SEO companies often fail to optimize something immensely important: their agreement with you, the client.

In fact, as I discuss client-vendor relationships with new business prospects, my peers, and members of our team, I’ve discovered a number of things tend to slip through the cracks. Or they’re cloudy. Or they simply go unsaid.

So I’ve made a list. I want to share with you five dangerously misunderstood parts of the SEO service spectrum I believe must be addressed, understood and agreed to.

My hope is that this will benefit you in the following ways:

1.    Your SEO vendor will become more accountable.

2.    Your expectations will be raised—and met.

3.    All parties involved will enjoy a far more productive and successful relationship, and above all, results.

To achieve long-term success, I believe your SEO vendor/partner must abide by the following mandates.


SEO companies must educate their clients.

The SEO company you want working with yours doesn’t simply render a service. They should guide you through the complexities of search marketing. A truly helpful partner will provide a roadmap to help you understand the important principles and deliver the knowledge you need to benefit from your SEO efforts. Teamwork is essential.

SEO companies may go about their business differently, but all practitioners would agree SEO is complex. Have you ever experienced an SEO pro reeling off incomprehensible technobabble like they were speaking in code? (They probably were.) Title tags, meta descriptions, domain authority, blah, blah, </blah>.

What’s this stuff mean? How should it, could it, will it impact visibility, leads, and revenue? The company you employ needs to give you the skinny in a comprehensible fashion that’s meaningful to you and relevant to its application.

You should never be expected to dedicate precious resources to stuff you don’t fully grasp. Too often, agencies put little or no effort into helping clients understand the services they’ll pay for.

Your success will depend on developing a true and trustful partnership. Wooly won’t do. The results will never go north and the relationship is sure to go south.

You gotta’ roll with the changes. Follow me here…

It’s not just what you don’t know about SEO that can hurt you; it could be what you do know. Meaning: practicing “old school” SEO can be dangerous. Harsh reality: in SEO, things become “old school” at the speed of screen flicker.

Sorry about that. Your SEO company has no say in the mind-numbing Google-go-round. But they can and absolutely should speak-up when you need to be aware of new developments that affect your strategies.

Flashback a few years and SEOs were buying backlinks, cramming keywords here, there and everywhere and being rewarded for their efforts. If you think these tactics work today, I have some beachfront property in Arizona you may be interested in.

In the 2010s, changes in the search business have come fast and furiously. Though a short list of best practices remains, SEOs must commit to remaining in-step with new developments. If the SEO company you’re considering hiring isn’t in the practice of “tagging” your company with the dynamics of search, they (1) don’t know what’s happening or (2) don’t believe you need to. Don’t hire that company.


An SEO company must audit your website.

The telltale sign of a reckless SEO company (or any company in a complex practice) is leaping into execution before conducting a
thorough diagnosis. Know this: you don’t want your SEO company recommending content or linking strategies from the get-go any more than you want your doctor writing you a prescription before she presses a stethoscope to your chest.

Your website is a complex organism. It must be examined.

A website audit must precede any planning or execution. The doctor’s bound to uncover some good news. But he’ll find areas calling for medicine too. For the health of your life online, don’t trust an SEO who conveniently forgets to run X-rays.

Search engine optimization is marketing.

Despite the medical analogy used prior, you don’t do SEO for your health. It’s part of your marketing plan. If you depend on online marketing, it may be the most critical component.

The process begins with discussing and documenting marketing objectives. Please note my use of the word “process.” SEO is a process, not a project. Your agency needs to demonstrate how SEO initiatives impact marketing and how the plan traces to key business objectives.

Clients often complain they don’t know what their SEO agency is up to. They say they fail to see how the work impacts business objectives. Meanwhile, many agencies collect monthly retainers for what the clients can only hope is meaningful work.

Can your agency list your five most profitable products? Do they know in which areas you’d like to grow the business? Do they ask questions about marketing strategy?

If the conversation is all tech talk, keep looking. Your SEO partner can’t guide you to the destination if they don’t know where it is.


You need to measure what matters.


Metrics. Analytics. KPIs. Are you having conversations about these? Are you being shown reports regularly? Are the numbers organized in a dashboard to help simplify what they mean and synthesize clear-cut action plans?


While a great many metrics can be examined to gauge the progress of your efforts, the ones that matter most affect key performance indicators (KPIs) born from business and marketing objectives.

Also, each subject I’ve tackled thus far—SEO comprehension, website structure, and marketing objectives—should be clearly rolled up into highly useful and actionable reports. Optimization means to perpetually improve.


The SEO company you hire should empower you.

SEO companies often treat you like a member of the gym. You pay monthly fees. Indefinitely.

However, a personal trainer might be what you need. Your trainer will give you the tips, tools and tactics you need to achieve your objectives. You’ll agree on a routine. You’ll get feedback on your performance.

Many of the best SEO success stories don't come from companies paying monthly retainers. There may be a period of time where you need a lot of guidance, but there may not. If you want to maintain SEO effectiveness on your own, long-term, before hiring an SEO company, make sure this is understood.

The result should be a program that empowers you to succeed.