Tips for SEOs on initial agency-client engagement |

Tips for SEOs on initial agency-client engagement

By Daniel Braddock / November 22, 2012

As this is my first post on the SEOptimise blog, I wanted to write on a subject that reflects a situation that I find myself in an awful lot. No doubt this is a situation that anyone reading this post will have found themselves in at one time or another.

Whenever we receive an enquiry, whether it’s a phone call or an enquiry form from our website, this person has taken the first steps in contacting us, meaning that they are interested in SEO services. Yes, I am a genius for figuring this part out! The people who enquire will tend to fit into one of two categories; people who know what they want and people who don’t.

The people who know what they want are used to agency interaction and understand how a digital agency will operate. They will have their processes set around this knowledge. I refer to the Request for Information (RFI) > Request for Proposal (RFP) > Pitch > Contract Dance that we have all learned to enjoy. In my opinion, this category of people (though usually requiring much more work at the later stages of the process) are much easier to deal with.

The latter category can sometimes prove a bit more challenging and in this scenario, it is the agency’s responsibility to educate the potential client and identify their needs. Whilst thinking about this category of people, I thought I would write something that agencies could use to help clients identify their own needs, but I also hope that this post will reach some clients before they pick up the phone and make that first enquiry.

Things that an SEO agency needs to know from the client:
An oldy but a goody, the campaign goals:

“…and what are you looking to achieve with an SEO campaign?” This is still without a doubt, the most important question of any engagement process. One campaign goal I hear quite frequently is, “I want to be on the front page of Google”, which is fine, but not if your keyword list is 10,000 words strong and you’re looking for a number one position for all of them in a ‘three month trial’. For an agency to make a strong proposal, they will need to know what they’re aiming towards. If a client is unsure, encourage them to think about what they want to achieve. The first part we need to understand is:

“What is the site there to achieve?” or “What is the main revenue stream?”

For example it could be advertising, so the client will probably need to focus on traffic numbers and should probably be targeting high volume search terms. The traffic will probably need to consist of a certain number of unique visitors.

Is the site media and information based? Do they need to attract subscribers? This example could be much more about brand building with the success measures based around building community. In this instance the metrics for the project could be about referring traffic.

It could be a retail site, in which case the site is there to make sales. This client should be looking at slightly different metrics such as converting traffic, good quality traffic, or an increase in conversion rate amongst others. This can be broken down even further, to the targeting of specific products. Maybe seasonality is a factor. Maybe products with the highest margins or highest revenue earners could also be a particular focus.

Really thinking about the business goals and revenue targets are important and will help the agency to make suggestions on the type of tactics it may employ in order to achieve the campaign objectives.
Our very own Matthew Taylor once said something that has stayed with me. “SEO is a marketing practice and it’s there to make you money. It should pay for itself and then some.”

An agency needs to understand how it can benefit a client before it is engaged. Once goals and targets are established it is much easier to look at potential campaign ROI. Creating projects which are focused on the client’s return, means that when presenting its proposed campaign strategy, the agency can provide a good business case, but much more importantly, it provides real value to the client.

Internal team setup and processes:

SEO agencies work on websites. As such, the agency will need to know who, on the client’s side of the operation, will also be working on the website. This means development teams, content teams, and PR teams to name a few. If an agency is to make a proposal, they need to know their place in a business’ day-to-day working practices, and whether any changes or site additions will need to be signed-off by a particular team. It can be devastating to a campaign’s progression if there are cross-overs in individual tasks. Let’s get those communication channels open. Good points to establish at this point are:

  • Who is responsible for site changes, the agency or the client?
  • What is the sign-off process and timescale for any recommended changes?

These points have a great impact on how the project will be structured so are extremely important, especially when both parties need to know how much time will be allocated to the project. This inevitably affects the campaign budget.

To summarise these points (and at the risk of being accused of writing a blog post that should have only contained 14 words), the agency and client need to know two things:

  • What is the campaign there to achieve?
  • How are we going to work together?

These bullet-points can be opened out into a landslide of other questions, some of which have been covered above, but these two should hopefully open the doors to building a successful campaign.
When a project is ready to kick off, everything should have be done to make sure it is as well planned as possible, ready to meet its objectives, expectations have been set realistically, and both parties know their roles. This applies to both sides of the relationship! As more information is uncovered, a decent campaign will naturally change over the days, weeks, and months that follow, but if both parties have been as open and honest as they can be, without withholding crucial pieces of information, then your campaign should be up for awards in no time at all.

What are your experiences? Are you client side or agency side? I love to hear your comments!

Image credit: Highways Agency

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