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How to Win a Client That’s Been Burned by an SEO Agency

Advance Your Agency is a BrightLocal series designed to equip you with the skills, knowledge, and advice necessary to take your agency operations to the next level.

As in any industry where trust has to be placed in an expert or authority, there are sharks in SEO. While we in local search like to think of ourselves as the more approachable, more trustworthy kid brother of mainstream SEO, sadly there are always opportunities for professionals to behave less than professionally, taking advantage of businesses and eroding the good standing and expertise SEOs should have.

You might not have dealt with SEOs playing fast and loose with the truth, but if you’ve been in SEO for some time, and worked with a variety of clients, you’ll no doubt have come across clients who have.

The experience of dealing with SEOs who overpromise and overcharge can leave more than a bad taste in the mouths of local business owners and marketers, but that doesn’t mean you should leave them to turn tail and charge forth with an agency-free, Google-only strategy, leaving SEO in their wake.

No, when confronted with a prospect who says they’re “done with SEO,” you have an opportunity – nay, a responsibility (okay, I’ll get off my high horse now) – to rebuild their trust in SEO and deliver the kind of service they should have received in the first place.

If you’re staring at a huge gulf between yourself and your client, wondering how to broach the topic of SEO with someone who’s been burned by a former SEO agency, this guide is here to help. (Fair warning: we’ll be talking a lot about relationships and I’m going to be doing my best to prevent this from sounding like a dating advice column – wish me luck!)

In order to define the best approach to turning someone around on SEO, it’s important to know what sort of experience your prospect has had, so you can learn what their misgivings might be.

Here are a few examples of ways in which local businesses might have been underserved by SEO:

There are numerous ways to approach a potential SEO client from an informed and considered position, such as approaching them with a bespoke audit of their performance. However, very often marketers choose to go down the cold-as-ice route of “hitting the phones” and promising the earth to unwitting local business owners.

To these people, sales is merely a numbers game and as long as you’re always bulk-sending emails or dialling every number in the phone book, you’re doing your job.

Every single day, business owners are bombarded with phone calls and emails from self-proclaimed “digital marketing experts” vying to help them get on the first page of Google, get social media likes and followers, build a new website, etc. The promises made by these marketers are endless, and the sheer volume of contact attempts can leave most business owners frustrated and confused about who to trust and believe when it comes to their own business’ digital marketing strategy.

While SEO has undergone a transition over the years, from inscrutable practice to something that’s a little more clear-cut and easy to communicate, many business owners still see SEO as a ‘dark art’ with machinations unknown to us mere mortals.

This is, as it always was, down to the fact that Google doesn’t tell you explicitly how to rank in search. This alone adds an element of alchemy to the role of an SEO. Your job is to scry the SERPs for a glimmer of an insight and test that hunch to breaking point.