Tag Archive | "Client"

3 Powerful Strategies for Pain-Free Client Relationships

When you’re a freelancer, your clients impact everything. Who you choose to work with (and how you choose to work…

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How to Impress and Score Your Next Freelance Writing Client

I have an affinity for service businesses. I love when people: Recognize that they possess specific skills that can help…

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SEO Maturity: Evaluating Client Capabilities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Clients aren’t always knowledgeable about SEO. That lack of understanding can result in roadblocks and delay the work you’re trying to accomplish, but knowing your client’s level of SEO maturity can help. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the brilliant Heather Physioc to expound upon the maturity models she’s developed to help you diagnose your client’s search maturity and remove blockers to your success.

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Video Transcription

What up, Moz fans? My name is Heather Physioc. I’m Director of the Discoverability Group at VML. We are in Kansas City. Global ad agency headquartered right in the middle of the map.

Today we’re going to talk about how to diagnose the maturity of your SEO client. I don’t mean emotional maturity. I mean maturity as it pertains to SEO capabilities, their ability to do the work, as well as their organizational search program maturity. Now a lot of times when a client signs a contract with us, we make the assumption that they’re knowledgeable, they’re motivated, they’re bought in to do the search work.

So we go dumping all these recommendations in their lap, and we’re trucking full speed ahead. But then we’re surprised when we start hitting blockers and the work doesn’t go live. I actually surveyed over 140 of our colleagues in the search industry, and they reported running into blockers, like low prioritization and buy-in for the work, limited technical resources for developers or budgeting for copywriters, low advocacy, high turnover, and any number of different things that stand in the way.

I didn’t just ask about the problems. I asked about the solutions, and one of the tools that came out of that was the ability to diagnose the client’s maturity. So a maturity model is intended to evaluate an organization’s capability to continuously evolve in a practice. The point, the purpose of this is to understand where they stand today, where they want to go, and the steps it’s going to take to get there.


The SEO Capabilities matrix

Let’s talk about the SEO capabilities first, the technical ability to do the job.

Harmful

On the low end of the scale, a client may be engaging in spammy, outdated, or harmful SEO practices that are doing more harm than good.

Tactical

From there, they may be tactical. They’re doing some super basic SEO, think title tags and meta description tags, but nothing earth-shattering is happening here, and it’s not very strategic or aligned to brand goals.

Strategic

From there, the brand moves into the strategic phase. They’re starting to align the work to goals. They’re starting to become a little more search savvy. They’re getting beyond the titles and metas, and they’re more thorough with the work. While good stuff is happening here, it’s not too advanced, and it still tends to be pretty siloed from the other disciplines.

Practice

From there, the organization might move into a practice. Search is starting to become a way of life here. They’re getting significantly more advanced in their work. They’re starting to connect the dots between those different channels. They’re using data in smarter ways to drive their search strategy.

Culture

Then from there, maybe they’re at a level of culture for their SEO capabilities. So search here is starting to become a part of their marketing DNA. They’re integrating across practices. They’re doing cutting edge. They’re testing and innovating and improving their SEO implementation, and they’re looking for the next big thing. But these groups know that they have to continually evolve as the industry evolves. So we don’t just look at their whole SEO program and figure out where the client goes on the map.

✓ Data-driven

We actually break it down into a few pieces. First, data-driven. Is the organization using information and analytics and combining it with other sources even to make really smart marketing decisions?

✓ SEO for content

Next is content. Are they doing any SEO for content at all? Are they implementing some SEO basics, but only during and after publication? Or are they using search data to actually drive their editorial calendar alongside other data inputs, like social listening or web analytics?

✓ Mobility

From there, mobility. Do they have no mobile experience at all, or do they have a fully responsive and technically mobile friendly site, but they’re not investing any more in that mobile optimization? Or are they a completely mobile-first mindset? Are they continuously iterating and improving in usability, speed, and content for their mobile users?

✓ Technical ability

Beyond that, we could look at how technically savvy they are. Do they have a lot of broken stuff, or are they on top of monitoring and maintaining their technical health and accessibility?

✓ On-page/off-page SEO

Then some standard SEO best practices here. Are they limited or advanced in on-page SEO, off-page SEO?

✓ Integrating across channels

Are they integrating across channels and not having search live in a silo?

✓ Adopting new technology

Are they adopting new technology as it pertains to search? Some clients have a very high appetite for this, but they chase after the shiny object.

Others have a high appetite and a high tolerance for risk, and they’re making hard choices about which new technology to invest in as it pertains to their search program. You may also want to customize this maturity model and include things like local search or international search or e-commerce. But this is a great place to start. So this does a very good job of choosing which projects to begin with for a client, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of why our work isn’t getting implemented.


The Organizational Search Maturity matrix

I developed a second maturity model, and this one is more traditional and you see it across other industries as well. But this one focuses on the search program inside the organization. This is the squishy organizational stuff.

✓ People

This is people. Do they have the necessary talent within the organization or within their scope? That might not just mean SEOs. That means are they scoping appropriately for content and development needs?

✓ Process

What about process? Are they actually using a defined and continuously improving process for the inclusion of search? Now I don’t mean step-by-step best practices for implementing a title tag. This isn’t instructions or a tutorial. This is a process for including organic search experts at the right moments in the right projects.

✓ Planning

What about planning? A lot of times we find that clients are doing search very reactively and after the fact. We want to reach a point with an organization where it’s preplanned, it’s proactively included, and it’s always aligned to brand, business, or campaign goals.

✓ Knowledge

Next is knowledge. We know that this industry is complicated. There are a lot of moving pieces. We want to know how knowledgeable is the organization about search. That doesn’t necessarily mean how to do SEO, but perhaps the importance or the impact or the outcomes of it. How committed are they to learning more through reading or trainings or conferences? At the very least, the organization they’re hiring to do search needs to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about it.

✓ Capacity

Then capacity. Do they have the prioritization within the organization? Are they budgeting appropriately? Do they have the resources and the means and the capacity to get the work done?

Initial

When we’ve evaluated a client against these criteria, we could find them in an initial phase where the program is very new, they’re not doing any search at all…

Repeatable

…to repeatable, meaning they’re starting to include it, but it’s not super cohesive yet. They’re not enforcing the process. They don’t have super dedicated resources just yet.

Defined

Up into defined, where they actually are documenting their process. It’s continuing to iterate and improve. They’re becoming more knowledgeable. They’re dedicating more resources. They’re prioritizing it better.

Managed

We can move up into managed, where that’s continuing to improve even further…

Optimized

…and into optimized. So again, this is where search programs are part of the organization’s DNA. It’s always included. They are always improving their process. They are maintaining or even increasing the talent that they have dedicated to the work. They’re planning it smarter and better than ever before, and they have adequate capacity to keep iterating and growing in their search program.


With that, the steps to complete this process and figure out where your client falls on either of these maturity models, I want to be clear is not a one-sided exercise. This is not a situation where you’re just punching numbers into a spreadsheet and the agency is grading the client and our job is done. This needs to be a conversation.

We need to invite stakeholders at multiple levels, both on the client side and on the agency side, or if you’re in-house, just multiple levels within the organization, and we should ask for opinions from multiple perspectives to paint a more accurate picture of where the client stands today and agree on the steps that we need to take to move forward. When you do these maturity assessments, this isn’t enough.

