How to talk with clients about SEO Services (07/15/2020)

I’ve recently decided to publish videos to our Office Hours meeting. Our discussion last week (July 15, 2020) was so helpful, that I transcribed it. Of course, if you join The Colony, you can ask your questions at our weekly office hours, too.

David: Welcome to Office Hours. Today is Wednesday, July 15th 2020. And we are about to talk about SEO and all things, Curious Ants, or whatever we want to talk about because this is your time. So, do either of you have any specific questions that you would like to address today?

Anita: Well, I have one because you do this for not only yourself but for other people. How do you have that conversation with someone in regards to needing to refine, so that all of this works a little better? So I guess mine is really from a business standpoint, not the technical nuts and bolts.

David: Yeah. So are you asking how do you sell it?

Anita: Not so much how you sell it, because I am responsible for the upkeep of the website. So that it’s definitely part of that. Getting them to understand, really the need. I’d almost say for a full rewrite, because, what is on the site, and what probably would be most beneficial for them are two different things. And it’s not like I’m gonna be the one completely rewriting the site.

David: Right. Okay, so if, I wanna make sure I understand your question. So you’re asking, you’re working with customers already, how do you show them that they need this in the first place? So it’s not necessarily selling them on an SEO plan as much as, “Hey, we need to take some additional action. And I need to convince you that you agree when you take this additional action.”

Anita: Right, because a lot of the writing is not going to be me doing it. So I’m having to get them to invest their time in helping me with this new content so that the website performs better than it already is. They’re happy with how things are going. It’s a relatively new nonprofit so, they’re extremely happy with how things are going. But I see that it can do better if we do a few things and those things are definitely gonna play into somebody else invest in their time in writing.

David: Right. So it’s really about showing them the value so they could take the action to act on this advice even though you’re the one that’s doing the Curious Ants SEO guide.

Lavonya: Yeah, well, I have a potential client that, she doing a commerce/… but she also on blogs on there. So she is gonna need like Yoast SEO plugin, and then a suggestion of…so she wants blogs. And she’s pretty much not writing them her self, but I could offer my services to her because I’m working with you on how to potentially get more visitors to our site.

David: Okay. Yeah. So I think this is a super question. I’m glad you’re asking it, because, one of my goals of the Curious Ants whole thing is to empower people who are already managing websites to have the ability to sell an additional service, which is SEO. And so in a way, I want you to white label it and they don’t even have to know you’re using this, right. And no skin in my game if they don’t even know that you’re just doing it. So if you can convince them to either do it themselves or if you can upsell them into let me do it for you. That is one of the things I wanna accomplish.

So I think if I’m understanding both of you, you each have a little bit of a different problem. And so let’s spitball this together. So we can kind of maybe brainstorm and maybe even role-play like how this would work. Because I would really make me so happy to know that because you two are using this, that you’re helping your clients, which, frankly, is one of the things I’m most proud of. I look at my clients and see how well this is working for them. I’m just excited.

Don’t tell them but I’d almost do it for free. Right, because it’s so fulfilling to know that their nonprofit is doing better, connecting with more people maybe getting more donations or helping more people because they’re finding them thanks to the website. Or a client that just thinks that they just need you to help maintain their website. Now you’re able to offer like, “Let’s just not maintain your website, let’s grow your website.”

And for them to say, “Wow, like, I made so much money because of what you did.” “Great. Why don’t you pay me more we can do even more.” Like that’s how this is supposed to work, right? The goal, ultimately of any SEO campaign is the money they put into that, whether that’s money paying you to do SEO or the time, which is worth money of them to invest in their own website to get more SEO is worth it.

And they get a bigger return from what they do than the money or the time that they put into it. And honestly, this is a very different question the way I approach SEO because people contact me and say, “David, I need you to help with my SEO campaign.” And so they kind of know about it, and they’re saying, “Sell it to me.” But with both of your cases, it’s they might not even know that SEO is a thing to know they need it to then either take action or pay you to do it. And that is a little tougher thing.

