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7 Fixes to Communication Problems with SEO Clients

Oct 13, 2010 / by Suzanne Sanchez

I am an Account Executive at SEO.com which is a fancy title for project manager. I’m not an expert in anything, but I know about 80% of everything. As I have worked with clients and SEO experts, I have seen many things get lost in translation. This can result in frustration for both parties, misunderstandings, finger pointing, and severed beneficial relationships.

Here are seven points to help bridge the gap:

1. Change your vocabulary

Industry jargon is not client friendly. Learn the concepts behind the acronyms and big words, explain them in terms the client understands. This involves understanding your client, their industry and business model.

2. Put things in context

You: “You need to add a 301 redirect here.”

Client: “Why?”

You: “Cause it's good for your SEO.”

The answer to every client “Why?” is not, “because it’s good for your SEO.” This means nothing to clients. It sounds more like, “I don’t really know why, but everyone is doing it so I guess we will too.” Clients need to see the big picture. Explain how a change will ultimately affect their bottom line. Once clients can see it all in context, they will be happy to do whatever you suggest.

3. Educate

It’s to your benefit to educate your clients on proper SEO tactics. As you educate them, you are building trust. Your clients want, and need, to know you are the best at what you do. But most clients have control issues. They may believe you are the best, but will still have trouble letting go and allowing you to do your job.

Some SEO professionals believe that because the industry is ultra competitive, we have to keep our most precious SEO secrets to ourselves; otherwise all our clients will quit and do SEO themselves. Not so. Most clients want to partner with someone to do their SEO. They don’t really want to worry about it. But they will if they are not educated about what you are doing. It will take time to build that level of trust. Be patient.

4. Use analogies

The best teachers use analogies to explain difficult concepts. As mentioned above, educate your clients on SEO and use analogies that put things in context.

Explaining SEO to a client without analogies is like telling a Kansas farmer how to program a spaceship in Greek. See how well analogies work?

5. Tell your clients where to go

The fact is they hired you for a reason: to drive the SEO strategy. The client expects you to tell them what to do, because they really don’t know what they are doing. This means if a client comes up with a bad idea, say so, but nicely. Don’t be afraid to push back and fight for suggestions that you know will work. When you do, and they work, clients will trust you and be less inclined to fight back in the future.

6. Be realistic

Don’t try and “BS” anyone. We can all tell when someone doesn’t know what they are talking about. Be upfront and honest about everything. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Then go find it. If a client wants you to meet a ridiculous deadline, tell them it’s impossible and tell them why. They may be angry you can’t do it, but they will be far less angry if you said you could, and then missed the deadline.

7. Fix your reporting

Most SEO reporting is complicated and doesn’t tell the client the big picture. All reports should tell a story. They should all come together to communicate one or more main point. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the story behind those numbers, how they relate to each other, and what that will mean for the future.

By implementing some of these points you will see a definite improved relationship with your clients.

A quick note to those working with SEO companies: If your SEO company is not doing above mentioned items and you feel frustrated, sometimes all it takes is communication. Tell your SEO firm how you feel and what you need. Most likely they had no idea there was a problem, and they would be happy to fix it.

Topics: SEO Blog communication with clients

Suzanne Sanchez

Written by Suzanne Sanchez

Suzanne is a former Account Executive for SEO.com. After being introduced to search engine optimization in one of her classes at Brigham Young University, she knew that SEO would become paramount for any business to succeed.

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