This is step one. This isn’t a finish line. We need to be using this as a springboard for a dialogue to uncover their pain points or the obstacles that they run into, inside their organization, that are going to keep you from getting that work done. We need to have honest and frank conversations about the things we need to clear out of the way to do our best work. With that, I hope that you can try this out.

We’ve got a great article that we published on the Moz blog to get into more detail about how to implement this. But try it out in your organization or with your client and let us know. Peer review this and help us make it better, because this is intended to be a living process that evolves as our industry does.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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What to Do When a New Potential SEO Client Contacts You

Posted by dohertyjf

Editor’s note: We originally published a different article by mistake due to an oversight and a valuable lesson in the dangers of copy-paste; you can see it live here. We truly apologize for the error.


If you’re an agency owner or solo consultant, you’re probably constantly thinking about getting new clients. And we’re inundated in this industry with too much advice around new marketing funnels, new marketing ideas, and “one weird tricks to 10x your traffic overnight.”

But something we don’t talk about enough is what you do when you actually convert that person into a real contact on your site.

I’m not talking about “a lead” here, because that word is used widely in our space and has come to mean everything and nothing at the same time. A lead could be an email address and it could be a long-form submission telling you everything about their needs, as well as their budget and their birth city.

What I’m talking about here is a marketing qualified lead (MQL) that you are going to turn into a sales qualified lead (SQL) so that you can turn them into a business qualified lead (aka a new client). (Note: I just made up business qualified lead, so don’t go around talking about BQLs. Or do, but credit me!).

Over the last two years I’ve helped a lot of businesses connect with great marketing providers through my company Credo, and through that I’ve been able to watch how agencies and consultants alike pitch work.

I see all sorts of strategies done to try to close a lead into a client, such as:

  • Send an intake survey to try to vet the lead more;
  • Send them a Calendly link to get them to schedule a call as soon as possible;
  • Send an initial proposal after the first call and then refine it with the client on the phone;
  • Send tracked proposals using a tool like DocSend so you can follow up depending on whether they’ve viewed it or not.

There are many more I’ve seen as well. Some work well, others don’t. This post isn’t going to dig into the various tactics you can use, as you should be testing those yourself.

What I care about is that you develop a sales strategy that sets a strong base and that you can build from into the future.

I also have a unique view on our industry, because I get to see what kind of sales process actually closes potential clients into actual clients. While you may be doing something that you think works really well, there’s a great chance that I know a better way.

And today, I’m going to give you a view into what I know closes clients, and the sales process that I use to close a high percentage of projects who want to work with me into clients.


What to do when a client contacts you

The first rule of sales in a service business like a consulting agency is that the earlier you reply to a prospective client, the more likely you are to close them into an actual client.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to educate businesses that they should speak with multiple agencies and get multiple proposals, to understand what each agency has to offer and be able to compare them in order to arrive at the right decision for their specific business.

And yet, time and time again I see the first agency to respond to be the one to close the project probably 70% of the time.

This can absolutely be a templated response, and tools like Gmail’s Canned Responses or templates within your CRM of choice can help. I personally use HubSpot’s and push form entries there via Zapier, but there are many different options out there; I’m sure you can find one that connects your form technology to your CRM.

In your response, you have to include these three points at minimum:

  1. Respond as quickly as possible and thank them for contacting you
  2. Acknowledge the project they say they’re interested in
  3. Schedule a time to chat on the phone as quickly as possible

As I said above, I’ve seen many agencies send an intake questionnaire that’s a page or two long before even getting on the phone with the potential client.

I advise against this simply because this slows down the process. Some clients that you would otherwise win will simply move on to another agency. You’re giving them work when really what you need to do is remove friction from their decision to choose you.

This initial contact is also not the place to tell them all of the brands you’ve helped and the results you’ve gotten. If they’re contacting you, they’re already interested. Don’t make them think.

You have one goal with your response: to get them to schedule a phone call with you.


What to learn on the first call

If you’ve followed my instructions above, you’re getting the client to schedule a call with you (when you’re available) as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to have them include their phone number, as well!

Schedule the call for 30 minutes so that you can:

  1. Get an understanding for their project, and
  2. Not invest too much time into them in case they’re not qualified enough.

As a side note, if you’re getting too many “leads” (may we all be so lucky) that are not qualified for your business and thus wasting you or your salesperson’s time, then you may want to look at adding some friction to your lead forms. More is not always better.

You should have an idea of who your best clients are and the kind of work they’ve hired you to do that you are best-in-class doing; you need to walk away from this first call at minimum knowing if they’re a good fit or not.

If they are a good fit, then you can move them forward in your sales process (usually a recap and another call).

You’ll also be able to use this process to qualify out the leads who on the surface seem to be a good fit because they were able and willing to successfully fill out your lead form, but when you dig deeper into their business and needs, you realize they’re not quite such a good fit. We’ll talk about this more in a minute.

On this initial phone call, you need to cover all of these points to determine whether you should pitch the work or not:

  1. What their business model is, so that you can understand if they’re profitable;
  2. The type of project they’re looking for, such as strategy or services or a combination thereof;
  3. Their internal team structure and their knowledge of the marketing channel they’re inquiring to you about;
  4. Whether the person you’re speaking with is the person who has final sign-off and budgetary control, or if they’ve been tasked with sourcing an agency but ultimately are not the decision maker;
  5. Their budget range;
  6. Their timetable for wanting to get started.

Thank them for their time and set their expectations about what you’ll do next and when they can expect to hear back from you.

Now your work really begins.


After the first call

Assuming the first call with your prospective client goes well, you’ll need a process to follow so that followups don’t fail and the process moves forward.

This part is important.

Right after the call, follow up with the person you spoke with via email to recap the call and reiterate your next steps.

First, thank them for their time. Regardless of whether or not you ultimately decide to pitch the project, you should be grateful that they decided to speak with you and not someone else.

Second, recap what you discussed on the call. I like to take notes with my CRM (I use HubSpot, as mentioned above) and then use those to write the recap. A CRM should integrate with your email system and allow you to email the prospect from directly within it so that you don’t have to move between your CRM and your email client.

Here’s a templated response that I use when replying to someone after our initial call:

Hi FNAME,

Thank you for the conversation today! I enjoyed learning more about your business and how we can potentially help.

As we discussed, COMPANY is looking for TYPE OF PROJECT. (recap the project here)

As I mentioned on the call, my next step is to spend some time reviewing your site and your project to determine if it is the right fit for me as well. I will follow up with you within 48 hours (NOTE: THIS CAN CHANGE IF YOU CHATTED ON FRIDAY, IN WHICH CASE SAY END OF DAY ON MONDAY) with my findings and where I think I can add value to your business. In the case that your project is not the right fit for me, I can suggest some other people you should speak with.

Thanks FNAME, and you will hear from me soon!

John

Now you can review their project and website metrics to see where you can add value, and if it’s a project that can be successful within the budget they have outlined for you.

Then, decide if you should pitch for the project or refer them elsewhere.


Deciding whether to pitch the work

Sales is all about determining who the right prospects are and are not, then optimizing your time to focus on the clients you want to sign — not on the ones that are a poor fit for your business.

Hopefully you know who your ideal customer is, in terms of budget but also the type of work they need (strategy, services, or some combination thereof) as well as the marketing channel(s). Once you know who your ideal customer is (and is not), you’ll have a much easier time determining whether or not you should pitch the work.

