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The Evolution of SEO: Why SEO is now a Collaborative Effort Between Clients and Agencies

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client relationship and managementWhen search engine optimization first got started as an industry, it was way over most business owners’ heads. Because it was such a developing industry, being shaped by the very people that were immersed in it, companies chose to let SEO agencies and professionals do all the work for them so they wouldn’t have to learn an entirely new subset of marketing.

However, as SEO has continued to evolve, effective strategies now require participation and collaboration from clients and even their employees. The key to making this partnership successful is for each side to focus on what they do best, and then capitalize on what they can gain from the other.

So, how did the agency-client partnership evolve to become a necessity, and what is each side’s responsibility to ensure a successful SEO campaign?

What SEO Agencies Do Best

Agencies have a responsibility to be at the forefront of the SEO industry; they should know the latest trends and the best practices. Because of this, it’s best for agencies to complete the main SEO tasks that are mostly behind the scenes. These include:

  • Overall Strategy: Agencies have the responsibility of designing the overall online marketing strategy of their clients, then guiding the execution of it. This includes keyword research, competitive analysis, and content strategy.
  • Link Building: Local SEO citations, directory submissions, and other types of SEO link building are best left to SEO agencies because they generally already (should) have the processes in place, and understand the nuances of proper anchor text distribution, link type diversity, and domain diversity.
  • Audits: Website SEO audits are one of the first steps agencies should take for clients who already have an online presence. The purpose of the audit is to identify and understand what the business is doing right, as well as what needs to be improved.
  • Social Media: Social media marketing services aren’t offered by everyone, but because search engine algorithms are giving more and more weight to social signals, the importance of a strong social media campaign is higher than ever. As a result, agencies are offering community management, tweeting, Facebooking, and more on behalf of their clients to streamline marketing goals. The right agency (particularly, the right social media account manager) can make a world of difference here.
  • Linkbait: Content with the potential to go viral, like infographics, are best for SEO agencies, since it’s unusual for clients to have a designer on staff. Furthermore, agencies typically have experience designing infographics that have the potential to go viral. They also usually already have designers on hand to design the infographic, along with the connections and resources to promote and distribute it.

What Clients Do Best

Companies know the most about their industry, products, and services. Because of this, it’s up to clients to educate their SEO agency on types of topics and interests to focus on with regard to content strategy. Agencies generally don’t have the time, resources, or desire to learn everything about each of their clients’ industries.

  • Unique Industry Insight and Information: Companies need to provide the content direction (topics, title suggestions, etc.) as well as any specific industry information that they feel it’s important for their agency to know. Clients know their industry better, have more access to industry-related data, and have more industry connections in their niche.
  • Provide Direction: Expectations are a two-way street, and often they don’t match up, no matter how much both sides work to come to a mutual understanding. By initially and consistently making their expectations known, agencies and companies can build a steady stream of communication and trust.
  • Be the Face of the Brand: Customers like to know the company they are patronizing. This is why content that is created by agencies promote the client, not who actually conceptualized and carried it out. Users don’t care that an agency is behind the content marketing efforts of a company, as long as the content is high quality, interesting, and valuable.
  • Maintain an Active Blog: An active blog that contains high quality, interesting, and valuable content is essential for modern SEO campaigns. Many clients don’t trust an agency to provide content for their blog, so they choose to take ownership of this element of the campaign themselves. Unfortunately, in my experience, this almost always doesn’t pan out as it should. Clients often claim they will maintain their blog, then simply don’t. Or the content is too infrequent, or doesn’t sufficiently meet the requirements of being high quality, interesting, or valuable.
  • Guest Blogging: While an SEO agency can find the contacts for blogs to post on, the actual guest posting can only be done by the client— otherwise they won’t get authorship attribution and build Author Rank. An agency can write the posts and find the blogs on which to reach out for guest posting opportunities, but agencies can’t mimic the voice and writing style of the client’s CEO or face of the brand, nor can they reach out on behalf of this person (unless personal email addresses and passwords are shared with the agency, which is unlikely to happen very often). This can be tricky, as it goes back to the client have the best insider knowledge and jargon that an agency won’t.

Collaboration

brainstorming and collaboration

Guest blogging definitely requires collaboration, as does social media marketing. However, these and many of the other points mentioned require regular collaboration and communication to make it cohesive.

For example, if Bounty Towels debuted a new logo, then their agency-managed social media profiles need to be immediately updated to reflect it. Or, if a company’s brand colors are maroon and black, then the website and Twitter profile should also incorporate these colors. Without consistent marketing, brand recognition and unity may regress, along with brand loyalty and trust.

When a Company Should Hire an SEO Agency

Companies should contract with an SEO agency when they need to improve their online search visibility, and have no existing SEO strategy in place. An SEO agency may be more affordable for companies that can’t afford to hire an internal SEO team. Even for clients that have an internal SEO team, an agency can provide support such as link building, which is often difficult and time consuming.

An SEO agency and company collaboration is necessary, these days, for a successful SEO campaign. Gone are the days when SEO could be practiced in a silo, without participation from clients.

handshake photo credit: Orin Zebest via photopin cc
brains photo credit: Krissy.Venosdale via photopin cc

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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