Are SEO Professionals Really Those Neanderthal Techies?
The agency-client relationships can be fraught with misunderstandings and none more so than with search engine optimisation (SEO). How often have you hear agency staff bemoaning the client just does not understand and the client's frustrations that they do not feel they are getting results they are expecting.
Here are what we fell are the top 5
1. The client is dissatisfied with the time taken to see the anticipated results.
Client thinks: “What am I paying this agency for every month? When will I start to see results?”
Agency thinks: "We've taken a very broad and applied approach to improving their natural search results over the past few months but results are not instant and they need to appreciate they are in it for the long haul. Why does the client not understand this?"
It is very difficult for a client, when they start out on an SEO campaign to be prepared to wait and see the results grow month by month. Especially if they are familiar with PPC campaigns they will be looking for instant results and precise targets and record of achievements. A good SEO agency will have been working away doing lots of work on behalf of its client, but there most definitely will be a delay before its activities have an impact on search engine performance. Take the case of time spent on link-building, a client has to understand that you have to remember that if they build new links today, Google might find them in a week and validate them next month. And it might take as long as three months for those new links to have an effect.
Most good SEO agencies will try to be transparent about what they are doing and provide regular reports that indicate what efforts they have made on behalf of the client and where and when the results should be evident, setting the expectation level. Unfortunately, because results take time, there has to be a level of trust between the client and the agency, and of course the correct level of expectation should have been set at the outset. It is totally understandable for clients, especially if they are new to SEO or they’ve had a bad experience with a previous supplier to be wary.
2. The agency feels the client is totally unrealistic about its expectations for SEO
Client thinks: "We've just taken on this top SEO agency. I'm so looking forward to competing with some of our bigger competitors on the first page of Google."
Agency thinks: "This client has has to be realistic about what it wants to achieve from SEO if it wants to see results for the budget he has allocated."
Its understandable that the client will have great expectations for its SEO. But it should be clearly mapped out at the outset just what can be achieved for both budget and timescales to avoid disappointments if the expectation is set too high, too quickly. Each industry has its own big players who've invested heavily in SEO to gain a foothold on the front page for the most competitive terms for a very long time. In this case it might not be the best use of available budget to take them on initially. Clients could throw lots of effort at this and see no reward.
In the short term a good SEO agency might suggest focusing on longer tail key phrases that are tailored closely to the client’s usps. That way results are likely to be seen faster, with tangible returns investment. Hopefully as gains start to appear from the SEO activity, the client will appreciate the results and will be more likely to stick with the agency and over time they may actually get your site to begin challenging those major competitors where it hurts them most.
It's important for both the SEO agency and client to spend some time early in their relationship developing a set of explicit, measurable and realistic objectives. And this shouldn’t be just about rankings – which can change every time the search engines change some aspect of their algorithm. Most SEO agencies these days advise that objectives should cover a range of areas including traffic goals and rankings.
3. The client makes 'exciting' new changes to its website, but doesn't bother to tell the agency
Client thinks: "Web development team have made some sexy changes to the site. If my SEO agency is doing its job, we'll start to see a spike in conversions."
Agency thinks: "Oh no, I can't believe they've changed the site without telling me. This has completely ruined a big slice of the SEO effort we've put into the site over the last few months."
Its vital that it is spelt out at the outset of the project by the SEO agency that if the client is planning to make changes to his site. If the source code of the site is changed without consulting the agency, you run the risk of immediately wiping out much of the SEO gain the agency may have accumulated. Like any client-agency relationship, good clear – and early – communication is essential on both sides for things to run smoothly.
4. Gaps in SEO knowledge hinder communication and planning
Client thinks: "I can't really understand this technical jargon my SEO agency keeps spouting at me. I wish they'd stop bothering me and just get on with the job."
Agency thinks: "I keep having to explain the basic stuff to the client and they seem unable to understand and make any decisions about their SEO."
Client marketers will often have many other responsibilities on their plates besides SEO, and they can't always be expected to have a good grasp of the area. For the agency this can be frustrating; not because it's impossible for SEOs to work with clients who don’t understand SEO, but because sometimes the more creative SEO strategies result from the agency and client working together to generate alternative ideas - it is all about communication and reaffirming the aims and goals for both.
It's the agencies place to make sure it communicates effectively in a jargon-free way and takes responsibility for helping the client provide the information and decisions that are required. Many good agencies find ways to gradually increase their clients' knowledge of basic SEO. By creating a regular SEO e-newsletter or an 'SEO tip of the day' email, or even organising free SEO seminars or discussions, which should reinforce the SEO expertise being used yet helping the client have a better understanding of what is involved.
5. The client's internal departments and other agency partners aren't working to support the SEO effort
Client thinks: "My SEO agency constantly moans about how our other suppliers and in-house teams should be more aware of our SEO strategy. Are they just trying to point the blame at someone else?"
Agency thinks: "I'm constantly chasing up this client's in-house teams and other agencies to make sure they're working in line with what we're doing with SEO"
SEO should not be a separate entity that operates independently from clients' other digital marketing activity. To get the maximum benefit from the work the SEO agency might be doing, all suppliers and in-house teams need to be buy-in to the SEO plan and a deliverable project plan implemented. This should include, web developers making the technical site changes the SEO agency recommends in a timely manner and PRs, bloggers, copywriters and social media agencies taking account of your keyword strategy when developing content. SEO is a cog in the wheel of the client's overall marketing plan/strategy and has to work within the wheels of the other marketing disciplines.
A good SEO agency will be happy to work with a client's other suppliers and teams, but they grey area is frequently who manages these resources. Clients can make things easier and less frustrating for the agency by leading the way and ensuring that all other parties appreciate the value placed on SEO by their organisation. Regular conference calls or meet-ups can help to make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction. Also, a clear project plan which is accessible to all enables each party to appreciate the part their activity plays in the overall scheme of things.
Marilyn - Head Of Analytics And Natural Search
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