SEO is a business that is much more than just implementing of a well-developed website optimization strategy. Anybody can get SEO advice or learn some tips and tricks by reading blogs, attending a conference, or participating in online webinars. If you are an SEO, or you have or will hire an SEO, there is a relationship issue that is part of any good business strategy.

That relationship feeds into the long-term success of your business. How the SEO engages with you--the client--can make or break your success. Everybody wants a good skilled SEO. But you should also want one that's good at business as well.

Here are seven things that good SEOs will do:

  1. Plan

    SEO cannot be shoved into a one-size-fits-all campaign. Every site is different, from its architecture to navigation to content, therefore each site needs its own unique SEO and marketing strategy. Good SEOs know this. Before you get a proposal for services the SEO should have taken time to review your site in order to determine what services you need most. Once the SEO work begins, more research needs to be performed so a strategy for success can be developed.

    There is much more to SEO than just throwing some keywords on the page. Good SEOs plan out a strategy specific for every site they work with.

  2. Communicate

    The SEO and the client must be communicating on a regular basis. I've never seen an SEO campaign that didn't require a client's involvement, and I would likely avoid taking on a client that wanted to avoid involvement. The client knows their business better than any SEO does and that input is valuable to creating a successful campaign. And as the SEO progresses, the client needs to be kept informed of what's going on and be given opportunity to provide their input. The client should also have access to ongoing status updates and measurement reports.

    Without communication the potential for a derailed SEO campaign is significant. Good SEOs keep in regular contact with their clients, seeking their input and providing status updates.

  3. Focus on SE Friendly Architecture

    SEOs have to focus on many things, most of which revolve around keywords. Many clients still look at "keyword rankings" as a measure of success. But good SEO has to go beyond adding keywords to the site, they also need to focus on a site's overall architecture. A good site architecture can make a difference in a site's overall performance by giving the search engines better access to all the content, cleaning up spider-stopping or -slowing code and implementing a stronger internal link structure.

    The better the site's architecture is the greater the opportunity for SEO success. Good SEOs will look for issues within the architecture that can or should be fixed for better SEO results.

  4. Educate

    SEO deals in cutting edge technology. The search engines are always changing and algorithm updates are made on a regular basis. SEOs must continue to stay educated of these changes. While SEO strategies are remarkably consistent over time, small subtle changes can, and often do, make a big difference. The SEO must keep their team, and even their clients informed and educated. The clients need to know how changes may affect them, and what the SEO's plans are if any adjustments are to be made.

    While not every bit of information is a game changer, keeping up with industry changes is essential. Good SEOs keep up to date, and make sure clients stay informed.

  5. Focus on sales

    Many businesses look to SEOs to improve their rankings. But really what they want is someone to help them grow their business. Rankings are just a means to achieve that goal. Despite what any client thinks they want, a good SEO will look beyond rankings and help the client gain traffic and improve sales. This means they have to analyze the progress of the campaign and the effect keyword rankings are having in regard to traffic and sales. The SEO will also focus on usability issues that could improve the ability of the site to do sell better.

    Revenue is generally the number one thing clients want, even if they are not thinking in those terms when hiring an SEO. Good SEOs help the client focus on the bigger picture and measure success properly.

  6. Compromise

    As SEOs we often see things that need to be done and get frustrated when the client doesn't do what we want. Clients often get frustrated when they don't feel the SEO work has been successful. In order to get things done the SEO may need to compromise. Maybe the client can't implement the change recommendations exactly how the SEO wants it, so the SEO must work with the client to find solutions that can be implemented while providing the best possible result.

    Compromise is essential to SEO success. Good SEOs know that a half fix is better than no fix at all. They go for the small victory now in hopes of the bigger victory later.

  7. Test, review and re-strategize

    There is no set-it and forget-it in SEO. While some major issues can be fixed up front, keyword targeting and usability fixes are an ongoing, everlasting process. The SEO campaign should be under constant review. New keywords should be tested and optimized and new strategies for improvement should be implemented on a regular basis. Unless the site runs out of keywords (very unlikely except in niche industries) the SEO should always be targeting new phrases for ranking on a regular basis.

    When it comes to SEO there is always more that can be done, provided it fits within the scope of the client's contract. Good SEOs are looking for opportunities (in or outside of that scope) that can help the client improve performance.

Good SEOs are not always easy to come by. Many SEOs know how to do one thing really well, but don't focus on other essential aspects. The most important thing one can find in an SEO is one that cares about his clients. Good SEOs want their clients to succeed and are willing to make these seven best practices a part of their business model.

October 6, 2009

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Very useful! I am somewhat new to SEO, and I am always on the lookout for information just like this. Many blogs I visit deal primarily with more technical and industry information. While this is very important, I also value the more subtle side of what may be expected of me as a SEO professional.

