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5 top tips to a smooth SEO-client relationship

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It seems like everyone has an idea of what ‘SEO’ means these days – whether it’s correct or not.

It used to be that an agency needed to explain SEO from top to bottom to a potential client, but lately clients at Summit Web Solutions are more often coming to us with a pre-formed idea as to what SEO is.

With the myriad Internet marketing blogs, websites and affordable SEO tools out there, it seems like most business leaders now can grasp just enough information to understand the basic principles of SEO.

But while most of us wouldn’t read a bit of a law blog and then approach someone to defend them in court, some clients think nothing of approaching an agency with their idea of SEO already firmly in mind. This can lead to preconceptions as to what an agency’s SEO work should involve and what the outcome ought to be.

So how do you correct the misconceptions, win the work and build a great client relationship? These are my five top tips – honed over time and experience – to create a smoother SEO-client relationship.

1. Explain your processes

We have been approached on more than one occasion by a potential client who thought that SEO was something you do once and then ‘ta-da’ you were top of Google. (That’s almost a quote from an e-mail I received recently).

SEO agencies therefore have a challenge when it comes to client education and managing expectations. Clients need to know what we mean by ‘SEO’ work. This means we must carefully explain the SEO process to most new clients, including:

  • Keyword research: How we go about choosing keywords, finding potential market niches and how we weigh the options against the competition for those keywords to find those that are achievable in the medium-long term.
  • On-page optimization: The importance of priming a page for chosen keywords, but in a way that isn’t spammy and won’t fall foul of Google’s Panda updates (such as the one in December).
  • Website auditing: For larger sites, we may look at the whole website structure in terms of its accessibility for search engines, internal linking structures, accidental duplicate content and other factors that could limit their search market reach.
  • Competitor analysis: The work we undertake to understand the sites that already rank for the chosen keywords and how that affects the SEO strategy.
  • Link building: Link building in particular has taken a reputational hit since the Google Penguin updates began, with sites still struggling to recover. So it’s important to explain the process in terms of quality, not quantity – and why that will require good, solid content generation through the campaign.

This sets the foundation for the understanding both of the workload for a proper SEO campaign, but also why that work also comes with the price tag that we as agencies need to charge.

2. Simplify your terminology

marketing and SEO terminology cloud
The marketing and SEO industry has plenty of its own geeky terminology, starting with the term ‘SEO’ itself. When your clients run the gamut from carpet cleaners to business consultants, you’re going to have a wide range of knowledge level within the client base when it comes to understanding these terms.

Before heading out to an initial client meeting, consider jotting down the main terms you are going to explain. And don’t be afraid to offer the client ‘interruption rights’ during your meeting so that they can ask questions as they come to mind.

Doing this reinforces your knowledge to the client but also fosters a better working relationship. It lets them know you’re not some dark warlock performing SEO wizardry in your castle but an honest Internet marketer working in your clients’ best interest. SEO has in the past been perceived as a dark art – an image only reinforced by industry terminology like “white hat” and “black hat.”

Educating your client does not reduce your chances of winning the work. If anything, we have found it can increase that likelihood.

3. Show your results

One of the best selling points of SEO is its measurability. Granted, since the appearance of (not provided) in our Google Analytics, one metric has become somewhat less helpful. But there are many different conversion metrics you can work with.

Once you understand your client’s business or website, you know what results they care about. That enables you to report on:

  • Successful website sales
  • Inquiry forms completed
  • Blog posts read

Or any other metric you and your client use to measure success of your work. Make the results of your work relevant to the client. If a client is ranking well for “purple dinosaurs,” connect the dots for them to show the visitors that have resulted from that. If a client has seen increased website sales, go through your Analytics Conversion Funnel and show that the cause is increased search engine visitors.

We produce two monthly report for all of our SEO clients which contain additional helpful information explaining their statistics. That report ends with some recommendations and conclusions, so that the client is not just fed abstract data, but they are given something tangible to do in the coming month to help their SEO campaign.

4. Include your clients

Our best SEO results have come through working in tandem with our clients. This means there are some activities we choose to give them to do, under our guidance. This may be content creation, website bug fixing or encouraging them to promote their website content more over social media.

As we are still in tough times economically, anything you delegate to your client keeps their SEO costs down and helps their cashflow. You may feel that doesn’t build your agency, but we have learned it is better to do a little work initially and then grow with the businesses we support.

5. Display your value

If you didn’t think you could add value to your clients’ businesses, you wouldn’t be doing SEO. So don’t be afraid to talk about what you bring to the table.

As an SEO, you have knowledge and expertise. As an agency, of whatever size, you have to:

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest algorithm changes
  • Understand the technical implications of site-wide structural changes
  • Talk about website design and the importance of mobile search
  • Understand the client’s competition
  • Look at their business as a whole to advise the best approach to SEO in keeping with the client’s business goals and aims.

We have found that some clients come in thinking they want just “SEO” but are often just as grateful for our business advice, branding guidance and social media training.

The roles of the SEO are only going to become increasingly diverse. If you offer SEO services, be self-assured in the knowledge and expertise you bring to the client relationship, but do not be afraid to educate them either. The better you communicate with a client, the more you’ll be able to work together to bring their businesses and websites success.

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17 Responses to “5 top tips to a smooth SEO-client relationship”

    • Martin Oxby

      Absolutely. Of course what is a ‘better result’ may differ client-to-client and in the world of SEO, not every trend is upwards. But if ‘results’ have a bit of a dip, you need to be ready to give solid reasons for that and propose what can be done to improve it during the next month/quarter. 🙂

  1. Abhishek Bhan

    These are some of the most amazing ideas you need to utilize in order to maintain relationship with clients. Including your clients and displaying your value are two things I feel are crucial in maintaining SEO-client relationship.

  2. Lee Eric Delos Santos

    Kudos for Martin, I like #4, I think Including your client on your process is important. It’s like a “Mutual progress” for your client and to yourself. Sometimes clients would expect more on you but in fact they are also a part of the marketing plan you set up. Great Post Martin! Thanks for the insights

    • Martin Oxby

      You’re welcome. I think historically people have perceived something you ‘get someone else to do’, a bit like your year end accountant, but actually teamwork tends to drive towards better results (and lower costs for your client, which they appreciate!)

  3. SEO-client relationship is based on trust because the person is only concerned with the website ranking not with the SEO work we do. Make sure you win his confidence and make him assured that his/her website is SEO friendly and reach on the top in a short span of time.

  4. Patrick Ryan

    second tip will be of great help. We got to admit that the SEO field is full
    of technical jargons that only we SEO workers can understand. Hence to
    improve our relations with our clients, it is a must that the two of us are
    in the same level of understanding in terms of general knowledge about SEO

  5. I would love to hear from SEO Companies what their process is from the first minute a client calls to getting them to sign. What do you give away for free, how do you design their proposals and in what detail (before they pay), how you make new clients feel warm and fuzzy who don’t understand what you are doing exactly yet they are paying for.