Anatomy of an SEM Quote for Services

AIMCLEAR LogoIt’s possible to learn a lot about how to do business as a search marketing firm from other SEM firms around the world by their blog posts, articles, and conference talks. We read luminaries like Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, SEO Roundtable, Search Engine Guide, and SEOBook. SES has offered both small and large SEM company professional learning tracks in which SEM contracts and different ideas for SEM/advertising agency relationships were explored.

Tell but Don’t Tell too Much
The good natured sharing between SEM firms tends to stop with the revealing of business model information including SEM contracts, sample quote-for-services, and correspondences with clients. The dance can take a while to figure out, from both the SEM firm and client points of view.

In the spirit of demystifying the process for both clients and SEM firms alike, here we share one of several cover letter approaches we use to quote services to prospective clients. There is no “one size fits all.” Still certain approaches work well with specific types of prospective clients. We believe that educating the client begins with first interaction. We are not afraid to provide valuable perspective in the quote for services, before a new client pays us anything. The time is well spent. Our conversion rate from lead to new client is rather high.

It Usually Works
This colloquial cover letter approach is usually successful, in that it results in a new client, because this form truly serves the client’s learning process. Attached (not included here-perhaps the next installment) is a comprehensive contract. Of course we customize the cover letter based on what we learn from interviewing the new client extensively.

I’ve place [brackets] around obvious customization points. We use this particular approach when the customer has good knowledge or has experienced some success driving traffic from social media. The emphasis is on educating the client, hence the inline links to articles explaining terminology.

Dear [Prospective Client],
Thank you for the opportunity to review [] and quote for services. I’ve enjoyed talking to you [over the last several days]. We work with other clients who similarly market with the objective of [driving traffic from search engines and social/commercial hybrid referral sources like eBay and CraigsList], which is your initial stated objective. It is our understanding that [eBay already generates leads for your company which humans convert into sales after eBay customers visit your site and call on the phone for more information.]

Additional social referral sources like [StumbleUpon MySpace, Digg, Authority Bloggers Twitter, Netscape, reddit,] etc…will be tested and tapped if applicable. We’ll create, manage, and grow the authority of profiles in each community as necessary. We intend to aggregate your firms “reputation” under a new corporate brand site and reach out with your story.

[We are not proposing shopping cart style ecommerce at this time because your business is one of referrals and direct human interaction with leads for the purpose of closing the leads to sales. Therefore you do not need to undergo the expense of developing a store as of yet. We are not ruling out this tactic in the future, though creating a catalog based store exceeds the scope of this proposal. Your website, as described to us, is about branding, collecting, and organizing leads from traffic.]

In approaching a project like this I put my self in the imaginary position of having just been hired full time as Vice President of Search []. I ask myself what initiatives I would undertake for:


Short term efforts to generate immediate sales

Longer term strategies to build compounded success in website sales referrals, customer relationship, and reputation management.

The most important issue to address is that [little] of is intentionally optimized to be indexed for searches relevant to the product. For instance a search for [“important-midtail-keyword”] on Google returns about [1.2] million documents. [2,700] pages have the literal keyword term in the title of the page, a good clue as to a pages’ intent. Additionally there are [8] PPC advertisers, [none] of which are limiting the scope of their media buy to a geo-targeted area. is not in either the organic or paid results on the Google’s first page. Opportunities like this can be defined and objectives set.

The content management system needs to interact with social communities and bloggers. Modern analytics should be deployed with goal tracking. Press releases and other company news should be released from the site’s blog powered online media room.

Keyword research needs to be undertaken and a new website site tailored to respond and become more discoverable to the target market’s search patterns

Social Media channels like blogging, article writing, online PR, social book marking, and RSS feeds should be utilized.

Essential PPC tracking must be deployed to quantify the ROI of PPC investments and PPC should be tested in small bursts. It is possible that paid placement will be immediately profitable and the opportunity should be evaluated and ruled in or out. Ad copy testing and landing page rotation should be undertaken until we drive focused traffic that converts.

Systems of content specific landing pages must be created to effectively qualify, harvest requests for information.

We enter into annual consulting deals where we function as the defacto in-house SEO/SEM team. Our annual fee is divided evenly over 12 months, paid by credit card, and there are no upfront fees. For managing PPC campaigns we charge a __% commission as is standard in our industry. Each month’s budget is pre-paid by credit card including the commission. Our contracts are constructed with an “out” for the client within the first 4 months. The price is not based on hours, rather on value. The value of SEO/SEM is amotorized of the lifetime of a website.

