Addressing Client Participation Expectations is Crucial in Effective Link Building

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Like all SEO firms, ours has seen a big shift in recent years regarding the level of participation required from a client to execute a successful campaign. The links that an SEO client can help obtain are often the most valuable. This is because they present some industry-related, natural linking opportunities that any SEO firm would love to create.

For instance, links from business partners, distributors, associations, and industry-related publications are often the most solid links a business can obtain. But getting links from these sources usually requires some level of investment from the SEO client.

I often hear other SEOs complaining that clients think either:

A) “Why do I need an SEO firm if I am going to have to ask for the link anyways?”

B) “I am too busy to deal with all of that which is exactly what I’m paying you for.”

Both of these attitudes are valid, yet relatively simple to address. These attitudes and responses can be overcome by sitting down with prospects and even old clients and establishing the right set of expectations. Have an open and honest conversation about how important their assistance can be in helping their SEO campaign.

Help them understand that things have changed drastically in SEO (and continue to do so) and that these types of links can be the difference between success and failure in many cases. Try to emphasize the fact that spending a little bit more time, and in some cases more money, can deliver them a great ROI.

Also, utilizing your clients’ industry connections does not always mean that they need to be directly involved in every aspect. Oftentimes, simply having the permission and authorization to contact industry-related sites will be sufficient to obtain the connections you’re seeking.

For instance, you may write to a client’s distributor and say that your client has asked you to contact them and see if they would be willing to place a link to the client site in their resource section. This requires little to no extra time from your client and could result in obtaining a valuable, natural link. The only thing that you need from them in this case is a list of some of their connections and industry-related contacts.

Your Goal

Ultimately, your goal should be to create an atmosphere with your client that establishes up front the notion that certain link building will be a collaborative effort between you (the SEO firm) and the client. This client relationship will help you have the backup you need to get the links that you are after.

Also, if a client brings up the fact that they could do this themselves, simply explain that this is only one facet of the process and that you are essential in guiding them to the right link opportunities. Plus, how that link will materialize is where professional guidance is crucial.

In addition to this, I have found that some business owners and executives are very protective of their partner-company relationships, and they may be hesitant to ask for this type of favor. The best way to overcome this concern is to treat the contacts at these sites in a professional manner and always point out the benefits to their organization by allowing the link. I simply frame the request to emphasize that if you create more traffic to my site, my site sells more goods or services and that benefits both our organizations.


Successful SEO campaigns have become a collaborative effort between the SEO firm and the client. It is important to establish this teamwork initially with your client to ensure that you are both on the same page when it comes to generating good, quality links to their site.

Set realistic expectations with your client and be honest about how their participation can make a huge difference. Working together to build quality, industry-related links will be well worth the little bit of extra effort required.

Kyle Scott
Kyle Scott is the SEO Manager at Rocket 55, in Minneapolis. Find him on Twitter @Rocket55web.
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  • Mark Stegman

    Right on Kyle.
    Businesses need to realize that their participation in online marketing is essential. Who a business relates with, what organizations in the community the business engages, and what the culture and atmosphere of a business are important things that need to be expressed online. This helps rankings, this helps consumers, and ultimately this helps conversions.
    Great Topic.

    • Kyle Scott


      First off, sorry to everyone about the delay in responding to these comments. I have been out of town this last week taking a much needed break from Googling things 100 times a day! Mark, you have brought up many of the strategies that I personally use including involvement in community organizations and general business relationships. I have not thought of the culture or business atmosphere aspect but I believe this is SO important and you are right on the money. In this technical age, people often forget the direct marketing benefit of personal touches and a more informal connection with consumers and the community.

  • Delbert Kim

    Great post Kyle – SEO really is a collaborative effort. I think a great way to give clients a visual of why it needs to be collaborative is by presenting to them a competitive landscape analysis, pointing out the types of relationships competitors have that would be difficult to form other than by their own outreach (with professional guidance).

    • Kyle Scott


      I think in this changing SEO landscape it is absolutely crucial to educate potential clients on these collaborative aspects of SEO in the first meeting. You have brought up a great point that a visual could help them understand the importance of their involvement as well as what their competitors are doing. SEO is no longer about how many links your SEO company can build for you. It is becoming more about how willing you are to invest in your own SEO with the guidance of a professional.

  • Marisa South

    Kyle, some really valid points here!
    Sometimes the clients hold the ‘key’ to achieving particular links using their established relationships and credibility. We are here to help guide them through that process.

    As everyone has mentioned it is just a small (but largely effective) part of the SEO process. The more we educate our clients on this the better the results will be!

    • Kyle Scott


      I love your “key” metaphor! I may have to use this in explaining the process to potential clients (with your permission of course!) 🙂

  • Andrew

    Hi Kyle, sounds reeeeeaaaalllyyy familiar 😉 Can’t really add anything to this but say “Yes, the key is how one goes about the interaction with ones clients” And this holds true around the globe. I have been with teliad and seonative for a little over 2 years now and no matter where I go (trade shows, conferences, meetings with clients – domestic and abroad) everybody expects a great level of transparency which then pays right back. The result is a satisfied client knowing what and how things have been handled.

    • Kyle Scott


      Great points. Transparency is so crucial to this process. Before working with anybody, I want to make sure they understand exactly what they are getting for their money. It is so important to explain to them the importance of professional SEO guidance because it can truly make or break a company’s online presence.