In any service based business the goal is to ensure that your client is satisfied with your company and offering. The worst possible outcome, although it happens, is that a service is rendered and the client is left feeling unhappy or dissatisfied. The most common reason behind this is the failure to manage a client's expectations on the front-end.

As the head of an SEO agency, I've seen all kinds of clients come to us in search of different things. But for me, it's always most difficult to work with the ones who think they know exactly what kind of SEO their site needs, how it should be executed, and what the results will be. This isn't to say that these potential clients don't know their business needs or are naive for thinking SEO can produce amazing results; but when it comes to SEO, some people approach agencies with hyper-specific goals that haven't been researched, strategized, and hashed out. And when a client takes the research, strategy, and ideation out of SEO, their demands aren't always feasible.

While we certainly encourage potential clients to know what they want and bring us their goals, we also want them to come with an open mind. As it applies to SEO, it is especially important for clients and SEOs to collaborate and work together, because blending the expertise of a business owner with the expertise of SEOs is what achieves success online.

When a potential client comes to us with a list of specific demands rather than the goals they want to achieve for their business, it immediately throws off the balance of how we do what we do. To explain, here's an example of an email I recently received from a potential client:

"We are interested in your SEO & Social Media services ASAP and would like to have the prices for the packages you offer which provide the following:

  1. To go from 3k website visitors per day to 20k visitors per day in 9 months
  2. To go from 6k page clicks per day to 140k per day in 9 months
  3. To appear at the top of the SERP on Google, Bing, Yahoo and
  4. To create, maintain and monitor an account on each of the top social media platforms online, with paid and free campaigns, for each of the 6 languages on our website
  5. For this to be monitored and feedback to be given every step of the way, at all times, during the 9 month period."

A follow-up email from the same client added this as well:

"Also, please provide your prices on the following:

Company mobile application (on Apple Store, Windows Phone Store and Google Play Store) to have:

  • Total of 100k downloads from the 3 platforms of the company app
  • Total of 60k active/regularly used apps for the 3 platforms

On social media, we need:

  • 50k fans on Facebook
  • 50k Twitter subscribers
  • 50k LinkedIn relationships
  • 50k Google+ members"

So, this kind of approach presents a few obvious problems right off the bat. To start, we have no idea what their business is, where they're currently at with these figures, what industry they're in, or any of the other incredibly necessary pieces of information we use to make sustainable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals for our clients. This client knows exactly what they want, and I respect that. But from an SEO's standpoint, these demands are already moving the relationship with this client a step backwards because they've tried to bypass the researching and goal-setting phase.

But for argument's sake, let's just say that we pitch them a price on the nonexistent package they're requesting and agree to take on their demands as is. From there, we would do our best to use what we know about SEO to achieve these results, would likely still fall short, and would likely be dealing with a very unsatisfied customer over the next 9 months.

When a client expects the impossible or initiates the professional relationship with unrealistic goals, it sets everyone up for disappointment. For the client, there will be disappointment over the unreached goals that they expected. For SEOs, there will be frustration over having to deal with an upset client and explain how things went south. The end result is a client feeling like they've been burned and the company that provided the services getting a bad review.

Managing Client Expectations

All of this goes to show the importance of managing client expectations from the start. This is important for any business that provides services for their clients, because developing productive agreements is the best way for everyone to get what they want and need. For SEOs specifically, managing client expectations is of vital importance to the business process, because you have to be realistic and clear about what can and cannot be achieved. Promising to achieve a client's impossible goals will only lead to more trouble down the line, and not being able to have your SEO expertise included in the strategic goal-setting for the client throws off the process.

Letting clients know that their business will require unique research to determine the attainable goals that will best help their business is the best way to manage expectations and deliver your end of the bargain. Moreover, it sets up all parties involved for satisfaction and ease while working together throughout the optimization process.