So I’d start with the data. I think that numbers speak volumes. And frankly, a good graph really speaks a lot. So in both these cases, what I would do is I’d start with a basic simple report showing them what they’re getting right now to their website. They might be really happy with that. They might be like, “Wow, this is great.” But I kind of want them to start thinking in terms of numbers.

I don’t want them to think about ranking, because that is kind of a slippery slope of frustration. Because number one, if we think about rank, people get frustrated, because they’ll think of some arbitrary term, and they’ll Google it and they don’t show up. So they think that this SEO thing isn’t working. But rank is a function of something that produces visitors. But more important than just producing visitors, we want those visitors to accomplish something on our website, whether that’s sell or buy a product, or fill out a form to use our nonprofit services, or donate to our nonprofit organization, or whatever the goal is.

And so if you produce a report that not only shows traffic but shows how many things did that traffic accomplish? How many sales did it make? How many people contacted them for their services? Or how many donations that they receive? Then that traffic doesn’t just mean a number. I got 100 visitors last month. Okay, is that good or bad? I don’t know. But they will interpret it how they like. But if you put it in terms of what did that traffic accomplish, did it produce things? So, Lavonya suggested one of her examples is someone that sells something, Anita, what does your nonprofit that you’re thinking of what did they hope to accomplish through their website?

Anita: Right now the biggest thing is growing their membership. And they are doing a lot of virtual events, obviously, with the current situation. But that’s how they’re really establishing themselves is through these different events. And their goal is to build a membership. And she’s very happy with the trajectory that we’re on because it’s not only using, of course, we’re getting people over the website so they can find out about the organization as a whole. But there’s, Lavonya, a blog, everything my hand is on as far as a website, whether it’s mine or somebody I’m working with, there’s a blog involved. So, David, my ears are wide open when you’re talking about blog. So there’s a blog involved and also using social media, but everything is to get them to that website and really get more of a sense from there, but memberships was driving it.

David: Okay. So I think membership is a great goal of the traffic, right? If people visit the site, that’s great. But if they leave and don’t become a member, that’s disappointing. But if they know how many members have come as a result of traffic, well, they can presumably, only make assumption that there’s some sort of membership fee. And so now, when they get more people signing up as a result of your hard work and blogging and other SEO activities. Now, they can put the benefit of the SEO into a dollar figure, let’s just say it costs $100 a year to join the group.

Now, they know if they can get a member to sign up for less than $100. Then they are making money off that. Presumably, it can be a lot less than $100. And they make even more. And, so that’s kind of where we wanna focus. So for Lavonya’s example, we might say we want more sales. But for Anita, your example, we want more memberships. And that’s what I would do is produce a report and send it to them every month. As a way of saying, “Hey, here’s how much you got last month. You got this much traffic and you got this many memberships.” A better report would say, “This is how that month compares to the previous month. In other words, last month, we got 1000 visitors. The month before that we got 900 visitors, we got 100 more visitors.” That’s great. Previous month, we got 100 new members, the month before we got 150 new members, that’s not so great.

Because the comparison puts it into context to say, is that number good or bad? And I think what will happen, it’s almost like we want them to see things go down. So they ask, “Why did we get less signups last month in the previous month?” And then we can say, “Well, because we are not doing a good job with our SEO campaign. If we were to do some basics like update our title tags to make sure they reflect what people are searching for. Make sure our content reflects that. Make sure we’re blogging about topics that not only people are searching for, but encouraging topics that are closely related to things that have proven to produce new members in the past.”

And so we want them to see that this website isn’t just a vanity project, it’s not just a brochure. The website can accomplish something that is closely connected to the money that they’re making so that they can see the potential for the website to potentially accomplish more money for them. And in the case in their profit, more money means more ability to serve more people. In the case of a business, like someone who sells something online, more money means, “Great, not only will I have more money in my business will be more secure, so I don’t have to worry about my mortgage payment next month. But now my company can grow, I can hire more people. Now I can provide more services now I can afford that website update I can…”

There’s all kinds of, you know, if we put it in terms of what the website’s accomplishing. And traffic is a means to that end, but not the end in itself. I think that what will end up happening is you will make it a lot easier job to convince them to take the actions that they need to take.

