SEO success starts with setting proper expectations. A lot of the small businesses I do SEO for expect immediate results. When I have to tell them that SEO is typically a long term strategy and unlike PPC, it may take a while to see results, they often get disappointed. If you own a business, did you expect a great return the first month? Probably not. More than likely you had to put in a lot of hard work for a while before making a decent profit, or a profit at all. I like to think of SEO the same way. You get out of it what you put into it. By setting the proper expectations for your client (or boss/CEO if you manage SEO in-house), this will allow you to take the time necessary to develop and implement a successful, long term SEO campaign, and not lose a client in the interim.
There is typically an introductory phase for any client where we request specific information about the client and their business goals. This is the perfect time to set those proper expectations for SEO.
1. Equal Efforts: Be sure to let your client know that SEO is a long-term business strategy that takes effort on both the agency and client side. Depending on what access you have to your clients’ website and ability to make changes depends on how much effort and time the client has to put in. However, once you recommend site changes, new meta data, keywords, etc, there can be a delay during implementation. If your client is taking too long to make the necessary changes this will hinder you SEO success time.
2. Track All Available Success Metrics: Ultimately your client will be seeking an increase in traffic, revenue and higher rankings. All of these do take time. If you try and guarantee X percentage in increased traffic or X increase in rankings in the first couple of weeks – you’re sticking your foot in your mouth (besides, you should be wary of any SEO that guarantees rankings!). Instead, let your client know that traffic and rankings will increase, but it will take time. Point out the other positives the SEO strategy is making: decreased bounce rates, an increase in unique visitors and returning visitors, increased time spent on site, and increased page views on the site. These are all great metrics that can be easily improved on in the first few weeks of your SEO strategy if done correctly. It’s important to mention these metrics to your client to let them know progress is being made.
3. Additional Costs: Let the client know beforehand if you plan to submit their site to any paid directories. Some of these directories can cost anywhere from $50/year to $299/year additional to your management fees. If you spring this on the client only a few months into their SEO program, they may not understand why they have to spend additional money on something they may not see a direct return on.
4. Competitive Keywords: More than likely a client may have a few key terms that they feel they should be ranking for. While that’s all fine and dandy, be sure to research these keywords ahead of time and let the client know how easy or difficult it will be to rank for them. If a client has the keyword, “jobs” they want to rank #1 for, you will have to set the expectation that ranking #1 for that keyword will require tremendous amounts of resources, the process could take a very long time, and ultimately might never happen!
5. New vs. Old Site: If your client has plans to do a major site re-design or is starting a brand new site, let them know that achieving higher rankings after this could be especially difficult. Newer domains are less trusted in the beginning by the search engines and aren’t typically ranked very high at first. If your client is redesigning their site, and their URL structure is changing, make sure they will have the appropriate 301 redirects in place so they don’t lose their rakings, and even then they’re not guaranteed to stick.
In the end, a successful SEO campaign is one that meets and exceeds your clients’ expectations. But part of that is setting up the proper expectations first and forewarning the client about how major changes can influence the outcome of your SEO efforts. A client will be more respectful of you if you can be straight up and honest with them about what kinds of results they can actually achieve. It’s best to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver!