Bought anything off of Amazon lately without reading the reviews? Probably not, since we’re intrinsically driven to seek out social proof when making choices. It’s no different when hiring an SEO agency.
Rather than trusting the salesperson, prospects would much prefer to hear the experiences of others similar to them. Enter the case study – a simple document that can become your best performing sales tool.
Often in our industry, decision makers on the buyer’s end don’t have a clear understanding of the in-depth workings of SEO. Else, with the lead time involved to achieving their goals, especially in SEO, they’re a bit wary on making the investment without some evidence of past success.
How do you really showcase your skills and talents to prospective clients? Use the following killer tips to make your case studies close the deal for you.
What Makes an Ineffective SEO Case Study
First, let’s explore some common downfalls of most SEO case studies:
- Being far too technical: Yes, crawl priority, canonical tags, rel=author are all valid SEO terms, but chances are the prospects won’t be familiar with industry jargon and lengthy, technical-term filled posts will simply bore the reader.
- Lacking any emotion: Filling a case study with just factual bullet points isn’t as compelling as telling a story. Making the connection with the reader will have far greater impact.
- Sounding like an advert for the company profiled: It’s one thing to be grateful to the client for letting you use their name and quite another to be their salesperson. If the entire first section reads like an ad for the profiled company, you’ve lost the reader’s interest – before they got to the part that matters.
An effective SEO case study isn’t difficult to write. In fact, writing one is a cinch when you apply some simple journalistic principles.
Here are eight super simple tips to giving your case studies a complete makeover.
1. Tell a Story
Whether we’re 5 or 50 years old, we’re all drawn to a good story. Make it enthralling, after all you – the mighty SEO in shining armor – rescued the site from the evil Penguin.
Don’t just talk about how you did it. Turn it into a story, peppered with emotion and your personality, to help really make a connection with the reader.
Creating the story can be easily done by answering a few simple questions.
- What were the problems and frustrations the client was facing?
- How were they doing in comparison to their competitors?
- What did you do to understand their business and their current problems?
- How did you come up with the solution?
- What was the process of implementing the solution like?
- How long did it take?
- How measurable was the improvement?
- How did the client react when you achieved success?
2. Make Them Want to Read it
For the case study to be effective, it has to be read.
As tabloid journalists have long known, never underestimate the power of the headline. Make your headlines be a promise about the benefits they’ll glean from reading the whole document (e.g., Learn How XYZ Company Used Just 5 Guest Blogs to Increase Sales by 50% in Only 2 Months). Instantly it becomes something that anyone would want to read.
3. Remember the 5 Ws and the H
As journalism 101 teaches, every writer must pay attention to the 5 Ws and the H to create a complete story: the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Who was the client?
- What were their problems and the solutions?
- Where did you start with implementing the solution?
- Why did you choose those particular strategies?
- What was the process of implementing the solution like?
- When did you see results? ?
- How did it all come together to help the client?
Painting the complete picture will make the case study that much more relatable.
4. Showcase Your Work Methods
As you write about the solutions you came up with, now’s your chance to give prospects an indication of your working process and what it would be like for them to work with you.
If they can imagine working with you and what the relationship and process would be like, half the battle is won (e.g., we had a team brainstorming meeting involving all 7 of our top SEO and PR specialists to come up with the best content marketing ideas). The client here would feel impressed that you put so many people on one account and that they would get the highest quality of work and service.
5. Metrics Matter
When you talk about improvements, don’t underestimate the power of numbers. It’s critical to clearly define how much the lift was, and exactly what the results were. For example:
"We spent $450 creating a special guest post for the site of a powerful influencer. He published the post resulting in over 25 high quality links in just one week, an increase of 60 percent in visits to the site, and a corresponding 10 percent increase in conversions, providing overall profits of $6,000 – all from one strategic guest blog."
Numbers don’t lie. These metrics would be very hard for any prospect to ignore.
6. Are We There Yet?
Both in terms of helping to set realistic expectations as well as to showcase how much better you are compared to the competition, talking about the timeframe to success is very important. If your fantastic content marketing campaign resulted in several high quality links in under a month, that’s something to brag about.
7. Provide Benchmarks
Were these results typical? Make a mention within the case study as to how you’ve devised customized solutions for several clients and that these incredible results are commonly enjoyed by the majority of your clients. That way, the same case study can work a little harder for you.
8. Make it Relevant to the Client
Your clients run the gamut of business models – B2B, B2C, lead gen, ecommerce, or nonprofit. Make sure you present each with a case study that is relevant to them.
A company interested in direct response marketing is unlikely to be swayed by a branding success story. Having different case studies for different scenarios is a must.
The ideal framework of the SEO case study should include:
- Benefit-Oriented Headline: Stress the value that prospects will receive by reading it.
- Overview: Who was the client, and what were their goals.
- Brief Background: Little background on their problem and insights.
- The Solution: How did you come up with the solution? What was the process like?
- The Strategies: What new strategies did you implement? How did each make an impact?
- The Result: How much was the improvement and how quickly was it achieved?
- The Reaction: Everyone loves a happy ending. The client’s reaction and benefits their reaped will end the case study on the right note.
Want to see a powerful case study in action? Here are three examples of incredibly effective case studies:
- OK, so while not SEO, Conversion Rate Experts do such a fantastic job with their case studies that this had to be included. They hit all the right points, so don’t miss it.
- Here’s a really good one on how link bait resulted in a link from the New York Times from WordStream. It does a great job of showcasing the benefit to the readers up front, and also make their expertize stand out by properly explaining their methodology.
- Case studies don’t have to be very wordy. Here’s a good succinct one from Portent, which showcases a lot of their reasoning and next steps, showing how they made an impact and what they continued to do.
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!