How transparent are you with your SEO clients about what you're doing? How do you measure its true value and the SEO industry in general?
That's what we're going to be talking about today with a man who's a contributing author to Search Engine Land, and a frequent speaker at various digital marketing events. He's the founder of Crush the Rankings. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Taylor Kurtz.
In this episode, Taylor shares four ways to be more transparent with your SEO clients, including:
Building long-term relationships
Educate your clients on the value of your services
Improve the reputation of SEOs
Raise your own value and give yourself an advantage over your competitors
Taylor: Thank you, David. It's an honor to be here. And looking forward to talking transparency.
D: Great to have you on, Taylor. You can find Taylor over at crushtherankings.com. So Taylor, why is it so important to be as transparent as possible with your clients?
T: I think it's important just for simply building relationships. I don't want to be grim, but I would consider ourselves like when it comes to dogs as breeders. We put a lot of effort in and want to do things the right way, versus larger agencies, which may be more of the puppy millQuantity of clients over the quality of clients and relationships. So I think building relationships is the main priority for me.
D: Got it. Well, today, you're sharing four ways to be more transparent with your SEO clients. Starting off with number one, building long-term relationships.
1. Building Long-Term Relationships
T: So I've been, as you mentioned, a contributing author for Search Engine Land, and I actually just had an article published last week about this very topic. I think transparency and communication with clients are where I aim to set our company apart. I recognize that from day one, before I founded the company, just by observing what other agencies were doing wrong, specifically in the communication or lack thereof, I made it my objective, the company motto when I launched it that I never wanted to hear, "Where's my money going?” I want to always be clear, honest, and forthcoming with that.
To me, it's important to build long-term relationships because it's stressful not knowing if I have enough clients for next month or next year, whatever it may be. But more importantly, when you get a new client, for a successful, in my opinion, campaign, you need to build a rapport and be a team working together, which takes time. With any profession, bringing in a new client takes time to get on the same page and get comfortable. So if you're constantly forming new relationships, the bulk of your time and energy is spent building those relationships. Whereas if you can about things the right way, and really cement those long-term relationships initially, your time is now spent working for them rather than working to try and make sure your bills are paid and you've met your quotas, or whatever it may be. So I think the big thing is just keeping clients long term, especially for me because once I start a project I want to see it through. But I think that also included with those long-term relationships, not only are you not constantly looking for clients, but if successful, you'll often get new clients from word of mouth based on those successes. I think the biggest thing about transparency is building that trust, which allows you to have a long-term relationship and not constantly be looking for new clients. That, to me is a huge part of our business.
D: Certainly sounds good and logical. But I guess it's challenging sometimes. If you're approaching new clients that have heard about SEO, and perhaps haven't even used an SEO in the past, they will have certain preconceptions. They will be told by other people that it's possible to achieve quick wins. And they might not be open to having a conversation about the length of time realistically that it's going to take for something like that to happen. So how do you actually get a client like that on board when they're being told by someone else to expect results fairly quickly?
T: I think that goes for any industry, but specifically this one as well. When people come in, I always refer back to the phrase, "Search engine optimization when done right is a marathon and not a sprint.” When I'm talking to a client, I'm going to be completely honest and upfront. In 30 days, here's what we may see. But here's what I'm targeting in three months, six months, etc. Whereas when you go for these quick results, a lot of times, you're going to have great results in the first 30 days, but by the time that six-month period comes around that we were originally discussing, you're going to be back talking to me, because whatever shortcuts were used, ends up in the long run not paying any dividends and causing more harm than good.
I always say that you get what you pay for and if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Again, educate them on why that is, what we intend to do, and why it takes a while. I often provide literature, whether it's from Google or other reputable sources. Here's another voice explaining to you what I'm saying. Be thorough and communicate to them that quick wins aren't always the best wins. If this is a track team, and our race consists of four laps, but you win the first lap and crash and burn on the last three, wouldn't you rather be in first place at the end of it? That's how I've always looked at it. It is challenging, because a lot of people, especially if they're unfamiliar with search, a bargain is a bargain. But at the same time, in some cases, you may get a lot more than you paid for if your site gets blacklisted, has a manual penalty, or negatively impacted by an algorithm update. And then you're lower than when you started and we're having this discussion again. So just explain to them that the choice is theirs but realistically here's what to expect from both points of view.
D: Makes complete sense. And that brings us up to point number two, which is to educate clients on the value of your services. How do you go about educating clients?
2. Educate Your Clients on the Value of Your Services
T: There are two ways for that. But the first is really communication, especially when I start with a new client. I'll often look at their website, and conduct research on the terms they want to rank for, their competitors, etc. The standard kind of research you would do when formulating a strategy. But then I always make sure to have a thorough call reviewing the strategy. And with that, I explain what we intend to do, why we intend to do it, what our goals are for that, and a projected timeline for achieving those goals. And the reason is, there are so many agencies and companies out there that you never hear from them, and every month, they'll send you a report at the end of the month with here's how the month went. But you'll never really know what they're doing. And more importantly, as a client, you don't necessarily know if they are working towards the goals as we discussed or if they are just trying to inflate the numbers.
