Organic Search vs. Bureaucracy – Heather Physioc

09 April 2019

Posted in: BSEO

This talk from Heather Physioc,  VMLY&R’s Group Connections Director, dealt with managing client expectations from the get-go to ensure that you can avoid the hard to answer questions mentioned above… for the short term at least!


Search vs. Bureaucracy: How to Stand Up an Organic Search Program for Your Client

What was the talk about?

You’ve won that big client, feelings of euphoria light up across the office, high fives all round… job done? Not quite. A couple of weeks go by and your client begins to start asking questions such as “Nothing changed, what’s going on?” or “What am I spending my money on again?”. The honeymoon period is over: do you have the answers to these difficult questions?

In short, this talk was about managing your client’s expectations from day dot. Promising your client the world can be just as dangerous as not going through a detailed onboarding process. Both involve misleading your client, which might get you the win at first, but later on in the process, it will trip you up.

Companies lose clients for a number of reasons, according to Heather the main ones are:

  • Not gauging a client’s understanding — not their technical understanding of SEO per se, but rather what search can do and its limitations.
  • Failure to communicate early, often and clearly.
  • Being reactive instead of proactive — moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat.
  • Failing to align expectations and outcomes

Now no one likes losing a client but to lose one because of incompetence, this is just not acceptable. The above all boils down to a breakdown in communication, a fear to have those hard conversations. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as there are areas that you can focus on to mitigate the above.

Heather called it her ‘Immersive workshop’, a two-day sit down with the client that covers everything needed to ensure that you can manage expectations but also, to make sure that everyone is on the same page. By the end of this workshop, all parties leave with the confidence that they know what is going on.

Key sessions of the workshop include:

  • Understanding the client’s vision – what the company is about, what they are trying to achieve with their brand
  • Stakeholder sessions – discussion with all relevant parties that will be part of the campaign
  • Tech lead intros – their ways of working, tools that will be used, how they prioritise workload
  • Discussion with the content team – understanding of workflows and processes
  • Engage with analytics experts – ensure they have the right measurement tools in place to report
  • Summary session – go over everything discussed to make sure there is no confusion

It’s at this stage that any concerns or issues that are still in play are taken out. It is about laying down a clear roadmap as to how you are going to help this organisation. Another necessary exercise is to figure out the Search Maturity of an organisation — i.e. what does their current search maturity look like? This will help to inform the strategy moving forward.

To end off, manage your client’s expectations, make sure they understand what can and can’t be done and make sure they understand this early. Push back on them and make sure you have access to all the information that you need to make this work. It takes two to tango, your client can’t expect you to do this on your own!

Key takeaways

  • Misaligned Expectations = Big Problem
  • Expectations vs Reality – Make sure everyone is on the same page
  • Clients understanding – make sure they know what search can and can’t do
  • ROI – there is no fast road to success
  • Communication – the most important point, communicate often
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