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How to Create an SEO Portfolio (With or Without Existing Clients)

If you’re a search engine optimization expert who is skilled at growing blog or website traffic, then you already know how important online marketing is for businesses. But that doesn’t always translate into the best marketing for yourself. The question is, how can you make sure that you’re successfully communicating your value as an SEO to your audience? Well, in our industry, it’s simple: the SEO expert lives or dies by their SEO portfolio.  Unfortunately, the simple SEO portfolio is something that trips up a lot of great SEOs. Here are the two big issues that my clients often run into when thinking about showcasing their work in an SEO portfolio:

  • They don’t have any of their own clients to show results from yet.
  • They do have clients but don’t know how to turn their client campaigns into case studies.

In this post, we’re going to tackle both of those issues. Ultimately, you’ll learn how to create an SEO portfolio that’s irresistible to new clients and employers.

Showcasing Past SEO Results in a Case Study

Past success is one of the best ways to land future clients. While many experts have great past SEO results, they struggle to present the data in a compelling way. So, what’s going to get an employer or business owner’s attention? You guessed it: a case study. In any case study you build out, you want to paint a picture of an online marketing campaign that stands out. Think of it as a business story, and structure it in a way that your readers can see themselves in the details of your case study. Once they start to mentally experience the results they’ll get, this will make your website SEO services irresistible.

Search Engine Optimization Case Study

There is specific information that your case study should include. Here are some of the top points you should cover:

  • A description or summary of the project
  • The client’s industry or niche
  • How long was the engagement 
  • The project’s goal(s)
  • What you did
  • The results you got

If you’re stuck, you may want to follow a more traditional “STAR” format for your case study, which stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

As an example, I created a case study out of the work for one of my SaaS clients. It included some of the following details:

  • Client Niche: Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Length of Engagement: 6 months
  • Project Goals: Increase traffic on domain and boost customer retention (to increase overall revenue)
  • SEO Results: Started ranking for over 2000 new keywords, increased revenue by 299.71%

When you can use screenshots from Google Search Console or Ahrefs to prove your point, do it. Visual aids are a lot more impactful than text alone. Now, once you’ve summarized results, you can discuss client challenges and your own helpful tips and recommendations for future website and Google search improvement, as well as recap your strategic approach that led to the positive results. It’s also worth remembering that a case study can be customized for each potential client you’re targeting. Every client has different goals and a unique set of key performance indicators (KPIs). One may care a lot about the total keywords they rank for in Google, while another may primarily care about the number of 1-3 positions that were earned. In the end, if you can take a case study and match up to industry, challenge, and result to the prospect, there’s a much better chance that they’ll choose to work with you and your SEO team.

Creating an SEO Portfolio without Past Clients

If you don’t have a client or past work experience to use in your SEO portfolio, you’ll want to create a sample SEO audit. It works like this: you’ll go through the prospect’s website and take note of a variety of SEO factors. These include: 

  • On-page SEO: Optimizing titles, tags, meta descriptions, keyword placement, etc.
  • Off-page SEO: Link building, content placement, etc.
  • Technical SEO: Page speed, internal linking, site structure, etc. 

You can give a score and a summary for each of these sections, along with an overall health score for the business blog or website that takes all of them into account. Then, in the rest of the audit, you can break down your findings in more detail, identifying specific issues you uncovered (everything from page speed issues to opportunities for title tag optimization).  Be sure and use custom screenshots and visuals as much as possible to illustrate these points. You want to make the audit quick and easy to digest with high-level points that they can skim in just a few minutes. This is especially important for potential clients who are busy and need something that’s easily accessible. If you need an SEO audit template, contact me or download my Ultimate SEO Audit template.

Search Engine Optimization Audit

The whole goal of this audit is to have something on hand so when you’re talking to a potential client about your SEO services for ranking in Google. This documentation can show them what working with you would look like and the results that you can produce. Best of all, you can do an SEO audit like this using publicly available information – access to their website is a bonus, but not required. If you have one, you may choose to use an SEO tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to analyze keywords and other factors, but even a public Google search will provide plenty of actionable information right there on the first page of the SERPs that can go into the SEO portfolio. If you don’t have actual results from your SEO services yet – or no results within the same industry as your potential client – then you should focus first on creating an SEO audit to build your credibility as an SEO expert. Use this to demonstrate your mastery over search engines and provide real-world website examples that prove how you can help the prospect. Then, once you have some digital marketing client success stories under your belt, you can move on to the next step and finally build out your SEO portfolio.

Final Thoughts

Remember that it doesn’t really matter how many clients you’ve worked with in the past – what matters is convincing the new client that they should work with you or your business now. To do that, you need a strong SEO portfolio illustrating your areas of success, whether that’s link building, keyword research, content creation, or a combination of these. In either case – the SEO audit or the case study – your final deliverable should be a professionally designed PDF document, customized to the prospect, with a proper showcase of what you can do as an SEO. If you’re offering SEO services that truly get results, your SEO portfolio should communicate that fact to clients to ensure you have the success you deserve.