The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of SEO Pitches and Proposals

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of SEO Pitches and Proposals

Here is how to navigate through hundreds of SEO proposals and pitches that business owners receive daily.

SEO pitches and proposals are plentiful. I bet one of your recent requests to connect on Linkedin came from an SEO agency. Did they report on tens of errors on your site that they knew solutions to? Or did they mention an AI tool which helps generate hundreds of backlinks to your site? It was music to your ears – that tempting and scary tune that’s stuck in your head “my site needs SEO”.

Tempting because you’d like to get more of that “free” organic traffic. Scary because you have a strange feeling there is a catch. What’s happening here?

Remember the classic film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? Well, the SEO world has characters, too. Some SEOs are honest, some are bounty hunters, others are in it for a quick buck. SEO services come with promises: from boosting the site’s rankings to fixing errors, from backlinks to content creation. Oftentimes, business owners have trouble figuring out which is a good and realistic promise and which is a lie.

Exploiting people’s ignorance is a well-known sales technique. SEO is often packaged and sold as a panacea: “Sign up for 12 months and we will give you a cure”. It’s a rosy promise, but will it stand true?

Look back at a recent SEO proposal you received. Do you see how everything shifts to technical areas? “We will find on-page errors and fix them”. “The technical audit will reveal issues and we will build an SEO roadmap”. “We will fix your site’s performance issues”. And so on, and so forth. Any mention about revenue increases due to the efforts?

Fancy tools and features are included to impress you. But are they useful or are they there to make you pay more?

All this is to say that SEO pitches are difficult to navigate. It becomes even more challenging when the different SEO areas are bundled. See how different SEO can be:

  • Technical SEO and site performance: SEOs focus on code errors, blocking scripts, URL parameters.
  • Keyword research: SEOs analyze demand in search, get popular questions relevant to the business, organize keywords in groups and categories.
  • Structural SEO: SEOs deal with the site’s URL structure, taxonomies, page types.
  • On-page SEO: SEOs optimize high-value pages, propose new landing pages, and focus on collection and category pages.
  • Content marketing: SEOs propose new content or optimize the current content on the site.
  • Link building: SEOs acquire backlinks.

SEOs identify issues in the above areas during SEO audits. Then they turn the issues into priority lists and into recommendations.

Let’s take a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of SEO pitches and proposals. They will help see through the good and the bad before you sign for any SEO work.

The Good

In the classic western The Good is the confident character, who knows what and how to do his job.

The Good in the SEO world build and provide pitches and proposals with these clear lines.

What SEOs include in the trustworthy SEO proposals:

  1. They separate the initial SEO audit from the ongoing SEO work.

    The audit reveals what needs to be done. This is a project on its own. It provides a set of recommendations and priorities. It also paves the way for the future SEO work. The ongoing SEO effort is based on the urgency of the issues from the audit.

    The two have different price tags. An SEO audit may take from a week to a month. The ongoing SEO work will depend on the finds, budget, nature of the effort needed.

  2. They include the specifics and limitations about the client’s site.

    Closed and proprietary platforms like Wix or Shopify have limitations to what you can change. The SEO pitch includes these limitations and sets expectations about optimizations.

  3. They can itemize the SEO work.

    Itemizing helps understand where the SEO will be spending their time. The ability to attach a price tag to each item is also a positive signal. It shows the SEO partner has experience in doing this work.

  4. They include a measurement plan.

    If you see an attempt to present a measurement plan from the start, this is another positive sign. The measurement plan is only good when the SEO effort is anchored to a realistic output and a projected revenue increase.

  5. They are transparent about their tools.

    SEO is a service and SEOs are hired to spare the business time and effort. The business still needs to know about the ways and tools used for optimizations. Black-box solutions are never a good sign. Any attempt to apply shady techniques to promote a site may incur a penalty on this site. And such recoveries are painful.

The Bad

The ruthless mercenary that The Bad was has brethren in the SEO world. They disregard the business’ interests and goals. They work through temp and freelance sales people, whose only goal is to close as many deals as possible. They overpromise and underdeliver.

Here is what they offer (and you never fall for these!)

  • They sell Domain Ranking (DR) boosts.

Well, boosting a DR within several weeks is impossible with white-hat (legit) techniques. Short-term gains can incur heavy penalties from search engines.

  • They sell Page Rank (PR) increases.

Page Rank was a thing in 2010. We still remember the excitement about PR improvements on our sites. Fast-forward to 2020, this metric is obsolete. Google is not updating it anymore. If someone is pitching PR boosts to you, run away from them.

  • They promise organic search boosting without giving details.

Don’t listen to generalities. Talk segments and details. The SEO pitch should include enough details about the toolkit used to boost a site’s rankings. It should distinguish between the what and the how. If keyword research is mentioned, it should come with a clear explanation about how it’s used.

  • They avoid strategy.

Rankings don’t bring traffic. We can bring a site to the first position for a specific long-tail keyword within one week. But will this bring more organic search traffic to the site? Maybe, not. Strategy and tactics about bringing traffic from high-volume high-intent keywords is what counts.

The Ugly

The cunning, fast-talking and resourceful Tuco, a.k.a The Ugly, was ready to use whatever means to get to the gold first. Same in SEO. You can meet companies that promise outdated, dangerous, and bluntly illegal stuff.

  • They promise hundreds of backlinks within a short time.

Don’t sign up for backlink services generating hundreds of links to your site. Even if they have tools to drop links on multiple sites, there are a couple of caveats. First, the reputation of those site may be bad – low-quality content, adult sites, sites with security issues. Second, Google frowns upon link acquisition techniques, like link swapping and link buying.

  • Pushing for a long-term contract.

Don’t sign long-term contracts. It feels like a trap. What if you won’t like the service? What if the SEO team will be under your expectations? What if…

The best course of action is to sign up for an audit. This initial exercise will be a test. The quality of the audit will drive the direction for the relationship.

  • They bombard you with useless snippets of information.

They are working on tens of sales pitches at the same time. Because of that, they don’t have time to understand your needs and spend more time on your case. But they send you snippets of information to keep the conversation going. They add screenshots and use fancy terminology, but they never talk details and go deep into the issues.


If you distinguish between the good and the bad at the pitch stage, it is easy for your business to onboard a reliable SEO partner. It also saves time and energy. Plus, it lays the foundation for a positive ROI on the SEO effort. Talk to us about your SEO needs. We can help with auditing, auditing your SEO audits, and ongoing SEO work. Let’s start with a free audit.

By Nick

Nick is a seasoned search specialist with 10+ years of hands-on experience in both paid and organic search campaigns. Nick has managed both multi-million ad budgets and small-budget SEO campaigns.

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