Why and How to Educate Clients on SEO and Marketing Fundamentals

In this post I discuss the importance of educating clients on marketing fundamentals. Proper communication builds trust and is the foundation on which relationships are created. Taking the time to educate your clients will pay dividends in fewer emails, improved client retention, and a more productive working relationship. Don’t worry, you won’t need to teach any classes or give a presentation titled Digital marketing 101. Not sure where to start? Here’s what to do…

Start With a Plan

It’s important to create a plan with your client. After you’ve created the first draft of a campaign, meet with the client to do these things:

1) Explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it – The absolutely worst thing to do is start work on a plan without buy-in from all major stakeholders.
2) Get their feedback and advice – It is their industry after all.
3) See how they can help the campaign succeed – “Oh you want to get us featured in Wired? My college roommate actually works there.”

Digital marketing provides the nearest thing to a fully closed-loop marketing system. Use this to your advantage by communicating the KPIs of any campaign, setting up custom reports, and training clients where to view the KPIs within their analytics interface.


One of my favorite quotes is “if you can’t communicate, you can’t communicate.” What I mean when I say this is that if you and another person aren’t using a mutually understood vocabulary then it is extremely hard to communicate effectively. Clients are highly knowledgeable about their own industries, yet often lack in knowledge about digital marketing. Sometimes they lack general marketing knowledge. What does this all mean? It means that when you talk about the ROI of SEO, the uplift from the CRO, show them a graph comparing the CPA to the CPC of the PPC ads, discuss the CTR of the CTA, inform them you’ll be using the API from the CRM to input data into GA, and explain that the quality of the UI affects the UX, their head is ready to explode. Hell, I got dizzy just writing that!

Providing a handout helps but it will likely end up in the back of a filing cabinet, or worse yet, be cut down in its prime by the paper shredder. The best route to go is dropping acronyms and terminology in small amounts on a regular basis. Always explain new terminology clearly and concisely. If something takes more than a sentence to explain, provide a link to a blog post or article that explains the topic well. This will also get them in the habit of learning for themselves instead of emailing you about things they could easily Google, saving time for you to get actual work done.

Share Information

Below I’ve outlined a list of how marketers usually become averse to sharing information with clients. First though, let me say a few things on information sharing. Experts on negotiation will tell you that the best results for both parties in a negotiation will be achieved when all information is shared. The reason this fails to occur in most real life negotiations is the prisoner’s dilemma. Both parties are afraid the other will take advantage of them so they do what is best for each individually, but not better than what could be accomplished by working together.

This questioning of others motives and loyalty is universal. Why am I mentioning this? If you neglect to share information with and inform your client, they will eventually become suspicious of your actions. And lost trust is hard to regain.

1) Digital marketer had to endure working with a client(s) who “knew SEO” better than their consultant/agency.
2) Digital marketer promised himself/herself that would never happen again!
3) A fear builds up of having a client who knows just enough to be dangerous.
4) So what happens? The digital marketer quits sharing information.
5) Eventually the client wonders “what exactly is that darn marketer actually doing? And what do these reports mean?”

confused client frustrated marketer

What’s happens next? You get an email asking for a report of all the work done on the account. At this point the relationship is toast.  You send reports of the work. Yet if there wasn’t clear communication and buy-in on the plan from the start you’re going to have to explain your strategy and terminology at a point in the relationship where trust is already fading. The above list is a common experience among many marketers; if you manage others be sure to discuss this with them so they understand why withholding information is not in their best interest.

Without learning about the industry, your client will never be able to fully appreciate or understand the work you do on their behalf. They will never fully understand why you want them to do a particular thing. If you don’t provide them third party verification (from a few blog posts/case studies) that consistent blogging does have a real impact on traffic and sales they may write your blogging recommendations off as only of medium importance.

If a client doesn’t understand the major conversion paths on their site they can’t direct potential customers to the correct section of the site. “You’re interested in purchasing? Go to our Pricing page.” “You’d like to tell your business partners about us? There’s a video on our How it Works page that explains how our software works.” “Oh, you’re new to the industry. Our company blog will keep you up to date on all the latest industry news. We even have an e-book I think you’d like.” “Here’s my business card. And that’s my Twitter handle.” Now you’re training your client to be an active participant in their digital marketing and they no longer feel like an outsider looking in. You have a partner.

Remember These 3 Things

1) Your client chose you because they trusted you over all of the other service providers they contacted (if they chose you because of price you probably don’t want them as a client).
2) They do want to understand the ROI of SEO (you just have to explain it to them).
3) Clients are very busy running their own business (communicating with clarity and openness will greatly reduce their stress).

By working with your clients to help them understand the basics of digital marketing you will build a foundation for success and allow them to become active participants in their digital marketing campaigns.


Published:August 30, 2014

Self Improvement

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  • http://www.lyseismarketing.co.uk/ John Richardson

    Yes I completely agree with you that if one owning a business of SEO and want to manage their prospects then one ought to simply start with friendly communication. Subsequently start pitching the SEO plans according to prospect requirements.

    The process you described above is fairly straightforward. As a SEO Analyst at http://www.lyseismarketing.co.uk/, I prefer everyone to understand client’s requirement firstly then pitch the plan according to the offered money and the requirements.