For an SEO freelancer, losing a customer is problematic on multiple levels:

  • It means you have to start looking for new customers
  • It hurts your reputation in the Industry
  • It means that you just lost a stream of income
  • All the work you did to understand the customer’s situation and all the groundwork you laid based on your SEO strategy went to waste

All of this can be avoided by setting realistic expectations early on in the relationship and by maintaining clear lines of communication.

Setting clear goals and achieving them will help you build a stronger relationship with the customer. By doing this, you will build your reputation as someone who gets things done, and more and more people will want to work with you. Here’s how you can set customer expectations in a way that helps you build lasting relationships:

Learn about the customer

To create an SEO strategy for the customer, you need to know as much detail about them as possible. This task requires you to take a look at their existing website and other social media listings, as well as have a meeting with them to understand what they do, the challenges they are facing, and how you can help them overcome these challenges.

You can send them a questionnaire about the various aspects of their business, where they currently struggle with regards to SEO, i.e., low traffic, slow page loading times, lack of interesting content on their pages etc. Conduct meetings with them, ask them what they expect from you, and what kind of results they desire with the help of SEO optimization.

Do not make promises you cannot keep

A mistake that SEO freelancers frequently make is giving the client the impression that after just one round of SEO optimization, they’ll see massive change. This feels like a good strategy to win someone as a customer, but it is definitely not a good strategy to keep a customer. Being honest from the start and making promises that you can keep goes a long way in retaining customers and building lasting relationships.

Discuss KPIs at the beginning of the project

The first part of any project is to finalize the KPIs of the project. While every client may have different KPIs to focus on depending on their current circumstances, a few examples are as follows:

  • A higher rank on branded organic searches, resulting from users looking up the client’s business on a search engine.
  • Working on crawl errors, fixing them, and keeping them to a bare minimum.
  • Better conversion rate on organic traffic, more organic leads
  • Better click-through rate on organic impressions

Define success

If you can, commit to KPIs that help them achieve their business goals. While most SEOs shy away from promising better traffic or leads, you can promise very specific things that are within your control and achievable:

  • You can commit to bringing the page load speed down to 2 seconds by a certain date
  • You can commit to X amount of high quality backlinks per month
  • You can commit to improved website structure and better internal linking
  • You can commit to improved content on their pages
  • You can commit to improved rankings (in the long run) for very specific keywords

That last one might be tricky but I think you get the gist of it by now. Commit to something quantitative, set a deadline for it, and make sure you and the customer are on the same page when it comes to the definition of success.

Agree on a reporting template

A reporting template is mainly composed of the KPIs you agreed on early on in the relationship. You should send them a period report every month (or every week), and show clear trends about whether or not there have been improvements in key metrics.

The client will emphasize some metrics more than others, such as change in the keyword rankings, the number of leads and impressions generated, etc. Use this document to present them with:

  • The progress you’ve made so far, from where you started till now, explaining all the improvements made, such as the number of visitors per day or change in bounce rate from the project initialized.
  • Valuable insight regarding the issues that are still present and require polish over time, like on-page optimizations that could lower loading times for the web pages.

Recommendations that can help the client achieve their goals using your services, such as guest posts to generate backlinks.

Gear your services toward the client’s problems

Focus your objectives on eliminating the problems that your client has mentioned in any of the meetings or documents in the past. For example, if a client has stated that their page has a very high bounce rate, you might want to start with a deep dive into the keywords they rank for, the user intent associated with said keywords and the content on the page. Similarly, if they complain about their pages not being indexed by Google, you should start by looking at their sitemap and crawl budget.

You can use online tools to perform regular on-page SEO audits, track backlinks, and check keyword rankings to make sure you are aware of how the website is performing at all times. These tools will help find details you may have missed out on and help rectify them. Solving any grievances will show up well on any report presented upon completion of the project.

To summarize, if you make sure the customer has realistic expectations, you will be able to retain them for a long time to come. By making big promises, you will be able to get more customers but you will not be able to keep them. Talk to the customer, understand their requirements, make sure both parties are on the same page when it comes to the key metrics you will be reporting on, and make sure you define success.