This week we’ve got another guest post here on Smokehouse SEO!
Written by Joe Shoop (follow him on Twitter at @rainydaydigital) of Rainy Day Digital this is his second post here on the Smokehouse and is for all the SEOs out there who work with clients and on how to run a successful campaign but even more for anyone thinking about hiring an SEO agency for their campaigns.
Recently, I was surprised to hear that one of my clients was considering terminating their long-standing contract with my digital agency. I had worked rather hard for this particular client, and was proud to report that I had helped boost traffic, promote better user engagement, and garner stronger site conversions for their particular brand. None of this, apparently, was enough to satisfy my client’s needs.
“That’s all great”, said the business owner, “but we’re just not feeling it at the cash registers. In-store product sales have been steadily declining since 2015, and SEO just isn’t helping where we need it.”
After quickly sucking up the blow to my pride, I realized that this was the first time the client had actually given me something to work toward. After nearly a year of working for a client who knew he wanted SEO, but never clearly stated why, he finally clued me into what he actually wanted: stronger product sales in his stores.
Search engine optimization has always had a dark and mystical reputation. We operate like wizards, performing odd rituals and incantations in the hopes of receiving favor from the mysterious forces of the gods – Google, Bing, and the like. The overwhelming majority of clients I have worked with in my years of being an SEO practitioner have either:
- Had no idea what SEO was, but read about it once and thought that their site needed it for some reason (SEO my eBay page for Bing and YouTube things, please!)
- Knew a little about search engine optimization, and thought that this was the silver bullet to make them millionaires (rank #1 for all the things!)
- Wanted SEO to do things that we have no control over (lower my PPC costs!)
This, in turn, causes professionals like me to assess the situation and begin dictating terms to clients. “This is what SEO is and is not, how it works and how it doesn’t. I am the wizard who can summon results from Google, so here’s what you can expect to happen for the next year of your life with me! I am the knower of SEO, and what you get is what you get!”
It’s no wonder that so many clients – who spend thousands of hard-earned dollars for search engine optimization – bounce from agency to agency in a state of constant frustration while SEOs – who’ve worked hard and spent long hours honing their craft – spend their days stressed out and burned out. We all need a better model; a better way to foster healthy engagement and cooperation.
I call it “Tell Me What You Want”.
Really, tell me what you want. Honestly, what do you really want to happen as a result of spending the next year or two working together. Do you want more traffic, or do you really want more customers? Do you care how engaged website users are, or is better sales on your eCommerce store the thing you really want? Do completed contact forms or stronger click-to-call percentages excite you, or do you really want more people to read and comment on your blog?
While I may be a wizard, I’m not a mind-reader. Tell me what it is you really, secretly, deep-down-inside really-really hope SEO can do for you. Give me a list of things, if you want, but just tell me what you want for your website and what a truly successful SEO campaign looks like for you at the end of the day.
Going back to the story of my client and the declining in-store sales: he finally, accidentally, told me what he really wanted: more people to visit his store and buy his stuff. He had tons of people visiting his site, lots of people signing up for his email list, and scores of people buying his online services, but the thing he really wanted was for these people to drive to his location and shop for products in his store.
Now, we’re in the process of pivoting his digital marketing strategy – we’ll be focusing most of our attention to organically ranking the products that he sells in his store, not promoting the services, the blog, and all of the other auxiliary items we’ve been pushing. We have a clear mandate from the client, and now we know how we can best serve his needs. And, perhaps for the first time since taking on this client, I have a clear target to aim for. Instead of a general “make good things happen and hope for the best” SEO approach, I can help the client find success on his terms and guide the decision-making process to best serve our new top goal.
Whether we’re successful or not remains to be seen, and is dependent on a host of different factors, but at least now we’ll know whether or not we’ll succeed. He told me what he wants, and I think we can deliver. We may not always succeed, or even be able to deliver the thing you really want, but at least having a clear expectation from both sides with an ongoing, open dialogue, we’ll be a lot closer to gaining a win for all involved.