In my experience with seeing over a thousand projects introduced to marketing providers, the six factors mentioned in the “What to learn on the first call” section are the ones that reliably help you understand whether you should pitch the work or not.

Some of the factors to avoid are:

  1. Unrealistic expectations or timelines
  2. No or low budget
  3. No resources to get things done
  4. Their last four agencies haven’t worked out
  5. Going out of business “unless they get help”

I love that so many in the SEO industry are helpful and genuinely good people who want to help others, but if you start taking on clients that can’t pay you what you need to operate a profitable business or have had issues with many other agencies, then you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard an agency say that they “pitched the work, but set the budget high” I’d be financially independent and retired to a mountain town in Switzerland by now.

Hear me loud and clear here:

You do not have to pitch every project that falls into your lap.

If the project doesn’t meet your minimum project budget, the type of client you can get outsized returns for, or is not within your core competency (your zone of genius), then you should not pitch the project.

Let me explain why.

If a client is below your minimum project threshold and you pitch them, you’ve wasted two people’s time. You’ve wasted your time by creating a proposal and potential project plan, and you’ve wasted their time because they took time out of their day to review something that they’ll never sign off on.

Second, if they negotiate back to try to get the budget lower, you’re going to spend your time to get a project that is smaller than what they ideally need and can afford. You’re literally spending time to make less money, when you could take that time to pitch and negotiate with someone who can easily afford your services.

Should you sign the project that is smaller than or right at your minimum while at the same time being at very top end of their budget, you can rest assured that this client will take up more time than they’re paying for because they feel pressure to make it work quickly. Unless you set expectations explicitly and are very good at saying no to requests for work that are outside of the scope of what they’re paying for, this project will quickly snowball and take up too much time, thus putting it in the red.

Don’t pitch a project that’s very likely to go into the red budget-wise. That is Business 101, and you will regret it. I promise.


Conclusion

I hope this post has been helpful to you in learning what to do when a new potential consulting client first contacts you or your agency.

First, speed is of the essence. While we want to believe that the best pitch will ultimately win the business, experience tells us that it is most often the first person to respond who actually gets to pitch and sign the business.

Second, get the potential client on the phone as quickly as possible. Don’t rely on email, as you can gain way more information on a 30-minute call than in a string of emails. People are busy and you don’t want to create more friction for them. Get them on the phone.

Third, you need to send a followup email within a few hours of the phone call where you thank them for their time, recap what you discussed, and set their expectations for what your next steps are and when they’ll hear from you again. Feel free to use my template and adjust it for your specific needs.

Fourth, decide if you want to pitch the project. Don’t pitch projects that are too small, outside your/your agency’s zone of genius, where what you have to offer is not their highest leverage option, or where they’re not set up internally to make the project successful. Your project will not succeed if any of these are true.

I am also writing an ebook, hopefully out in Q1 2018, about everything I’ve learned seeing over 1,100 projects come through Credo. If you’re interested to hear when it launches, sign up.

I’d love to hear your comments below and interact with you around better sales for digital marketing consulting work!

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Backlinks from Client Sites, Sites You Own, Widgets, & Embedded Content: How to Maximize Benefits & Avoid Problems – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When it comes to certain kinds of backlinks, avoiding penalties can be a real gray area. How can you earn the benefits without gaining the scrutiny of Google? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand will teach you which rules to follow to keep you safe and on the up-and-up, all while improving your link profile.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about a question we see a lot here at Moz, around what you should do with websites that you maybe design or build or do work for, your clients’ websites if you’re an agency or consultant, or a web designer or builder, sites that you own but are not your primary website, and widgets and embeds, blogrolls, all these kinds of things where you control the link infrastructure, or could control it, and should you.

I think one of the challenges here is to understand that many folks have recognized that, over the years, widgets, embeds, links from client websites have gotten other sites penalized, potentially even your sites penalized over the years, because you had all these links that you control pointing back to places, and to Google that can look really sketchy. So I want to talk through some best practices about how you can get link benefit and value from these places without getting yourself into trouble.

The challenge

All right. The challenge here is let’s say that I own sneakerobsessed.com, but it is not my primary website, or maybe it’s a client’s website. But I do own sneakysneakers.com, and I’m thinking to myself, “Gosh, you know the fact that I control, I have the login for the admin here, the site owner, or me, would be fine with linking from these pages to these pages. What should I do there? I don’t want to get into trouble. But I would love to get some benefit, and I think that these links could help me. Should I:

A. Add a link from every page here to a bunch of pages here or to my homepage?

B. Should I link to a variety of my pages, like take a few of these and link them to my homepage, take a few others and link to some internal pages?

C. Should I use a single page on this website to link back to maybe my homepage?

The answer is kind of, it depends. It depends.

My recommendations

Client websites

If it is a client website or a site you’ve done work for, a site you designed or built, or your agency did, if you have clientdomain.com, what I’m going to suggest is that you take a page, the About page or a page you specifically built like About This Site, and you link to that page from the footer or the sidebar or the header. It’s kind of one of those things that gets us linked to from a lot of pages. It’s like the About page or the Contact page or the Privacy Policy, those kinds of things would get on clientdomain.com. You make that the only page where you intentionally specifically link back to your domain. You essentially have some blurb about, “Here are the details about the designer or developer, the technologies used on this website,” those kinds of things. “If you would like to get in touch with the creator of this website, it is these folks over here,” and that points over to you. That means you essentially have a site-wide link to one page, which is flowing a lot of link equity to that single page on your client’s website, and that link is pointing over to you. This is very unlikely to be penalized. It’s very likely to draw in clicks. It has all these beneficial properties.

Site(s) you own

For sites that you own, so myothersite.com and mymainsite.com, what I’m going to suggest here is that you don’t have an intentional specific link strategy like, “Okay, one out of three pages I’m going to have a link. I’m going to have them link to these pages in particular. I’m going to have the anchor text always be this.” Don’t set up that kind of policy or process. Instead, I want you to focus on providing visitor value. Reference things on your main site when they are relevant to content on your other site, and this should happen naturally and organically.

Anytime you’re referencing other content you’ve created or things that you’ve done, or recognition that you have, or someone else from your organization, you would naturally link over here. That’s the way you should play it, not with some specific process and checklist. Anything that matches a very standard pattern is going to be easily recognized by Google, and that can get you into trouble.

Blogrolls, syndicators, etc.

With blogrolls and syndicators and those type of sites, it’s a little less stringent, because blogrolls and syndicators have these unique attributes of basically saying it is the right thing to do for a blogroll when it exists usually on one of the sidebars of a blog, sometimes the blog’s homepage, sometimes every page of a blog, it’s usual for those to be kind of site-wide style links that always point back to the other blogs’ websites’ homepage or blog pages. That’s okay here too. That is not a big problem.

The only time you get into real trouble is if that blogroll is essentially just a paid manipulation. It’s technically a blog network. It’s not that you’re being editorially endorsed by someone else. They’re only linking to you because you’re linking to them. You get into that reciprocity challenge. That’s not to say you should never link to anyone who has you in their blogroll either. It’s just that this has to look natural and editorial to Google, or you can get in trouble.

