What Type of SEO Client Are You?

by Jeff Quipp February 18th, 2008 

Are there ways that you can help your SEO company improve your results? ABSOLUTELY!

In this post, I'll help you assess which of the 3 types of SEO Clients you are (from an involvement perspective only), and why it matters to you in terms of results and ROI.

The Impetus:
I recently wrote a post titled "I Jeff Quipp Am Not An SEO … I'm An Authority Builder". The premise of this post was that as SEOs, we should strive to build strong client profiles online, and to make clients recognized authorities in their respective spaces.

After writing this post, a good friend of mine Dave Harry (theGypsy) disagreed with me saying two things:

    1) SMEs cannot/will not all invest the time/money to establish themselves as authorities online
    2) my assertion places too much focus on link building

It caused me to rethink the premise a little more.

So Dave … I'll admit you were correct with point 1, only from the perspective however that there are circumstances that companies would not wish to engage in authority building immediately. That doesn't mean however that I don't believe all clients shouldn't strive to be authorities in their respective spaces.

If clients hope to grow, and use online efforts to aid in that growth, authority building should absolutely be a component of their marketing mix. It will only become more important in the future. That said, one of the conclusions that I came to was that there were different types of clients, often corresponding to various stages of their evolution in the online space.

Three Types of Clients:
Given this new insight, I'm going to go out on a limb, and suggest that there are three types of seo clients (see below). Obviously this is a mass oversimplification as we're looking at it only from the perspective of client engagement in the process … but it will suffice for the purposes here. If you yourself are a client of an SEO company, please try to assess which of these categories you fit into, and then consider how you might aid in the improvement of your own SEO efforts. Its important, because in most cases you'll find its an evolution. If not, certainly increasing your willingness to particpate will increase the results you will experience. Clients often begin as a "Hands-Off" type client. Once they see good success, many will step up to become a "Moderately Involved" type client, and eventually to a "Whatever-you-need" type client.

    1) The "Hands Off" Type Client - Your philosphy is "you pay the SEO to take care of everything" and don't want them to distract you unless its an emergency, so you can focus on your business. Everyone focuses on their strengths so to speak! You likely talk directly to your SEO very infrequently, often only to talk about problems or great successes, and likely receive a simplified report monthly or quarterly. There is no real account management in this stage. Trust is being earned, though still in question, and accordingly monthly SEO fees are still significantly less than other media.

    2) The "Moderately Involved" Type Client – this is the type of client who's engaged by search as they've seen glimpses of the potential, though are still somewhat tentative. You've already thought, "I wonder if my involvement, would aid with the process?". You've known intuitively that the cost per acquisition (CPA) through organic search is a fraction of most other media, and you're thinking about scalability.

    You're likely spending 5-10 times what the Hands-Off type client is spending. Accordingly, you're receiving some account management. You've taken a more active role now too. You're actively writing blog posts or at leasts the seeds for blog posts, or are helping secure the necessary people internally to contribute to it. Perhaps you're also starting to build a community (forum, tools, pligg type site, etc.). You question though; why am I paying more if I have to do more work?

    3) The "Whatever-you-need" Type Client – clients at this stage have made a commitment to being one of a very few top companies in their space (perhaps 1-10). They've realized they have/need a partnership with their SEO firm. Its all about win-win, not adversarial win-lose relationships, and participate accordingly. Clients in this phase know that the key to long term success in SEO is about being an authority in their respective spaces, and that WILL require their input. Good SEOs know how to make people/companies authorities, but do not know enough about the business to do it themselves. This requires a great deal of time on the part of the client. The SEOs then guide the process, and massage it as necessary, but ultimately the content itself is the work of the client. Client investment in terms of time and effort will vary considerably from industry to industry. Account management is a necessary facet of this relationship, as project management becomes an important component of the process.

Why Does This Matter?

For Clients:
If Sales/ROI = Increased Qualified Referrals + Improved Rankings
then:
Authority = Increased Qualified Referrals + Improved Rankings
then it stands to reason that:
Sales/ROI = Authority building = industry knowledge + authority building knowledge

Its really difficult (though not impossible) to have real success without the presence of both elements (industry knowledge and authority building knowledge). Accordingly, it requires a very close relationship between SEO and client, and IT WILL require client involvement. The more client willingness to participate as needed, the better.

So, if you find yourself as a client at Stage 1 or 2 and wishing you could secure more low CPA business, consider stepping up your level of activitiy in the SEO process. In the end, content is key, and only you have the necessary knowledge. It does require your involvement though!

If you want more … commit more! Not necessarily money, but time! Though be careful not to try to intervene and guide the entire process, this is the realm of SEOs, and would be a completely different categorization of client (not the positive type). Afterall, we SEOs cannot be accountable for what we cannot control.

For SEOs:
Authority building = industry knowledge + authority building knowledge

Client knowledge is crucial. Their time is extremely limited! Accordingly, manage their expectations, and spend their time investments wisely. Streamline and guide processes as efficently as possible!

In the end, increased client involvement leads to substantially improved results from SEO! , and should be a goal for most all clients and SEOs.

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6 Responses to “What Type of SEO Client Are You?”

  1. Chris Estes says:

    Ahh the satisfaction of a #3 client! The first two make the job easy but #3 makes the first two all worth it.

    Depending on how big of an organization there can be variations and mixes of the 3 categories.

  2. Matt Ridout says:

    I would like to add the "We don't think seo is worth investing in client"

    One that thinks reciprocal linking is the only thing we do.

    Most frustrating

  3. And you forgot the "how come it's not working yet? We've been doing SEO for a week now." client.

  4. pratt says:

    Great post, Jeff. I couldn't agree more. I always stress to the clients that the more involved they get in the process, the better the results they will see. They always seem willing at the initial sales meetings, but their enthusiasm quickly fades once the project starts.

    I wrote a similar post about client profiling, too: http://www.gonzo-seo.com/profiling-your-clients-the-5-usual-suspects/

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