If you’ve been in the SEO field for longer than a year, you will have encountered a similar situation to the story below… Back in 2011, I was pitching to a small e-commerce website selling niche food products. For a small company, their products were well known and for that reason they had done very well against the competition. However, the client had seen a decline in online sales over the previous two years and had gone through a few digital marketing consultants for assistance. This was the usual old school case of a client being over-sold to time and time again. At this point I could see on their faces, they’d already spent thousands and felt like all they’d paid for was empty promises. Despite their reluctance to accept my help, I still managed to get a meeting arranged and went ahead working on deciphering what had gone wrong. It wasn’t long before I had found what any other SEO would call a dream fix. I found hundreds of old broken links from an old site structure. This was a client that had created some incredible food products in the past, some that had won awards and had a lot of coverage from mainstream media sites. At some point along the line they had a new site built, all the old links had been cut off and were just sitting there being wasted pointing to a 404. With a big grin on my face, I put my case together. I went to the meeting with all this information in hand to show how much this would help and how this would fix everything. I listed links found, how much authority they had, how much DA they would provide and explained that it would increase rankings once we recreated or correctly redirected these old links back in. To cut to the chase, I was dealing with a very disgruntled client that had already spent a lot on failed digital marketing campaigns and frankly I was just another presentation with more promises that may not come true. I went home without the contract that day, very annoyed knowing how this simple fix could really have boosted them if they had chosen to go ahead. It was at this point I learned that not all clients were going to trust my word. Some have been burnt badly in the past from other people and it is critical to show how the fixes you are putting across will help their bottom line. In other words, you need to make the proposal you are showing project real sales.
Use real numbers and projections
A passionate SEO can easily be excited about the fixes they offer and what they will be able to do for the client, boss or whoever it is for. So much so, that they can often forget that the client doesn’t always understand 301 redirects, 404 errors and a redirect strategy. This can run the risk of the issues found not always hitting home and being fully understood. Therefore, if you want to truly be a good SEO, the real talent lies in showing what those little fixes will do to the bottom line. For the sake of this article I am going to use the story above in the present day. If this client had encountered me today through my agency, what would we do differently to show how good those fixes are and how it will fix his worries?
Use historical data
One major difference in my approach today is that I report at the very beginning. Use whatever historical data you can to prove your point. In the instance of this e-commerce client, I knew they had declined in sales from a significant peak period so I went looking for the peak before the continual drop. SEM Rush is a great tool for looking at the history of a website’s organic performance. I was able to quickly see when the website was performing at its best and how far it had declined. SEM Rush can give you real proof that there was a drop and this is something a bit more tangible for the client. Once you have this data, you have a time period you can discuss with the client to relate to. You can see where they were performing well and say that is where we can potentially get back to. Again, giving them some real world sense of what you are aiming for. Continuing with the e-commerce client example – once we have identified the main drop, we can cross reference that and see if that was when they launched their new website. You can either ask the client for dates of when the new site launched or check Wayback Machine to see if they have it logged. In this case, we saw the new site launched around 3 weeks prior to the drop. I think we have found where their issue is right here.
Use Google Analytics to compare
Once we have the peak period of performance and some evidence of the new website being the cause, we now need to compare that point in time with today to be able to show the client a real world difference they can expect from the fixes. Dig out the organic traffic data from the point where there was a decline. Grabs a month’s worth of data and compare it using either the same month in the current year or the last full period that makes sense. You should have something similar to the above. This will show the difference and ultimately an idea of what to expect.
Use comparison data to project
We now have an idea on what traffic can be recovered using the fix identified. You might think this is perfect to show the client, but don’t show it yet, there’s still some work to do. Yes, it is easy to see the benefits from this but don’t leave anything to chance. Make it obvious to the client what they can expect. Make it easy for them to visualise. In this case, I can see clearly there is on average a 13% drop in traffic since the point in which there was a drop in organic visibility. I can simply take this to project what they can expect. So we need to show a 13% increase in traffic at a point once the fixes and redirects are in place. Let’s assume that the fixes are implemented in early September and we are going to allow a generous amount of time for Google to recognise the change and update rankings. This ensures we do not state anything that is unreasonable to the client, I would put a window of around 3 months to put these projections, this would put the final month as December. Again using GA, take a look at all organic traffic in the previous December to give an accurate comparison, then add the projected 13% to this. In this case organic traffic sat at 2,140 for December 2015, so I would be looking at projecting 2,418 organic sessions once the fix was implemented and search engines have crawled it.
Get as close to revenue as possible
I would say the example above gets pretty close to showing the client how they will benefit, but if you can get any closer to real sales and revenue you should 100% do so. You can see in this example that there is goal tracking setup within GA so we can get an idea about how many sales there are also. If possible, speak to the client about getting an average sale value and put that into reports and projections. Show them directly how much money they are likely to make from these fixes you are putting in place.
So there you have it, this is just one of many examples of where just a little bit of extra work to prove real numbers can go a long way to ensure the client or boss understands what is going on and what those proposed “technical fixes” will actually do. We have been in an industry shrouded by our own metrics such as DA, citation flow and trust flow that simply do not reflect metrics used in the business world. For SEO to be taken seriously we need to get out of reporting in our own metrics and convert it to real world figures.
This article has been about one particular example that happened to me in my early years in digital marketing. I am aware that there are at least a hundred other examples that people will encounter with the same issue of “how do I get this point across to the client/boss”. Because of that, I will leave with the following key take away points that should be followed and will apply to most situations.
- Use all tools at your disposal: Don’t just stick with Google Analytics. Use SEM Rush to get historical rankings data. Use rank tracking software if the client already has it. Use Google trends if you need an idea on the projection of an industry. Use the Google keyword tool to get an idea of search volumes for search terms. I think you get my point, use everything at your disposal to get the right data.
- Get creative, think outside the box: This point goes directly with the first. As a SEO you will not always find your answers written in a blog post. You will need to get creative and find ways of digging out data. If you don’t have an average sale cost from the client to show projections, get logins to the system to find out yourself. Find out what their best sellers are and help them get that information. Ultimately they will be more impressed and will find that information useful.
- Start recording all results: This is the biggest point and if you are in an agency this is more relevant to you. Start recording the actual results on how particular fixes affect clients. What this will do is start to build up a portfolio of what performance you can expect and when for certain fixes. This will then allow you to project this for new clients to give them real expectations that other agencies simply cannot offer. Although this is something that will build up as you collect more data and will be more accurate over time.
- Be realistic: Finally, a warning point. Whilst giving real world expectations is fantastic for the client. It can be highly damaging if you give over estimated projections. Always make sure that you leave room for Google to react to fixes and always under promise to leave your results be a nice surprise at the end.