The Importance of trust in your SEO guys
From throwing of the shackles of “The awkward nerd at the party” SEO’s role in the marketing mix has now been firmly established. Even from the client side small pure play sites know the importance of search results and the direct correlation between increasing your bottom line and your position in the SERP.

This is all great news for those working in SEO, as it means that clients are more savvy and are expecting a lot more for their spend. The days of “We don’t need to be optimised, when you Google us we are at the top” have made their merry way into history, and granular, in depth reporting has become even more important as CFO and CEO’s nervously creep out of the financial panic room and flex their budgets into new mediums.

Whist this is wonderful for those who work in the industry and whilst we are in a bit of a boom this has lead to small agencies popping up left, right and centre (SEO spend increased 30% in the first quarter of 2012). With all this level of choice there are a couple of booby traps that a client should look out for when searching for a new agency.
Whilst it is very easy for business development guys to nod their head and agree to anything a client demands in order to get that signature on a contract, one must be aware of the old paradox of over promising and under delivering.

We recently won a client whose last agency had promised them position 1 for all agreed keywords and when this didn’t happen the client, who was locked into a 12 month contract, was left paying for a crummy service and a project that isn’t providing a return. In this particular instance when auditing the client’s site post optimisation, we found a ton of spammy, irrelevant, link farm-esk back links. The page title and header tags were full to overflowing with keyphrases, there was no mention of keyphrases anywhere in any of the URLs and the meta keyphrase tag (yes they were recommended one during the build last year) was bursting at the seams with every geographical permutation and prefix of the keyphrases you can imagine.  This was all from an agency who specialised in SEO.  What seems to make this situation worse is the client was left believing that this was the norm and that this is how SEO works. From this they have developed an expectation based on previous experience, which in my opinion is very harmful for the industry.
We are noticing a trend developing within this, as Google’s latest round of updates focused on weeding out the badly built and search engine (as opposed to user) focused sites, leaving clients whose sites have been poorly optimised left scratching their heads as to why their traffic and revenue has dropped.
I can appreciate the client side of this. When it comes to choosing an agency apart from personal relationships, the feel of an agency aside, cost ultimately plays a huge part in deciding who to entrust your online presence to, and when one agency is charging significantly more than the other it is often the cheapest who will win.

This should not be the case when deciding your search agency.
The mountain of work we now have to do to right the wrongs of the previous agencies work is huge. Far from contacting the webmasters of the horrifically spammy domains that are linking to the site we are essentially starting again. We need to build from the bottom up and this being SEO, it will take time, which unfortunately means cost.
It is at this point that your business development guys should reconsider their approach to selling SEO. They need to reassure the client that what they are doing is A) Correct, B) Realistic and C) Ethical. They should give complete transparency to the client, explaining the process in its most simple terms and how each technical change, content update, blog post, article written or link built will benefit the site. They should explain the importance of quality, relevant links and show the client how to monitor and see what we are doing. They should also explain and demonstrate how SEO will make a return on their spend and how reporting should document the work done and the effect it has had. It is in doing this that the client should see the true value of SEO

The surge in new SEO’s popping up everywhere I feel is great for the industry. It offers more choice to a client and makes the rest of us work even harder to win and retain new clients. However be wary of the guys who offer the world in their pitch and deliver little when they get their sleeves rolled up! The good guys need to differentiate themselves form the cowboys and this is done through trust, transparency and essentially, results.