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Clients vs. SEO: The Battle of Who’s Responsible For Success

clients vs. seo: battle over who's responsible for campaignI often tell people, “We don’t rank websites, that’s Google’s job.” It’s a tough thing to say when you’re trying to sell services that are, in part, designed to improve search engine rankings, but it’s an important point to make. SEOs do not have a say in how search engines rank websites. All they can do is help build the most search-friendly, user-friendly and keyword-optimized site possible, and then promote the site in search-friendly ways. The rest is up to the search engine.

In fact, good SEO cannot be performed by the SEO alone. It’s really a team effort between the SEO and the company behind the website being optimized. When it comes to good marketing, world-class SEO is only one part of the total business growth plan. In order to grow your business, it is important to look beyond search engine rankings to set online growth goals, develop strategies, implement solutions and measure the right outcomes.

But who’s responsible for the site’s overall performance? Is it SEO or the SEO client?

In truth, the burden falls heavily on both. The SEO can only do what their client allows. It’s not so much as finding ways to “beat” the algorithm but to build a site that actually deserves top search engine rankings above any competitor’s website. Much of what search engines deem worthy of top ranking falls outside the scope of traditional SEO. The SEO can set and even implement the strategy, but the client must give the SEO room to do what’s needed to help make the website more trusted.

The job of the web marketing team is to provide the recommendations that clients need in order to get the results they want and to meet and exceed the goals set. The success of this ultimately falls on everyone involved. Each team has a responsibility, and if those responsibilities are not fulfilled by both, the SEO will ultimately fail.

What to expect from an SEO

An integral part of any SEO’s success relies on the SEO-client relationship. And as with any relationship, there has to be some expectations that guide them in their journey together. Here is what you should expect from an SEO:

  • Solid Strategies: There is more to good SEO than just throwing keywords on a page or tweaking a few meta tags. The SEO has to look deep into the site to uncover every potential problem that might prohibit that site from communicating its value to the search engines. Since every site is different, each site needs its own unique strategy. Out-of-the-box solutions need not apply. Solid, time-tested strategies are required in order for a website to perform properly in the search engines.
  • Communication: Without good communication, there is no way for the client to know how or what the SEO is doing, or whether they are taking the client for a ride down the wrong path. It’s convenient to look for the easy “win,” and many so-called SEOs will point to rankings for irrelevant keywords on irrelevant search engines. Clients need to have an open door of communication through the strategy development process, not only to keep the SEO honest, but als0 to ensure that the work they are doing aligns with the global marketing goals.
  • Broad focus: Keyword rankings are only a small part of successful optimization campaigns. The SEO must look at hundreds of site-wide issues that can effect the search performance as well as conversion performance. Ranking-focused SEO tends to be so narrow that the rankings achieved do little good to the overall goal of growing the business. A good SEO must look at all areas of site performance to bring together strategies that will improve rankings, site usability, and ultimately sales.
  • Education: The SEO must constantly pursue ongoing education. Search algorithms change daily and new avenues for marketing are always being invented. It is necessary for SEOs to stay on top of the entire web marketing sphere, or at least those things that effect their area of expertise. Without education, an SEO’s strategies soon fall flat.
  • Compromise: While SEOs must know their trade, they must also recognize that their way isn’t always the best way. They must account for nuances for each industry and target audience. When the SEO’s solutions don’t fit with the client’s specific needs, it’s important for the SEO to be flexible and find solutions that work for the SEO’s and the client’s goals.
  • Review and re-strategizing: Any battle plan never lasts more than 10 minutes on the ground. This is also true with SEO. Therefore, the SEO must develop a plan but remain flexible to adapt, refocus, reorganize and implement new strategies as needed to ensure the results are forthcoming. The SEO should be providing regular review of all past work and be willing to tweak as needed to continue down the path of success.

What to expect from an SEO client

The success of any SEO campaign relies heavily on the client and its involvement or interaction with the SEO team. If a client isn’t responsive to the needs of the SEO, windows of opportunity are lost and delays become commonplace. The SEO requires quick responses and thoughtful feedback from the client throughout the campaign. Here is what an SEO should expect from his clients:

  • Implementation: Recommendations that the SEO cannot or is not contracted to make must be approved and implemented by the client. What’s the point of hiring an SEO to make recommendations if they are not getting implemented. Without implementation, the success of the SEO campaign is in jeopardy.
  • Get involved: The SEO can do the research, strategization and implementation of all the aspects of the optimization campaign, but it cannot be done in a vacuum. Client involvement, input and direction is required. No one knows the business better than the client, and client input ensures that the SEO’s efforts are in line with goals.
  • Question recommendations: Clients shouldn’t accept all recommendations blindly. If there is a tactic, strategy or recommendation from the SEO that isn’t clear, it’s the client’s job to ask. Before rejecting any recommendation, the client should give the SEO an opportunity to explain its importance and value to the site as a whole, as well as its necessity in achieving your goals.
  • Trust: Trusting the SEO is essential. There must be a reason the client chooses him or her over the competition (and hopefully it wasn’t just based on price), so you need to be confident in the ability to do the job. That means you need to trust thoughts and recommendations, even if you don’t necessarily agree. The great thing about the web is everything can be tested. Be willing to allow skeptical recommendations to go through and test the results.
  • Ask for advice: Online success depends on a delicate balance between keywords, content, site layout and more. When making changes to a site, the client should work with the SEO, not against him. Talk to the SEO before implementing anything that might have an effect on the SEO campaign, even if it’s not specifically SEO related. Doing so will save a lot of time, money and headache later when rankings stop dropping and the SEO has to figure out why.
  • Measure results, not rankings: The ultimate goal in hiring an SEO is to help a business grow. There are a lot of ways to measure SEO, but rankings are not a business growth metric. If rankings are improving, great. If traffic and sales are improving, even better. Rankings contribute to many goals, but being overly focused on specific rankings detracts from the broader goals of the campaign.

Both the SEO and the client have a mutual responsibility for ensuring the SEO campaign is a success. It takes a knowledgeable SEO and a client willing to own its responsibility in the process. When both the SEO and the client work together, it’s no longer a battle about responsibility, but a celebration of success.

Image credit: ferli / 123RF Stock Photo

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

One Response to Clients vs. SEO: The Battle of Who’s Responsible For Success

  1. Great way to take the bull by the horns! Client upset is a primary reason I like to hide and write, leaving the client interaction up to the SEOs and website designers. Beyond clueing in clients,this post gives internet marketers a cheat sheet of where clients could come in fuming AND good self-defense strategies for each issue. I’m going to link to this from my blog.
    Thanks!
    Suzanne