Now, I’m gonna go to share my screen if I may. So, one of the parts of the process is prepare a monthly SEO report for your clients. This is really early in the process. And kind of like we talked about previously, the early part of this SEO process is kind of boring, and kind of not really about improving your SEO, but setting yourself up for success later. Well, what I’ve done here is explained why an SEO report is important and what you can expect from a good one. And I’ve done something here. I’ve helped create something through Google Data Studio, which is a free tool that basically integrates data from Google Analytics and presents it in a user-friendly fashion. This new data to your report, you can actually set it to automatically send to anybody you want every month. So once you set this up, they will get this report automatically, and it’s really visually interesting, but it’s also there’s a little widget you can play with. So for instance, if you wanted to say, “Okay, how much traffic they get from my Facebook campaign?” You can kind of play with the numbers and say, “Oh, this is what I got from my Facebook campaign.”

You give them report like this automatically, just say, “Hey, this is just part of the services you’re paying for, I’m just automatically gonna send this to you.” They feel like…and they are getting value from it because they’re getting a report, but it puts it in terms of success. What is the website accomplishing? What I would always recommend or what I do with my clients, is I send them a report, and then I try to get on the phone with each one of them and talk about it every month. Because I want them to understand what this is accomplishing. Now, some of your clients, especially the ones that don’t know they need SEO yet…apparently the lawn services coming by my townhouse. All right. The people who don’t know they need SEO yet, they might not wanna get on the phone for a call like this yet. But you can still send them this report and say, “Hey, let’s just see what’s going on. And please ask me questions about this.”

And we’re starting to bait them into this idea that what their websites doing matters. And if we put a little more effort into it, whether that’s writing new content or some technical things like technical SEO to make sure their website’s being crawled right. They’re gonna get even more out of this. And that’s kind of how I would approach it, Anita, so that you can really show them the value of investing their website into with more work. Does that help you? Does that answer your question?

Anita: Yes, it does. I think by showing a bit how the traffic relates, making suggestions where we change content so that the content will actually be more productive as far as the SEO because the right kind of people will be coming to the site, they were very excited to know that they weren’t getting any traffic from Google. But we want it to actually do something.

David: What do you think about that, Lavonya? Do you feel like your clients would be willing to receive a report from you showing me what’s going on?

Lavonya: They would. I think they would, every day from like the once a week like you have a setup and yeah, I think they would just get an idea how their business is doing.

David: Right. And I actually prefer to do it once a month. I think once a week is a little too short for judging success, this report that I was showing you is more of a monthly status report. And I think that once a week, especially with smaller clients, is almost too soon, you’re gonna see some weeks got very little traffic and it might make it look like the website’s not doing much. But if you do it once a month, you kind of have enough days to kind of average things out and make it look a little bit bigger.

Lavonya: So with this, you have it both to your client and you or just you and you email it to a client?

David: Both. I have it go to them and me and that way I see it. I see what they’re seeing because I want them to ask questions. I want them to look at this and say, “Oh, no, things went down.” Great. I mean, I don’t want them to go down, right? But I want them to say, “Well, why did it go down David?” And then I can go in and I can look in the data and say, “Oh, here’s why it went down.” We missed an opportunity here. And if we can do this, we can see it go up. Or, yeah, when I sell or provide an SEO service, I really wanna put it in terms of what it accomplishes. Not that they feel better that they’re receiving the service. But I think that’s a great question. I’m so glad you asked that Anita.

Lavonya: Now, do your clients like leave everything to you? They don’t try to come up with like blog topics or anything like that, they just leave everything to you?

David: No, actually, most of my clients have a marketing person in house already. And I’m working to support them. So, sometimes, what I’m doing is they will do some of the work and I will help kind of coach them or review them on it. Sometimes, they don’t even have time to do it themselves. And so they kind of just need me to do it. What I often find, honestly, is that people will really like to hire me because they just said, “Oh, we just want you to tell us what to do, David.” Okay. I mean, I can do that. And then about a month later, they say. “We just don’t have time to do what you telling us to do. Can you do it for me?” Yes. Yes, I can. And I do it for them. Now, obviously, I charge them for that, right? Because…

Lavonya: I’m like this, what is it called? Keyword is time-consuming.

