How to manage SEO customer expectations

30 second summary:

  • SEO is expensive, but it offers no tangible guarantees in terms of ranking or traffic. No wonder so many entrepreneurs are confused
  • All SEO clients are different. It is important to understand their previous SEO experience before developing your relationship management strategy with each of them.
  • Getting to know a new lead and their decision makers will help you position your service in a more useful and easy to understand way
  • Educating clients is often necessary so that they know what to expect from an SEO service

SEO is an often misunderstood area. I’ve seen several business owners who assume that an SEO consultant has some sort of magic button that can increase the site’s organic search visibility within a certain amount of time.

While that may have been the case a decade ago, the SEO industry has evolved far beyond manipulative tactics that (to be frank) worked like a charm in the past.

SEO today is all about improving websites, at all possible levels, from content value to usability. He is doing everything better and faster. There is not a single element that needs to be improved to increase organic rankings. He is constantly working on a website as a whole to hopefully see gradual growth.

To make matters worse, most SEO clients have a long history of SEO work that has been done on their site. And that work may have led to the gradual loss of rankings and organic search visibility. Understanding those out is important because those red flags can prevent those companies from seeing any progress even if they continue to invest in long-term SEO strategy.

So, how to properly manage your SEO clients’ expectations without scaring them off?

Understand your SEO client

It may sound extremely cynical, but the best SEO client is the one who has already been burned by excessive promises and breaking those promises. These clients understand better why SEO results cannot be guaranteed and why they need to invest in long-term results.

But those customers have other challenges to fight. Their sites are often penalized or filtered, and their budgets often suffer from months of low organic traffic. These companies are often willing to accept anything that allows them to fall into Google’s favor, but it’s hard for them to undo years of link building efforts and start from scratch.

The other type of SEO client is restless. These companies may have used other SEO agencies in the past, have seen no results, and are quite impatient at this point. They are tired of making another long-term investment because they feel they have invested enough at this point.

You must carefully investigate what has been done so far for these sites and explain why it has not worked and what you will do differently, still insisting on why you cannot guarantee any results in a definitive time frame.

Finally, there are clueless clients who don’t care what you do but need to know when they will rank in the top 5 for their important keywords. These clients require large-scale education, scary examples of companies losing all of their rankings in one day, and case studies showing gradual growth in organic visibility that starts with a long tail strategy, link building research, and building. of a tailored awareness strategy.

Carefully review your decision making unit (DMU).

In many cases, even when it comes to small businesses, there will be more than one person who decides whether you or your agency is someone they will work with.

In the B2B world, a DMU is a decision-making unit, in other words it is a group of people who will determine if a company will work with you. This group can consist of the owner or CEO of the company, a marketing manager, the head of the development team, etc.

Many companies have internal SEO teams that need outside help. This SEO team will most likely be part of that company’s DMU. Avoid criticizing the management for their work. Don’t make them feel like your agency can replace the internal team.

Instead, find out what that team is doing and how you can integrate their work.

From experience, most internal SEO teams will gladly outsource things like link prospecting, awareness raising and, more recently, Major Web Vitals optimization (the latter is too new, so not many SEOs keep up). Ongoing tasks such as competition monitoring, keyword gap analysisAnd backlink profile monitoring they are often lacking in many internal SEO strategies.

You need to know these gaps to better position your service.

The best approach is to identify your DMU and how exactly your agency can help you in the lead generation form. Make sure your service request form includes questions such as:

  • Do you have an internal SEO team or person?
  • Have you already used SEO services?
  • Do you have any concerns we need to be aware of?

Have a sample report ready

Develop a detailed SEO report example to show potential customers to make sure they know what to expect:

  • First month report
  • Example of roadmap for further work
  • Monthly reports detailing completed or ongoing projects, etc.

Based on the different decision-making units you have reached so far and the different services you provide, those ratios may vary.

Be clear and transparent

SEO is an ongoing and infinite processes. The only way to build a long-term customer base is to build trust even before acquiring them. And nothing works better than being honest and transparent.

It is better to lose a demanding customer than to face the consequences of improperly managed expectations.

During your onboarding call, spend some time discussing who runs their website, like them blog is managedwhat it takes to send updates in real time, who is creating, editing and approving the content before it is published and whether the site is powered by an existing platform or is it custom built.

Make it clear that you will need access to their data, including analytic and Search Console accounts.

Understanding these details will help you estimate the turnaround of your SEO recommendations to implement. If you anticipate any slowdowns (for example, each update requires a tedious approval process or the developers are the only people who can update the site and these teams tend to be busy and slow), make it clear that these roadblocks can slow down processing and discussion. ways to overcome them.

Don’t forget to explain the setup process in great detail. Your agency needs time to research the site and its SEO history in great detail, and that takes time and that time isn’t free. Many companies expect active work to start immediately when they sign a contract, so it’s no surprise that SEO research is part of the setup process.

Also, during your onboarding call, try to better understand the rest of the company as well. It indicates that you will likely need the help and input of other teams, such as product development and customer support. The ultimate goal of an SEO strategy is to achieve more salesnot just bring organic traffic, and this is the whole company’s initiative.

Ask them for more information about their previous digital marketing efforts, including PPC, lead generation, landing page managementAnd email marketing. The more you know about the company and its current conversion funnels, the better your SEO service will rank to complement them.


Search engine optimization can seem like a lot mysterious trial of entrepreneurs who feel like they are throwing money into thin air without being promised anything tangible in return. If you put yourself in those entrepreneurs’ shoes, it’s actually quite understandable.

So don’t feel bad when another prospect asks for some kind of guarantee. Be patient but firm. Onboarding SEO clients often requires educating them on why SEO cannot have any guarantees, but how it can be very rewarding in the long run.

Ann Smarty is the founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager of Internet Marketing Ninjas. It can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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