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December 4, 2008

Tell Tale Signs That Your Client Gets Search Marketing

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Once again, Chris Hart from Bruce Clay’s East Coast office joins us with some thoughts on how to convert your clients to the SEO religion.

As the SEO Priest it is as much my job to listen to clients as it is to preach to them. Conversation is a two way street, after all. Over time I have developed a simple way to listen for when a client has begun to understand search engine marketing and can relate it to their own online business.

Below I have outlined four conversation components to help SEOs get an understanding of how well a client understands the search engine optimization needs of their Web site.

Listen To Their Questions

We have all heard numerous SEO 101 questions from a client’s marketing departments and IT departments alike. “Do links count and why should I link to other sites?” “Does it matter what kind of redirect we use? Don’t they all do the same thing?”

The key to help answer these foundational questions is education and training and very open conversations. With every project we should know that extra hours will be needed up front in order to get everyone on the same page. As you get your clients speaking and understanding the same language, you will recognize the maturation of their thinking as the questions change.

The most noticeable change is in the format of the questions. Instead of “No, WHY?” you start to hear “Yes, we need to do this. What are our options?” When the format of the question has changed, you can infer that your clients are beginning to understand that there are specific ways of making a search-friendly site and that perhaps they realize that by no stretch of the imagination is any solution a cookie cutter.

Identify Tasks and Task Completion

The second phase of the transformation from SEO confusion to SEO competence occurs when you start to talk about what is hindering the site and how to fix these problems. As with any quest to improve, there must be an acknowledging that something is wrong so that the issue can be addressed and fixed.

Remember, you must move slowly here. Start by putting issues into easy-to-understand categories. Hint: use their vocabulary rather than “SEO speak”. Then work with them to divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable projects. By doing this, you and your client have begun to identify where the up-front effort and resources must go and what tasks will dove tail with each other.

In many cases you will realize that the organizational structure may be a barrier to progress as much as the complexity of the task itself. This usually becomes self-evident as tasks are checked off after completion. If you find certain tasks are not being addressed or completed, you will know which department manager to key in on.

Organizational Issues

At this point the client has had a chance to metabolize education and training. By now they likely realize that changes will need to be made to their current processes and perhaps to their organizational structure in order to eliminate search marketing barriers. The next step is to look at the organization structure that is currently in place and figure out what needs to change in order for search marketing efforts to succeed. That change could simply be a directive to the right people, but could also be a serious structural change.

In many cases, when a company moves their traditional business into the online world, they try to duplicate exactly what has worked for them in the past. As we all know, this does not work most of the time and may negatively affect your online efforts.

This why it is important to recognize bottlenecks, know who understands the search marketing process, and identify those who do not understand the organization’s search marketing goals and their role in the SEO process. The most valuable thing about this part of the communication cycle is minimizing or removing any barriers. Once eliminated, the organization is left with highly engaged and motivated individuals ready to work together for a common project.

Feedback From Past Tasks Are Rolled Into New Initiatives

The final client conversation component you should look for is when they start to make statements that clearly draw upon their new-found education. This information comes in the form of data from their analytics tools (it’s unfortunate how many companies don’t have this until they start an SEO project) or results from and reviews of prior projects and tasks. For example, a client may say, “While that Flash site looked awesome, we know that no one found it using the search engines and we shouldn’t use our resources on something like that again.” Even more telling is when search marketing initiatives are built into new projects along with clearly defined criteria for success and metrics for measuring that success.

I hope these conversation check point help you as they have helped me, and please remember to always enjoy your client conversations. Just as you look to a client’s community demographics to help understand their audience, your ability to help your clients begins and ends with understanding what is important to them.

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One response to “Tell Tale Signs That Your Client Gets Search Marketing”

  1. Rachel Workman writes:

    These conversations are so important. As one who is on the fence of understanding SEO I appreciate the layman’s terms interpretation of SEO.



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