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June 30, 2011

How to Improve Your Relationship with Your SEO Consultant

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The Internet, let alone SEO, can be a scary thing for a lot of businesses not familiar with the inner workings of it all. Businesses that actually take the first step to invest in SEO may still be second-guessing themselves throughout the process.

As a client, you may have been all pumped up in the beginning, but taking the first step was just the first battle. Maybe you haven’t quite understood the project plan or you’re not seeing the importance of the behind-the-scenes work your consultant is doing.

This is why understanding the SEO landscape, seeking education and trusting the expert are important components in the success of your SEO project.

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Education consists of a proactive quest for knowledge by the client through discussions and research, as well as proactive knowledge transfer by the SEO consultant or agency.

We’ve all heard the saying, “you need buy-in” from everyone to make [fill in the blank] successful. And although that is true, not every client seems to be ready to take initiative to understand the process so they can achieve buy-in.

Strong business relationships are built when a client feels comfortable asking questions about  the things they’ve learned or by simply voicing concerns or asking why certain recommendations are made.

It’s through this process that clients begin to trust the experts they’ve hired.

Understand the SEO Process

It’s important to understand SEO on a high-level, so expectations are set ahead of time and as a client, you’re not left with questions or disappointments.

First, please understand that project plans can and sometimes just have to change. Take the Google Panda/Farmer algorithm update for instance, some are still trying to get out of the funk it kicked them into. Businesses were forced to completely switch their focus and immediate SEO goals.

Panda certainly did not put websites into a position to quickly recover, and there’s nothing anyone can do to accurately predict or prevent something like that from happening. In this case, everyone – the client and the agency — has to adjust and move on.

Another important point is the concept of time. Sometimes (depending on the project or course of action) projects can take a very long time to see results and, quite frankly, there is never going to be a quick fix.

The point is, the more active a client can be during a project, the more likely they are to:

  1. Get better results in the end.
  2. Have a good working relationship with their consultant.
  3. Learn something they didn’t know before.
  4. Have faith and confidence in their SEO investment.

Search Industry Education is Key

My advice to clients working with agencies or consultants is seek education. Get on the Internet and do some research. Find out who the big players are that offer up the insights (Hint: Matt Cutts, Chris Sherman and Danny Sullivan, to name a few).

Sign up for newsletters and blogs to stay on top of the industry headlines. By simply reading Search Engine Land, for instance, you will easily spot reputable websites, blogs and expert consultants you can trust as you become a frequent reader. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s an investment.

Here at Bruce Clay, Inc., we encourage knowledge transfer by inviting our clients to attend our SEO training early in the project. By no means do we expect they will become experts immediately after training, but we want their wheels spinning and we want them to get excited about SEO like we are.

If you’re looking to partner with an agency, see what kind of knowledge transfer they are committed to, so you can continue to see success in-house.

Trust the SEO Experts

As a client, once you’ve begun to wrap your head around SEO concepts and tactics, you may feel overwhelmed at the depth of expertise needed to make SEO strategies work. This is the pivotal point when clients realize that agencies and consultants are vital resources, and the keys to the success of their SEO strategy.

When it really comes down to it, agencies and SEO consultants make recommendations to help your site become more easily visible to search engines. We may not know your business like you do, but we know search engines.

For many clients, the process can be terribly uncomfortable, but it’s not personal—it’s business. Sure, it’s overwhelming, but it’s a team effort. After all, your consultant’s recommendations are no good if you don’t understand them, or worse, don’t “buy-in” to them.

It’s OK to do something you’ve never done before—that’s how you grow. There’s a saying, “If you want different results, you’ve got to do something different.” Try to get comfortable with new ideas and you just may be surprised.

That said, SEO consultants are typically happy to determine another plan of action if the agency’s recommendations simply cannot be implemented for one reason or another.

Sure, there’s lots of crap differing opinions on the Web and “experts” you shouldn’t trust, but that’s why you should be putting in the time for research and education. There are many questionable practices that companies still partake in that are now considered Black Hat, but were once considered White Hat, so it’s important to be able to recognize what’s dubbed as spam.

This is important so you can’t claim ignorance when you “accidentally” get hooked up with a fly-by-night company.

As SEO consultants or agencies, we want our clients to trust us, but sometimes it’s a constant battle – and we still have to gain that trust even after the sale has been made. As a client, you need to make the education process a priority between you and your agency; in turn, you’ll begin to trust the expert you’ve hired and learn to let go – just a little bit.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave me a comment below or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter @gracie_morris.

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14 responses to “How to Improve Your Relationship with Your SEO Consultant”

  1. Ani Lopez writes:

    I think it is pretty easy to know if a SEO consultant is a good one or an impostor: does his/her work brings decent revenue to your business (in a sustainable way, I should add)?

