Managing Expectations When Selling SEO Services | Selling SEO

Danger handle expectations signManaging expectations is a key component to successfully selling SEO services and maintaining healthy business relationships with your clients, yet it is often neglected. It is tempting to avoid discussion of limitations during a sale because it can be seen as undermining the value you’ve built up. And in the short term, avoidance may not appear to cause any harm. But as many experienced SEO’s know, failing to manage expectations can have far-reaching consequences.

Even though it may not be possible for any SEO to accomplish what the client projected, if the reality of what is feasible is not established early in the sales process, the client may feel misled and question not only your competence as an SEO, but become jaded and skeptical about SEO in general.

In some sales situations, it is easy to broach the topic of limitation. A client with some background in SEO may ask you directly what is attainable given his or her given site, industry, resources, and competition. In other situations, prospects with little knowledge of SEO may not know what kinds of questions to ask. Regardless, it is the seller’s responsibility to clearly communicate what the client can expect under the best, and worst, circumstances. Below are a few of the links we came across that address managing client expectations during the sales process.




What Small Business Clients Need to Know About Keywords and SEO – Austadpro,

This is a great article from SEOmoz that communicates in simple terms how competition will have a large effect on the success of your campaign. Austadpro gives a great list of realities regarding what you’re up against when you’re aiming to rank on high-demand terms. It suggests that clients either understand that it may not be possible to rank highly on competitive keywords at all, or aim for more long-tail keywords, especially those targeting local traffic.

Setting Realistic SEO Expectations – Jill Whalen, 

A somewhat dated but highly-relevant article about clearly communicating what you are actually capable of; it can be easily applied to managing expectations with clients. The article touches on competition for rankings, the primacy of target traffic vs. pure rankings, and the importance of good content.


Time Factors

Give Your SEO Campaigns Time to Take Effect – Rand Fishkin,

There are several articles that all stress the fact that SEO takes time. Rand imparts that part of the value of SEO as a marketing tool (not accounting for algorithm changes and some news items) is that SERP’s adjust slowly to change. By their design they avoid volatility in results to make sure that searchers have time to weigh in on what’s important for a meaningful period of time and the crawlers can determine the staying-power of the site.

10 Reasons SEO Takes Time and an Ongoing Investment – Sanctuary Media Group,

As titled, this blog post gives 10 key reasons why SEO takes time to work and is an ongoing investment. Similar to the article above, the author explains why domains are slow to appear in SERP’s. He also adds a great point that executing on SEO takes time as well, and ranges from activities like trouble-shooting, keyword research, and creating and editing content.

Patience is a Virtue – Aaron Wall,

Though it isn’t likely the average client will know the differences between ‘black-hat’ and ‘white-hat’ SEO tactics, this article excels at communicating that shortcuts (black-hat tactics) will only leave you worse off in the end.



Ranking Considerations

Why Reputable SEO Firms Don’t Promise Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings – Rand Fishkin,

Rand gives a short but well-explained list of reasons SEO’s shouldn’t guarantee rankings (and why they shouldn’t be expected). As I mentioned in my intro paragraph, he firmly believes that guaranteeing rankings not only sets SEO’s up for failure, but degrades the overall perception of SEO.

SEO Myths: Rankings are the Most Important Metric – Emily Mace,

This blog post that does much to sum up the position that although it may be the most easily-measured SEO metric, rankings alone are by no means the most important measure of a successful campaign.


Damage Control

How to Break Bad News to SEO Clients – Anthony Mangia,

More of a retro-active article, this suggests ways to talk to your client about disappointing results. The end of the article makes it clear that one of the best ways to handle negative result situations is to make sure you manage expectations on the front-end. Anthony suggests “under promise and over perform.”