Syndicators, by the way, it’s okay to link from every syndicated piece of content back to the original piece of content. In fact, that’s the way it should be. If you do your own syndication, like I do sometimes on Medium, where I put up my blog posts that I’ve already put on moz.com/rand on medium.com/randfish, then you should have each of those link back to their original pieces, and that’s just fine.

Widgets & embeds

For widgets and embeds, things get a little dicier, and this is actually where we see a ton of penalties. Not to say that people don’t have problems with their client sites too a lot of the time, but widgets and embeds have been particularly taken to task by Google in the recent past.

So the idea here is that you have this piece of content here that’s being embedded from your site. So Sneaker Obsessed, maybe the guys there went to Sneaky Sneakers. They saw a data graph of Nike shoes versus Adidas shoes sales over the last 12 months, and they were like, “Oh, man. I really want to show that. That’s awesome.” In fact, there’s a little “embed this graph onto your own website.” So they took that, and they put it on there.

More dangerous

You get into more dangerous territory with this type of thing when in the link between here there’s:

  • Keyword-matching anchor text
  • No opt-out option, meaning there’s no way to say, “I don’t want to include the link to the original”
  • When visitors are very unlikely to click that link; when there’s no sort of, “Oh, why would I ever click on the attributed link from the embed?”
  • Remotely controlled via JavaScript, meaning you can remotely update this link and anchor text, that gets real sketchy.
  • Widget’s purpose feels like it exists only for links, like it’s not particularly useful, there’s not a clear reason why this is a widget instead of just a graphic that other people can use or content they can syndicate, why make it a widget as opposed to something like a graph whose data can change, or an interactive content element, or a video player, or something like that?
  • Any sort of payment or discounts that you offer or coercion to get people to embed it gets you into more dangerous territory.

Less dangerous

You’re much less likely to have problems if you:

  • Keep that anchor text branded or omitted entirely. It’s non-branded anchor text. It’s just your brand name, or it’s very limited. It just says “Data Via,” and via is the link itself.
  • Opt-out of the link is available, meaning that someone could say, “Yeah, I want to embed that. Include a link back to sneakysneakers.com? No. No, thank you.”
  • There should be a compelling reason to click.
  • That embed is static.
  • It’s not controlled by JavaScript.
  • The widget feels like it’s reference-focused, so there’s actually some value there.
  • Only embedded intentionally by those who are naturally and editorially choosing to include it.

That will keep you safe.

Hopefully, you will not encounter these problems. I think if you follow these rules, you’ll be in the safe zone, and you’ll also be benefiting from the link value that these can provide. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The Key to a Successful Digital Marketing Agency and Client Relationship

digital marketing agency client success

Digital Marketing success is more dynamic than ever and companies embracing everything from content marketing to predictive analytics seek outside help for strategy, implementation and consulting. However, it takes a lot more than savvy sales pitches, charismatic account management and smart creative to make a client and agency relationship work.

We’ve been in the thick of the digital marketing world at TopRank Online Marketing for nearly 14 years and I’m happy to say our biggest growth so far in 2015 has come from client retention and program expansion. Thanks to an incredibly talented team, we’ve delivered great results for clients and have weathered numerous changes in the industry and within client organizations.

There are no shortcuts to great client agency relationships though and at BMA15 I attended a presentation offering some really useful advice:

According to Robin and Steve Beohler of Mercer Island Group, there are 4 reasons clients change agencies:

  1. Client side leadership change
  2. Troubled business results from the engagement
  3. Strained relationships between those involved
  4. Agency performance perceived as sub-par

Not all of these areas are controllable, but some are.

Chemistry and capabilities both need to be a fit for a successful client / agency relationship.

What many digital marketing agencies miss is in the on-boarding process – in terms of the business and the culture. What are the expectations, communications preferences and what does the end of the day look like? Clarity on these from the start as well as continued attention is essential.

What are the causes of most digital marketing agency and client issues?

Partners often view the relationship differently. According to research presented at BMA15 by the Beohlers, in 2/3 of the relationships, views of the relationship are very different. How different?

Agencies with the strongest reviews from clients were characterized by:
Top service, strategy, creative capabilities.
Lead strength: SERVICE.

Agencies with weak reviews:
Service was the biggest issue 100%.
Strategy and creative issues 63%.

Clients that received strong reviews:
9 out of 10 agencies cited that the partnership was strong.
Client guidance (client gave great briefings and feedback) and knowledge were also strong.

Clients that received weak reviews:
Guidance from the client was the biggest issue.
Alignment of the client to the agency, followed by client’s processes (mostly approval) were also problematic.

According to a new report, Enhancing Client Agency Relationships (PDF), released by the ANA:

  • Clients and agencies don’t agree on the quality of agency briefings. Not one agency reported receiving excellent briefings.
  • Only 2% of agencies strongly agree that the client approval process works well.

So, how can digital marketing agencies and the clients that hire them improve?

The most important thing is to put the relationship first. How people feel about the others they work with is paramount. Focus on building strong relationships and make sure people feel valued.

Also recommended was to do client / agency 360’s to collect ongoing feedback and conduct routine relationship enhancement sessions.

Deep feedback during these sessions is important, because clients aren’t always direct. Sometimes agencies don’t “hear” what the client is actually telling them.

Early warning systems are critical: pick up on early warnings and get the straight scoop information. Develop a way to capture deep, qualitative feedback on what’s really important – relationships and program results.

When things are going good, the ‘importance’ scores on relationships are low. But when things aren’t going well, everything is important.

It’s essential to invest in the processes of managing expectations and the relationship. There are significant costs to change agencies for both clients and the agency:

Client Costs:

  • Added expense
  • Distraction from other work
  • Work interruption
  • Reputation hit

Agency Costs:

  • Lowers revenue
  • Staff risk
  • Growth plan interrupted
  • Reputation hit

There are positive impacts from doing client / agency relationship 360’s. For clients, sharing and capturing feedback fuels business growth, better creative, strategy and service from the digital marketing agency.

For agencies, a relationship check can contribute to business growth, referrals, references, profitability, and reduced churn.

Overall, marketing agencies need to be more strategic in how they manage relationships with clients. Look beyond the day to day of tactics and program management to the bigger picture of how the client agency partnership has mutual impact.

Improving relationships is not all on the shoulders of agencies. A few things most clients who hire digital marketing agencies can do to improve both the relationship and the performance of their investment include:

  • Improve guidance – give better briefs and clearer feedback
  • Internally aligned creative feedback (reduce disconnected junior staff approval vs. the actual decision maker)
  • Streamline the approval process

It takes more than smart consulting to make a digital marketing client and agency relationship work. Without a healthy understanding of expectations and clear communications, all that smart consulting goes to waste if it never gets implemented. Invest in both high performing consulting and an understanding of expectations to make the client / agency relationship work.

Agencies that focus on service as well as strategy and consulting will be more valuable to the companies that hire them. Clients that provide excellent briefs and that can streamline review/approval processes will get a much better return on the digital marketing agency investment.

Great relationships drive great work. Great work drives great business results.

Image: Shutterstock


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Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

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Guide To Optimizing Client Sites 2014

For those new to optimizing clients sites, or those seeking a refresher, we thought we’d put together a guide to step you through it, along with some selected deeper reading on each topic area.

Every SEO has different ways of doing things, but we’ll cover the aspects that you’ll find common to most client projects.

