I’ve often found that client communication is an area that needs improvement. This isn’t just for new SEOs either, as I routinely see long-term SEOs with sub-par client communication skills. In this article we’ll walk you through a few basics that can make a world of difference in protecting your time, keeping the client happy, and putting forth a professional appearance.
Communication and Meeting Basics
When interacting with clients, it’s best to have another team member CC’d. This way everyone is in the loop concerning where the client is at. If the client has other members that should be included, CC them where needed as well. This ultimately lays the groundwork for covering yourself in the future.
When you’re going to have a meeting, show up early. I recommend around 15 minutes. This allows you time to review your agenda and to make sure your meeting software is working. You don’t want to start a meeting only to find out you can’t screen share or that you have the wrong clients agenda open. It’s not a professional look.
Call agendas can be the difference between a project moving forward or spending the last 5 weeks on the same task. I’ve had 30 minute meetings run over into an hour routinely because there was never any agenda that laid out the meetings purpose. You’re going to be losing time and potentially upsetting clients if these meetings have no real purpose and feel like a waste of time.
For almost every client meeting, a call agenda should be used. The only case where I don’t use a call agenda is if we’re talking about something very specific, such as reviewing a deliverable. You’ll want to lay out a clear list of the items you’ll be talking about and send it early enough that the client can add any items to the agenda. Here’s an example you can consider with some example text.
We’ve included a call agenda for our meeting on DAY. If there is anything that you would like to discuss that isn’t listed here, please add it to the agenda and we’ll discuss it on our call.
Meeting Purpose: SEO Content Performance
- Current Content Performance
- Content Recommendations
- Meta Descriptions
- Heading Structure
- Future Content
- Review Content Idea A
- Review Content Idea B
- Review Email Template
This is a simple text based agenda. Depending on your client you may want to use something like powerpoint or Google slides. I like to use word/google docs because it’s easier to add notes into, but work with what’s best for you and the client.
While note taking isn’t exactly client communication, it will help you in the future regarding any client questions, disputes, etc. The amount of times I don’t see notes being taken is unfathomable. While you may not need needs for every call, you’re going to miss out on important things and you won’t remember them.
When you use a text based agenda, you can add relevant notes under each section. Include everything of importance, and make sure to add all action items. If you tell a client not to do something and they want to go with it anyways, make a note of that. If a client wants to delay something for a couple months down the line, make a note of that. After your meeting you’ll want to clean your notes up and call out the action items and the person who is responsible for the completion of that item. Once done, send the notes over. You’ll look professional and you’ll be able to check back on the notes before the next meeting to make sure action items were completed etc.
I’ve seen everything from weekly calls to once a month calls. Personally I think weekly calls are overkill but sometimes that’s what a client wants, or your company wants to do that. I often found a monthly call was ideal for general communication, with calls ramping up as required for very specific projects or due to outside requests. Regardless of your call frequency, here’s a few pointers.
Maintain at least monthly communication. When clients go silent it can lead to issues down the line. If work isn’t getting done, you can always show that you tried to engage the client. The better relationship you have, the more likely the client is to remain a client.
Keep your client abreast of the work you are doing. Sometimes you might have a project that takes awhile to complete, like an audit or keyword research. The worst thing you can do is go radio silent during this time. Instead, provide a weekly update of the work that was done. They’ll probably ignore it after a bit but they will see that you’re working for them. This isn’t needed when you have weekly calls, but keep it in mind.
You will probably come across a situation where the client is upset with you. Sometimes it’s due to a new team who doesn’t understand the previous work. Sometimes it’s because another agency or tool said the site had all these issues. It really doesn’t matter what the issue is, because you’ll be prepared for it.
If the client wants to do something that can harm the site, always call them out on it. Tell them why it’s a problem and what will potentially happen if they go through with it. Do it multiple times if possible, and always have someone else CC’d on the email. Document the interaction as best as possible.
If a client has had another agency or tool provider reach out, you’re mostly going to have to be reactive to the situation. However, if you have clear reports and clear documentation on current issues and their status, you can use this to bolster your case. If the client is told something is wrong that really isn’t, make sure you back up your answer with sources. SERoundtable usually is one of the best places for more general information and should be enough to help you out.
Clients and prospects have a nose for BS. If you don’t know something, be honest about it. It’s perfectly fine to tell a client that you don’t know the answer to a question they have. Tell them you’ll research it and get back to them. Don’t let these sorts of things languish either. Get the answer to them once you’ve completed the research.
This is especially important when you have developer interactions. You’ll often be asked a lot of questions that they may even know the answer to. If you try to bs them, you’ll be caught and that’s going to damage the relationship. If you’re upfront about what you know and don’t know, you’ll be able to build a good relationship. Check out our article on creating good developer relationships.
The better you are at communicating, the smoother things tend to go. I’ve witnessed enough problems that have come about from not following the above recommendations, and they didn’t need to occur. Follow the guidelines above, and you’ll set yourself up for success.