6 causes your Web optimization company is shedding purchasers and what to do about them

Acquiring new customers is no picnic. SEO agencies invest a lot of time and resources in opening new accounts.

Current clients are an agency’s greatest asset. And while some manage to keep the majority of their customers, many others struggle to keep good customers on board.

An oft-cited study by Bain & Company shows that improving customer loyalty by just 5% increases profits by 25 to 95%.

The satisfaction of your current customers is critical to your profitability and growth.

If increasing customer loyalty is on your agenda, consider these six most common reasons SEO agencies lose clients, and see what you can do with each one below.

1. Wrong expectations

One of the main reasons SEO agencies lose clients is the failure to set realistic expectations from the start.

Mark Williams-Cook, Director at Candor & Founder of AlsoAsked.com, explains:

“After working at multiple agencies, I think the main cause of most customer loss is to get the expectations wrong at the beginning. This happens for a variety of reasons, ranging from sales teams making value propositions to inappropriate goals of the customer that are not questioned.

Those honest conversations mean you win or go on with a little fewer pitches, but it’s the best long-term strategy in my opinion. “


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Are you wondering whether you are over-promising and under-delivering? If it doesn’t fit together perfectly, it should be the other way around.

Also, customers often come through your door without knowing how SEO works and have very high expectations.

Don’t say yes when you know you can’t deliver.

2. Failure to train the customer

I’ve often met clients who, despite having worked with a SEO agency or two before, have absolutely no idea how SEO works.

People appreciate being informed, and they’ll trust you more, too. Building that trust with your customers is essential to the health of your long-term relationship.

I recently emailed one of my customers explaining that Google has released a new update and that we need to check their website. Your answer was:

  • Appreciated for being informed.
  • Grateful for us to keep you updated on industry trends and changes.
  • Understanding of the work to be done and that it can lead to change.


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Training your customers is not an isolated case. It means communicating with them regularly in a way that reflects your expertise and adds value to them.

It positions you as their point of contact for any questions or concerns they have and exactly where to turn (not random “SEO gurus” you might encounter online).

3. Poor value for money

Customers want to see the value of their SEO investments as quickly as possible. It is a constant challenge for SEO professionals because good SEO can take time.

Daniel Foley Carter, director at Assertive, says:

“Many SEO agencies lose customers mainly because of a lack of“ price-performance ratio ”. Many customers will try to rate SEO ROI in a similar way to PPC, even though SEO is generally a channel that takes longer to get results. “

One way to achieve this depending on the client’s business goals is to set long-term goals. For example, if your customer is a publisher, you could suggest a goal of 50% traffic in 24 months. “

While we know for sure that you can get that 50% increase in traffic much sooner (always remember, you are under-promising and over-delivering), it gives your customer a tangible, measurable value expectation.

Make sure to show your customers how your SEO efforts are positively impacting sales and conversions, not just traffic and rankings.

Jonathan Berthold, VP of Customer Acquisition at Path IQ, says:

“SEO agencies tend to lose customers due to misalignments in milestones and accomplishments. Agencies that only rely on posting reports on traffic and ranking increases will struggle to retain customers unless there is a clear tangible increase in revenue generation – or at least a roadmap to increase conversions.

Rather than focusing on quick wins that drive traffic or preparing for no-substance audits, agencies are better suited for long-term success by showing how organic search can drive revenue generation. Make sure that both parties are in line with what is expected in the course of the mandate. “


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4. Your customers don’t know what you are doing

Don’t let your customers guess about the work you are doing and the amount of effort you go into for them. Let them know what happens now and what to do next.

For example, you can compose a monthly email that includes:

  • Performance report.
  • Summary of the work and services performed.
  • Next Steps.

Check back once a week for a quick update on important initiatives or to share a recent win.

Make sure they understand the direct line between the SEO measures being taken and any measurable business results.

You may also want to create a roadmap at the beginning of the contract with the customer and update it every month to show progress.

This regular communication goes a long way towards keeping your customers informed about your activities. It also reflects structure and accountability, and customers appreciate both.


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Some agencies report the number of hours a client is devoted to SEO work each month, although they don’t bill clients by the hour. This helps to reflect the amount of work put into each task and each result to be achieved.

5. No visible results

So your clients stayed with you for the duration of their six- or twelve-month contracts and they can’t see any results.

We have to assume here that there was no lack of actually producing something. If so, you are facing bigger problems than we can cover in this column.

For the rest of you …

Review the setup of your internal SEO processes

Even agencies that do great work for others may lack clear processes and their own internal templates.

This is a recipe for failure.

Build your own proven process. It’s part of the value you offer your customers.

Make sure you have a solid project management tool setup

If you don’t use one, it will be very difficult to stay organized and properly execute SEO strategies on any scale.


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Review your process regularly

For example, hold team meetings every three or six months to discuss your processes.

Whenever there’s a new Google update, work with your team to see how this fits into your standard processes.

Train, train and train more

Always look for ways to train your team.

You don’t necessarily have to sign up for a course, but make sure there is a scheduled bi-weekly or monthly meeting where you can discuss all of the latest and greatest news and tips in the SEO world.

Allow team members to identify when there are skills or new areas they want to learn and make sure they have the time and budget to do so.

6. The product just wasn’t ready for SEO

Is SEO Always a Good Channel for All Businesses?

Most of the time, SEO is a great channel to generate income. When you have a good product, SEO is definitely an opportunity for your business to grow.


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But if your company isn’t ready yet, no SEO will help.

So the real question is: are you at the right stage for SEO in your business?

Sam Wright, founder of Blink, says:

“Many SEO campaigns fail for strategic reasons; it could be a lack of product market fit, pricing, or poor positioning or categorization. SMBs (especially in the e-commerce space) often don’t invest the time on this side of the business before delving into the tactical implementation of something like SEO.

That means they’re on shaky foundations – it’s hard to get a campaign going in these circumstances. However, many SEO agencies keep working anyway, either because they are ignorant or they don’t have the skills or experience to change things top-down. Often times, bad results follow, the customer becomes frustrated and the relationship ends.

Changing this is partly a question of customer training – we now make market analysis and positioning / categorization the first step in almost every project. This is something traditional marketing agencies have been doing for years, but it’s still a little unusual for an SEO-focused company like ours.

However, it is important to show that tactics only work if the strategy is right from the start. “


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With all of the above, every single SEO agency is losing clients. It’s not because the agency is incompetent – it’s part of the industry.

Jeff Ferguson, Partner / Head of Production at Amplitude Digital, leaves us with his farewell thoughts:

“Loss of customers is always a mixed bag. It’s easy to beat yourself up when losing a customer. In my experience, nine out of ten times it has a reason outside of your control – there’s a new CMO (or lower), a new investment group, or something similar – but it had nothing to do with you and everything to do with a regime change. “

The real goal is to minimize these losses and improve customer loyalty by understanding why they are occurring, knowing when the relationship is at risk, and knowing how to get the ship back up.

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Featured image: Fizkes / Shutterstock

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