When I educate people on the why and the how, it takes a lot more time and effort on my end, but by making my clients understand that it raises my value. They understand he's not just writing these two blogs to say he did it, there's a very specific intent for those articles that work towards the overall goal we discussed. And when your client understands what it is you're doing, they're much more receptive to it. And more important is getting feedback from them during the education process, letting us know what's working, what's not working, and something they may want to tweak along the lines. Have that communication open instead of just saying, "Oh, you get x amount of organic traffic a month. We're going to double that,” without explaining the rhyme or reason. Educating the client raises your own value and the value of the work you're doing, as well as the understanding of the client.
And going that extra distance, if I include a report that to me the total clicks out of the Search Console, for instance, is the focus metric but it also shows the click-through rate, I'm going to take the time to explain to the client what the click-through rate is. For two reasons. One, I want to be thorough and show that I'm invested in this and care. And two, I really don't want an email with those questions. I really don't like getting, I don't want to say basic questions, but taking time out to answer something where I could have easily included it among the reports. So going above and beyond with communication is incredibly helpful and in doing so raises your own value. And that was really a big part of our business structure, communicating, so the clients understand the what and the why.
D: How often do you tend to recommend SEOs to have conversations with clients? You talked about some SEOs only providing monthly reports and you're jumping on calls. Do you actually have monthly calls? And if so, how long? Do you even have face-to-face time? Is that better? Lastly, how does this ongoing regular education/communication impact the length of time that clients actually stay with you?
T: Fantastic questions. It really varies from client to client. For some clients every month I request a meeting and we may have never had a single one. I have other clients for whom we have weekly meetings that may go from 25 minutes to an hour each week. And those are the best clients. Not that we're not equally successful in the others but just like in any business, when you have someone that you can show results to and they're telling you good job, and you've been having these meetings for, in the case of one client, almost five years every week, you've built a really great rapport.
And going back to the end of your question of how does that help you keep clients for a long time? If I'm meeting with you every week, and then we decide, okay, here's what we're doing for the next week, I'm sending you updates on my progress and vice versa. We're all aligned on the same goal and the same vision and we see how we're each integral to that strategy. For instance, if I've been working with a company for four years and we meet regularly, we've built a great relationship. However, Google changes something or something happens in organic and traffic goes way down. Because of the fact that I've communicated with them and I've built that trust, they're 100 times more likely to give me a longer leash and the opportunity to rectify whatever's going on. Versus if we've only been working together for eight months, never really have any calls, etc. and it all goes to fire, they're more than likely going to ask what happened, can you fix it this quick, or are we going to look elsewhere?
I think that having those frequent meetings and communication, in general, is building trust. That's where I think a lot of SEO clients, as you mentioned, come into a relationship skeptical. Whether they've been told it's not worth it, or whether they've been burned in the past by a snake oil salesman giving them quick results that later backfired. So one thing I do to separate, for every client is I never want to hear from them where is my money going. So for every client, I'll create a Google document, and I'll share it with them and they can access this at any time. And every single day, I'll put a bullet point with that date, what we did that day, for example, we ran a Site Audit, this was flagged, cleaned it up, whatever it may be. So even if I'm not emailing you on a regular basis, you as the client can go in at any time and see what we're doing, and see that we're not just collecting a check.
This is what allowed me to form such long-term relationships. By communicating to this level, where often eight times out of ten I'm waiting to hear back from someone. I've already put the ball in their court. That’s really shown that not only can we be trusted, but we really care. We're passionate, not just about the work we do if our name is on it, I want to see it through to the end and have it succeed, but at the same time, we do exclusivity. If I work with a grass-fed beef producer, that's the only one in that industry I'll work with. So I very much become passionate about that project and its success. On a personal level, I want to see it succeed. This communication makes the clients feel more valued and more important than if all they ever hear from you is here's a monthly report and invoice.
3. Improve the Reputation of SEOs
D: On your third point, you say that you want to improve the reputation of all SEOs. Is that the SEO industry as a whole that you want to improve? And if so how does that benefit you?
T: I think it's beneficial all around. As I said, a lot of times, unless they're getting referred word of mouth, or someone says, I've worked with this guy, he's great, he's been very successful for me. If they just find me or whatever it may be or find any SEO, they may be skeptical. And I'm sure a lot of people watching this are on LinkedIn and that's a prime example. Every single day, I get 10-12 Random messages, which I respect the hustle. Do you need help with this? Can we do this? Can we do that? It's also impersonal so it makes it almost look like the industry is spam. Like we just cast a net on LinkedIn and reel in whatever we can get. This is really not the case, at least in my opinion. Most of the respect SEOs receive is when it comes to clients who want quality over quantity. And so I think that by being honest and communicating, and leaving people with more positive experiences when it comes to SEO, that word of mouth will spread. And I don't think it'll ever be a positive ratio for us. There are just so many individuals across the world that can hop on a laptop, and start cold calling or reaching out to people saying they do digital marketing. But for the ones like us who are not like the others who don't take it seriously, but have really committed ourselves to SEO and more importantly, committed ourselves to our specific clients and doing things the right way. Leaving them with a positive experience that they can share with people is a lot better than leaving them with a negative one.
