CEOs and CMOs are hyper-focused on business growth, revenue or leads and know SEO plays a part in that plan. That can range from a blanket page one rank for all terms, needing to counteract some organic decline or wanting to just overall rank better. But how do we determine what successful SEO really means and help our partners understand what we’re really trying to accomplish beyond just rank?

Common misconceptions about search rankings, keywords, meta descriptions, and more are causing confusion and frustration whether you’re an agency, a client or even trying to navigate your own internal atmosphere as an SEO Lead. Fully understanding a client’s (or your own) goals, and in return, setting realistic expectations will lead to better SEO strategies and successful partnerships. Here are our tips to cultivate a successful SEO partnership with your clients, vendors and internal teams.

Knowledge is crucial to establishing successful SEO partnerships.

When a client comes to us with SEO in mind, they’re typically focused on search rankings or revenue and aren’t thinking beyond the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Because of this, it’s our job to educate our clients on SEO’s entirety and to be completely transparent on what we’ll be doing for them. We do this for two reasons. The first, because we want our clients to have a clear understanding about SEO, and that there are numerous things that go into a comprehensive and successful strategy. Second, SEO will need to be budgeted for. It’s important for stakeholders to understand that a site audit and SEO recommendations and implementations will take time and resources, both in the short-term and long-term to be successful. 

After understanding the overarching goal that someone is trying to achieve, we always audit a client’s website to analyze performance, and level-set on the client’s goals based on the data we’ve pulled. In our audit, we’ll review things like the top performing pages and the worst performing pages to build the framework for the client’s strategy. We do lengthy research on user intent and what search terms are most frequently used both on our client’s site and their competitors. 

We also look at user flows, pain points, and ranking analyses to determine what our client’s strategy should be. From this data, we can understand more about the site’s visitors, their interests and the enhancements that should be implemented to increase rank. By breaking SEO down into each of these critical tasks, our clients can understand that there is a lot of background work that goes into building a successful SEO program. Walk your clients or internal partners through your efforts and the reasoning behind them to ensure their team is on board and understands the value you’re providing. And keep having this dialogue to show how what you’re doing measures back to the overall goal be it leads, revenue or just making progress over time.

Data-informed insights and constant communication ensure you’re meeting client goals.

We’ve worked with a variety of clients, big and small, across all types of industries. From those who are currently spending a lot of time on out of the box SEO, but don’t know what they’re getting out of it, to clients who think they’ve got SEO under control, when really it could be better optimized. In order to get the most out of these partnerships, we’ve found that implementing a couple of easy-to-do things can establish open dialogue for great results. 

One, providing consistent data to prove what is or isn’t working for client’s business and two, having an open dialogue that allows for testing and feedback to get the best results. Why do these two things work? In providing data, we’re showing the client what works and what doesn’t. This can overcome previous misconceptions and provide better insight into what their target audiences are looking for online. This will better outline areas of improvement and testing for better results. 

One client that we’ve seen have some great SEO success with is a distributor of vehicle-specific mounts for dashboards and headrests, and device-specific holders, cradles and docks for mobile devices. In working with them on their product content, keywords and links, we were able to significantly improve their organic search results. We have open dialogue and report out on their activity monthly to work through and make optimizations or adjustments. Being able to see the data and talk through potential SEO tests has allowed us to better their brand and keep the overall goal towards progress in mind.

Another client that we’ve helped boost SEO efforts is a local law firm here in Wisconsin. We optimized all their content and experimented with metas and on-page content. Essentially, we rewrote everything to be relevant to their target audiences, and in a way that Google found valuable for users who were searching for this type of content. We created a roadmap that provided visibility into future strategies and provided goals that we were going to meet as a collective team. We optimized this client's site from not only a search engine perspective, but with a user-first mindset. As a result, we saw a huge spike in conversions with a 190% improvement in their contact form completions in Q1 of 2019 compared to Q1 of 2018. Being able to track those conversions and justify our efforts have helped create a more open partnership when it comes to pitching new ideas for growth. When you’re meeting key milestones for the business, it leads to more experimentation and better understanding and acceptance of your method.

Proving the value of SEO can be difficult but should always be done.

SEO can be frustrating at times, for both the client and the SEO team. When we’ve seen issues arise, it’s typically been because of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. Most often centered around budget, it can be hard for clients to understand the real value in the time spent researching and analyzing a website and providing a recommendation that will truly benefit the client’s SEO strategy. 

We generally see confusion from a client when we work on highly complex terms and SEO campaigns. When the client’s industry is more complex, the research that goes into getting those keywords and phrases can take longer. Make sure you’re being transparent with your time and explaining the reasoning behind the extra resources. It can be frustrating but detailing these things can help a client see that it’s not wasted hours.

One client, who knew they needed to worry about SEO but didn’t really comprehend why, was dealing with products in a new, heavily regulated industry. One of the biggest issues we faced was the level of SEO knowledge the client had. As we provided recommendations and content suggestions there were often details that were lost in translation. Things like the client wanting to create their own content, but not having the quality of content to meet the needs of SEO, or adding anchor text and more robust content, but the client team not having the knowledge to implement it themselves. These were easy opportunities to improve page content and amplify their expertise, but the lack of knowledge on the client-side was preventing these easy wins from taking place. In the end, the client felt the time we would have spent implementing these changes was not worth the end result and we learned a hard lesson about SEO maturity and improving communication.

Key Takeaways

A SEO relationship with every client, agency or stakeholder is different, and each person’s comfort level for experimentation is different. While we can give projections, we cannot provide guarantees on how every client's site will perform. We can, however, guarantee our knowledge, experimentation and data-guided planning. Our overall objective is to elevate our clients beyond their initial goals, in some cases resetting their expectation about what their actual SEO goals should be. Ranking is important but is only a piece of the strategic marketing puzzle.

When it comes to SEO, remember these simple things for better client partnerships:

  1. Educating your clients about SEO will lead to a better working relationship with your clients. Right now, a lot of people aren’t familiar with what goes into it and/or may not understand it so give them a good background on how it can help their business.
  2. Build your partnership with data and evidence. Feel free to experiment, and when you don’t get the results you hoped for provide rationale, it can build trust.
  3. Prove the value of SEO and be transparent, even when the client doesn’t seem to be on board. Believe in your strategies, provide your audits and recommendations, and hopefully your client will see the value you’ve brought to the table.

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