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INTERNATIONAL: Myth-Busting the SEO Agency Relationship

by Michael Bochel, November 20, 2012

Audience: SEO agency clients

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


  • Lots of myths exist around the SEO agency engagement; those myths are dispelled here. 
  • Communication and implementation are crucial for results.
  • Learn 5 tips for getting the most out of your agency relationship.

On both sides of a successful client-agency relationship, there is work. Free-flowing communication and defining what SEO is and is not is key during early stages of the engagement. 

After years consulting clients on SEO, I've noticed some recurring, common misunderstandings about the role of the SEO agency. And that's what we're going to talk about today — dispelling those myths — and then how to get the most out of your SEO agency relationship.

Recognizing these myths before they become an issue, and addressing them through education can help develop a cooperative and beneficial working relationship for all.  Let’s look at some of these in more detail.

Common Myths About SEO, Dispelled

Myth No. 1: We have appointed an SEO agency, thus we are doing SEO.

A business that appoints an SEO agency cannot expect to leave the agency to their own devices. A business should expect to be involved in the process, to discuss any developments and question when performance is not going as expected. 

This is a common occurrence, and one that if you ask any decent SEO, will tell you is one of the most frustrating. SEO is a two-way process; regular communication is key here as this will help manage expectations.

Myth No. 2: SEO is a standalone channel.

If SEO is viewed as a standalone channel, it will be separated from a business's other marketing and branding activity online or offline. This is a serious problem, as there are opportunities, lessons and collaborations to be had with other channels, PR and marketing teams.

Myth No. 3: SEO is all about links and rankings, and is a "dark art."

There are many common misconceptions about what SEO actually is. As a result, it's not uncommon for a business to focus on one certain aspect and be skeptical about why there is talk about changing site structure or content. Or the fact that no two search results are the same, which makes rankings of diminishing importance as a metric of performance.

Myth No. 4: The project described by the sales team is the project I expect to be delivered.

It is common for the scope of a project initially agreed upon in the sales process not to match what is defined in the contract to be delivered. Addressing this issue relates back to managing expectations and making sure everyone is aware of what is happening throughout the life of the SEO project.

2 Important Elements in the Agency-Client Relationship

Like anything else, time and effort is going to be needed if results are wanted. This includes two very important things:

  1. Communication
  2. Implementation

First, regular communication is of great importance. You might be surprised how many companies will make changes to their website and not give their SEO agency a heads up. 

This includes things like creation of new pages, back-end changes, removing sections or in some cases (and this has happened) springing the news of a site migration with a week’s notice.

Your SEO agency will be able to help or give advice on just about any change planned and how to gain SEO value out of it. By keeping the communication channels open, it will allow these conversations to take place. Of course, a good SEO will be proactive and be inquisitive about these sorts of things -- but they are not mind-readers, so updates on internal matters are always needed.

And these updates don’t need to be related solely to the site. As we discussed prior, SEO is not a standalone channel. If you keep your agency informed of what other teams are doing, share data and even provide contacts to stay in touch, you help maximize the performance of all channels and deliver better results.


When it comes to implementing changes, since SEO requires optimization of a website, a business should be prepared to push through the recommended changes to the site. 

Depending on the size of your site and its organization, this can either be a pain-free process or it can be a logistical nightmare. Ideally, your agency is there to make your life as easy as possible. 

Your agency should have experience dealing with developers, and should be willing to be in direct contact with them. Of course, first you need to be prepared to make changes to see decent results. And remember, no sole change will make the difference; it will be a culmination of things that improves results.

For the most part, the successful SEO campaign and client-agency relationship is due to the relationship. Trust isn’t something that happens overnight, but you need to be prepared to give some up, upfront, to help you achieve your objectives.

5 Tips for Getting the Most from Your Agency

  1. It may sound simple, but ask questions. That is what your SEO agency is there for. Unsure of something? Have an idea? You can’t be an expert in every field; that's exactly why you have a team of search marketing experts on hand that you can call upon for help.
  2. Be a partner in the SEO process. Being transparent with each other is vital. Without sounding too cheesy: if you commit to the relationship, then you are going to get the most reward out of it.
  3. Know your agency is there to educate you. If you feel like you're being hit by too much jargon, return to the fundamentals; feedback is critical to the process. Discussion and feedback on any recommendation, document or report should take place. If you are unhappy with something, tell them. If they are not aware, they are going to do the same again next time.
  4. Understand that good communication is vital. Everyone wants good results and everyone should communicate the latest developments and updates. Look to organize regular meetings and ensure regular contact on an ongoing basis.
  5. Enable relationships with other key teams. If you want results, building your relationship with your SEO agency is a must, and so is building relationships between the agency and other key parties. Understanding the role of your agency and what they can and will be doing for you in the larger picture will make everything go a lot smoother.

With this foundation, common misunderstandings and stumbling blocks in an agency-client relationship will not be an issue, and you can work together to grow a successful website.

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