David: It is. It is. But once you’ve done it, there’s a huge value for them. And that’s gonna help them get more out of their SEO, out of their website. And yeah, the keyword research does take a lot of time.

Lavonya: Yes, that’s why I asked because like some people, they may not wanna pay the amount that you charge like, “Well, I can do it myself.” But if they look at it, it’s time-consuming with those keywords.

David: Yep. Well, and like I said, it doesn’t hurt my feelings, if you just do it for them and charge them for it. One of the things… Well, yeah, so, what you could do is give them some directions. Okay, if you wanna do your own keyword research, that’s how you do it. What I find is that when I do that people really quickly learn how much work it is, and don’t have time for it, and just realize, “It’s a lot simpler if I just pay you to do it.”

Lavonya: Okay, so you give them some instructions on how to start it off and then…?

David: Yeah.

Lavonya: Okay.

David: I mean, a smart business person understands that their time is worth a lot of money. And they don’t have time to do this sometimes. They might understand the value of it, but time now, especially when, let’s just face it. The SEO community has a real bad reputation. And that’s because I think a lot of people think it’s really easy. Like I had someone tell me one time, “I don’t need SEO, I can change my own meta tags.” Well, yeah, you can. But first of all, what are you gonna change it to? Second of all, like, there’s a lot more to SEO than meta tags. And you’re like, okay, so they don’t really get all the work that’s involved in a real SEO campaign. And part of this goes to the idea that some people sell SEO campaigns for $50 a month. Wow. Like you said, Lavonya, there’s so much into keyword research. Even making less than minimum wage if you charge 50 bucks a month to do that. Right? If this is a lot of work, but if you put it in terms of not rank, not traffic, but what that traffic and rank accomplished.

Now, they know the goal is for them to make money. And if they can pay you less than what they make from…actually, if they can make more than they’re paying you, it’s worth their time to pay you, right? And this is something, you know, Nathan Ingram, don’t you?

Lavonya: Yeah.

David: Yeah, Like, I love him, he’s such a great guy and one of the things he always says is exactly right, “Value price yourself, don’t price yourself on time.” So, think about the value you are providing your clients. Not, “I time is worth so much an hour and it’s gonna take me five hours to do this. Therefore, five times whatever I’m worth an hour is…” No. Think about it in terms of how much money they could make from paying you to do this. Suddenly, you’re worth a lot more than just an hourly rate. Now, the downside, the scary part is, is what if this doesn’t work? And they end up paying you and it doesn’t happen. That I understand that. The truth is, is that most websites, even websites built by really good developer aren’t really set up to get the most out of an SEO campaign. And I’ve seen some really good developers develop some really wonderful websites, and they think it’s SEOed and they walk away, and it just gets flat.

Because you really have to keep working at SEO. And it’s so hard. So in that sense, it’s disappointing. But in those cases, sometimes it’s just a little bit of work that can make a lot of difference. And if you do a little bit of work and they start to see it’s helping, the phone starting to ring. They’re starting to get new members sign up, they’re starting to get more sales. Now, you’re making good money because you’re making money for them. One of my clients that I’ve worked for for eight years. When I started, they were frustrated with me, very frustrated with me. They didn’t feel like it was working very well. The traffic wasn’t growing very fast. They didn’t feel like they were getting good quality leads. And, we’ve just kept with working at it.

Now, at this point in the last five years, that company made a billion dollars. Like, I don’t get paid a billion dollars. I don’t, I’ve never made a billion. I’ve never made a million dollars from a client. Like, I’ve never made $100,000. Yeah, the point is I’m such a small blip on their budget right now. Because we put the focus on, what were they making from the efforts? So, it’s almost like not even worth canceling me at this point. Because they just make so much money from it. And that’s kind of what we want. We want to be there providing value for them, reminding them this takes time. We gotta invest. It takes effort. It’s not quick, it’s slow. But if we keep at it… Right now, mind you, I’ve been working for eight years. So like eight years to a billion dollars is a lot of work to get to a billion. So not everybody’s gonna do that. But it still works on a smaller scale.

