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Quick Tips for Surviving the Search Marketing RFP Season

These tips can help you save time when scoping requests for proposals (RFPs) and make your review commitments more manageable.

As another year draws to a close, at agencies, we prep ourselves for the influx of RFPs (Requests for Proposal).

Tis’ the season of trying to manage usual day-to-day tasks while attempting to scope a hoard of opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong. I never want to turn down an opportunity, but then again, this time of year can make one want to pull their hair out.

So how do we survive this time of year as we profess how prospects can reach SEO and PPC success?

It can be quite a struggle to identify prospect needs and opportunities without devoting a lot of time – and you’re seemingly giving a lengthy audit away for free.

To help save time here, I have found that creating a process can make your review commitment more manageable.

Understanding the Opportunity

We have to consider that RFP submissions usually fall into three audiences.

Before you respond to an RFP, you will have to understand how you can help the prospect succeed and how much effort it will take.

We are looking for the opportunity and the ability.

The Head-Scratcher

This type of audience has little experience in search marketing and often asks for lofty requirements.

They often ask if you can “turn the SEO switch on”, “put SEO on our site” or plan for PPC to take care of their entire brand deficit.

Read the scope request carefully and take full advantage of the question period given for respondents. This is your opportunity to gain clarity of confusing questions or unknowingly contradictive requests.

You will plan to give them the best possible game plan and show of capabilities but you will win the agency competition if you know full and well what they want.

The head-scratcher audience can be dangerous in identifying opportunities as they have not delved into search marketing.

As you look for the opportunity, it can often end to rabbit hole syndrome as you keep falling into other areas of opportunity.

For SEO, keep it simple. This is often the audience making monumental mistakes such as robots.txt exclusions of prime content, as well as improper canonical tag and meta robots tag usage.

From an on-page standpoint, they may of the group with non-unique title elements, no keyword-to-page focus or lack of content. Last, you will likely see a see of old 404ing pages or temporary (302) redirects.

Keep your review this brief. You have touched upon technical, on-page, and link equity revision opportunities to show that moving the needle north will not be too hard.

For PPC, this type of submitting party likely does not have an existing campaign. Be careful, you can find yourself wrapped up in a keyword research jaunt which can gobble up your time.

Instead, look at their three core business areas at most. Research keyword bid estimates in Google Ads to gain a sense of how expensive it will be to compete hear.

This audience may not understand how expensive competitive markets can be and PPC could eventually be wiped off the table.

Additionally, this is the type of audience that may try to reduce spend greatly down the road as well. It may not be worth it for you.

The Goldilocks

The requesting party accurately knows what they want and can likely pair themselves with the right provider but has not fully jumped into search marketing at an advanced level in the past.

The RFP is clear and you can hit the ground running in your research. Their needs are likely clear and the confusion on how you can satisfy their request is low.

For SEO, quickly review the high level technical, on-page and link equity considerations we did for the head-scratcher audience.

Additionally, assess their current ranking presence in Google via your favorite SEO competition research tool to show areas of the site that need SEO attention.

This could potentially be an internal linking, inbound linking, or expansion of content need that could be your pathway to success.

There is likely some low-hanging fruit but it may only be in certain site areas. Also, take a quick look at their historical ranking presence.

This audience is typically the audience that has dabbled in SEO but has done so with less credible resources. Over-SEOing a site could have led to visibility filtering.

With this in mind, take a look at their inbound link profile and see if there are any domains that stand out for irrelevance.

For PPC (request access to view PPC account), this audience is likely to have a campaign actively running but possibly not as efficiently as possible (What I often refer to as the “set it and forget it campaigns”).

Quick indicators here are that they utilize broad keyword targeting or that there is a lack of modified broad match targeting. Often, you will see minimal ad group segmentation and broad ad descriptions.

Take a peek at their usage of callout, location, call and other extensions to understand how well they have adopted the ability to “beef up” their ads.

Lastly, review advanced bid adjustments to see how well they have catered to specific account areas.

The Unicorn

Search marketing is a well-oiled machine for the requesting organization. They:

  • Have moderately successful campaigns in place.
  • Have clear attainable goals.
  • Need someone to take the reins.

These types of opportunities do not come around often. While set-up will be minimal in this sort of engagement, it will definitely drive your teams to execute at a high level as low hanging fruit opportunities have usually been exhausted.

This type of requesting party is all but guaranteed to be past the crawling and walking phase and into running strong campaigns.

For SEO, it is highly likely that all foundational SEO bases have been covered. There is very little drilling into specifics needed. Validation should be placed in assessing their ranking presence to see growth over time.

Overall considerations here need to be very heavily concentrated around content marketing and how we can move to the next level. The SEO foundation has been laid, now we have to assess if there is room to grow on the site and how we might do that.

It probably is not a bad idea to talk to content strategists, PR resources, etc. to think about the possibility for a campaign in their vertical that could generate quality links.

For PPC (request access to view PPC account), you will likely not see great inefficiencies from the surface level. Remember, we don’t want to spend a lot of time here. We are looking for the opportunity and the ability.

Start at the keyword level. Understand where fat can be trimmed – expensive keywords with low conversion rates, ads with low conversion rates or the lack of adoption to account-wide needs, such as responsive ads or their bid strategy.

Future ability will likely happen through ad testing as the basics are likely all covered. This is the sacrifice given for having an account that is already highly squared away.

Saving Time

We’ve entered into quite a busy time of year in our respective organizations.

We’re trying to close out hopefully another successful year while trying to load the hopper for next year.

Choosing your client partnerships is important but it also helps that you do spend the brunt of your time doing this for the sake of nurturing your existing clients.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Featured Image: (edited by author in Canva, November 2019)

Category Careers
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Josh McCoy Director, Integrated Channel Delivery at Trozzolo

Josh is Director, Integrated Channel Delivery at Trozzolo. He was formerly a digital marketing strategist at Vizion Interactive. Josh possesses ...

Quick Tips for Surviving the Search Marketing RFP Season

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