Danielle Haley, Co-Director at FSE Online Ltd, discusses some of the key issues facing SEO teams in 2014
Anyone who has so much as dabbled in the murky depths of search engine marketing will know that SEO is a tough game. Whether you’re running an SEO agency, heading up an SEO department in a company or working as a freelancer, you’ll know that a career in search, whilst enormously rewarding, can also be littered with frustrating conversations and difficult decisions.
We’ve put together a very honest list of what are arguably the biggest challenges faced by search engine marketing professionals on an almost daily basis, and what you can do to overcome them. Here’s part one.
Expectation vs reality
The challenge: The client expects too much from search in the short-term (…or not much at all)
Managing the expectations of clients is a tricky business. Most traditional forms of marketing offer tried and tested routes to market and can promise a return of some kind; SEO, on the other hand, is often a law unto itself, because so much of the practice is out of our control.
Your SEO team may be working day and night to make sure their campaigns are producing a return, but they are not the ones who are ultimately responsible for your clients’ ranking positions – it’s the search engines who have the final say as to who ranks where. This means that there are no guaranteed results in SEO. You can predict how much work will be involved in getting your client to the top spot, and you can estimate a timeframe for success, but you can never be 100% sure that you’re going to hit their targets on time and on budget. Tell your clients that it’s a done deal and they’ll soon realise that you’re out to make a quick buck and have no interest in a long-term business relationship.
Interestingly, there are also plenty of clients out there who have absolutely no belief in SEO whatsoever and are expecting you to fail miserably at every hurdle. They know that their business won’t survive without a search engine presence, but begrudge paying you for your services all the same. These clients have often been ‘burned’ by a less-than-scrupulous search agency in the past and see SEO as a necessary (yet money-draining) evil. Part of our job is to convince them that, when carried out correctly, SEO really is worth the investment and really can turn small, struggling businesses into a real force to be reckoned with online.
How to manage expectations
It takes time to develop a strong SEO campaign and, as much as we’ve all experienced the odd ‘miracle’ case here and there, SEO marketers rarely generate quick wins. This is exasperating from the client’s perspective, particularly when they’re having to justify their marketing spend to their directors, but it can be extremely frustrating agency-side too.
The easiest way to tackle both over-zealous and clients and those who remain jaded about SEO is to make it very clear to the client from the outset that they’re in this for the long haul. Setting realistic goals, providing transparent reporting and adopting a consultative approach will help instil confidence in your staff, your services and the overall concept of search marketing.
More established agencies may also benefit from putting together case studies that exemplify the success of clients who have taken the plunge and reaped the rewards further down the line. The more tangible success you can demonstrate to your prospects, the more likely you are to win their trust.