Client's Guide to SEO: How to Approach SEO Agencies |

Client's Guide to SEO: How to Approach SEO Agencies

By Tad Chef / June 23, 2010

Happy waiter by howard N2GOT

Today someone was searching for a “client’s guide to SEO” over at my SEO 2.0 blog. I think this topic is more fitting here on SEOptimise so I will explain the best approach to SEO companies and Internet marketing agencies for potential clients.

In 2010 most people in business already know at least something about how Google works.

Business people know about keywords and often pay for Google Ads already. That’s why it’s easier nowadays to deal with clients. You don’t have to explain anymore that SEO is needed or how it works. They already know and thus they contact you.

There also some drawbacks as many SEO clients already have had a bad experience with SEO practicioners, are convinced they know themselves what’s best for them and last but not least have too high expectations for a too low price.

A client can gain a competitive advantage by approaching SEO agencies in the right way.

Basically finding a fitting SEO agency is like finding a good restaurant and eating out. Thus I will use this allegory to make my explanation easier to grasp. You need to know a few more things to approach an SEO agency correctly.

Know what you want

Imagine yourself visiting a restaurant and asking for something tasty to eat. You wouldn’t do that. You would take a look at the menu and ask for actual dishes. You would perhaps consult the waiter what he recommends and whether the food of your choice is fresh. Ask for actual services and outcomes not for fuzzy metrics like “ranking number one” or “gaining traffic”.

So if I were a business person seeking SEO services I’d approach a SEO Agency with the following wishes and questions:

“We are in need of keyword research, onsite optimization and link building services. We prefer high quality links and content creation as a way to get them. With our SEO campaign we plan to reduce our bounce rate from 50% to 20%, increase our conversion rate from currently 1% to 2% and to increase sales by at least 50% within 1 year. Do you have the resources to achieve that? How would you try to achieve those targets and how much do you think this would cost for a year? We pay 5000$ per month already for Google ads and plan to cut costs here by at least 50% after one year of successful SEO. Please outline an SEO strategy for a year with these objectives.”

Reading this I would realize that you already know quite well what SEO is about. I wouldn’t bother to explain what keyword research, onsite ptimization or link building is but would focus on the actual measures to be taken to reach your goals. I would probably tell you where your goals might be a little unrealistic as well. Last but not least I’d outline the strategy in an easily digestible form.

Know what you don’t want

When you visit a French restaurant you don’t want to eat French fries I assume. Thus you know quite well what you don’t want. Accordingly in SEO there are lots of things you most probably don’t want. Clarifying it from the start might be very helpful both to achieve your goals and to get the right type of agency in the first place.

To make sure not to get third rate SEO you could write something like this:

“As a reputable leader in our sector we don’t accept low quality link building techniques like mass directory submission, irrelevant blog commenting, keyword rich forum signatures and so called three way link exchanges along with other kinds of link farms. We don’t want to get linked in “your network”. We seek high quality editorial links from relevant third parties in our sector instead.”

Know your limitations

Most potential clients these days already have done some form of keyword research either themselves or with by their former SEO service providers. That’s great but it’s like visiting a restaurant and bringing your own recipe. We have to do a keyword research of our own. The keyword you provide are a great help and can help reduce the time we need to perform our market and keyword research but we can’t solely rely on research done by others.

I’ve seen many client for example who were focused on big competitive terms while they largely ignored the low hanging fruit you could reach withing weeks or a few months after starting a SEO campaign. Other clients have huge lists keywords and phrases that do not make sense from a strategic perspective. You don’t usually optimize for a hundred keyphrases. You of course do by by way of increasing your overall site authority. Then not only the keywords you directly optimize rise in the search results but also those others you don’t directly optimize for.

Last but not least many clients do not know how to find money keywords, those keywords that really drive sales or otherwise make money. Just going after traffic volume, even with relevant traffic doesn’t suffice to succeed.

Don’t assume you know more about SEO than we do:

Always allow the SEO to do their work as a whole. Don’t make them rel on potentially flawed wok you or others already did.

Know how to motivate

When eating out you expect the more expensive restaurant to be the better one don’t you? By paying more you ensure quality. The same applies to SEO. The less you pay the worse the quality you get.

While much of SEO is tedious work like coding, writing, connecting with linkerati etc. that should be paid by the hour or day additional financial incentives can influence the outcome of an SEO campaign significantly. People simply work differently when they know there will be more money in it depending on the outcome. You are more focused on the results and not just on tweaking more code, adding more content and getting more links.

Your offer might sound something like this:

“In case we reach our objectives within the first year of our SEO campaign we plan to add a bonus to our payment. Also we consider a sales dependent performance based payment model. We know there is a considerable time and effort investment needed to achieve results but once we’ll see those we’re ready to share the revenue with you.”

Know our limitations

Imagine a restaurant where people just get in ask the waiter a few questions, talk about the price for a while and then leave. Just one of five actually actually sitting down and places an order. A good SEO specialist or company typically receives many inquiries. Many of those are low quality inquiries you can already sense are made just for the sake of getting one more offer.

Make sure to choose the restaurant or SEO agency before you approach them. Find one with a name, one with a great renowned cook for instance. In SEO trust is everything. A generic “SEO Services Company” is most probably low quality. On the other hand an agency with both a brand of its own and a personal brand of the people who work for it will be more reliable as they want to keep their good names.

To set up an SEO offer that makes sense takes time an effort by itself. In case you want to reply to all generic inquiries saying “hello, we are x and want SEO for website y” you’ll end up wasting most of your precious time.

So make sure to approach the right SEO agency from the start:

In case you don’t like the offer then try another one but don’t just approach ten of them and compare. I can smell such inquiries and I will ignore them whenever I have the choice. I will spend my time on potential clients there are serious about working with me.

Know who does the work
Imagine entering a restaurant and judging it solely by the waiters. Does the waiter wear shiny expensive shoes and suit? Does the waiter recite the menu like a poet? Well, this must be the best restaurant, right? I remember the times when I worked in an Internet agency of the early days. We had three kinds of staff there, the sales reps, the project managers and the people who make the actual work. The sales reps and the project managers were mostly wearing suits, driving sleek sports cars and promoting everything the client wanted to get in a time frame that was nonsense.

Then the actual designers and developers had to cope with the impossible tasks of building huge excellent websites in a too short time. What happened was twofold: Many, many bugs and timelines that didn’t work out. Broken websites and projects delayed by months. While the sales reps didn’t care, they have gotten their pay already as often they got a commission based on the project size. They weren’t even present while the others were working on the project.

The project managers were running around in a frenzy and increasing the pressure on the poor developers who had to work day and night in 12 to 16h shifts. At midnight they were getting “free pizza” for their superhuman efforts. Most clients haven’t ever talked to the developers.

Make sure you know who does the actual work:

Speak with the actual coders, writers and link builders. Speak with the geeks. Speak with the guys wearing sneakers and checkered shirts. Don’t judge the restaurant by the waiters. Know the chefs. The chefs don’t wear suits.

When you take into account the advice mentioned above you will most probably succeed with your outsourced SEO campaign. It will also succeed faster.

Always remember that SEO is like good food. You don’t want the cheapest one, you probably prefer the healthiest or the tastiest.

I think I will extend this guide in two weeks should it succeed. So make sure to let me now in the comments or elsewhere that you like it. The topic of the next post will be how to deal with SEO agencies or specialists once you have found one. Success in most cases depends on how the SEO practicioners work together with the clients or rather how the clients do it on their part.

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