SEO Client Management— Handling Different Levels of SEO Management

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I’ve been working in the SEO industry for nearly 13 years as an in-house SEO professional, freelance SEO consultant and now as the owner of an SEO company. In that time I’ve dealt with just about every level of management possible from small business owner, to marketing director to company CEO and I have learned that depending on who you report to as an SEO services provider dramatically impacts how you manage the reporting and how you justify your SEO services. Each level of management comes with its own needs and expectations and it’s our duty as their SEO provider to meet (most of) their demands.

The Small Business Owner

In my experience, there are two types of small business owners. There’s the one who has taken it upon themselves to learn a little bit about SEO and try to go it their own way (for better or worse) before they decided they needed a little more expertise to get them to the next level. I really like working with these small business owners because they “get it.” They aren’t looking for that magic pill to overnight SEO success, expecting me to pull a miracle off in the next six weeks. They understand enough about SEO to realize how link building, content marketing and social media work together to achieve long term success and they are in it for the long haul. The best way to keep your relationship with the kind of SEO client running smooth is simply to be upfront and honest with them. They know enough about SEO that smoke and mirrors aren’t going to impress them.

On the flip side, you have the business owner that knows very little about SEO, except that they need to be doing it. Sometimes these site owners require a little bit more hand holding, which is totally fine, simply because they don’t have the knowledge or experience. These small business owners can be both incredibly gung-ho or extra cautious (especially if they’ve been burned before) and it’s important to understand that throughout the process. You need to walk them through every step and be as transparent as possible so they don’t feel like they are in over the heads.

The Marketing Director

The Marketing Director came to you because they don’t have the in-house resources to manage their SEO by themselves. Obviously they understand marketing very well, so hopefully they are on your side and will help align your SEO efforts with the rest of their marketing team. As I am constantly reminding clients, just about anything you do to market your business and products, both online and off, can be leveraged for your SEO. You want to make sure your client understands and embraces that fact.

It’s important that the Marketing Director look at you as just an extension of their in-house marketing team and not silo your efforts. Make sure you are kept in the loop on any pending press releases, upcoming local events or conferences or product launches so you can get their SEO working in the same direction. It’s important to show how your efforts contribute to the marketing campaign as a whole, and how their marketing campaigns impact your SEO work.


Let’s be honest, most CEOs don’t have the time to worry about SEO, but every now and then you may find yourself reporting and defending your efforts to them. Most CEOs tend to be very numbers focused and are looking to see tangible proof that your SEO expertise is helping grow the company in some way. This is why reporting is so important for client management! You want to be able to pull numbers, data and stats at the drop of a hat to help explain and justify your work. How many new non-branded visitors have arrived at the site in the last six months thanks to your SEO guidance? How have rankings for their priority keywords changed over time? What new keywords are they ranking for and getting visitors from that weren’t even on their radar at this time last year? How many links have you built and where are they coming from? The more tangible evidence you can gather the better.

Obviously every client is different. You might be reporting to a CEO who comes from a marketing background, making it easier to explain the long term process that is SEO. You might be working with a Marketing Director that knows next to nothing about SEO, so they are going to require a little more handholding. It’s up to us as the SEO service providers to give our clients the kind of management they need to trust us and our efforts.

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO firm. With nearly 13 years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry,... Read Full Bio
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis

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  • Amir @ Blue Mile Media

    Nice article. I only deal with the “small business owner” clients for now and it’s make a world of difference when they know even a little bit about SEO. I think the initial meeting is important to pre-qualify if they are a good fit or not.

    My strategy for this is pretty simple. We contact the companies who have a great website and are in the top few pages for certain keywords because those companies already are doing internet marketing and know the importance. We don’t really need to explain why it’s important to have a site or do marketing online for example.

    I hope to be dealing with the CEO clients soon and I can come back and share those experiences as well 😀


  • IrishWonder

    Nice one Nick!

  • Ashish Pratap Singh

    Great write up Nick, thanks fro highlighting the bullets of client management.

  • Robins

    Good article Nick. One segment you have left out within the small business category is people who aren’t aware of SEO. I have seen a number of SEO professionals spending huge time on educating them. But generally, once they learn the nuances they remain loyal clients.

  • Kishore

    Yup, You are right Nick. It is always challenging to deal with a CEO. But it’s true that they demands the exact report what one business owner should have. And, that helps a SEO team to prepare a transparent report which helps to work hard on a better strategy.

    Most interestingly, I had one review meeting yesterday with one CEO who had just asked about the tangible growth within the three months of campaign. And, you know what?? Still, he was not satisfied, so he has called up me to their office today to elaborate all the things again. I hope I could present my works successfully . So busy with preparing a review report ..unless i would loss the project…. 🙂

  • Rekha

    That’s a great one Nick..

    I appreciate the points you have explained. Good work dude..

  • justin

    It’s funny, the three types of stakeholders you listed usually have some understanding of SEO and acknowledge the need. I would say that all of them don’t understand the ROI or can’t justify cost associated with SEO. Many small business can’t afford a good SEO consultant or service, and what they can afford may wind up hurting them more than helping them.

  • Erin Kwok

    Nick, great insight and breakdown of each level. This really highlighting the needs of each.

  • Erin Kwok

    Nick, great insight and breakdown of each level. This really highlights the needs of each.

  • Siddu

    Its useful information. Being an SEO professional is not enough. We have to understand the person whom we are coordinating with.

  • Albert Romero

    The business world is a complicated sector with day to day challenges. The article can be used to a very good extent in aspects of running a proper business. Nick your ideas are great, and its good that you’re sharing them with people to help around 🙂 Great work

    PHD. Albert