Seo agency

4 Secrets Your SEO Agency Doesn’t Want You To Know

I spent the 23 years of my advertising career in agencies.

I’ve never had an “in-house” SEO job.

I think working at an ad agency — especially one that excels in research — is the best job in the world.

I’ve worked with clients of all types and sizes, all over the world, including Fortune 10 companies as well as sole proprietorships seeking leads.

Believe it or not, even with all this experience, I am always surprised by new scenarios in the agency/client relationship.

That being said, there are things that most people who haven’t spent time in an agency wouldn’t think about in the day-to-day that goes on between the agency and the client.

I’m about to shed some light on a few of these things.

Being a punching bag is part of the job

TV shows like Mad Men have made the advertising industry glamorous.

The image of the shiny, modern glass building on Madison Avenue has drawn many young hopefuls into learning about account management, traffic, media buying, and even research.

But there is a dark side to the world of agencies.

I answered customer questions on my honeymoon.

I was fired for the results of campaigns that I never even touched.

When my phone rings, wherever I am, I look at the caller ID – and if it’s a customer, I’ll never relax until I call them back.

If you work in an agency, your time ceases to be yours.

The proverbial “cattle waste” tends to go downhill when you work in an agency, and unfortunately, you’re at the bottom of the line.

I’ve been told that agency life isn’t for the old and weak.

I may be getting closer to the first, but I’m still far from the second.

The biggest mistake I see clients make with an agency is walking in with a big bluster and immediately ordering the agency staff.

It usually doesn’t quite live up to the stereotype of the screaming customer.

It’s more subtle, with lots of passive-aggressive tones and mentions of how the last agency was fired.

But make no mistake about it – agency staff judge you in the first meeting as much as you judge them – and later in the column we’ll explain why that’s important.

Kind Customers Finish First

Anyone who has ever been in the agency when assignments are made will attest to the “underground lobbying” that goes into which team gets a particular client.

Interesting clients will be very popular with agency staff at first – at least until the people involved in the account really show up.

Once a client is established in the agency trust me the people on the account know which clients are great to work with and which ones might be biting their head off for taking a 30 minute lunch break instead of eating a sad sandwich at your desk.

Trust me, you want account staff who want to work on your account.

If you’re nice, you’ll have the best people lobbying to work on your account.

It’s a really big problem if you work with a big agency.

Big agencies are great and have some of the best people, but they also have some of the worst account people.

The team you work with can be directly related to how you treat the staff you initially interact with.

I’m not saying you can’t hold your agency accountable – in fact, quite the contrary.

Your agency wants you to tell them how you think they are – trust me, it’s not always easy.

Over the years I’ve been fired from an agency more times than I can count when I didn’t see the problem coming because the client never told me about it.

No, accountability is rarely the issue.

Communicate and be nice.

You will be surprised how much these two things will affect your results.

The squeaky wheel does the job

We’ve already established that nice customers tend to get a better job than mean customers.

But being kind doesn’t mean being quiet.

Even when working with an agency that employs rigid discipline and defined processes, a silent client can be overlooked.

Every week, I review each client with my team.

The first thing I look at is if a client’s hours are all being used efficiently.

Even though our firm has over 15 years of established processes and practices, I still see times when quiet clients don’t get all the time they deserve.

It’s not because the work has been done – the work is never done.

It’s not because they weren’t nice – right now all my customers are nice!

This is because these customers did not want a regular check-in call.

This is because these clients never give feedback on their reports.

We assume, in many cases correctly, that a silent customer is a happy customer.

But we prefer to have a customer who gives us his opinion.

And yes, communicating customers get better service.

Especially when they are nice.

Customers generally judge poor results

I worry when an inexperienced client starts poking around in the analysis.

It can be quite stressful and comical at the same time.

I encourage this behavior at the start of an engagement before we’ve done the work.

That way, when the client gets livid about results they don’t really understand, they’re mad at their last agency, not me.

Just kidding – sort of.

I will say that an educated customer is generally better than an uneducated customer.

But even educated customers tend to focus on the wrong things.

I’m not saying that we in the agency world are perfect.

Far from there.

But we have the privilege of seeing how many websites work.

We get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly (if I could only not see some of the sites I’ve seen).

When you judge months of SEO work by a keyword’s fluctuating ranking – even if it’s an important keyword – show me you don’t understand what we’re trying to do.

And I can guarantee you that if you are one of my clients, you intellectually know that striving for unique keyword rankings is a waste of time in most cases.

But even though my clients know this, I see the excitement in their eyes when that keyword jumps in the rankings, and I know I’m more likely to get fired when the keyword drops.

Even though the traffic from search skyrocketed and resulted in incredible ROI.

Frankly, as an agency, we want to be judged on how well we help you achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves throughout our relationship.

If you don’t set goals with your agency, you’ll never really know if they’re doing a good job.

So set goals and let the agency do the work.

If the agency is as good as you thought it was when you hired it, you will achieve your goals.

If not, be nice but find a new agency.

Ultimately, it comes down to which agency you work best with.

And as long as you achieve those goals, relationships can be very different from client to client.

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