How to Make Friends and Inspire Clients

An interesting question was raised on LED Digest that asked how SEOs can motivate their clients. It’s an important topic because very often SEOs and clients have a difficult time staying focused on the same goals. Often the SEO is so concerned with stopping the bleeding and the client is so focused on getting conversions that there can be conflict.

This is how we’ve typically seen the motivation cycle (er, and most marriages) progress:

The good-intentioned SEO and the friendly client sign a contract and immediately enter the love-struck honeymoon phase. This is where everyone is willing to help one another and spend their night at home washing the dishes. This lasts about as long as you’d expect (less than a month). Once this happy time ends, one party begins to micro-manage the other, forcing them to perform mundane tasks. This goes on for several months until both ultimately begin to resent one another. From here we go to stage 3 – the all out war stage (aka the trial separation). During this stage, parties threaten to cancel contracts, institute re-activation fees, suspend privileges, and basically make each others lives miserable. And from here, kids, is where it all gets really ugly. All of a sudden it’s time to divvy up the assets and determine who gets which kid.

Nasty, right? It sure is, and we’d like to help you avoid it.

We’d never pretend to have a perfect a relationship with all of our clients (obviously, we don’t). But over the past ten years, we have come across a few ways to help everyone get a long just a little bit better. If you’re an overworked SEO looking for ways to reconnect with your clients, here’s some advice from the Bruce Clay, Inc. gang.

Educate – We say it a lot but education is vital to a successful search engine optimization project. We don’t require clients to attend training because we like making them trek down to our Simi headquarters (really, that’s not why!). We’ve asked them to attend because we found the best way to motivate people is through education. By educating your clients, you make them a part of the process and show them that they are ultimately responsible for their own success.

We want our clients to know how we work. We want to teach them about keywords, page architecture, Meta tags, linking campaigns, etc. Really, at the end of the day we want them to understand why they’re paying us. We want them to know we’re on their side and that we’ll fight for them.

When clients understand why a certain element of a SEO project is important, they’re more willing to chip in. It’s like baseball. Once you know the rules, it’s a lot easier to get into the game.

Set Goals – Before a contract is signed or a checkbook alluded to, both SEO and client should have agreed upon the objectives of the SEO campaign. What are you both working towards? How will you get there? How often will you talk? Most importantly, who will bring the bagels and the caffeine for any early morning meetings? These things are very important (I like everything bagels, in case you were wondering.).

Setting attainable goals keeps everyone working toward the same target and allows everyone to share in the success. Which brings us to the next step…

Positive Feedback: Remember that your clients are busy people too. Give them an incentive to be active in the SEO process by showing them the power of their own actions. Show them what happens when they start targeting the correct keywords, bid the spammy text farewell, and learn the power of linking out. Success is a powerful motivator. Once they start to see their rankings or conversions improve, even just a little, it will help keep them motivated and working toward common goals.

Maintain regular contact: This may be the most important step in any business relationship. It’s important that your clients see or hear from you on a regular basis. It reaffirms that you’re out there working for them, which will in turn make them feel more inclined to pitch in.

Constant contact ensures that everyone remains on the same page. You don’t want either party to get ahead of the other. It’s also important for giving clients a face to go along with a project. You want them to give them a point of contact that they can go to with questions at any time. This will help make clients feel more comfortable and it will allow you to address small problems before they become larger ones. Make sure your client knows how their point of contact is. If they forget about you, they’ll also forget about the project.
Educate: At this point, almost a full year (or more) has probably gone by and it’s time to reeducate (and possibly resign contracts). What has changed since the initial contract was signed? What’s the search engine weather forecast looking like these days? The engines aren’t known for being stagnate, so update clients on what’s been going on to make sure they remain in the loop. If for some reason you’ve let more time go by than you should without talking, make amends. Education isn’t a one-time process, it’s continual and never-ending. Like weight loss.

We believe that by educating clients and setting strong initial goals, SEOs can maintain a positive working relationship with the client and entire team.

Life as an SEO is busy and sometimes we can all lose sight of common courtesies. Remember that your clients aren’t your kids. And unlike your kids, if you yell and order around your clients, they’ll leave you and find new parents someone else to work with. You don’t want that and neither do we.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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