Few Rules

The best rule I know about SEO is there are few absolutes in SEO. Google is a black box, so complete data sets will never be available to you. Therefore, it can be difficult to pin down cause and effect, so there will always be a lot of experimentation and guesswork involved. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else until it does.

Many opportunities tend to present themselves in ways not covered by “the rules”. Many opportunities will be unique and specific to the client and market sector you happen to be working with, so it’s a good idea to remain flexible and alert to new relationship and networking opportunities. SEO exists on the back of relationships between sites (links) and the ability to get your content remarked upon (networking).

When you work on a client site, you will most likely be dealing with a site that is already established, so it’s likely to have legacy issues. The other main challenge you’ll face is that you’re unlikely to have full control over the site, like you would if it were your own. You’ll need to convince other people of the merit of your ideas before you can implement them. Some of these people will be open to them, some will not, and some can be rather obstructive. So, the more solid data and sound business reasoning you provide, the better chance you have of convincing people.

The most important aspect of doing SEO for clients is not blinding them with technical alchemy, but helping them see how SEO provides genuine business value.

1. Strategy

The first step in optimizing a client site is to create a high-level strategy.

“Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucious

You’re in discovery mode. Seek to understand everything you can about the clients business and their current position in the market. What is their history? Where are they now and where do they want to be? Interview your client. They know their business better than you do and they will likely be delighted when you take a deep interest in them.

  • What are they good at?
  • What are their top products or services?
  • What is the full range of their products or services?
  • Are they weak in any areas, especially against competitors?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • Who are their partners?
  • Is their market sector changing? If so, how? Can they think of ways in which this presents opportunities for them?
  • What keyword areas have worked well for them in the past? Performed poorly?
  • What are their aims? More traffic? More conversions? More reach? What would success look like to them?
  • Do they have other online advertising campaigns running? If so, what areas are these targeting? Can they be aligned with SEO?
  • Do they have offline presence and advertising campaigns? Again, what areas are these targeting and can they be aligned with SEO?

Some SEO consultants see their task being to gain more rankings under an ever-growing list of keywords. Ranking for more keywords, or getting more traffic, may not result in measurable business returns as it depends on the business and the marketing goals. Some businesses will benefit from honing in on specific opportunities that are already being targeted, others will seek wider reach. This is why it’s important to understand the business goals and market sector, then design the SEO campaign to support the goals and the environment.

This type of analysis also provides you with leverage when it comes to discussing specific rankings and competitor rankings. The SEO can’t be expected to wave a magic wand and place a client top of a category in which they enjoy no competitive advantage. Even if the SEO did manage to achieve this feat, the client may not see much in the way of return as it’s easy for visitors to click other listings and compare offers.

Understand all you can about their market niche. Look for areas of opportunity, such as changing demand not being met by your client or competitors. Put yourself in their customers shoes. Try and find customers and interview them. Listen to the language of customers. Go to places where their customers hang out online. From the customers language and needs, combined with the knowledge gleaned from interviewing the client, you can determine effective keywords and themes.

Document. Get it down in writing. The strategy will change over time, but you’ll have a baseline point of agreement outlining where the site is at now, and where you intend to take it. Getting buy-in early smooths the way for later on. Ensure that whatever strategy you adopt, it adds real, measurable value by being aligned with, and serving, the business goals. It’s on this basis the client will judge you, and maintain or expand your services in future.

Further reading:

- 4 Principles Of Marketing Strategy In The Digital Age
- Product Positioning In Five Easy Steps [pdf]
- Technology Marketers Need To Document Their Marketing Strategy

2. Site Audit

Sites can be poorly organized, have various technical issues, and missed keyword opportunities.
We need to quantify what is already there, and what’s not there.

  • Use a site crawler, such as Xenu Link Sleuth, Screaming Frog or other tools that will give you a list of URLs, title information, link information and other data.
  • Make a list of all broken links.
  • Make a list of all orphaned pages
  • Make a list of all pages without titles
  • Make a list of all pages with duplicate titles
  • Make a list of pages with weak keyword alignment
  • Crawl robots txt and hand-check. It’s amazing how easy it is to disrupt crawling with a robots.txt file

Broken links are a low-quality signal. It’s debatable if they are a low quality signal to Google, but certainly to users. If the client doesn’t have one already, implement a system whereby broken links are checked on a regular basis. Orphaned pages are pages that have no links pointing to them. Those pages may be redundant, in which case they should be removed, or you need to point inbound links at them, so they can be crawled and have more chance of gaining rank. Page titles should be unique, aligned with keyword terms, and made attractive in order to gain a click. A link is more attractive if it speaks to a customer need. Carefully check robots.txt to ensure it’s not blocking areas of the site that need to be crawled.

As part of the initial site audit, it might make sense to include the site in Google Webmaster Tools to see if it has any existing issues there and to look up its historical performance on competitive research tools to see if the site has seen sharp traffic declines. If they’ve had sharp ranking and traffic declines, pull up that time period in their web analytics to isolate the date at which it happened, then look up what penalties might be associated with that date.

Further Reading:

- Broken Links, Pages, Images Hurt SEO
- Three Easy Ways To Fix Broken Links And Stop Unnecessary Visitor Loss
- 55 Ways To Use Screaming Frog
- Robots.txt Tutorial

3. Competitive Analysis

Some people roll this into a site audit, but I’ll split it out as we’re not looking at technical issues on competitor sites, we’re looking at how they are positioned, and how they’re doing it. In common with a site audit, there’s some technical reverse engineering involved.

There are various tools that can help you do this. I use SpyFu. One reporting aspect that is especially useful is estimating the value of the SEO positions vs the Adwords positions. A client can then translate the ranks into dollar terms, and justify this back against your fee.

When you run these competitive reports, you can see what content of theirs is working well, and what content is gaining ground. Make a list of all competitor content that is doing well. Examine where their links are coming from, and make a list. Examine where they’re mentioned in the media, and make a list. You can then use a fast-follow strategy to emulate their success, then expand upon it.

Sometimes, “competitors”, meaning ranking competitors, can actually be potential partners. They may not be in the same industry as your client, just happen to rank in a cross-over area. They may be good for a link, become a supplier, welcome advertising on their site, or be willing to place your content on their site. Make a note of the sites that are ranking well within your niche, but aren’t direct competitors.

Using tools that estimate the value of ranks by comparing Adwords keywords prices, you can estimate the value of your competitors positions. If your client appears lower than the competition, you can demonstrate the estimated dollar value of putting time and effort into increasing rank. You can also evaluate their rate of improvement over time vs your client, and use this as a competitive benchmark. If your client is not putting in the same effort as your competitor, they’ll be left behind. If their competitors are spending on ongoing-SEO and seeing tangible results, there is some validation for your client to do likewise.

Further reading:

- Competitor Analysis [pdf]
- Illustrated SEO Competitive Workflow
- Competitive Analysis: How To Become A SEO Hero In 4 Steps

4. Site Architecture

A well organised site is both useful from a usability standpoint and an SEO standpoint. If it’s clear to a user where they need to go next, then this will flow through into better engagement scores. If your client has a usability consultant on staff, this person is a likely ally.

It’s a good idea to organise a site around themes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Google likes pages grouped around similar topics, rather than disparate topics (see from 1.25 onwards).