And if you just put it in terms of how much you make and the value you give them, you can really start to convince people it’s worth their investment in you as a service provider because they will make more money.

Lavonya: Okay.

David: Anita, did you have any more questions or Lavonya did you have a different one?

Lavonya: Yeah, the thing I emailed you. Is that something? Was that like a spam or hoax or something?

David: Oh, So, Anita, Lavonya emailed me a email from Google Analytics. It wasn’t spam. It was a notice that Brazil is about to launch their own data privacy law. So last time, I think we talked a little bit about data privacy and the need for a privacy policy on your website. And apparently, Brazil is the next country to do this. So it was a legitimate email because you have a Google Analytics account you received it. My read of the email is that Google is telling you, they comply with it. So you don’t have to worry about using Google Analytics and complying with the Brazilian law. But my other impression from the email was that the law isn’t settled yet because they kind of don’t know what it’s gonna say in its final form.

Anita: I got that email as well. And I looked at it and I was like, “Okay, none of my traffic comes from Brazil but glad to know.”

David: Right. And that’s the other thing to worry about, right? Like, if you don’t do business in Europe, you don’t have to worry about GDPR. If you don’t wanna do business in California then, heck, don’t even worry about the cookie policy. And if you really don’t care about Brazilian traffic then moving on.

More and more governments are gonna start passing laws like this, that Brazil is just the next one means there’s gonna be more. So it’s something that those of us who want to prove the value of our efforts using a tracking system like Google Analytics, need to be keeping horizon so that we can continue to show our clients that we are worth the money they’re spending for us.

Lavonya: I had a question.

David: Please.

Lavonya: So on our clients’ websites, we have to have the terms and conditions and privacy policy is something they have to have? Or it’s just, I have it on mine because I don’t wanna get in trouble. But, is it something like they absolutely have to have or they can get away with it?

David: What I do for my clients is I bring it to their attention and let them to make the decision. Because first of all, I want my clients to be in full knowledge of what’s going on. And I bet it’s ultimately their decision because they would be the ones getting in trouble with the law if they broke the law. And in that case, it’s really about their assessment of the risks. And if they’re willing to take the risk or not. And, because like, here’s the worst-case scenario, what if you put a privacy policy on their website, and it doesn’t comply with the law? Your client will get in trouble. And then your client would sue you. So I really want my clients to make the decision. And I kind of danced around it last time, we talked about just the fact that it’s really a risk assessment. How risky are you gonna be? If you’re a very small website, and you don’t get traffic from California or Europe or Brazil, then it might not matter very much.

If you do, and you’re a multinational company, and you make billions of dollars a day, you’re probably first in line to get in trouble if you don’t comply, right?

Lavonya: Right.

David: It’s worth bringing the charge against you at that point. And so I have one client that freaked out about it so much they almost removed all their tracking. I tried to encourage them that it didn’t have to be so draconian, but they still took that action. I have another client that said, “We don’t care. We know and we don’t care.” Okay.

Anita: Well, one thing that I’ve noticed is like in setting up Facebook pages for businesses, one of the things that they do ask is, “Do you have a privacy policy?” And if you do, they would like for you to put a link to it on your business Facebook page.

David: Interesting. I’m glad you said it, I don’t deal with Facebook very often.

Anita: So, well, it’s a little guy, the chance of somebody suing me is probably next to nothing. I mean, if they want something I can give them some student loans. But the fact that I noticed that that’s even something that, when you’re setting up your business page on Facebook, they ask you if you have one, and provide the space for you to link to it, just like they have those spaces for companies that are in the U.K. and other European. There’s a specific I think it’s called something like an Illicium or something very bad with some names. That if they provide a space for it, there’s a reason that it’s there and I’m more of, “Let me cover my bases from the old school with CYA.”

