We are all very well aware that the SEO landscape is one that is always changing. Keeping up with the Googles and Bings of the world is a job that requires constant management and upkeep.
For those of us who work in the industry, it’s easy to forget what are our roles are when servicing client needs. This is why over the years, and moving forward, the role of the SEO becomes more than just ranking web pages at the top of search engine results. Our roles need to factor in what our clients are really looking for, which usually involves more sales and more money in their pockets.
Understanding these client needs and how to properly service them is the key to any successful digital marketing agency. Let’s discuss some key factors that help you build a strong relationship with your clients.
Understand Their Business Goals
Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of managing SEO clients is understanding how they perceive the value of the services you provide. Many SEOs, especially those who are just starting out, tend to focus on search engine rankings as the main metric to report progress to their clients.
However, as search engine marketing has evolved, rankings alone no longer impact the client’s bottom line like they did in the past. With the “Google dance” and the fluctuation of search engine rankings, most business owners really don’t understand how rankings are impacting their bottom line unless the SEO agency is heavily involved in understanding customer acquisition and return on investment.
If you want to provide actual value to your clients, you need to understand their business and how it operates. You should also understand how much leads and customers are worth and then correlate that information into the work you’re doing as an SEO. If you can show your clients how both organic and paid search marketing campaigns are leading to increased sales or leads and then also understand the value of those sales and leads, your clients will always see the value in the service that you’re providing.
In short, you need to understand what your client considers valuable.
If your client cares about leads, and you are sending ranking reports every month, your clients quite possibly will ask themselves, “What am I paying for?” or “How is this SEO service providing value to my company business and bottom line?”
In order to prevent this situation from arising, set the example from the get-go when you start working with managing a client. Talk to them about how their business operates, how they value the traffic and leads from their website, and other digital marketing channels. Discuss with them at length how important it is for you as an SEO to understand their business models.
Once you understand the importance of reporting on the numbers that make sense for your clients, you’re also going to want to ensure that you’re protecting the traffic your clients and projects are receiving from your search marketing efforts. Many times, SEO agencies rely solely on organic or paid search traffic as a means to generate leads and customers for their clients.
The reality is relying just on these channels is not a good long-term business strategy. Over the years most successful marketers have built out the proper multi-channel processes in order to provide a robust, full-service marketing service to their clients.
Even if you don’t want to go full-service, there is a few questions you should ask. If your search engine traffic isn’t converting, what are you doing to capture those visitors and turn them into future customers? Do you have an email marketing and acquisition strategy in place? Are you using Facebook ads and retargeting as a way to continue the conversation with these visitors and bring them back in the future? Are you keeping your nose to the grindstone on new and cutting edge digital marketing opportunities?
Any SEO worth their salt is not just focused on the organic search traffic their efforts are contributing to. They’re looking at how to convert this traffic in as many different ways as possible with a focus on their client’s business goals.
Provide Curated, Custom Reporting
Once you understand their business goals, explain the value your service can provide, and have explored and implemented multi-channel digital marketing strategies, your next goal is to properly report your efforts to your clients.
Hitting the download PDF button from Google Analytics and emailing that to your client without any sort of analysis or explanation as to what exactly is going on is not providing the proper value. Sending them an automated ranking report without any sort of insight to how it affected lead generation or conversion is also not providing the proper value.
Your job at the end of the day is to provide your clients with the information that impacts their business. CEOs and business owners might “talk the talk” when it comes to SEO or search engine traffic, but the most important information that they want to know is related to how many new customers or leads you can bring them every month.
Create custom reports that focus on the business goals you have discussed and make those the priority in each report. Many of your clients will not spend the time to dig into traffic analysis or search engine rankings and some of them might get overwhelmed by all the data. Create and curate reports that quickly and effectively show them how the performance of your marketing campaigns are contributing to the success of their business.
Don’t Lie About the Numbers
Now that we’re talking about reporting and how to properly report to each of your individual clients, it’s important to create trust with the numbers. If you’re an agency that is just reporting traffic data to your clients ongoing performance based on the traffic data, you could actually be providing them a disservice if you’re not disclosing what the numbers actually mean.
There might be a month where a client’s web site gets hit with spam bot traffic that skews their traffic data. If all you’re doing is reporting traffic to them, are you actually providing real value for their business? Are you disclosing where this traffic spike might be coming from?
More often than not disclosing exactly where and what is happening with website traffic to your client, even if it’s a drop in traffic or an artificial spam related spike in traffic, will create a sense of trust and create a stronger bond with your clients.
Focus on explaining the numbers in every report you send to them. They understand every business has it’s natural ups and downs and the better you explain movement in numbers, the more trust you will build.
Your job is to create a positive experience throughout your reporting, and sometimes being honest and open about all activity is the best way to go about doing that. The integrity you’ll earn is worth it.
Communication is Key
Finally, understanding the best way to communicate with each of your clients can ultimately be the deciding factor in your success. Many SEO’s have to learn this the hard way – you have clients that will be fine with periodic emails and then you’ll have clients who need to have face-to-face meetings or constant phone calls in order to properly understand where exactly their money is going to.
Setting the precedent at the beginning of your relationship with each client will be key in order to understand how to properly communicate your ongoing SEO and reporting efforts. Also, understand and assess what level of expertise your clients may have in SEO and other channels.
Some clients may completely understand SERPs and want to know very specific data points. To other clients, SEO is secret voodoo magic spells that you are casting and really don’t understand what any of it means. Read your clients and learn how to talk about your efforts to them, so that you ensure that you’re not talking down or above to them.
At the end of the day, your clients pay you not just to drive traffic, increase search engine rankings, or driving leads, but to manage everything as effectively and efficiently as possible, and the communication of these efforts is what will keep them a paying customer for life.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!