  • Create spreadsheet based on a crawl after any errors have been tidied up
  • Identify best selling products and services. These deserve the most exposure and should be placed high up the site hierarchy. Items and categories that do not sell well, and our less strategically important, should be lower in the hierarchy
  • Pages that are already getting a lot of traffic, as indicated by your analytics, might deserve more exposure by moving them up the hierarchy.
  • Seasonal products might deserve more exposure just before that shopping season, and less exposure when the offer is less relevant.
  • Group pages into similar topics, where possible. For example, acme.com/blue-widgets/ , acme.com/green-widgets/.
  • Determine if internal anchor text is aligned with keyword titles and page content by looking at a backlink analysis

A spreadsheet of all pages helps you group pages thematically, preferably into directories with similar content. Your strategy document will guide you as to which pages you need to work on, and which pages you need to religate. Some people spend a lot of time sculpting internal pagerank i.e. flowing page rank to some pages, but using nofollow on other links to not pass link equity to others. Google may have depreciated that approach, but you can still link to important products or categories sitewide to flow them more link equity, while putting less important sites lower in the site’s architecture. Favour your money pages, and relegate your less important pages.

Think mobile. If your content doesn’t work on mobile, then getting to the top of search results won’t do you much good.

Further Reading:

- Site Architecture & Search Engine Success Factors
- Optimiing Your Websites Architecture For SEO (Slide Presentation)
- The SEO Guide To Information Archetecture

5. Enable Crawling & Redirects

Ensure your site is deep crawled. To check if all your URLs are included in Google’s index, sign up with Webmaster Tools and/or other index reporting tools.

  • Include a site map
  • Check the existing robots.txt. Kep robots out of non-essential areas, such as script repositories and other admin related directories.
  • If you need to move pages, or you have links to pages that no longer exist, use page redirects to tidy them up
  • Make a list of 404 errors. Make sure the 404 page has useful navigation into the site so visitors don’t click back.

The accepted method to redirect a page is to use a 301. The 301 indicates a page has permanently moved location. A redirect is also useful if you change domains, or if you have links pointing to different versions of the site. For example, Google sees http://www.acme.com and http://acme.com as different sites. Pick one and redirect to it.

Here’s a video explaining how:

If you don’t redirect pages, then you won’t be making full use of any link juice allocated to those pages.

Further Reading:

- What Are Google Site Maps?
- The Ultimate Guide To 301 Redirects
- Crawling And Indexing Metrics

6. Backlink Analysis

Backlinks remain a major ranking factor. Generally, the more high quality links you have pointing to your site, the better you’ll do in the results. Of late, links can also harm you. However, if your overall link profile is strong, then a subset of bad links is unlikely to cause you problems. A good rule of thumb is the Matt Cutts test. Would you be happy to show the majority of your links to Matt Cutts? :) If not, you’re likely taking a high risk strategy when it comes to penalties. These can be manageable when you own the site, but they can be difficult to deal with on client sites, especially if the client was not aware of the risks involved in aggressive SEO.

  • Establish a list of existing backlinks. Consider trying to remove any that look low quality.
  • Ensure all links resolve to appropriate pages
  • Draw up a list of sites from which your main competitors have gained links
  • Draw up a list of sites where you’d like to get links from

Getting links involves either direct placement or being linkworthy. On some sites, like industry directories, you can pay to appear. In other cases, it’s making your site into an attractive linking target.

Getting links to purely commercial sites can be a challenge. Consider sponsoring charities aligned with your line of business. Get links from local chambers of commerce. Connect with education establishments who are doing relevant research and consider sponsoring or become involved in some way.

Look at the sites that point to your competitors. How were these links obtained? Follow the same path. If they successfully used white papers, then copy that approach. If they successfully used news, do that, too. Do whatever seems to work for others. Evaluate the result. Do more/less of it, depending on the results.

You also need links from sites that your competitors don’t have. Make a list of desired links. Figure out a strategy to get them. It may involve supplying them with content. It might involve participating in their discussions. It may involve giving them industry news. It might involve interviewing them or profiling them in some way, so they link to you. Ask “what do they need”?. Then give it to them.

Of course, linking is an ongoing strategy. As a site grows, many links will come naturally, and that in itself, is a link acquisition strategy. To grow in importance and consumer interest relative to the competition. This involves your content strategy. Do you have content that your industry likes to link to? If not, create it. If your site is not something that your industry links to, like a brochure site, you may look at spinning-off a second site that is information focused, and less commercial focused. You sometimes see blogs on separate domains where employees talk about general industry topics, like Signal Vs Noise, Basecamps blog. These are much more likely to receive links than sites that are purely commercial in nature.

Before chasing links, you should be aware of what type of site typically receives links, and make sure you’re it.

Further Reading:

- Interview Of Debra Mastaler, the Link Guru
- Scaleable Link Building Techniques
- Creative Link Building Ideas

7 Content Assessment

Once you have a list of keywords, an idea of where competitors rank, and what the most valuable terms are from a business point of view, you can set about examining and building out content.

Do you have content to cover your keyword terms? If not, add it to the list of content that needs to be created. If you have content that matches terms, see if compares well with client content on the same topic. Can the pages be expanded or made more detailed? Can more/better links be added internally? Will the content benefit from amalgamating different content types i.e. videos, audio, images et al?

You’ll need to create content for any keyword areas you’re missing. Rather than copy what is already available in the niche, look at the best ranking/most valuable content for that term and ask how it could be made better. Is there new industry analysis or reports that you can incorporate and/or expand on? People love the new. They like learning things they don’t already know. Mee-too content can work, but it’s not making the most of the opportunity. Aim to produce considerably more valuable content than already exists as you’ll have more chance of getting links, and more chance of higher levels of engagement when people flip between sites. If visitors can get the same information elsewhere, they probably will.

Consider keyword co-occurrence. What terms are readily associated with the keywords you’re chasing? Various tools provide this analysis, but you can do it yourself using the Adwords research tool. See what keywords it associates with your keywords. The Google co-occurrence algorithm is likely the same for both Adwords and organic search.

Also, think about how people will engage with your page. Is it obvious what the page is about? Is it obvious what the user must do next? Dense text and distracting advertising can reduce engagement, so make sure the usability is up to scratch. Text should be a reasonable size so the average person isn’t squinting. It should be broken up with headings and paragraphs. People tend to scan when reading online,searching for immediate confirmation they’ve found the right information. This was written a long time ago, but it’s interesting how relevant it remains.

Further Reading:

- Content Marketing Vs SEO
- Content Analysis Using Google Analytics
- Content Based SEO Strategy Will Eventually Fail

8. Link Out

Sites that don’t link out appear unnatural. Matt Cutts noted:

Of course, folks never know when we’re going to adjust our scoring. It’s pretty easy to spot domains that are hoarding PageRank; that can be just another factor in scoring. If you work really hard to boost your authority-like score while trying to minimize your hub-like score, that sets your site apart from most domains. Just something to bear in mind.

  • Make a list of all outbound links
  • Determine if these links are complementary i.e. similar topic/theme, or related to the business in some way
  • Make a list of pages with no links out

Links out are both a quality signal and good PR practise. Webmaster look at their inbound links, and will likely follow them back to see what is being said about them. That’s a great way to foster relationships, especially if your client’s site is relatively new. If you put other companies and people in a good light, you can expect many to reciprocate in kind.

Links, the good kind, are about human relationships.

