And that's okay – because you're the one who will dispel all of their doubts with in-depth research, personalized reporting, and incredible empathy.
Here's how to properly do SEO for (and with) your clients, so they'll hire you and refer you over and over again.
Let's dive in!
If I had to establish four principles for running an SEO service for your clients, they would be:
- Setting and addressing expectations from the beginning
- Reflecting your values in your services
- Practicing efficient communication
- Creating detailed, insight-driven, and shareable reports
I'll dive deeper into each of the above in the following sections.
Setting expectations from the beginning is what separates a skilled SEO from a rookie. Not only does it establish trust and rapport, but it also prevents confusion and keeps the project running smoothly.
So, how can you communicate and manage your expectations, and what’s the best time to do so?
Ideally, you should set expectations during your kick-off or initial call with a client. A kick-off call will help you clearly define:
- The scope of the project
- Feedback process
A kick-off call is an ideal opportunity to determine whether a potential client is a good fit – or if there are any red flags. It's also the right time to get to know your client, their business, and their goals.
As Growth Advisor and SEO Strategic Specialist Mahmut Maxhuni shared on LinkedIn:
"For us, everything starts with a detailed discussion, where we ask the customer about the values of the company, goals, Unique Selling Proposition (USP), etc. We address these questions with the help of a briefing document that we have created. A thorough understanding of the company, website, products, and services will help you formulate a plan and direction for the SEO services you need."
Implement a discovery questionnaire or brief. They'll help you discover the SEO expertise of each team member. Some clients will need a lot more education on what SEO means, why it matters, and what it'll do for them.
Let's say that's your case. As Angela Diniak, Marketing Strategist at Oyova marketing agency, puts it:
"Lay it out: keyword research, on-page optimization, backlinks, and all. Break it down Barney-style if you have to."
Now, it's important that you adjust your lingo to meet clients where they're at. Sure enough, when it comes to more knowledgeable clients, you have more leeway for jargon.
Then, understand how fast they expect to see results. As far as SEO goes, especially for long-term goals, we're talking about months of progress at a minimum. Make sure to discuss that with your clients – especially those who seek immediate results.
According to Digital Marketer Manager David Wells in a collaborative article for LinkedIn:
"The 'six-month rule' gets kicked around a lot for a reason. Smaller sites need time to establish backlinks and authority. For quicker returns, steer your client toward another tactic or encourage them to up their spend on their SEO campaigns."
If you've worked with similar clients in the past and have case studies to show for it, use them! Make sure you’re not overpromising and underdelivering – it should be clear to them how fast they can expect to see results.
And the most crucial part: what success looks like to them. What do they want to achieve by improving their SEO?
Conversion rates? And if so, what kinds of conversions? Paid conversions? Email subscriptions?
Make sure to understand exactly what they want to get from working with you and which KPIs matter most to them.
For example, if you use SiteGuru for your SEO, you and your clients can set SEO goals together. Include keywords you want to rank specific pages for, get tailored optimization suggestions, and make sure everything stays on track!
Both of you will be able to align on the actions that need to be taken to see improvements, and then keep track of what’s been done on the go.
Literally walk clients through your process, step-by-step. Clearly explain to them why you're making specific suggestions. Unless your clients are highly knowledgeable and want to use technical terms, avoid explaining things from a purely SEO-based standpoint.
Your services aren't just a bunch of data; they're the solution to a problem.
As we've recently shared on SiteGuru's LinkedIn page:
It depends. Different companies will require different strategies, and it's your call to decide which businesses you want to help. The goal is to offer services that effectively solve your ideal audience's problems.
If you want to work on your clients' SEO from top to bottom, your process should include a broad range of services, such as:
- SEO audits
- Competitor analysis
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Technical SEO
- Local SEO
- ROI tracking
- Monthly reports
Or, you could choose to specialize.
For example, as a Technical SEO specialist, you'd focus on building deep expertise in areas like website structure and speed, and ensuring that search engines can effectively crawl and index a website's content. (This is a crucial specialization since websites can't get top positions without proper crawling and indexation.)
Note: If you're specializing, make sure you're really good at it. This way, you can position yourself as the go-to expert when clients specifically need that type of service.
Effective communication can either be the compass that guides your journey or the wind that sends it all crashing down. That may sound dramatic, but it's true. Ever tried to navigate an unknown city without directions? It usually doesn't work.
Here are a few tips to help you better communicate with your clients all the way through your SEO project:
In your kickoff call, you should establish one central point of contact. Having a single driver for the project prevents conflicting information from different team members and the chaos that ensues.
