Lee Odden

Referring SEO Projects

For some reason, when I get calls from companies with small SEO projects, I simply draw a blank when trying to think, who locally I should refer them to.

Of course several independant consultants come to mind, but the really good ones are always too busy. I don’t want to refer these projects into a situation where they can’t be helped. There are also a number of local agencies that “also do” SEO, but these projects are likely too small. Or the agencies aren’t very good at SEO.

I avoid at all costs just saying, “We’re not taking on projects, or your budget is too small, good luck and goodbye.” I don’t mind referring them on to someone that can help. However, it must be a give and take situation and it must be respectful.

I avoid referring to consultants outside of our geographic area (with a few exceptions). In fact there’s a few SEO/SEM firms that have really blown it by being aarogant or just flat out unappreciative. I’ve passed a good number of projects as small as $500/mo and as large as $10,000/mo to someone else because of that.

Maybe it would make sense to create some kind of referral exchange site or a private blog. Members could post projects/leads and other members could go in and see what would be a good fit. Would that work? I am not so sure.

Personally, I prefer to have a small network of trusted companies and/or consultants that I know will do a great job, that appreciate the business I’m sending them and that are reliable.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Hi, if you ever need a UK based company that you can outsource SEO to my company would be glad to help! Contact me for current prices.


    BPS Designs Ltd.

  2. Avatar Kristen Owen says

    I agree with you, no matter the project you never want to turn away customers so bluntly, you never know what projects they could throw your way.

    If you need SEM in Florida or the southeast remember me. I’m currently signing on projects large and small. As long as the potential is there, and it usually is, then it’s worth working with a small budget or start up now.


  3. Hi Lee, forgive me for playing “devil’s advocate” for a moment, but from a potential client’s perspective any referral from anybody within the industry has the APPEARANCE of some kind of financial kickback involved (whether it does or not). This “appearance” makes SEO insider referrals and references suspect to some cynical SEO prospects.

    I like Todd Malicoat’s idea I blogged about here:
    http://www.brokerblogger.com/brokerblogger/2006/04/a_google_top_ra.html (I’m really not looking for “link love” here as I’m not monetized, just trying to communicate clearly and completely)

    By the way, I recommended your “Link Building for Blogs” post and linked to it on a comment I left on the new Association of National Advertisers blog. I was trying to help them and Hewlett-Packard’s VP of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence promote his new blog that he requested SEO help on. If it ever did turn into a job you accepted, I would not want or take any “financial kickback”, and your e-mail “thanks” would be enough for me. See =

  4. Thanks Ben and Kristen, I’ll keep you in mind.

    Bill, I get very different feedback from prospects that I refer to other SEO companies. It is clear from our contact form that we are not taking on projects, yet they call anyway. That’s fine, because they are very appreciative when we can pass them on to another firm.

    Are you saying that if a company passes a prospect on to a direct competitor that infers a kickback? That doesn’t make sense to me at all. Cynical SEO prospects can do everyone a favor and don’t bother calling reputable SEO companies and wasting their time.

    Your use of the word kickback infers something suspicious, which is interestingly cynical I think. But then again, you are playing devils advocate, right?

    Thanks for the link. I have a different perspective on linking. I link out to other sites because it will help the site visitor and as you say, to help make a point. I don’t expect a thanks for it. I don’t expect the recipient site will ever notice, because I don’t really care if they do. If it helps the reader, then the job is done.

  5. Lee, we are pretty much in agreement, and yes I’m playing “devil’s advocate” as I know that some, maybe many, SEO prospects appreciate a referral from someone they respect for whatever reason.

    “Are you saying that if a company passes a prospect on to a direct competitor that infers a kickback?” = In the many years I’ve been in business, there have aways been (and should be) friendly competitors who’s main goal is to help prospective clients when they can’t (for any good reason). They don’t want or expect a flat “finder’s fee” or a “percentage kickback” of any kind for doing so.

    However, I have also known businessmen in other industries than search marketing who ONLY refer or recommend friendly competitors that they do receive some financial benefit from. How is a cynical prospective client to know for sure which kind he is dealing with? The irony is that even the financially motivated seller-referrer may be referring only high quality competitors, but again, how can a prospective buyer know for sure?

    “Your use of the word kickback infers something suspicious, which is interestingly cynical I think.” You are right about this. The sad truth is that the longer you’ve lived and delt with all kinds of business people, the more cynical many people get, including me. I don’t think I’m alone in this, as I’ve discussed this progressive situation with many people over the years. For myself, I’ve decided to be a “cynical optimist”, and give people the benefit of the doubt, before they have passed the “test of time”. However, I probably would do my own research on the “referred to” business, no matter who I got a referral from. I think this protects the referrer from any possible misunderstandings, in case the “referred to” business doesn’t work out for some reason (including a personality conflict challenge).

