for your clients. Therefore, you will greatly enhance the chances of landing new business through positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Stay on top of your weekly reports, make regular calls, and schedule in-person meetings to make your clients feel important and well cared for. Run surveys about what they like about your services and what they don’t. You can follow up every call and meeting with a short survey about the quality of the call/meeting. This will help you to learn more about areas that need improvement.

Don’t ask blanketing questions like “Were you happy?” either, as you won’t get any real value. Ask specific questions about quality of service, so that you can learn and continuously improve. Use only 25% of your time towards active acquisition of new business. You’ll see a definite turnaround in your business and client intake.

Always be building your brand

As an SEO entrepreneur, your reputation as a person will be your biggest asset. Open a blog, speak in SEO conventions, and build yourself a name within the SEO market. Talk about SEO marketing software, techniques, emerging trends, among others. Conduct case studies and publish them. Join a community and contribute actively; and of course be sure to have great content anywhere your name is mentioned.

Don’t stop there; invest in advertising your services, products and content. Buy a banner on major SEO sites and invest in PPC for your own business. Ensure that your website interface and user experience is top-notch, and is decently ranked. Within a few months, you’ll be bombarded with new requests and business.

Brand building for an SEO never slows down. Start small, investing as much as your budget can allow, but as your brand grows bigger, so must your marketing efforts. It’s the only way to get to the top.

Keep an eye on the overheads

It’s okay to want to establish yourself as a business with your own premises and the full package. However, a wiser move might be to keep your expenses to a minimum.

Work from home so that you don’t have to pay rent for office space. Once you begin to make the big bucks, then invest in office space for your team. Spend enough to make your business successful, but avoid lavish expenses.  You do have to invest money in order to make it, however, make these decisions carefully. Keep a lean team at work, budget for the business according to its needs and invest/store away the surplus for rainy days.

Daniel Mattei (@mattedt) is a web Marketing Specialist at Dynamic Search with a love for film-making, content marketing, and photography. He lives with his wife, Grace, and Pomeranian, Couscous, in Phoenix, Arizona.