For most new clients, we are not the first providers of SEO or web marketing strategies. This is likely true across the board, and increasingly so as an agency’s price point goes up. Inheriting a new client from another agency, or prior in-house specialists they’ve cut loose, has its own set of challenges, not all of which are immediately apparent.
No one gives up SEO service because it’s driving leads and making them money. If they do, it’s because they don’t realize the service is doing work– which may be a totally different red flag altogether. But in most cases, the prior SEO providers were not producing the kind of results the company expected.
What this means for us, a new provider, is that the onus is on us to be especially clear about the services we are providing, the results the client expects, and how the previous providers fell short. It also means that communication is a top priority. Producing results means very little in terms of client retention if the relationship is poor and the client is unaware of the results produced.
SEO is a strange field, and it often feels like trying to assemble a puzzle that’s inside an opaque black box. Add in custom-tailored strategies for each client, accounting for their current web presence, their assets, competition, traffic patterns, and so on, the end result is a bevy of tactics that may not match anything else in the industry.
Now consider that if the client is more than a few years old, what were legitimate tactics may be ineffective or penalized today. And there’s always the possibility that straight-out bad tactics were used.
Auditing a site needs to take these into account. Did the client have service in 2013? What would you have done in 2013 that wouldn’t work today? What about further back? Are those tactics seen in the content, site organization, link profile, etc?
Another red flag is contrary trends in traffic. Consider a client whose overall traffic goes up, but traffic through certain specific categories trends downward. Or whose traffic has increased, but sales do not.
Sometimes changes were made in site organization to make navigation easier. Something that users prize, right? Yes. But if the pruned pages were high lead-generators, and the prior SEO company didn’t account for that… well that explains that.
Specific categories are susceptible to a broad range of influences, both SEO related and not. One of them may simply be the competition getting better, or the market getting smaller. If this was never picked up by the prior SEO company, you’d better be sure you look out for it.
It’s uncommon to get a company with a blank slate, and we all know it. But there are non-obvious things to look out for that may have a sizable influence on your potential success (and how difficult it is getting there).