In the five years that I have worked within the world of search engine optimization and social development, I have had the opportunity to work with businesses and clients that run the gamut in size and access to resources. From couples running an e-commerce website in their basement to Fortune 50 brands, both types of businesses have their own unique considerations for managing an online marketing campaign.

In either situation, I admit occasionally falling in the cliche state of " the grass is greener on the other side" mindset, as there are difficulties with managing relationships at both sides of the spectrum. Most small business owners usually want impossible results immediately; while larger brands are often overextended and unable to execute on deliverables due to the number of agencies and people involved with a particular campaign.

In developing competent digital marketing campaigns, what is an SEO supposed to do when clients have impossible expectations or are too big to accomplish anything in a reasonable amount of time?

Well, here are a number of ways that SEOs and marketers can educate their clients to the various nuances of digital marketing and deliver sound strategies in a timely manner.

Tips For Working With Small Business Owners

Tip #1: Get to know the client's business as if you are looking to become the owner
If you are heading into a professional relationship with a small business owner who is developing a search strategy for the first time, then understanding the complete ins and outs of their business is a must for producing a healthy relationship.

From the business owner's perspective, they receive dozens of phone calls each month from consultants and salesmen, who all want "just 15 minutes" of their time to discuss how they have the ability to make money rain down from the heavens.

clip_image002So rather than enter the relationship telling the client what you are going to do for them, start off by asking what it is they do and how they think you can complement their marketing efforts using online search strategies. A great idea for demonstrating concern and respect for the client's work is by starting the relationship off on the right foot and holding some

sort of a kick-off interview where you allow the owner or lead manager to tell why their business is amazing, as well as how it is different than their competition.

For the client, they get to experience someone who comes off as genuine and truly concerned over their life's work, while you as the SEO have a chance to:

- Collect a plethora of target keyphrases to target that are critical to the company, its services and direction

- Adapt your language to the client's level of understanding

- Establish the basis for creating a content calendar that focuses on seasonality, sales, promotions, and other opportunities for increased online exposure

Tip #2: Education is king

It is too easy for someone who limited experience with search marketing to go online and fall in love with some generic blog post that has been rehashed a thousand times. If you are working with a small business owner who claims to have an understanding on what goes into search marketing, try and vet their level of understanding by asking questions that relate to various factors that influence search visibility.

As you conduct your kick-off interview and go through the first month of work together, make time to discuss new trends and developments in the search industry with your client.

Whether it is explaining the concept of Google's algorithm updates with "Panda" or hashing out the search benefits a particular social media platform can provide, make sure you are educating your client in a way that is easily understood by them (it does not matter how smart you sound if they have no clue what you are saying). To increase your authority, make sure you follow up your meeting by sending them an article from a reliable source that justifies your point or current direction in their campaign.

For the client, they are able to understand the value and purpose of your work and will be much more receptive to new ideas and shifts in the strategy. As the SEO or digital marketer, you have the opportunity to become a trusted source of information, which increases your chances of keeping your client and maintaining your business for the long-haul.

clip_image004Tip #3: Set expectations on day 1
There is an ongoing joke within the SEO world that sees small business owners wanting to appear on page one of Google, less than 24 hours after their search campaign began. While it is easy for an SEO to think that the client is naive here, the client is actually justified in their demand. This is because unlike digital marketing, traditional offline advertising mediums like television does drive immediate leads or sales.

Unlike a blog post, consumers do not have to search their television sets to find an ad that will tell them what they want, when they should get it, and how they can pick up the phone and get it right now. It just happens naturally with TV ads and as such, small businesses are able to say that when they put money into TV, their phone starts ringing the next day.
So do you sit there like a spoiled child getting frustrated with the owner? Not if you are a professional.

When launching a campaign with a small business owner, make sure you set reasonable expectations right away. The client needs to understand that organic search is dictated by the amount of time a domain has existed, the volume of well-optimized, in-depth content the website has, and the volume of credible links the site's content has acquired.

They need to know what a qualified online visitor looks like and how they behave, as opposed to someone who accidently lands on their site and bounces in less than thirty seconds.

Teach them what your goals for the campaign are and how they will lead to the client expanding their reach or increasing revenue over time.

Do not promise results in three months but do not leave the client feeling as if search marketing is an impossible mountain to climb. If you are an expert at what you do, you should be able to deliver some form of lead generation within six to eight months of active work and content development, regardless of who the target audience is or what products your client offers.

For the client, immediately setting reasonable expectations will help them feel that there is a purpose to their campaign and they will not be as likely to panic when the phone does not ring at first. For you as the SEO or marketer, you will have more control over the campaign and will be able to provide the type of work that is best for the client's overall digital needs, rather than try and cram in as much "stuff" in as possible to make it look like a lot has happened.

Tips For Working With Large Brands

clip_image006Tip #1: Get to know your brand's agencies and who is in charge
When working with large brands that outsource production and development to various agencies, it is critical to understand at the beginning of a campaign:

- How many agencies are involved

- What is the role of each agency

- Who is the manager of each team

Knowing these points allows you to reach the most appropriate party when developing a digital campaign, and saves a tremendous amount of time lost to e-mail chains, misguided information, and duplicate efforts.

Tip #2: Communication is king
The ability to get tasks and strategies off of the ground with large brands is directly correlated to the level of communication that takes place between all parties involved.

It is too easy to spend a considerable amount of time and energy developing comprehensive search plans, only to find out that they will never go into effect because the brand already set their budget for the year.

When working with a plethora of agencies, make sure you immediately establish an understanding for when any and all significant events or developments take place.

Get each agency to submit information and dates for:

- New product launches

- Major celebrity partnerships

- Any and all site redesigns or roll- ups

- Pages being added or removed from a site

- Special promotions

- PR events

As the SEO or digital marketer, you can use this information to keep track of your campaigns, ensure progress is taking place on time, and also build a content calendar around each significant event to maximize exposure and conversion opportunity.

Tip #3: Set reasonable expectations for yourself
One problem that naturally occurs when working with a variety of agencies is that progress and implementation takes a lot of time. It is too easy to grow frustrated waiting for tangible progress or growth when developing digital campaigns for large brands, because the recommendation you made seven months ago for redirecting 873 '404' broken links is not even close to being implemented.

Rather than get frustrated or place blame on your team or other agencies, explore any opportunities that put you in control of implementation and progress, such as optimizing the client's YouTube channel or building out a new Google+ profile. This will allow you to stay focused on your client and continue to develop their overall digital campaign, while your high-end recommendations and deliverables continue to move down the line.

Jason Corrigan

Jason Corrigan is the Director of SEO at Cardinal Web Solutions in Norcross, GA who oversees the planning and execution of custom SEO and social strategies for medium sized businesses to Fortune 500 companies. He is a published author on Social SEO and has extensive marketing experience that ranges from journalism and content development to TV and Radio marketing/advertising.

Jason Corrigan

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