Barry wrote a very thought provoking post the other day. In it, he pondered 'What have you done for me today?' in terms of how you as an SEO company, can retain your value to the customer after the honeymoon period. I believe that Barry and Ben are both right. However, I think that SEO companies have another issue: they fail to use solid copywriting and SEO practices when dealing with clients.
Why Clients Go Elsewhere
We know that, if clients don't get what they pay for, they will go elsewhere. But, what about those who seem to disappear without reason? Well, I think many of the problems occur when clients simply don't make the connection between what you're doing and how it benefits them. Of course, this doesn't happen when you're working with a client who understands SEO, but uneducated clients are a completely story.
'But...I educate the client.'
Ok, but consider this for a moment: Many SEO companies supply their customers with informational leaflets, but why would a client take the time out of an already busy schedule to read everything when it reads a textbook? They hire you to know this stuff.
Bottom line, everything you do has to be perceived as value to the client and not a chore. And, when this doesn't happen, the problems start between you and the client. So, how do you accomplish this? Aren't you already doing this with the regular reports and papers you send to the client? Well, sort of.
Keyword Research and SEO for Clients
If you want a search engine to recognize the value of your website, products, and services, you do some research to find just the right keywords. You choose words like 'best SEO', 'quality SEO services', and 'SEO your-city-name' and weave them throughout your website. So, if you want your clients to recognize the value of your business and your work, you need to find the right descriptive keywords. These 'client keywords' are a little different however.
(And before you roast me on the stake for SEO witchcraft and magic: yes, I know that *technically* there's no such thing as 'client keywords', but just humor me ;))
Instead of using various tools to find out what clients are searching for, make a list of the keywords clients want to hear. So, if I was to hire one of you, I would want you to help me get more newsletter signups, more RSS subscribers, an increase in inquiries, improve my website's rankings, bring in more traffic, generate bigger profits... you get the idea.
Your job is to find these keywords and create a list. If you're just not sure, look through the correspondence and conversations you've had with your clients. Search blog comments, forums, and even just talk to your clients to find out exactly what it is they want.
Once you have this list of client SEO keywords, gather all of the correspondence and reports that you would normally send to your clients. These could include brochures, supplemental information leaflets, site audits, and weekly progress reports. Now, go through each one and look at the language they use.
Do they explain what you do? Or do they use client keywords to show your customers the value of services and make them feel good about hiring you?
Let's look at a few of the standard documents you and other SEOers might use:
Brochures and Proposals
In the post SEO Company Websites Fail to Convert and Meet Their Profit Goals, I mentioned that you need something to give to the boss. This works to seal the deal and convert regular clients too. Create a PDF brochure that explains who you are, what you do, and why you're the best. It also needs to include client keywords in order to translate all of that back into benefits.
So, instead of saying: 'X years experience in SEO', I would say: "The X years we've spent in the SEO industry has allowed us to test most of the theories and ideas out there. We know exactly what techniques will bring the most traffic to your website...' or something like that anyway. Your clients will easily see you as the best choice and realize the value you're offering. This makes it much easier for them to start paying you.
When you produce a site audit and a list of recommendations for the customer, it likely reads something like:
Problem: poor content
Recommendation: optimized, fresh content.
Problem: 1000 poor backlinks
Recommendation: 1000 new links.
Makes perfect sense to you right? Well, the only thing the client sees when he reads this is how much money you're going to cost him. He knows you're going to add/redo the content and get more links, but he has no idea what this will do. You need to tell him!
Let's say the client is DrinkingandDomainBuyingDoesntMix.com, a membership site where webgoers can get help for their particular...um...addiction (the domain might still be available. I have a feeling it could be quite profitable. If not, you could always feature tasty beverages and resell domains ;)). So, in addition to giving a plain report with a list of what you found and what you're going to do, try adding a client-friendly summary that might say something like:
Your site has some great content, but it isn't getting the attention that it should from customers or the search engines. We here at OurSEOersRock.com feel that optimization and the addition of some fresh content could increase your traffic significantly and ultimately, increase your program's enrollment. It would also make you more visible in the various social media networks and help you gain some links.
Your site can't reach its full potential because of the age and source of many of your backlinks. Therefore, we recommend adding 1000 links from good sources to increase your reach, improve your site rankings, and drive more traffic. To accomplish this, we suggest some article marketing, guest blog posts, commenting, press releases, and a feature article...
Weekly Progress Reports
Depending on exactly what your agreement is with the client, a progress report is a great opportunity to remind the client that you're worth a million bucks. All you need to do is to produce a piece that is similar in concept to your client site audit report. It could even be as simple as an email.
In it, connect what you've done with how it benefited the client. You don't need to analyze each link, or each piece of copy, but be sure to prove yourself and get your client excited about improvements you've made.
If you have traffic stats or any other specific information such as new blog posts about the press release you distributed, or the guest post you did, brag about it. If you published a feature article or circulated a free report that generated a huge social media buzz include some of the comments here as well. Finally, attach it to your invoice if you have one, and you're done. (It's sort of like cushioning the blow...Being nice does pay!)
I can hear you going 'Great. This nut basket wants me to do even more work.' Well yes, producing these documents can take some work, but not as much as you may think. Forms, templates, and macros can eliminate a large portion of your work. Regardless of how you create them, however, the improvement in customer satisfaction, increased profits, and the ability to set your company apart from the rest will be well worth it.
Worth a shot, right?
Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.
Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.