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

Stirring this mystic brew are marketers playing on the mythic ambiguousness of SEO, spinning a yarn and peddling Fool’s Gold, making grand promises and delivering only dust.

These SEO alchemists can spot a technophobe a mile away, and they use this knowledge to their benefit. They speak in tongues about schema, UTMs, and link juice. They tell tall tales of the ancient one, RankBrain, and ask merely for monthly financial sacrifices to appease the God of Google.

Anyway, I think I’ve taken that metaphor as far as it can go! My point is this: a lot of marketers play on the perceived complexity of SEO and use that to bewilder businesses into working with them, which isn’t a good look for the SEO industry as a whole.

On the flipside of the ‘dark art’ of SEO is the perception that anyone can do it: that anyone with a step-by-step instruction manual and a bit of time can do everything you need to rank well in local search.

If you’re wondering where this perception can come from, just take a look at the oodles of people offering SEO services for disconcertingly cheap prices through sites like Upwork and Fiverrr.

You’ll soon hear a klaxon in your head; a wake-up call alerting you to just how many of the SEO tasks you perform can apparently be completed by someone suspiciously devoid of skill or experience.

This view of SEO as a cheap tactic beneath a low skill ceiling does yet more damage to the cause of SEO as a whole, but it’s not just gig-economy chancers taking the shine off SEO. There are plenty of marketers out there who don’t want to get their hands dirty and do the actual work required to deliver local search success beyond basic tasks like citation building and GMB profile setup.

I can certainly appreciate the simplicity of this approach, and if you’re being completely transparent with your clients about the minimal impact of the base-level work you’re doing, who’s to argue against it? But this, combined with those selling SEO on gig sites, leads to yet more erosion of trust in SEO as a practice performed by professionals and experts.

We’ve discussed some of the ways that a local business might have a negative perception of SEO, but there are plenty of real-life experiences they could have that might lead to a mistrust of SEO.

Here are a few of the ultimately avoidable ways that agencies might find themselves on the receiving end of a contract cancellation. We’ll be using these to define exactly how to approach and work with clients who have suffered these situations before.

Some SEOs see local search success as a long game, in which they have to first set up an online presence that gives a local business the best chance to rank, and then go on to work on the things that really make a competitive difference: the link building, the listing tests, the on-site SEO, the review generation.

Then there are marketers who only do the first part, and barely that. Those with a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality to local SEO aren’t going to provide long-term value to local business clients. Some even follow this up by offering a barebones service as a retainer, returning each month to say whatever the client wants to hear in order to keep them on the books.

The client experience of paying for very little at the start and getting even less over the course of the relationship naturally leads to misgivings about local SEOs.

Good communication practices should be at the heart of the client relationship, and this, as we’ll go onto a little later, should be set in place right at the start.