It’s also good for your users. Your users are going to leave your site, one way or another, so you can pick up some kudos if you help them on their way by pointing them to some good authorities. If you’re wary about linking to direct competitors, then look for information resources, such as industry blogs or news sites, or anyone else you want to build a relationship with. Link to suppliers and related companies in close, but non-competing niches. Link to authoritative sites. Be very wary about pointing to low value sites, or sites that are part of link schemes. Low value sites are obvious. Sites that are part of link schemes are harder to spot, but typically feature link swapping schemes or obvious paid links unlikely to be read by visitors. Avoid link trading schemes. It’s too easy to be seen as a part of a link network, and it’s no longer 2002.

Further Resources:

- Five Reasons You Should Link Out
- The Domino Effects Of Links And Relationships
- Link Building 101: Utilizing Past Relationships

9. Ongoing

It’s not set and forget.

Clients can’t expect to do a one off optimisation campaign and expect it to keep working forever. It may be self-serving for SEOs to say it, but it’s also the truth. SEO is ongoing because search keeps changing and competitors and markets move. Few companies would dream of only having one marketing campaign. The challenge for the SEO, like any marketer, is to prove the on-going spend produces a return in value.

  • Competition monitoring i.e. scan for changes in competitors rank, new competitors, and change of tactics. Determine what is working, and emulate it.
  • Sector monitoring – monitor Google trends, keywords trends, discussion groups, and news releases. This will give you ideas for new campaign angles.
  • Reporting – the client needs to be able to see the work you’ve done is paying off.
  • Availability – clients will change things on their site, or bring in other marketers, so will want you advice going forward

Further Reading

Whole books can be written about SEO for clients. And they have. We’ve skimmed across the surface but, thankfully, there is a wealth of great information out there on the specifics of how to tackle each of these topic areas.

Perhaps you can weigh in? :) What would your advice be to those new to optimizing client sites? What do you wish someone had told you when you started?

Categories: 

SEO Book

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Overcoming Client Objections – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Brittan Bright

Whether the objection is over a line in your contract or an aspect of your process, when a client’s thinking doesn’t align with your own, moving projects forward can be difficult or impossible. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Brittan Bright shares her insight into some of the most common objections, along with recommendations for how to get things back on track.










For reference, here’s a still image of this week’s whiteboard:

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. My name is Brittan Bright. I’m the director of client strategy at iAcquire. Today we’re going to be talking about overcoming client objections. So my role is to work directly with clients. For SEOs, sometimes this can be challenging, and depending on how your organization determines how they’re going to service clients, these skills are helpful at every level of an organization.

Some common objections we have over here are things I’d like to cover today. I also have a checklist of how you can think through the thought process of how to effectively overcome some of these objections or find a way to compromise with them.

One of them is, commonly, our clients are going to object to our contract. Sometimes it’s during the negotiation phase. Sometimes you get a new point of contact at an organization that might review the contract and interpret it differently. Sometimes there are stipulations that are mandated by one company or another that they can’t agree to. So oftentimes, a contract can be a point of contention with the clients at any stage in the relationship.

Objections to recommendations. Not everybody thinks that every recommendation we make as a service provider is always going to be as brilliant as we think it is, or be able to actually implement the recommendations in the full way that we intend them to be. We have to be prepared to understand and speak to any objections that we encounter when it comes to the recommendations that we make for our clients.

Our business model. This is an interesting one. I’ve seen a lot of conversations about this in the blogs and on Twitter, but it’s challenging because everybody is kind of trying to figure out the best way to service clients. Different people have approached it in a variety of ways. Sometimes clients have a preference. Sometimes clients just want what they want, and it really depends. You have to be able to speak to your business model and overcome that when it becomes a challenge and in a relationship with a client, as well.

To your process. This is an interesting one. It depends, again, on your point of contact and who you’re working with at an organization, but there are times that you may have your process questioned. There may be a client that is particularly interested in a specific tactic being done a specific way. There are many times we are having to defend and sometimes explain our process, and I think there are some really productive ways that we can get around that.

Then also your staff. Not everyone likes the people that have been assigned to their account. Not everyone is able to work effectively. Not everyone is able to understand personalities. So that is something that we have to be prepared to do, is understand how we can overcome objections to the staff that has been assigned to a specific account.

I have several different ways that we can look at this, because as we all know, there is not just one answer to this. It’s very customized to the particular client, to your organization, to the situation, and to the project. So instead of telling you exactly what to do, I think it’s helpful to understand a good way to think through some of these issues. So I put together a checklist of things I like to go through in my mind as I’m advising my team on how to overcome some of these challenges when we encounter them.

Understanding the objection. That’s really, really important and often not thought about. Sometimes a client might come back and say, “Hey, I don’t like the terms of this contract,” and provide a different solution like, “I want a 30-day out,” or, “I want to be able to approve every single thing that you do before I see it,” just something that will throw off the process. Instead of reacting to the actual thing that the client says, we need to make sure that we understand the root of that issue. Is it because they have quality concerns? Is there another way that we can overcome that?

Is there something we didn’t do in the sales process that left them feeling a little unsure and wanting a little bit more of the process in their control? Is a 30-day out something standard across their organization? Is there another way that we could compromise with that and understand what needs to be achieved in order to get buy-in from possibly someone higher up, who determines whether or not a contract is approved? So understanding what the objection is and what’s behind it is often more important than just immediately reacting to what the objection is at first.

One solution to contract objections that I thought I’d share, that is pretty simple, is sometimes using their contract. Now, obviously that’s not ideal, but there are some organizations that have very, very strict contracts, and we all know what it’s like to get held up in legal, or their industries are very particular. If it’s something that your organization allows you to do, sometimes using their contract is a way to show that you’re taking a few steps toward the direction of really compromising and resolving the issue with the client, and can be very much appreciated and realized by creating a better relationship through the length of the engagement with the client.

Understanding the objection goes both ways too. So if you’re a client and you have an objection to something that your service provider is doing, it is in your best interest to make sure that your objection is understood to who you’re working with. Like I said, if your issue is with the contract, instead of necessarily kind of coming up with a solution, try to make sure that the person you’re negotiating with understands where you’re coming from, because they might have a creative solution that they’ve done for another client in the past that they can then do for you.

Put yourself in the objector’s shoes. Empathy is key. I always think this one is very obvious, but I’m told that it’s not. This is something that’s really, really important when it comes to working with other people. The reason you’ve been hired, or the reason you’re hiring someone, is to help you succeed. That can be a very personal thing. It determines how people perform. It determines how people are reviewed in their jobs. It’s a very, very personal thing.

So putting yourself in someone shoes will help you understand some of the feedback you’re getting on some of these. Maybe someone rejected your recommendation because it was completely the opposite of something that they, themselves, had championed before bringing you on board. Understanding that you might be coming in and, unbeknownst to you, possibly destroying some of the work or negating some of the work that the person you’re now working directly with had put into place, and the sort of emotions and feelings behind that, might help you approach rephrasing your recommendation in another way.

Also, some internal road blocks, understanding how challenging and frustrating it might be to know what the right thing is to do and not be able to do it. Be creative. This is a huge, huge thing. Really, really talented SEOs have the ability to apply an artistry to the science that is SEO. Having the ability to be creative with your recommendations, to make sure that there are things that your client can implement, is extremely powerful, and it will get you a long-term client.

