Earlier this week, I was speaking with a potential client and she was telling me about the types of SEO recommendations that she’d been getting from her agency parter over the last few years. As our conversation was wrapping up, I realized that the common thread between all of those recommendations and the reason why she was understandably frustrated was because each recommendation died much too soon.
It was tragic.
I love the sales calls that really make me think and I cherish the ones that cause me to ponder something hours after I hang up. As I kept thinking about this person’s experience, I had a realization that every agency recommendation has a cycle that it needs to go through if it’s to have any impact at all. You could call it a lifecycle.
Like a good story, every agency recommendation has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Actually, the lifecycle of an good agency recommendation kind of follows Duarte’s secret structure of great talks. I’ll avoid trying to shoehorn that analogy in.
All agency recommendations start because there’s an issue – something on the site is underperforming, underutilized, or outright broken. No conversation starts with, “everything on your site is absolutely perfect, so we think you should change X.”
What happens is we see something that’s not living up to its potential and we decide that we (or someone) needs to take action.
We then work to identify an idea that we think, or already know, will resolve the issue. We compare what is (e.g., poor website performance) with what could be (e.g., better if not great performance) and inspire our clients.
The critical transition into the next stage is actually making a call to action (something too often forgotten).
The implementation of the fix and the resolution of the issue is the exciting conclusion. But there’s a lot of work that often goes into this. You can’t just call it quits after you get your client exited about the idea. They’re not paying you to put all the balls in their court; you need to do everything you possibly can (without overstepping bounds) to see that something actually comes of the recommendation.
Remember: You don’t get to check this box until you actually implement the idea that resolves the issue.
Our Job As Agency Marketers
Our job as agency marketers is to take each recommendation to the end of this journey and not let it die along the way. We need to provide enough inspiration, specificity, and adequate calls to action to move each recommendation through the three stages.
Most recommendations die in ideation, and early on in that stage at that.
By way of example, suppose that we identify that a page’s declining organic ranking for a key term is an issue and we come up with an idea to change course and resolve.
- Issue: The page’s declining ranking.
- Ideation: The idea that updating the page with new content that’s highly-relevant to the phrase and topic in question and applying semantic headings will improve ranking.*
- Implementation: Partnering to create the new page copy, outlining which heading tags need to be used where, and working to have the changes make to the site.
* Let’s just assume that we were able to identify the root cause of the issue on the first try.
What I’ve seen countless times in my career, and what I still hear about to this day, is agencies hitting step 1 (Issues), dipping their toe into step 2 (Ideation), and then bailing on the client. There is no version of, “Your page’s ranking is dropping because you need to add new content”, that is going to help anyone. The client hired you because they didn’t have the time and/or the domain expertise to execute as well as you could – they need your help and that’s what they’re paying for. It’s borderline unethical to give half-baked recommendations like that and hope your client will take it from there.
You’re Killin’ Me!
It kills me that there are still “SEO agencies” out there who spend 80-90% of their monthly hours on reporting and then the remainder of their time on gems like the one above. If we allow that to continue to be a norm in our industry, we’re sealing our own fate. Each in-house marketer or business owner who comes to believe that a monthly report and a few vague recommendations is what SEO companies provide is another nail in our collective coffin.
We can do better than this.