  2. Micah writes:

    Personally, I think until seos learn to stop tearing each other down and using actual proveable results instead of marketing gimmicks – that these types of articles will tend to encourage less scrupulous people to be seos because they think it’s easy money. As long as that thought process prevails, people will continue to distrust our industry and that hurts us all.
    It’s simple to prove an seo is worth his salt: your rankings should continually improve. If they can’t show continual improvement in the organic search rankings, they aren’t doing their job.
    Tell Bruce I said hey and that he’s doing some great work out there!
    Take care.

  3. Grace Morris writes:

    Ani,
    Yes, I agree that a “sustainable” or “acceptable” way is important to add. I was slightly referring to a previous post from Bruce about paid links. It seemed to cause a big stir because for some it seemed to be a “sort of ok” practice to some. However, we do not recommend it at all because in the end they hurt our clients if sites are “paying” their way to the top. That’s a whole other topic, but as an example that’s where my reasoning came from. :-)

  4. Grace Morris writes:

    Micah,
    Organic success is key! Thanks for sharing, and I’ll let Bruce know his work is noticed!

  5. Rajkumar writes:

    Impressed by this article, Yes with out trust on SEO people really its difficult to try out new things.Hope all top management and CEO’s should read this. So that they will stop chasing for results in overnight.

    Booked a seat to attend Bruce clay training in India, Happy to boost up my knowledge, waiting for days to go.

    Thanks
    Raj

  6. Zunaira Karim writes:

    You’ve mentioned great pointers here, Grace. I think it’s important for both the client and the agency to constantly communicate with each other in regards to their SEO campaign. It’s what differentiates you from being their ‘website guy/people’ to the key component in their overall marketing strategy.

  7. Grace Morris writes:

    Raj,
    Very good point with “stop chasing for results overnight”. I understand that because the Internet is very instant in itself, sometimes we have to reinforce that results are not always instant. We have to teach the importance of continuous improvement.

    Good luck in training!

  8. Grace Morris writes:

    Zunaira,
    Well said. I think that’s what SEOs strive to be, an important part of their client’s overall strategy.

  9. Kent writes:

    Hi Grace,

    In Malaysia, SEO consultants have to face a very serious problem. A lot of time, customers want SEO Consultants to listen to them rather than they listen to SEO Consultants. But, the customers have no knowledge in SEO at all!

    Let say, a jewelry shop owner wants to optimize a keyword “jewelry”. As SEO Consultants, we know that this is too broad and too general keyword, we won’t advice the customer to optimize “jewelry” as his/her seo keyword. But the customer wants the SEO consultant listen to him….

    If you were the SEO consultant, what can you do?

  10. Grace Morris writes:

    Kent,
    You pose a great question. I think many SEOs nationwide experience this as well. Personally, I would ask myself if I had my client’s best interest in mind? Do my recommendations make sense to the client’s business goals? Is the client able to implement them? If not, how can I help with another solution?

    I think it is a valid argument to make with a client if they want you to increase rankings, but that focusing on “jewelry” (as example) is not the best option given their goals. I think the best thing to do is state your case. Explain why it is not the best choice and why going another route is the better option. All you can do is educate and inform, right?

    I don’t think clients should follow our recommendations blindly, but at that point it is in everyone’s best interest to explain the possible consequences. Have you ever experienced a situation where there was no room for negotiation?

  11. Kent writes:

    Thanks Grace. I try to explain to my customers, but sometimes few customers are very stubborn (as you said, no room for negotiation at all). End up, customers become SEO Consultant rather than SEO Consultants. No matter how hard I explain to them, they just don’t get it.

    In order not to affect my company, normally, I will walk away. If I help them to optimize keywords “jewelry”, and they don’t get any sales, I know they will blame me.

  12. Rajkumar writes:

    Hey kent,

    Just teach your client about importance of long tail keywords, which used by SEO experts and agencies.Show him some youtube videos what experts view on long tail keywords, i also came across Bruce clay video which speaks about this.

    Apart from very things client need to understand little bit of SEO process, with out this they will ignore our words.

    Hope Bruce clay and other SEO big shoots has to come forward to post some good articles and videos on basic of SEO, specially for Clients, top management and CEO’S.

    We should understand one thing Asian countries lack in Knowledge in SEO industries,75% of SEO people and agencies in India and other Asian countries runs the business only for business with out sufficient knowledge in this niche.

    Hope it will change in coming years.

    Thanks
    Raj

  13. Kent writes:

    Hi Raj,

    Thanks for the advice! :) Will try your way to talk to them. :)

  14. SEO Consultancy writes:

    I think if the client is realistic and the consultant is able to do their job properly, the relationship will be fruitful and successful. Where it will go wrong is if supplier under delivers.



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