David: At one point, I found this might be a better solution than a lot. But I would just like I recommend the Iubenda solution because it’s automated and easy. It is expensive. However, there are other systems where you could just simply go and get a boilerplate privacy policy. And in a lot of cases, that might be all you need. If you’re a bigger client, you should probably have your client’s lawyer review it and understand the legal implications. But yeah, I always push it on my client. I want them to know what’s going on and make an assessment of the risk themselves.

Anita: Oh, absolutely. My little privacy policy basically says that “I’m not gonna sell your data. And you know that I respect your privacy. And, I’m not just throwing your stuff out there and I take it as a serious responsibility.” And that’s about all it says, but after we talked about it Iubenda I think that is something that I’m eventually gonna hook up with just because with running blogs. And I know that there are times that I do have people that are in the UK and it’s like, “Are they gonna bother me?” Probably not. “But do I wanna cover that base?” Probably so.

David: I think it’s different if you have a cat blog, or if you have a business that’s running. Especially if you’re selling something online, or things like that, then you start to get into the hole. We better have something.

Lavonya: Especially if they selling something like any type of goods?

David: Yeah.

Lavonya: Okay.

David: I mean, and the good thing is that people who are selling stuff online typically understand that business has expenses. And this is just another expense of doing business online. There’s other things too, like. Last time, Anita talked about how she was interviewing to be a Google manual quality reviewer. And we talked about the guidelines that Google releases to the public sometimes. Last time I read the guidelines, one of the things it asks is, does an eCommerce site have a terms of service? And they say that’s a question that you can use to evaluate the quality of that eCommerce website. So if Google is using the manual review guidelines to inform their algorithm on what they would like to see show up better in the search results.

And they’re telling the manual a few people look, make sure to turn service. Then we might surmise that Google’s algorithm is looking for terms of service on eCommerce websites. I don’t want to go so far as saying having a terms of services as a ranking factor in Google. I’m just saying it might be a small one of at least the credibility of that website. And from the perspective of a business owner who is selling goods, I would think you’d want to have a statement of what you are liable for and what you’re not, right? You’re not liable if the mail service crushes the box in transit. That’s the mail service’s fault, not yours. You have a return policy that you probably want your customers to understand that you can’t take a product return for more than 90 days. And that’s the kinds of things you probably want to outline in a terms of service to protect you as the company selling stuff online.

Just having it written out, helps you go and say, “Hey, client, I know you’re disappointed that you bought this six months ago, and you don’t want it anymore, but the terms of service says you have three months to return it. And you can refer to the document.” So on one sense, if I was selling stuff online, I would want a document outlining the rules of how this works and what I’m liable for and what I’m not. So that if a client or a customer complains, there’s something written, and you can refer them to and say, “See, you could access it on my website, as it says, You can’t return it because I only take returns after 90 days.” So that’s the other way of looking at this is you are going to your client and say, “Hey, client who pays me I’m gonna prove my value to you and make your life easier by recommending you have a term of service on your website. Because guess what, by not having one, you could really make some customers angry. And you know the old adage, it’s a lot easier to retain a happy customer than to recover from an unhappy customer.”

So offer it as a value. Don’t go to them and say, “Oh, I know you’re not gonna like this and, blah, blah, blah.” No, offer it as “Hey, I’d like to save you money. I’d like to help make your life easier. Let me help you.” Right? And that’s a lot easier. Well, I have to get going. I have a meeting coming up here briefly. Any last-minute questions before we sign off?

Lavonya: No, thank you so much.

Anita: No, thank you. I really appreciate that. Because, that is something that I’m looking at, really needing to have a conversation and I just was really unsure how to approach it.

David: Good. I hope it’s helpful. Have I told you two how much I look forward to this time every week?

Lavonya: I enjoy it every week.

David: I really do. It’s so much fun. I run upstairs to my wife say, “Wow, we had such a great time this week.” So thank you very much for participating and asking you’re great questions and pushing me and challenging me too. But I hope you all take care and I hope you and your families are all healthy and happy. And I look forward to seeing you soon.

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