    “I don

  6. From a SEO

  7. Thanks for the reply Bill.

    I can assure you, no new business came from the link, but thank you all the same. 🙂

    Ironically, I’ve limited the last few projects we’ve taken on to those that were referred to me by others! (but not from SEOs)

    I’ve received many offers from other types of firms to create some sort of bounty or affiliate type of relationship to refer business. I tried that out a few times out of interest and there was nothing good about it. Now I refuse to take or give $ for referrals. Any referrals I get, I expect to be based purely on the merit of our work, nothing else. The referrals I send are based on my perception of the best vendor for the prospect’s situation and nothing more.

    I realize it’s a luxury to be able to do this, not have to consider monetizing every little thing in our business. But it also has to do with one’s philosophy of doing business. I fall much more on the optimistic side of things, probably because the SEO business has been so fantastic the past 9 years.

    The reference to some other industries being so focused on only referring business that brings financial gain is interesting. I admit, I may be less than optimistic when doctors and lawyers refer me to others. I often wonder whether there is some rationale outside of serving my needs.

    Perhaps as the SEO industry matures and demand increases for really good SEO, the practice of referring for compensation may become more prevelant. Clients will still be served as well as if they picked the SEO firms that advertise the most, or have the most speakers at conferences or that rank the highest. None of those things is a “real” indication of how well those firms can serve SEO clients. But prospects use them as criteria anyway. At least with a referral, the referrer is putting their own reputation on the line, even if there is a “kickback”.

  8. Avatar Bill Kelm says

    “None of those things is a

  9. When considering strategy it’s called co-opetition. Forming a network of alliances that strengthens a firm is far better then sailing alone on the sea of SEO. Take pride in your work, build a name and reputation, and collaborate.

  10. I’m with you Doug. Although, I think one has to be at least a little careful with whom you partner with. I am very much an advocate of co-opetition and have benefitted from it greatly. But without being careful, it would be easy to be taken advantage of. The notion of co-opetition is subjective. To one person, it might be answering questions in a forum. To another, it may be partnering on a project, documenting your processes and tools and then marketing them as their own.

  11. Avatar Bill Kelm says

    “At least with a referral, the referrer is putting their own reputation on the line,…” = Sooo True!

    If everbody in the world would realize this, and take it seriously as I’m sure you do, Lee, no matter who or what they were referring (instead of possibly having a set of seemingly logical excuses ready in case something goes wrong), the world would be a better place to live in. Of course, it’s all in the details of how the referrer communicates the referral. I believe in appropriate, upfront disclosures, disclaimers, and caveats, since I realize that my opinions and experiences may differ from other people’s.

  12. Lee Odden your comments are completely valid when you wrote, “To another, it may be partnering on a project, documenting your processes and tools and then marketing them as their own”. Keep in mind every firm is the center of their own network and if someone abuses network privileges they a removed. Also, value needs to be added from other firms to stay or they become a drain on the network. Partners and alliances puts everybody on the boat rowing in the same direction focusing on the developing industry and ultimately the customer.

  13. A company recently offered me a list of qualified seo prospects, the list was exhaustive in terms of the information it contained and the prospects were qualified by means of a survey…is it wise to buy such a list and in your opinions will i be able to recover my investment?

  14. My first question would be: “How many other SEO consultants/firms has this list been offered to?”

    We never buy lists ourselves. In my opinion, a good SEO should be able to market themselves into a situation of an over-abundance of leads.

  15. HI LEE,

    We are California based Outsourcing Company. We provide all types of Webmarketing Services like SEO, PPC, Banner advertisement, email marketing etc. We also provide Software Development services in SAP Business one.

    Please let me know if you have any suitable SEO or development projetcs for my company.

    Thanks & Regards,

    For http://www.tandoninfo.com

  16. Avatar Monty Rogers says


    We are an experienced SEO company and have been in this field for over 3 years now. We have helped many businesses turn around. I would welcome any comments and offers(big or small) and would be glad to work on them. monty.rog AT gmail DOT KOM

    Kind regards,

  17. Sir i want online projects for SEO i am perfect in One way if u have projects please provide me


  18. Hi,

    If all the experienced person will think this way where the newbies in the field will go. Everyone has to start from somwhere and if he/she has a recommendation from an experienced person in the field that really proves beneficial for him but what matters is really the skills.



  19. hey lee,
    the main problem in referring clients to other seo companies is you need to have contact with that seo companies. Because i’d face same problem in designing. we provide seo services and client needed to redesign a site, i referred him to a company based in Canada, and that company didnt’ worked that good on designing, and client came back to me and was complaining about me.
    Since that that i never refer clients to any other company .. it would be big pain, if the company doesn’t work as good as they should..


  20. yup you are right. Will you please guide me or send me some of website names that offer online SEO project bkoz i wana earn from ma home pakistan. But it should not scams or stuff like that. please email me. thanks

    Muhammad Salman