Here's an example:
Let's say a company hires an SEO contractor to improve their website's rankings.
The client's team includes the marketing manager, web developer, and content writer – all of whom have different priorities and perspectives on the SEO project. As a result, the SEO contractor receives mixed signals about whether to focus on technical improvements, content creation, or keyword optimization and doesn’t know what to focus on. Client frustration and missed deadlines are sure to follow.
You can even use a decision-making framework such as DACI to steer your projects in the right direction.
Clients, whether they communicate this directly or not, want to know that they're getting the bang for their buck. If you don't update them on your progress, they might wonder if you're wasting their time. And I don't blame them.
Whether you're just providing status updates or notifying them about any challenges you've met, you should communicate with your clients regularly. Based on 10+ years of SEO experience, here's what I'd suggest:
- Use their preferred tools whenever possible.
- Use their preferred channels. Some clients prefer setting up weekly meetings, even if they're only 15 minutes long. Others don't mind staying updated via chat on Slack or email.
- Voice any doubts and ask for detailed and constructive feedback whenever necessary. Similarly, you should promptly address your clients' concerns and questions.
Pro tip: Some clients enjoy a more hands-on approach to any project. If that's the case, why not let them see their SEO progress for themselves with SiteGuru?
SEO tools like SiteGuru allow you to add unlimited users to your account so your clients can access their SEO reports whenever they want.
If you're a user, you'll find the option to Invite someone by navigating to Site Settings > Invite someone.
By giving them access to SiteGuru, you'll help them feel like a part of the team, building trust and loyalty as a result. They’ll see everything, including historical progress, keyword tracking and improvements, on-page and technical SEO, and much, much more.
Plus, they’ll see the optimization to-do list and how you’ve been ticking items off it!
As you know, the optimization process never ends. Algorithm changes will keep rolling out, your clients' market will continue to shift, and the wheels will keep turning. That's why reporting is so important: because it provides you with the data you need to ensure your SEO efforts stay up-to-date with the latest shifts.
"I am a big fan of the quote: 'What gets measured gets done.' Regular measurements and analyses ensure that focus is not lost and the information obtained helps us to make decisions to improve SEO results," Maxhuni shares.
But if reports are so important, why do some clients dismiss them?
If that happens, it could be because:
- They can't analyze what you're reporting.
- They don't care about the items you report because they convey little value to their day-to-day goals.
With that in mind, here's how to build SEO reports your clients will want to check:
- Front-load important KPIs. When you discussed goals, results, and KPIs, which metrics stood out? You should emphasize them in your report.
- Focus on actionable insights instead of just hard data. Data matters, but your clients have access to the same data as you do. They have Google Analytics and Search Console. What matters to them is what that data means and how it impacts their goals.
- Dig deeper and offer recommendations. Include organic search traffic and declining rankings, but also what could be causing a drop in those page rankings and which strategies will help mitigate or resolve the problem.
For example, suppose you're a SiteGuru user and go to the Content tab at Insights > Content. You'll see pages that used to rank well but are getting significantly fewer clicks in the period you've selected.
Based on obstacles and opportunities you've tracked and found, which strategies will you suggest they implement? It could be time to optimize their on-page SEO. Or, it could be time to either refresh or rewrite their content.
The potential changes are numerous. In the same content report, SiteGuru will give you a page score with on-page checks you can perform to improve content quality in the short term.
Create a month-to-month site health report. Think of month-to-month reports as when you hit the gym, and your friends start complimenting your progress, but you don't notice until you see a photo from a month ago and suddenly realize the transformation.
It's the same with SEO: reports illustrate how much improvement they've made since you joined in.
You can do this with SiteGuru! Export the most critical data and provide your clients with a monthly, white-labeled PDF report.
Alternatively, if your clients can access the platform, they can get it straight from the horse's mouth with the site timeline at Overview > Timeline. It shows every change you (or they) have made and how those changes have impacted their SEO.
Do tell them. But most importantly, show them.
Transparent, insightful, and recurring SEO reports help your clients track what you're working on and reinforce their decision to work with you.
If your client were an SEO expert, they wouldn't hire you. That's why empathy will set you apart from contractors who dive headfirst into projects and don't personalize their reports to meet client expectations.
In the end, your SEO skills are all about successfully reaching your client's business goals – ultimately leading to achieving your business's goals.
By understanding your clients, keeping their goals in focus, and demonstrating your expertise through insightful reporting, the value of your services will become crystal clear.
P.S. Give yourself an advantage when it comes to reporting. SiteGuru allows your clients to see their results, the changes you’ve made, and your impact on their SEO. Try it for free!