Five Tips For SEO Agencies On Setting Expectations With Their Clients

Founder/CEO of, an SEO agency that helps elite personal injury law firms dominate first page rankings.

As an SEO agency owner, you probably know that getting clients is just half of the battle. The other half of the battle is retaining those clients.

Joey Coleman, the author of Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days, stresses that the first 100 days are critical for each customer—they have to feel like they made a good purchasing decision; companies need to counter potential buyer’s remorse.

One of the key ways to make each of your clients feel like they made a good decision turning to your SEO services? Set expectations early. As Robert Patin, the author of The Agency Blueprint, explains, “Unmet expectations are the root of all unhappiness. Setting expectations with your clients sets them up to feel confident throughout the process of working with you.”

Here are five tips for SEO agencies on setting expectations with their clients.

1. Uncover The Reasons Why Former Clients Left

One common business practice is to run retrospectives, also known as post-mortems, to reflect on what went right and what went wrong with a particular project, with the goal of avoiding the same pitfalls in the future.

You and your team should put together retrospectives whenever a client leaves (and retroactively run retrospectives as needed). During each retrospective, some of the factors you and your team should reflect on include:

• What challenges you had working with that particular client

• What challenges that client had working with you

• Why that client left

Whatever the reasons you uncover were behind those clients’ departures, address them in future client onboardings. For instance, let’s say you and your team conclude that a client left because they felt your SEO agency wasn’t transparent enough. You can take two steps with future clients to improve transparency: sending them monthly reports and setting up regular meetings to discuss progress. Your future clients will all start your working relationship with those two expectations.

2. Reach A Mutual Understanding About Priorities

It’s essential to reach a mutual understanding about priorities with all of your clients.

If a client comes to you and says they want to rank number one for a keyword that’s only tangentially related to their business, you should have a conversation with them about why that’s not the best strategy. If a client wants you to edit their website to focus on specific keywords and requests that you follow their style guidelines—style guidelines that they haven’t formalized in a document—it’s up to you to set the expectation with them that they’ll need to give you a formal style guide so you can complete the second half of the project.

Many clients will have an idea of what they want, but at the end of the day, they’re seeking you and your team’s SEO expertise. You should give them guidance to set them on the right SEO path.

3. Get Clear On Deadlines And Turnaround Times

Sometimes, clients have unrealistic expectations about turnaround times and deadlines. They might think it’s feasible to get 40 polished blog post drafts a month or revamp their entire website copy in a week.

It’s up to you to communicate to your clients when they can expect to get their deliverables. For example, if they want 30 blog posts a quarter, you could create an editorial calendar that maps out deadlines for each blog post or set the expectation that they’ll get ten blog post drafts each month.

Keep in mind that the client will hold you to whatever expectations on deadlines and turnaround times you set unless there are extenuating circumstances. If you realize you can’t meet a deadline or turnaround time for whatever reason, inform the client as soon as possible. And sometimes, especially in situations where you have a client on retainer, the client will suddenly want to prioritize a new project over an existing one. You should tell clients how far in advance they should give you notice if they want to shift their priorities.

4. Show Clients How To Treat Your Time

It’s also vital that you set expectations with your clients about your and your team’s availability.

For example, if you set an expectation that your agency doesn’t answer emails or pick up phone calls after 5 p.m. on weekdays, your clients won’t get angry if no one responds to emails they send at night. But, if you don’t tell your clients your hours of operation at the start of their onboarding, you risk opening a can of worms. A client might call you after hours and get frustrated if you don’t pick up.

Also, remember that setting expectations about your availability is essentially useless if you constantly break your own rules. So, if you tell your clients that they can expect a response the next business day if they email you after 5 p.m., but you constantly email them back after hours, you’re showing them that you don’t respect your own boundaries. And if you don’t care about your boundaries, why should they?

5. Educate Clients On When They Can Expect To See SEO Results

SEO is not an industry where clients can see immediate results. That’s why it’s important to tell clients that it can take at least four to five months, if not longer, to see results.

When clients understand that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, you’ll be able to nurture a better working relationship with them. You’ll be less likely to be on the receiving end of anger over not seeing overnight results. Clients will understand that you’re doing all you can to give them the best outcome; it’ll just take some time before they’ll see the payoff.

Ultimately, many times, clients have falling outs with SEO agencies because of uncertainty. By giving them clear expectations and answers to their questions every step of the way, you’ll minimize, if not eliminate, those feelings of uncertainty and boost your SEO agency’s client retention rate.

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Steve Liem

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