You hired an SEO firm a few months ago. You hired them because they talked a good talk, they seemed to know what they were doing, the results they promised sounded great, and the price was right. Now youâ€™re having buyerâ€™s remorse. Youâ€™re not sure if youâ€™re getting ripped off, but youâ€™re not sure thatâ€™s not happening. Maybe they just donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re doing. The problem is, you donâ€™t know. Should you give them a deadline? Should you ask questions? Should you get angry, demand results, and get labeled as the â€œdifficultâ€ client? Or should you trust them? But what if all that money is just going nowhere? You donâ€™t want to throw good money after bad.
If you feel this way, then your SEO firm is failing you. But the twist is that it may not be entirely their fault. You may be failing them, and yourself, as well. A client-service provider relationship involves activity on both sides, and neither side can expect the highest levels of success without the involvement of the other. Here are ways you and your SEO firm can work together to achieve your objectives.
Understand what SEO services are, and arenâ€™t. SEO is not guaranteed, immediate results. SEO is hacking. Not the kind of hacking people do when they steal credit card numbers, but the kind of hacking people do to figure out how to solve problems. Because every situation is different, an SEO firm canâ€™t apply a proven formula to your situation. Yes, we SEO professionals know that generally certain things work and other things donâ€™t, but much of the work we do is trial and error, making mistakes and learning from them, and experimentation. The best SEO firms donâ€™t promise a formulaic approach, but promise to do what it takes to get the results you need, even if that means figuring out how to do something that has never been done before.
Hire the right firm. If you hire the wrong SEO firm to begin with, then donâ€™t expect good results. Iâ€™ve already written about how to avoid getting ripped off by an SEO firm and how to hire the right SEO firm, so I wonâ€™t go into further detail here, other than to say that taking extra time to make the right choice will save you time and money down the road.
Set clear expectations. As the client, ask your SEO firm what you should expect of them. If you have expectations for communications and deliverables other than what they tell you, ask them. Donâ€™t expect your firm to read your mind. Many firms provide reports on a monthly basis, but are happy to provide reports more frequently if the client asks. If you want weekly reports but you never discuss this with your firm, you have no reason to be dissatisfied when you donâ€™t hear from them until the next month.
Make sure you work together to define what success will look like. Your SEO firm may be focused on generating leads while you may be focused on rankings. Ask your SEO firm how they define success, and let them know what results you want to see.
Recognize who the experts are, and on what.Â Your SEO firm is expert at SEO, but unless they specialize in your industry, they are not experts at your business. There may be certain unique aspects of your business that are applicable to SEO, but which your SEO firm simply cannot know unless theyâ€™ve had prior experience with your type of business. Your SEO firm should spend time getting to know your business, and you should spend time educating them as much as possible. Details that may seem mundane and irrelevant may be quite applicable to SEO. And there is some information that is specific to your business and only your business. For example, if your business is a dentist office, self storage facility, or other business that serves a limited geography, then city names will factor into your keyword strategy. An SEO firm can do research to determine which cities it will be effective to target, but this might take them several hours whereas you can just tell them in 30 seconds.
Communicate. Your SEO firm should be over communicating with you, but just because theyâ€™re not doesnâ€™t mean theyâ€™re not doing a good job on SEO. Or thereâ€™s a chance theyâ€™re sending you emails that are getting caught in your spam filter (it happens a lot). If you arenâ€™t getting the information you want, ask for more. A reasonable firm will be happy to oblige. At a minimum you should be receiving reports each month that contain details about conversions or leads, rankings, and traffic. These reports should be accompanied by explanations that are easy to understand. During the first few months, your SEO firm should provide more frequent updates to make sure you feel like youâ€™re in the loop and know whatâ€™s going on. But again, just because youâ€™re not getting any of this doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re not getting good SEO, it just means the SEO firm might have something to learn when it comes to good customer service. Try to help them first. Donâ€™t look elsewhere unless they refuse to accommodate your needs.
Demand transparency, but donâ€™t micromanage. Sometimes your SEO firm may do things that confuse you. When this happen, donâ€™t immediately assume theyâ€™re not doing their job. Instead, ask questions. You may learn something new. If you canâ€™t get a good answer, the right move likely isnâ€™t to start telling your SEO firm what to do, but to find a new SEO firm. Your SEO firm should be pushing you, not the other way around. Then again, there is a possibility you need to back off and let your SEO firm do their job. Verify, but trust.
Give it time. If your SEO firm knows what theyâ€™re doing then in most cases you should see â€œresultsâ€ within the first one to two months. When I say results I donâ€™t necessarily mean youâ€™ll be selling more online or getting leads from your SEO campaign, but you should at least see movement in your rankings. That movement might not be enough to generate increased traffic, but you should be able to see things moving in the right direction. Depending upon the details, it could take several months, even a year, to see a boost to your business from an SEO campaign. SEO is a long term investment and itâ€™s not fair to pull the plug on your SEO firm without giving them at least six months to prove themselves, unless you have fairly concrete evidence theyâ€™re ripping you off or have no idea what theyâ€™re doing.
How can I tell if I should fire my SEO firm?
Online marketing expert Neil Patel of KISSmetrics has an excellent, in-depth article on how to know if your SEO firm is helping or hurting you. Some of the ways he says you can tell if your SEO firm should be fired are if:
- They have nothing to show
- They donâ€™t ask you for anything
- They have no suggestions for improvement
- They wonâ€™t share their techniques
These are telltale signs your SEO firm is charging you money and not doing any work. If youâ€™re locked into a long term contract this should add to your suspicion. But donâ€™t react too hastily. Communicate your concerns. If your firm responds within a month and cleans up their act, then you might have a long, fruitful relationship ahead of you. But if instead of an apology and a permanent improvement in the working relationship, you instead get a cooling of the relationship, or a temporary flurry of activity followed by a return to the same old story, itâ€™s time to look elsewhere and demand you be let out of your contract, if need be.
If you run an SEO firm, what factors have you found that lead to successful relationships with your clients? If youâ€™re a client of an SEO firm, what steps have they taken to make you a happy client?
Joshua SteimleÂ is a Hong Kong based entrepreneur.Â