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5 Search Topics You Need to Discuss with Your Client

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I'd like to thank William Flaiz for the kind words in his last article. Not that I feel the pressures of Conan taking over for Jay, but I know I have some big shoes to fill, and hope that you all enjoy my columns.

Those who've read my previous articles and musings know I'm a big fan of lists. English teachers may cringe, but lists make it much easier for our fragmented brains to focus on a specific topic.

Knowing how to talk about the following five topics will improve your client communication and help foster more effective and rewarding business relationships. After all, search marketers are communicators first, listening to our clients' needs and describing crucial opportunities.

1. Ownership of Tactics

This strategy casts a long shadow over the rest of the list. Structurally, it's not uncommon to find client contacts whose business organization places a specific tactic out of their jurisdiction. Understanding who's responsible for these tactics is vital to a successful campaign, and knowing how to get an idea to the right people -- regardless of the contact's limitations -- is necessary in delivering to your full potential. It's that "seat at the table" concept.

I've worked with several clients on SEO engagements in which I broached the subject of Yahoo Search Submit Pro. After explaining its function, I would often be told, "It sounds like paid search, and I'm not responsible for that."

In a down economy, that's just not good enough. Agencies need to help clients see the larger opportunity and break down barriers to achieve them. The more clients look to you as a problem-solver, regardless of whether or not the problem is "in scope," the more you'll be considered in the future.

If a client resists Search Submit Pro as an organic tactic, go talk to the paid search group together to help address the overall search challenge.

2. Search is Search

I'm a search person, not an SEO person. Though I live mainly in the SEO world, to me search is search. And I can't think or plan for paid without considering organic. And feeds. And local. And social.

Develop a unified search strategy. Don't compartmentalize your approach because you have a paid search team and an SEO team. Many clients and agencies still try to keep these strategies separate. My thoughts on search have changed over time, but one thing remains the same: look at the whole picture.

Paid feels like marketing; organic feels technical. Paid has immediate impact; organic takes time. Paid can be implemented and managed without a technical background; organic requires technical knowledge. These are just a few reasons why these tactics are often approached separately.

Agencies know the advantages of looking at both opportunities. You have to work with the clients to find the right contacts and push for data sharing.

Begin with meetings, status calls, and sharing keyword lists. This gets the conversation going and forces the groups to work together cohesively. Agencies can't be afraid to work with other agencies or reach across departments. Coach this dialogue as a way to make your client look good by looking at the whole picture.

3. Local Search

While local search usage may be limited to clients with physical locations, it's too important to ignore. Local space presents a real opportunity to gain valuable universal visibility and learn a lot about what works for your client.

More people use local search to find specific services. A searcher may not just be looking for a Best Buy; the searcher may want to find a Best Buy with Geek Squad service.

The biggest local challenge is that clients don't understand how it works. Help your clients understand the offerings, landscape, and opportunities. Once you bridge the knowledge gap, you can review how to use these listings for your benefit.

Integrate locations, phone numbers, services offered, hours of operations, and reviews. This will add relevancy to your listing for brand searches and service-related searches. If your agency isn't talking to you about local, ask why.

4. SEO and Implementation

Interestingly, SEO is getting some nice publicity right now. Budgets are shrinking, and marketers are looking for more sustainable, lower-cost strategies. While SEO isn't a one-time fix, the costs associated with the initial work and maintenance pales in comparison to media or paid search. If you have recommendations sitting on your desk, implement them now.

The challenge here is twofold.

First, there's no exact formula for gauging the potential impact of SEO. This makes it difficult for a client to sell it internally. As your agency's voice, you must make a stronger argument centered on ROI to help our client build their case.

During the internal pitch process, you should develop a presentation with your client and present it as a team (letting them take the lead) to the decision makers. This makes your client look good while you remain part of the conversation to answer tough questions.

Second, how do you get an already strapped IT team to pay attention to this? You need to help the client reach out to other groups in their organization and explain the benefit and time needed for this. With the amount of people looking for SEO, you may want to build implementation costs into your program to alleviate this burden without dramatically impacting cost.

5. Social as a Way to Drive Search

And the award for most overhyped Web 2.0 business tactic goes to...social media. Everybody's developing a social strategy, but who really owns it? Your agency? PR team? Creative shop? Media shop?

Social definitely can be used for SEO benefit, so don't be afraid to poke around your client's social media plans and ask to be included. When a client says someone is working on their social strategy, don't shy away.

Social offers a tremendous opportunity to gain additional listings, drive up link popularity, and position you well in "secondary" search engines, such as YouTube. It's foolish to avoid this avenue because the client is developing a Facebook strategy with a creative team.

Your client likely doesn't realize the impact you can have on social strategies, which may be why they're not including you in the dialogue. Educate them on the opportunity and then ask to look at the work being done. As long as you're thinking about it from the context of search and not as a way to steal business, this is a valuable conversation to have, and your client will welcome it.

Become a Trusted Counselor

As agency people, we provide guidance and advice to clients to help them meet their business objectives. Simple enough. However, many of us stop when we've reached an area that may not be under our complete control. Cross these lines under the banner of making your client look good, even if it doesn't mean additional business for you.

A healthy pattern of good client communication creates new opportunities, whether a contract is renewed or not. Clients talk to each other. If you're a skilled, respected adviser, doors are never truly closed to you.

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