5 Productive Expectations for SEO Client-Agency Relationships
These days, there are many things being said about content marketing, SEO, social media, how they all relate, and Internet marketing agencies who claim to do them ‘the proper way’. Truth be told, there are many agencies out there that do the hard work, put in the time, and deliver results to their clients. Sometimes, these agencies fail (or seem to fail) to produce the results they claim they can achieve for a particular client – and there are a few key reasons for why this could happen. The main reason? Expectations.
Expectations are often referred to as the mothers of disappointment. However, this doesn’t mean that a client shouldn’t have expectations of their Internet marketing agency, nor does it mean that the agency shouldn’t have expectations of their clients — It does mean that both sides should be aware of what is expected of them.
When both parties are aware of what the other needs to complete their part of the bargain, it becomes exceedingly clear which parts of the relationship are working and producing results, and which are falling short. Let’s take a look at 5 examples of expectations that can bring about a more productive client-agency relationship.
1. Clients should expect to be involved throughout the process. Many times it seems as though businesses expect that an SEO agency should be doing all the work and achieving all the goals on their own, because they’re getting paid. In an ideal world, perhaps this would work – but in reality, it just doesn’t. SEO agencies need the client’s expertise in their field to identify the most valuable assets of the business, the best channels in which to market their services, and the years of industry knowledge that just can’t be replicated with some quick online research.
Agencies should be outlining what they will need from the client to complete each task, just as the client should outline at which specific points of the process they expect a communication for feedback and reporting.
2. SEO agencies need to be in communication with any in-house marketing and PR departments. This takes the previous example one step further, and is extremely important in the overall effort of properly marketing a business. Internet marketing (real SEO) is not a separate, self-sufficient channel, but rather an integral part of a business’s comprehensive marketing strategy. In order for offline PR initiatives to be the most successful, making your SEO agency aware of any in-house campaigns and changes to campaigns needs to be a top priority.
Letting the SEO agency know about any offline initiatives and company branding will help the agency effectively increase the awareness of your brand online.
3. Establish goals that land at even intervals. Setting goals for every 3 months or so can be a great way for clients and agencies to stay on top of current priorities. Within each goal period, establish which tasks need to be carried out in each of the months; breaking things up into bite-sized, actionable chunks helps everyone stay on the same page throughout the length of the contract.
An SEO agency should be discovering enough about their clients to identify which parts of their marketing efforts need the most help and are the most urgent – and the client will generally know if, for one reason or another, there are specific reasons why these priorities need to be changed to fit in with the day-to-day or overall goals already established by the company.
4. Expect change and be flexible. When referring to the original proposal which stated that for $X, Y-results will be delivered, keep in mind that as work is done for a client, more information and possibilities come to light that may not have been so obvious at the start. In a perfect world, the SEO agency would see everything right up front and would be able to deliver perfectly forecasted results, right on time. It would also be nice if the weatherman was always correct, too, but it’s just impossible to predict everything.
Things change, and marketing by its very nature is a process of educated tests and varied results, so keep this in mind when a project doesn’t turn out exactly as described or a set of results not as pleasing as originally thought. Keeping the lines of communication open during the process, from both directions, is the most important aspect of reducing the possibility of nasty surprises on either end.
5. Rankings, rankings, rankings. As is the case with many aspects of marketing, SEO has evolved over the years. While ranking on the top of the search engine results pages is a great way to increase your visibility and generate more traffic, it’s not the only part – or even most important part — of an SEO strategy.
Businesses shouldn’t be too skeptical if SEO agencies suggest changes to website layouts, designs, and content. These all affect not only rankings, but the overall effectiveness of your website to get users to do what is desired of them. If CompanyX ranks #1 for “plastic tub stoppers” on Google, but they don’t have a clear way for customers to purchase plastic tub stoppers on their website, or don’t have enough or the right information about plastic tub stoppers, their #1 ranking won’t last or do them much good while it does.
A Few Take-aways…
Don’t look the other way, even when you’re busy. It can be easy for any person on either side of the client-agency relationship to shrug off a quick email or phone call to ask or answer a question regarding an SEO effort. This causes things to pile up, and many important details can be overlooked when communication is not an active priority in every step of the process.
Clients’ most reasonable expectation: Clients should expect transparency from their agencies. If an agency cannot tell you where they get their links from, exactly who is writing articles on their behalf, and so on, that agency should be dismissed. Quality agencies do quality marketing, which means any agency that promises to get you X-results should be able to identify exactly how they plan on accomplishing that task. [insert right-wing political jab here]
Agencies’ most reasonable expectation: Agencies should expect cooperation from their clients. If a business owner hires an SEO agency to perform specific marketing or development tasks, he should remain available to provide feedback and give direction to the SEO agency. The SEO agency has been hired as an expert in the field of SEO, and will need the business owner’s expert industry knowledge to get the job done.
Now that the record is set straight…
Approach your SEO efforts with a team effort mindset, where anything related to SEO is related to the business as a whole, and vice versa. Both clients and agencies stand to benefit from having partnerships where reasonable expectations do not result in disappointment.