Do unto others, the golden rule. Again, something that seems pretty obvious, but it can be easy to forget when we get caught up in the passion and the frustration of the way we pour our heart and souls into the work that we do, especially when we feel misunderstood or maybe under-appreciated by the client. For example, if someone doesn’t like your business model, if someone would rather speak to one of the consultants that’s working on their project, instead of maybe their account manager, or maybe somebody wants to speak to someone more senior than the person they’ve been assigned to, there are a lot of different ways that accounts are serviced, and that is a tough decision to make as an organization.

So something that I like to point out is to know that the sales process never ends. If somebody doesn’t understand your business model, then that could be part of the challenge. So never forget that you need to stay on your toes with your clients. You always need to help them understand why they’re working with you, why we’re doing everything we can to make them be successful, and don’t forget to be on your best behavior and pull out all the stops. You know, don’t get lazy just because you have a client already locked down. This will help them get a better appreciation for things like the way you choose to run your business.

Compromise when you can. That’s really, really important. Sometimes we just have to compromise. We can’t draw a hard line in the sand. I think this is really, really hard for some people, particularly when it might seem very clear cut from a technical perspective. For example, with your process, I know that we have that challenge sometimes internally, when we’re doing creative things. For example, if we’re creating a infographic for a client, and the client might have a different vision, and sometimes we need to really take that vision into consideration and understand why it’s important to them, what we can do on our end, even if it might be outside of what we would typically recommend. If it’s something that goes more towards the goals that the client has laid out for us, sometimes we might just have to do a little compromising.

But in this, trust is essential. So when your process needs to be compromised, make sure it’s happening, not to appease a client, but because the client trusts you and you trust the client. You trust that the client knows that you’re going outside of your process, and this might mean sacrifices in other areas, and the client will be less likely to challenge your process if they trust that you have their best interests at heart and that you understand their business. So trust is really, really important when overcoming this particular objection.

Then don’t compromise when you shouldn’t. This is very, very, very important, and also something that’s very difficult. Sometimes you do have to draw a line in the sand. Sometimes you do have to say no. Sometimes you do have to walk away, because respect is very, very important. I’m going to use this as it relates to your staff, but again, everything on this checklist can apply to all of these objections.

When it relates to your staff, you might have a client who doesn’t treat one of your staff members very well. I don’t like to compromise in that situation. Now if it’s a situation where someone on my team has dropped the ball or has done something disrespectful, which hasn’t happened, under my watch at least, I believe and I support my team, and I think that’s really, really important. If you support and you invest in your team and that’s visible to the client, then there are times when you shouldn’t compromise, and you should hold your ground, because respect on a mutual level for your client, and the work they do, and for them to have that for you, creates a much better foundation for a long-lasting client relationship.

So that’s all I have for today. Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing all of you at MozCon. I will be speaking there, and I hope to meet some of you in person. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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5 Ways to Prove to the Client that the Traffic Will Come

Posted by james.harrison

This post is dedicated to those hard-working white-hat SEOs helping websites obtain top search engine rankings the right way. Sometimes we have to remind the client that slow and steady wins the race. However, the majority of the time the client doesn’t want to hear that, especially if they are paying for SEO services month after month.

Yes, SEO is an investment; however, showing them that they are investing in your services and skills requires a little more than just performing SEO services. Due to the search share click distribution, the client can’t really expect major increases in traffic until they reach the first page of the SERPs. Sometimes they can see instant increases in traffic via long-tailed terms after completion of thorough on-page optimization. But, for the most part we have to educate them so that they will be patient. Remember, they hired you because they are not experts in SEO, it’s important to teach them the benefits as well as the slow process of organic SEO.

Below are five things you can do to help your client rest assured that you are doing an effective job, and with time, traffic will come.

#1 – Rankings reports and keyword improvements

This is kind of a given, because traditionally all we could do is show the client that we helped them go from the 100th position to 50th position. That almost never reflects more traffic, but it does show improvement. It also shows effort, and if you get two consistent upward movements, you can show that there’s a trend in their favor.

Another keyword improvement you can show them is total keywords bringing traffic to their website in Google Analytics. If you go to Sources > Search > Organic, then scroll down to bottom right, you can see how many total keywords have brought traffic to their site in the current date range. If you change the date range to a range pre-SEO work and that number is smaller than the most recent, you can say that you are increasing their overall visibility. So, if you can show improvement in rankings and that they are getting more organic traffic via more keywords on the SERPs; you are showing them that they are making progress. For most clients, this is enough.

#2 – Working logs

Every once in a while, a client may want some updates on how the SEO is going because they aren’t seeing an increase in traffic or conversions. In other words, they want to know what you have been doing.

I recommend recording all work you’ve done for the client regardless of the complexity and time it took. Create events in Google Analytics or your SEO tool software. These are easy ways to document your work while showing correlations with traffic. Another way I’ve satisfied my clients is having something like BaseCamp or a time tracker that they can sign in to and see what has been accomplished.

Behind the scenes, we know things are going good and we know that we are doing work to get those rankings up, however the client doesn’t. Anything you can do to allow the client to check on what you’ve done for them, whenever they want, can sometimes prevent emails or phones calls questioning your efforts.

#3 – Summary reports and updates

Sometimes, emailing the client or getting on the phone with them weekly or bimonthly is all they need. When you reach out to the client before they reach out to you, you are squashing embers before the fire starts. It shows them that you are proactive and more importantly that you haven’t forgot about them. Emailing or calling them just to let them know that you’ve accomplished something or that you were thinking about them while working on their account can go a long way.

I believe this is arguably the most important thing you can do to build long term relationships with your clients. It can be something as simple as “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that we wrote up some content, emailed a few webmasters and been working on your rankings. Just an FYI, give you more details in the monthly report.” This communication can make a client’s day and maintain their trust for you and your services.

#4 – Other metrics to report

Assuming that you are doing your job, you can report other metrics to the client if rankings and traffic have not kicked in yet. Metrics such as total links contacted out of total link goals, total tweets, fans, +1s, shares, pages per site visited, site bounce rate, conversion rate, total live links, subscribers, etc. Anything that will show them that the website is doing better than when you started. However, in order to provide these types of stats, you have to create a benchmark to show how where they are now is better than where they started.

#5 – Resources vouching that SEO takes time

In the case that the client is still skeptical and the results are not yet able to prove your work, the best thing you can do is show them that even the authorities such as Search Engine Watch, Moz, Search Engine Journal, Google, etc., all confirmed that rankings don’t happen overnight. Perhaps you can do a better job educating them about the fact that it’s a campaign to catch up with the competition; that the competitors who are ranking high have performed a long list of tasks over years to get to where they are, and you are emulating them in the most efficient way possible.

So…

…there you have it, five ways to let the clients know that you are doing what needs to be done in order to obtain top rankings. Just don’t forget that the client may still need to trust that the tasks you are accomplishing actually works. So you may have to prove to them that your strategies have helped other clients, or that you are doing what the algorithm, case studies and the competition proves needs to be done.

I hope this helps my fellow white-hat SEOs performing legit services keep good relationships with their clients.

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Top 5 SEO Leading Indicators: The Best Way to Enhance Your Monthly Client Reports

A core set of SEO leading indicators can better showcase how things are progressing to clients or senior management. Here’s why you should use SEO visibility, links acquired, domain authority, search traffic, and core rankings as leading indicators.
Search Engine Watch – Latest

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