How to Manage Client Expectations During SEO Projects

If you’re doing SEO for a living you’ll know that vast majority of your clients think of it as a magic bullet to all their traffic problems. This is why managing client expectation is critical for the success of any SEO project. SEO industry as a whole have suffered because of hollow promises like guaranteed first page rankings. Below are few things I do to manage client expectations which you can easily include in your SEO projects.

Quote about expecations: Expectation is the root of all heartaches

The cause for all heartaches

Clear and Detailed  SEO Proposals

Your proposal decides whether or not you get the project so it’s tempting to go overboard and include as much as you can in the proposal. Most list down the steps but forget to mention the limitations. Below are some tricky areas in a SEO proposal that can give unrealistic expectations for clients.

  • Pricing and Limitation – It’s important to clearly mention the prices for different activities and what will be covered in those activities. A good example of this is on-site optimization which is usually done as an one off activity. One site may have 10 pages while another one might have 50 pages. So one fixed fee will not do for all websites. Either analyze the website before quoting a price or quote a price per page.
  • Clearly mention who’s doing what – For example in your SEO proposal increasing site speed might be included as an activity. Clearly mention whether you’re just producing a report of errors or you’re actually implementing the changes. Although things like this might be obvious for you they are surely not obvious to most clients.
  • Access to tools and why – Most of the time you need access to Google Analytic, Webmaster tools and in some cases tools they use to track sales and conversions. Although you can ask for these things during the project it might look unprofessional.

Understand Customer Expectations and Set Realistic Goals

It is important to understand your customers expectation before setting goals. Some want to rank in first page for specific keywords while some just wants to see an increase in revenue. Learning them is critical for the success of your project.

Quote on how to manage client expectations

Most important thing you need to manage client expectations

Probably the most important thing when it comes to managing client expectations. There are simply too many SEO’s who over promise and under deliver. It’s dangerous to guarantee first page rankings but more realistic to guarantee a steady growth in search traffic. Most businesses measure the success of a project based on the revenue so try to tie your goals to the revenue.

This doesn’t mean you should set easily achievable goals. But overextending yourself and disappointing the customer will hurt you. Also think of the budget when setting goals. For competitive keywords it requires lots of work and so make sure to adjust the timeline accordingly or the budget.

Educate Clients and Demystify SEO

Take the time educate your clients and they’ll appreciate the effort. Explain why you’re doing something and why. For example if you’re increasing the keyword density tell them how it will impact search engine rankings. Although they might not understand the technical details behind your changes they’ll understand why it’s necessary.

This also makes them feel like part of the process and will definitely help you to get more referrals through them as well.

Report Consistently and Accurately

Another great way to manage client expectation is good reporting. This is the reason digital marketing agencies provide customized dashboard for their clients. It creates transparency and clearly shows what you’re doing for the client. You don’t have to create customized dashboards but you can start by sending keyword ranking reports, link building reports, social submission reports etc.

How do You Manage Client Expectations in Your SEO Projects?

I have listed some methods I personally use and had success with. If you’re doing SEO for clients I would love to hear about other methods you’re using to manage SEO expectations of your clients. Just leave a comment and share them with the world.


  1. Herman Coetzee says

    Excellent article. We also use the same methodology with our clients. We tend to hold a strategy meeting with the client before we commence any service to clearly understand the clients expectations (especially if they already worked with a previous agency) and set Goals with realistic time periods to reach them.

    Constant communication between you as the provider and the client is essential, as Customer Service plays a critical role as well. Communicating with your client on a continual base ensures that you build a solid relationship based on trust and opens the doors for other opportunities.

    • says

      Hi Herman,
      Some very valid points. Totally agree that you need to discuss more about expectation if they have previously working with another SEO agency. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Piyush Wadhwa says

    Every Client is different, his/her needs are different and thus there is a different way of dealing with each client, You must clearly explain your offer only after completely analysing the project.

    • says

      Very good point Piyush and totally agree with you. But there are some who just sends a standard proposal for everyone and then try to change things after doing the project for a while.

  3. Paul Davis says

    I agree, do not attempt to sugar coat your proposal. State the advantage and disadvantage and help your client understand the whole process. Especially for those who just started up a blog it is best that you won’t give expectations that you’re sure you wouldn’t meet.

  4. peter pollard says

    its good to be a proper communication of deadlines with the clients,make sure the dates you give will be of 1-2 week ahead of your calculated time,As no one can predict the exact time of seo results,So little safe is much better

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