Anyone handling an SEO program, either internal or for a client, knows that there are a many challenges involved. In fact, Mark Munroe gave an funny quote relating Murphy’s Law to SEO:
“When it comes to SEO anything that can break, does break “
It’s correct! Just when you consider that everything is perfect and things couldn’t be better, something certainly changes. Such is the natural life of an SEO.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that, despite the fact that there will always be challenges, these challenges are often not new. They are normally something we have experienced before in one way or the other, or something a friend or colleague has experienced before.
Our experiences has given us knowledge which makes it much easier for us to bounce back when Murphy’s Law heads our way.
I have outlined three major and similar challenges mostly encountered by all SEO managers and a few answers on how to deal with them.
1. Misused Expectations
Perhaps one of the most common issues in many industries is the deficiency of understanding what SEO is about and the type of results businesses should expect when embarking on such SEO program.
SEO means a lot of things to different kinds of people, and with so many different people talking about SEO and offering SEO services out there. There is no specific definition or one perfect way of doing things…which can often lead to misused expectations and unhappy clients. It is up to us to ensure that the people we work for (our clients) have an understanding of what we are offering and what to expect.
- If a client, Client 1, approach you and they want more organic traffic and more organic leads. Five months into the program, organic leads are up and organic traffic is up, but the client is not happy. Why? Because they thought for their investment, their traffic and leads would be double what they are.
- If Client 2 is maintained by a Marketing Manager who knows that an SEO program is an investment that can take time. However, Client 2’s CEO thinks SEO means rankings – instantly. After constantly searching a list of keywords and he does not see their site in position #1, the CEO get annoyed and wants the Marketing Manager to get it fixed.
While these are two very different circumstances but they are also very similar. As SEO Managers, we must make sure we get both of these situations straightened out or we jeopardize losing our client.
How Do We Do This? Here Are A Few Tips
- During the creation of any SEO program, critical evaluation of any or all past data must be done to determine what type of results are genuine. While we can never give a precise number, expectations can be well managed and kept by setting a goal based on past results. If there are no past results to pull from, apply your knowledge and ideas which you have learned from other clients. Look for clients in similar industries with similar traffic patterns and marketing budgets. It’s not apples to apples but it can provide a baseline.
- Analyze, explain and Educate at every stage. While you are directly working with the marketing manager, He might probably be reporting to someone else. Help Him succeed and manage up. Resources provided by you, explanations, hop on calls, etc. Do whatever you have to do to help him become successful and in turn, help you be successful.
- Always give important Report to the client. Kerry Dean gave a great presentation on SEO reporting metrics in which he stated that what we report on is not always what is important. I have definitely made the mistake of forwarding reports to clients only to find out they didn’t understand the data or didn’t care about the data presented. Work along with your client to make sure you are reporting on their business goals.
2. Resource Limitations
“We don’t have the resources.”
I will let you think about how often you have heard this statement in your lifetime as an SEO. If I had one dollar…
An SEO program is not just limited to one department. You need the web development team, the content team, the lead gen team, the social media team…can you get the picture?.
The challenge lies in that not every company have these teams on staff, the existing staff has full workloads, and budgets do not allow for unlimited work.
- The third Client has an external web development team. The web development team works within a set budget, allotting a certain amount of hours to the client. When technical SEO recommendations are provided, the third Client needs to know if/when these will fit in the web development budget. If there isn’t enough time or budget for this month, then the SEO recommendations are pushed out 30-60 days.
- The fourth Client has set some pretty cumbersome goals for the program and in order to meet those targets, they will need to be creating 2-3 pieces of content per week. At the middle of the year, two of their writers quit, leaving them short-handed and content creation at a pause.
In each of these cases, resource limitations have the prospect to slow down the program and hurt results. As SEO Managers, it’s our duty to alleviate damages and proffer solutions where we can.
How Do We Do This? Here Are A Few Tips
- Understanding the resource limitations ahead of time. At the discovery stage, we try to find out as much about a potential client’s resources as possible. Who is in their web development team? What is their current capacity? Is it an internal employee? How many writers are there? How much access do they have with them? While we can’t avoid scenarios in which resources leave, if we know ahead of time what we’re working with, we can plan better expectations (refer back to previous section) and formulate our own tactics better.
- Prioritize. When resources are limited, make sure you often recommend prioritizing. If three different recommendations are provided but the client only has the time/budget for one, help them understand which one they should focus on and the reason why. Apparently the one that’s going to provide the best results.
- Know when to step in. At times you just have to interrupt some things and offer to do them yourself. In the world of consulting, results are what matter most and if nothing is done and there are no results to show for it, you eventually lose the client or your job. What can you take on that will help them, and help you?
3. Unforeseen Changes
Expect the unforeseen, unpredictable and the unforeseen. It is what we have been taught in life and it applies to every workplace or organization as well. Changes that are out of our control will occur. Companies will be sold, employees will quit, budgets will be cut, and there is nothing we can do about it.
In fact, the scheduling of this post is perfect as I just had a client tell me she was leaving to take another job. While it is very sad to see someone you love working with leave, in this present generation, it has become a common practice.
People no longer stay at one position for their whole life, staying 2-3 years in a company or organization is becoming the norm.
Here Are Some Other Examples:
- Client 5 has been working with you for over two years and the results have been remarkable. So much that the client has gained a lot of dishonor and awareness and has been acquired by a Fortune 900 company. The Fortune 900 Company will be rolling the client’s site into theirs…which will be managed by the in-house SEO team.
- Client 6 has been with you for two years. The program has been maintained through the Marketing Manager but a new CMO was hired. The CMO has a preferred SEO vendor they’d like to use.
Unfortunately in these circumstances, you may not be able to retain a client but there are few things you can do to ensure the success of your business.
Here Are A Few Tips
- Render help in any possible way. Even if a client is on the verge of quitting, I offer to help wherever I can. Referring back to Client 5, yes, we are no longer responsible for the maintaining of the site but we do care about the success. We’ll give them a list of URLs and recommended steps for integrating the site without losing too much traffic. Always end on a good note because you never know where you might meet again or where your contact might end up.
- Always stay in touch. I am always sad whenever my contact leaves the company. Between emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings, you really get to know them and care about them beyond just business. Get their email, connect on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, send a card, etc. Aside from the personal aspect of it, having a strong network is important. Plus, they may need the services of an SEO vendor at their next company.
An SEO’s lifestyle is always an adventure, but hopefully, these tips will help guide you when challenges arise.
What are some of the common challenges you have faced as an SEO manager?