Excellent write-up, Stoney.

Along the same lines of Compromise, SEOs need to be Versatile. They need to be able to take into account a company's branding guidelines, corporate politics, and even their technical and development setups. While it is good to have a solid foundation of best practice type solutions, the neophyte SEOs will provide a boxed set of recommendations, without considering these various company obstacles. On the other side of the talent spectrum, the Versatile SEOs will develop appropriate strategies and recommendations only after fully understanding a company's guidelines and processes. Consequently, this will require less compromise post-recommendation.

Secondly, your point on Education is an excellent one. Knowledge is necessary, but futile without application. The amount of content related to SEO online through various blogs, forums, and articles is overwhelming. Most of it is regurgitated, failing to provide real-world applicable solutions. Staying abreast of recent trends, educating yourself, your company and your clients is a definite must but it shouldn't stop at just scanning through some RSS feeds or reading some blog posts. The ability to think about the impact of such changes and creating applicable strategies that will benefit you or your clients is even more important.

Again, loved the read, thanks!

Great! I especially agree with the Communication point -- I have discovered how problematic it can be when a client assumes they are paying for a service that doesn't require them to be involved. I have tried to address this issue very directly with any potential clients. Many are surprised when I say effectively "if you don't want to be involved, then I don't want you as a client." Harsh, but true. Anyone claiming results without custom strategy, approach, and continued communication are just scammin.

Steele Agency:

Great article! Totally agree on the SEO need to be good at business too. Without communicate & compromise (2Cs) with clients sure SEO can not go any further.

Very True words for the success of SEO. SEO is never one way and it can never be successful without the combined efforts. These basic steps are neither any of the SEO tools or strategies but they are the basic mind set any of the SEO should have.

Some good stuff here. I'd add to "Educate" something about teaching your client how to gain ongoing links and visitors through the companies relationships with their clients, suppliers, and associations. Try to integrate link building and website promotion with daily operations, rather than a side task left solely to the SEO.

Great article!

It is one of the most honest SEO articles I've ever read based on experience and common sense. My apprach on every SEO campaign really consists of most of the above elements. I would like to comment on what you mentioned about educating and informing the clients regularly. It is something simple that most of the time SEO experts tend to ignore but in fact has amazing results as some clients can really grasp quickly what SEO is about and perform many tasks on their own. That definitely saves our SEO team time, so we focus on other aspects of our SEO strategy.

You are SO spot on about client involvement. It's a real challenge for us to help clients understand how valuable their input is.

At the other end of the scale, there are clients who know a bit about SEO and troll the SERPS relentlessly to check their positions for keywords we didn't even optimize for in the first place. They thik that once they're optimized they come up for any word related to their industry. The educating part is also a challenge. I direct clients to pages on my site that explain why rankings are not the be all and end all, and what keyword research achieves - but often to no avail.

Many companies view their website as the face of the company. If true, then SEO is how many people walk in their store.
A agree completely with Carolyn and many above. Also, you need to listen (not just hear) what your client is saying. What are their goals of the SEO engagement? Are they trying to create more customers, increase their newsletter subscriptions, increase the internet foot print? A lot of the time, they will not come out and say exactly what they want. So, this is why you need both computer/people skills to interpret what the client is really saying and what they mean in respect to the SEO work needed.
Also (#8) should be get a link from :)

Great post Stoney, thanks for the informative post. You make a lot of really good comments about what a client should look for from an experienced SEO and hit it right on the money with this one. Nice work!

Clients must to be involved in the SEO campaign. Not only in implementing recommendation, but in working with the SEO to develop long-term strategies for success. Keyword research requires the client to help sort through irrelevant terms, link building requires the client to write linkable content or working established contacts, social media requires the client to develop campaigns that make sense.

Hey Stoney,

Hope all is well with you - good post...

How about a #8:

To support the "focus on sales" goal or the "transactional" searcher is essential. But getting eyeballs to the site in the "information gathering" phase, or even during the "use" stage of a searcher's behavior is important as well. Those types of searches may not directly create a transaction but have potential to help drive the goal funnel.

For instance: Many products or services have common "issues"? What are the search terms associated with that? Tipping points and a conversion opportunity if you can provide the right solution.

After we have done our due diligence, we spend a good deal of time educating clients. Along transactional search recommendations we tend to propose related search strategies to drive traffic at each stage of the life cycle. Compromise - yes - not every client has the budget to support doing it comprehensively. Always trying to make it better - also yes.

These are excellent rules to live by in the SEO world. We must always strive to stay on top of our game and perform at the highest level possible. This industry is way to competitive to get lackadaisical. It pays to be a winner!

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