Timothy Carter is the CFO of DEV.co and SEO.co. Tim & his teams specialize in custom software development, web design and digital marketing.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is tough. There are more than 200 complexly interdependent ranking factors to learn and study — and countless tactics to try as you compete with the millions of businesses around the world who are also investing in this strategy.
That’s why so many businesses turn to the help of SEO agencies for their SEO needs. With an agency on your side, you’ll have access to a full team of dedicated experts, all who will get to know your brand and support it with best-in-class content, links and onsite tweaks to make sure you rank as highly as possible — at least in a best-case scenario.
What if your SEO agency isn’t delivering the results it promised? What steps can you take to resolve the situation?
Step One: Define The Variables
Before you do anything else, try to concretely define the variables in play for you in this situation. Your SEO agency isn’t meeting your expectations, but what exactly were those expectations? What were you hoping to achieve by this point in time? Did you want to reach a certain ranking for a certain keyword, or are you looking for a certain figure in your organic traffic metrics?
Additionally, what could the SEO agency be doing to meet your expectations? Are you purely motivated by bottom-line metrics; if so, what target would be realistic that could turn the situation around? Is it more a matter of how much work they’re actually doing? If so, how could they improve their strategies to better serve you?
Step Two: Give It Time
Don’t jump the gun. It’s easy to forget that SEO is a long-term strategy; it usually takes time — sometimes several months — from starting a campaign to seeing it pay off. In some competitive industries, it can take years before you establish the authority necessary to truly generate an impressive ROI.
If it’s only been a few weeks and you’re worried that you haven’t seen a major increase in your organic traffic, take a step back. As long as your SEO company is communicating with you and are doing work in line with best practices, you can afford to give it a few more months.
Step Three: Check Your Contract — And Prior Communications
If you’ve been in this partnership for a few months and you still haven’t seen enough momentum, take a moment to review your contract and prior conversations you’ve had with this organization. Is your contract locked in for a certain period of time or are you allowed to exit at any point? Is there any recourse for you if you aren’t satisfied with the company’s results?
Most agencies make it a point not to promise any specific results. Because clients and industries vary so wildly, it’s almost impossible to promise a specific level of organic traffic or achieve a certain rank by a certain date. However, a salesperson might have promised you something early in the communications process; don’t be afraid to hold your agency accountable for these promises.
Step Four: Have A Frank Conversation
At this point, you’ll be ready to have a frank conversation with your account manager or someone in charge at the agency. Talk about your unmet expectations and what will need to happen if you’re going to continue this arrangement.
Be specific. In your conversation, be as specific as possible. Don’t make vague statements like, “You simply aren’t meeting expectations.” Cite numbers and past experiences like, “Organic traffic has only grown from 2,500 per month to 2,520 per month.” It’s also important to make note of any strategies that aren’t going well, such as poorly written content or links that have earned you a penalty.
Be polite, but firm. Throughout this process, remember to be polite and professional, even if you’re angry about the situation. At the same time, be firm in your demands. Don’t let the company talk you into allowing this process to continue unabated.
Clarify an actionable path forward. Make it clear what your expectations for the future are and set an actionable path forward for both parties. What can the agency do to win back your business? Lay out a plan for success and list the consequences of failure.
Step Five: Start Shopping
If you’ve had a friendly conversation with your SEO agency and they still haven’t improved their approach or gotten you the results they promised, it’s time to start shopping around for a new agency. When interviewing new potential candidates, make sure you reference the problems you had with your previous agency and make it clear that you won’t be tolerating them in any future partnership.
In a worst-case scenario, your initial SEO agency may make it difficult for you to break your contract or continue to charge you for services. If you don’t get anywhere with polite, yet firm conversations, you may need to bring a lawyer in to settle the issue.
SEO agencies typically provide immense value to the organizations they serve. If you’re not getting the results you were promised, don’t lay back and accept it; use these strategies to renegotiate your arrangement or find a new provider.