I have attached a proposed contract for building [] and ongoing marketing services. If you choose to move forward I will provide you with references you will respect or we can just start. I would also be happy to discuss any aspect of this proposal. Thank you for the opportunity. I have included the “Definition of Services” from the contract below. I believe the website will take 2-4 weeks to create.

Marty Weintraub

This Exhibit assumes that Client will make additional expenditures to design, code, and deploy items tagged with * (additional expenses are estimated below.)

Segmented keyword research to reveal search patterns which mark customers as potentially susceptible to [] products’ sales pitch.

Manage the creation or updating of new Website (“Website”) for [].

Since your company has some experience with [traditional webmaster tools] fixed website pages management (non-WordPress pages) will be from [WYSIWYG program like Adobe DreamWeaver. ]

[* Client agrees to purchase copy of DreamWeaver at client’s expense.]

Provide written SEM (Search Engine Marketing) plan for the Website and lead the marketing effort.

Client is responsible for all associated costs for creating and marketing the website, including but not limited to site design, coding, paid placement (PPC) and database development* .AIMCLEAR will recommend design/build/application vendors and negotiate on behalf of Client.

Recommend areas of content and site navigation information design for Website. Call for, and optimize, and manage deployment of content created by your team [(10-14 static pages, 150-550 words each with subheadings and 6 blog posts prior to launch).] We will specify technical attributes for SEO/SEM (page title, meta description, image alt tags, file names and hierarchy, etc…).

Manage the creation of technical mechanisms on the Website to harvest and track leads (forms, scripts, database, etc…) including providing code examples.

For the Website, utilize ClickTracks ($___.00 per month value) and Google analytics, Web Position Gold organic prominence tracking in applicable search channels, reports to quantify ROI with the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) being [conversion of traffic to leads.]

* Manage the adaptation of WordPress content management system for the Website (optimized for social media) for articles, press releases and blogging. WordPress is open source software which can be lightly customized (graphically) and configured to utilize social book-marking tools including RSS feeds and blogging.

Create RSS feeds for the Website and market the feeds.

Work to boost the website’s organic listings on search engine results pages (SERP) for relevant keywords by optimizing content and technical structure for the Website. (Note: Personalized search now returns unique results to each customer logged into a Google service. It is likely that traditional SEO organic prominence reporting will become the rest of the way obsolete over time. Still, there is some value in “average” organic prominence reporting.)

Work to attract customers, searching for related products, more likely to purchase products sold on the website.

Client agrees to update homepage content block on the site once per month, [50-70 words with heading], advised by keyword research which AIMCLEAR will provide. Growth in organic search engine prominence will require Client’s continual investment in generating new content and content maintenance as outlined herein. This is in addition to the optimized pages created under this agreement.

If Client decides later to delve deeper into social media releases of extraordinary content, the structure we build here lays the foundation for an immersion into blogging culture, reputation management, and etiquette and we will execute a minimum of 2 social media releases per month. (Online PR).

Client agrees create content for article publication. Client agrees to provide a minimum of [10 blocks of content (200-300 words each) per week] for website starting in the month of [July.] AIMCLEAR will further optimize, post, and market the content to commercial/social communities including [CraigsList and eBay.] AIMCLEAR will provide additional keyword research to advise the client’s content creation.

*AIMCLEAR recommends paid placement in Yahoo Directory if you have not done so already.

AIMCLEAR recommends testing paid placement in small increments and deploy larger campaigns if the ROI can be proven.*

[Weekly] in-person or WebEx meetings.

AIMCLEAR time-on-project per month is capped at ___ hours per month.


$__,___.00 by credit card divided over 12 month contract in equal payments of $__,___.00 beginning July 1, 2007 + __% of any paid placement spend AIMCLEAR manages during the contracted time period.

Estimate of Other Third Party Expenses:
Any expenditure over and above our fees must be explicitly authorized in writing by the Client.

Yahoo Paid directory listings: $___.00,

Customize Technical Attributes of WordPress Content Management System for SEO: $__,___

Note: WordPress “customization” relates to SEO and content management attributes. Graphic customization is limited to header graphics and style sheet. In the vernacular customers expect only minimal graphic production in article publication, press releases, and blogging tools.

Initial website design/build/branding: $___,____ $__,____ These expenses will be expended in chunks and not divided over 12 months. Our strategic partners will invoice you directly and we do not mark them up.

Paid Placement Tests: to be determined, media buys at client’s expense and marked up according to contract. We recommend a $__,____ test budget to evaluate ROI.

Web Hosting: Client is responsible for any costs associated with web or database hosting. Expected cost is $__.00 per month.

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