EvolutionAfter a couple of decades, most of us understand that the online landscape is going to be ever-changing. Internally, businesses are beginning to appreciate the amount of ongoing effort it takes to maintain online visibility – and the power of good online marketing. Many businesses now understand that they need to be versed in terms such as SEO, UX, PPC, Social Media, and more. They’re even allocating payroll budgets to include internal or external members to help facilitate their online efforts.

Providing traditional key performance indicators, such as returns on investment, or rankings, or increases in traffic and leads are now assumed when the client engages you. The shift, I feel, is that extended, harder-to-deliver benefits, such as your availability to fulfill special requests, project guidance, business or directional insights, and most importantly, communication, are what keep the clients smiling when they write your checks. You can be doing everything right and delivering great results, but if there’s a lapse in the intangibles the client can still get wooed by a great sales pitch … and you’re left in a position of defending your value to keep the relationship.

This changes how search agencies operate, or at least it has changed how we operate. Many businesses are no longer looking for a vendor for advertising and optimization – they’re looking for a real partner. That means more frequent interaction with their internal teams, complete transparency into a business’ internal initiatives, and being able to operate autonomously to meet their goals without impeding their progress.

In order to meet those expanded strategy and planning needs, agency personnel must have several essential attributes. You must be able to adapt to internal pain-points, intermingle with different teams and personalities, conduct on-site training of best practices, and adjust to a limitless number of unique challenges and speed bumps.

As the search industry has aged (roughly 170 years in Internet time), verticals have also become much more narrow and highly competitive, with multiple agencies in almost all of them. Online competitor saturation is a real barrier for some businesses, and the difference between page 1 visibility and obscurity is in the finer details. You’ll often hear the phrase “content is king,” but the content actually needs to be seen. If a blog post falls on the Internet, does anyone read it?

In order for people to see the content, you need to know where and how to promote it. You also need for search engines to be able to see it. What users see and what search engines see are sometimes two completely different things, and those details are what separate success from mediocrity.

I’ve talked about flexibility and knowledge, and those are great, but what really ties everything together is the communication. If your only contact with a client is once a month, you’re already way behind. And, you better believe there’s at least one other agency out there courting them.

Communicate the wins, the opportunities, the troubleshooting, and the tests, and make sure the client’s team is as much a part of what you’re doing as your own team. Keep a specific cadence on standardized reports, but in-between you need to be talking about other areas of the business and giving insights. When you’re that embedded, and you’re delivering on the results, you’ve earned that partnership – and they’re not going anywhere