As I said, I think there will always be more of those inauthentic SEOs, because they're not illegitimate. They very much probably know what they're doing, but it just doesn't seem authentic. So leaving people with more authentic experiences and good relationships built will hopefully at least sway the weights of the scales a little bit more toward people having a more positive vision of SEO. Not that they don't. I just think that so many people have been sold quick fixes or sold essentially nonsense. And that may be their only experience with digital marketing as a whole whether it's social media or SEO. And that for me as well, if that was an investment that I saw no return on or it was a negative experience I might be skeptical going into the next scenario.
We can never improve the reputation of all digital marketers obviously. But if you can improve the reputation among your clients that at least is a start. And then they refer whether it's to you or other people they explain the value they've gotten from the services, you get a real return on your investment, et cetera, et cetera.
4. Raise Your Own Value and Give Yourself an Advantage Over Your Competitors
D: Taking us up to number four, raise your own value and give yourself an advantage over your competitors. What value are you talking about there?
T: When I first started my niche, I started with criminal defense attorneys. And I had one client that he would refer someone to, and it's slowly grown. But I was in competition with companies, which I won't mention their name or give them free publicity, but they may be operating with criminal defense attorneys in the same town as my client, but they represent three of them. And to me seems like a conflict of interest. As mentioned, I provide exclusivity. I'm not going to have you pay me more so I'm not working as hard for this other guy who pays me less in the same area. And so through this communication, honesty, and transparency, I think we give a much more boutique-tailored and personalized experience, not just us as a company, but as a digital marketer. Through that communication, you make the person feel more important than just being an invoice number or a client number.
If I'm looking for any kind of service, and I have someone like me, who you can tell cares, you can tell keeps up on this, we want to keep you informed, and we want to help you reach your goals, versus an example like that other company where they want quantity of clients, not quality of clients. And so when you explain to people, criminal defense is a great example, they don't want just every little person that's arrested getting that case. At a certain point, they want the bigger cases, the drug charges, the homicides, and things like that. So for them, it's also quality over quantity.
When you can show this transparency, that we're not focusing on any other people in your area, just you. We'll be telling you what we're doing, we'll explain to you why we're doing it, we'll be showing you the results, and we'll be communicating with you to get feedback. I think that by offering a more personalized experience through that communication, you definitely give yourself an advantage over your competitors. Like I said, I don't want to just be one of another client, I want to be the client in this area for you. So by doing that, you raise your own value. You're able to communicate your efforts a lot better.
As I said, with those daily spreadsheets, you can see what we're doing on a day-in-day-out basis for you, and no other competitors will be doing it. I've never encountered anyone that does that, not just in my niche, but across the board. As I said, I'm not even sure if any of my clients really look at them, but I provide it to them. And I'm upfront and honest from the very get-go. A lot of times when you are looking for SEO and you reach out to crush the rankings, I'll be the one to meet with you. Whereas with a bigger company, you'll have a project manager or a salesman initially pitching to you. And it's just not personal like that. So for me, that's where I think I can really raise my own value and give myself an advantage over the competition. By making the clients feel much more important in my priorities, than they would have made in another agency who are just trying to grab up whatever clients they can get.
D: Let's finish off with Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for most levels of effort?
T: I would say conduct competitor research often. For instance, I have a client who had a bunch of clinics in Florida and has just moved to Ohio. The whole industry in which they operate is new in Ohio. So initially, not very many competitors so we were at the top. Now as more competitors entered the market, we may not be number one anymore. So on a twice-a-month or monthly basis, I like to look at my competitors, whether an established market or somewhere we already are, very closely and look at what pages specifically are bringing them traffic. Do we have a page similar to that? What value is that page? How can we add that value to our own website and ideally include more helpful information?
One of the easiest wins is if you have a website and you know who your competitors are, research that and see what are the top pages bringing in traffic and whether I can take that traffic. Thirty minutes of research, followed by a couple of hours of writing a blog or two can provide tremendous impact. Not just getting traffic to that particular page but boosting your authority and trust around whatever subject it is you're writing and competing about. Most people are aware of the keywords their competitors rank for and things like that, but, I don't say stealing, but really going in and saying this page is doing well, we don't have a page like that, we want to duplicate it, do it better, and make it where if someone were to land on this page, they'd have no follow-up questions. They have all the information they need here. And I think that alone, they say content is king and that's a great way to identify content that's working for your competitors, and hopefully to snatch that away.
D: I've been your host David Bain. You can find Taylor Kurtz over at crushtherankings.com. Taylor, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
T: Thank you.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at rankranger.com.