Transparency is Key to Building SEO Client Trust

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Let’s face it, the SEO industry, like any other, has its fair share of less-than-scrupulous players looking to take advantage of unsuspecting site owners. I’m not sure if SEO actually has more “bad guys” than most other industries or ours just get more attention, but the simple fact remains that they are out there and they are having a negative impact on the authority, expertise, and trustworthiness of the rest of us.

I’ve worked with my fair share of site owners and marketing managers that have been burned by a fly-by-night SEO provider before, and one of the biggest challenges I have with them is getting them to trust my SEO recommendations. They trusted someone who was supposedly an “expert” before, and it came back to bite them in the you-know-what. I’m not surprised they have such a hard time trusting the next SEO provider they work with, which is why I make sure I’m as transparent as possible.

When it comes to building SEO client trust, transparency is key.

Here are many ways we, as SEO providers, can be more transparent to help ease the mind of our clients:

1. Long-term Link Building Strategy

When working with a new client, I like to outline a 6 or 12-month link building strategy for the site and review it with the site owner before we start any link building activities. This strategy, although not set in stone, serves as a guideline and reference point for both my team and the client.

At any given moment, they can refer to the strategy to see exactly what the planned link building activities for that month are so there aren’t any major surprises. It also holds me and my team accountable to the client. If we don’t deliver what we planned, there should be a real reason why, and we should have come up with something comparable to keep the strategy moving forward.

2. Monthly Link Building Reports

As we know all too well, Google doesn’t really care who was in charge of your link building two years ago—if it’s your site it’s your problem. In the case of the burned SEO client, they trusted a supposed expert to handle their link building and took them at their word that: A) work was getting done and B) it was for their long-term benefit.

There are plenty of services out there that offer 500 links a month for $49.95, and we all know the kind of quality you can expect from that offer. However, a new-to-SEO site owner might have fallen for it, especially if the budget was tight. In my opinion, monthly link building reports are absolutely essential to helping build client trust. Show them exactly where you’re developing links each month so they have no cause to question your efforts. Keep track of the links you’ve successfully built, as well as the ones you are still working on (like a guest blogging opportunity). This also helps justify your work because you can pull those reports out at any given moment and show how your link building efforts are impacting their website and SEO as a whole.

3. Monthly Calls

Some clients need a little more hand-holding than others, especially if they’ve been burned, but at the very least I like to have one scheduled phone call each month with every client, so we can review that month’s link building activities and plan for the next month. Obviously, they are welcome to contact me by phone or email as needed, but I’ve found that having this scheduled phone call helps keep me and the client on the same page.

I firmly believe that SEO needs to be part of the overall marketing plan, and I don’t like surprises (Hey, we moved to a new domain … last week!) anymore than my client does. Even if there is nothing major to discuss, it’s always good to chat real quick and let the client know you haven’t skipped town or forgotten about them.

4. SEO Reports

If I really wanted to, I could drown my client in analytics reports, but I’ve found the best ones to send each month are organic visitor data and keyword reports. These two simple reports usually give a complete enough picture to show your clients what kind of impact SEO is having on their site. These reports show your clients how your SEO expertise is driving visitors to their site and how the keywords you suggested are performing. This data helps support your position as a trusted expert and makes the client much more comfortable. If your suggestions are paying off, and you can prove it, you’ll have a very happy client.

Obviously, everyone has their own way of dealing with SEO clients, but over the years I’ve found that the most important thing is transparency. Don’t give your clients any reason to doubt your expertise!

Image Credit: Shutterstock / rangizzz

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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  • jared

    I agree, it is important to put everything on the table beforehand so there are no surprises later on.

  • Brent Carnduff

    Great article Nick. I have always tried to offer transparency, but you take if even further – I like your suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

  • Scott Gibson

    Really enjoyed your article. I think that transparency is the key here. I’ve found with my clients that the more information that I can provide them, then the more they appreciate the work. Monthly reports are also great. Liked your advice on keeping tabs on link building. That’s probably something that I’ll have to do a bit more.

  • Matt John Canty

    Good advice there Nick. Transparency is indeed the key to a successful business and achieving long term relationship with clients.

  • Ron

    Completely agree, particularly with the reporting side of things. I keep it simple and straightforward, along the lines of; “Here’s where you were and here’s where you are now.” The details are there is someone is interested, but it makes no sense to data dump on people who don’t understand the stuff anyway…


  • Eric Ward

    Outstanding. The more you involve the client the better. I know there’s the school of thought that thinks the less the client knows, the better, but that’s not the case with high level link building. Helping the client understand why you are doing what you do has always been my M.O. And frankly, clients who don’t want to learn, who just want “magic”, are not worth the headache.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Thanks Eric for reading, your comment and the RT!

    I agree clients that want “magic” are not worth it!

    Take Care,

  • Michelle Anderson

    Right on! I believe that explaining to clients why we do what we do helps a lot as well. We remove the “magic” factor and clients can understand and are more willing to work with us.

  • Matt Coffy

    Spot-on, Nick. Our clients need not only to be informed but they also need to have an actual participation in all these efforts we make for their company and website. A monthly schedule for a quick update for what’s happening will give them the assurance that you are not wasting their money and you are actually doing your job. Besides, learning is a two-way process and they may even spark an idea for us during these conversations. Cheers!

    – Matt

  • Anil Kumar Singh

    I am with you Nick on the above points . Transparency helps to make a long term relationship with clients. I want to add one very important point here which i think is equally important “setting the right expectations ” from both party on deliverable and performance.

  • Patina

    Hi Nick,

    Like you, I have had clients that were burned by a blackhat SEO company and have had to start using the same type of strategy you are writing about to keep them abreast of what we are doing. I’ve found that by doing this it keeps our clients more engaged and active, rather than passive, which is a good thing.

    Of the items you mention, I wanted to add that we focus on web analytic reports that include the location of visitors. We do this because many of our clients are small business that serve a particular area and draw their clients from within a certain radius of their business. It is important for them to see this data because it shows that the approach we are taking is engaging visitors that are more likely to make a appointment or buy a product…compared to past efforts which clearly demonstrated that few visitors would have had the ability or really opportunity to become a client.

    Thanks for posting!

  • Emergingseo

    Agree with you Nick, only problem with keeping transparency with Clients, is they might run out of patience, which in many cases happens. SEO always take time, and client usually says, that they don’t bother what you are doing, unless you are delivering results. However keeping transparency, and explaining facts, (no misselling pls).., always helps your cause. You may get lesss business, but you build relationship for long terms, which i guess is more important.

  • Peter Bressinck

    I think that with SEO, it’s like other aspects in marketing : expectation management.
    Be honest and don’t promise ‘magic’. We always work with the customer to get the best out of SEO strategies.
    I know it’s tougher to sell honesty and trust when other SEO companies promise the moon and the stars. But in my experience in the end a customer will put honesty before unfulfilled expectations.

  • Dwight Zahringer

    You hit a lot of key points here, mainly that complete transparency and realistic goals with regular reporting to benchmark progress as the SERP’s and competition changes.

  • Rob Wallace