How to Manage SEO Client Expectations

Adam Steele
Apr 16, 2024
manage seo client ranking

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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A client demanding a refund because, after just a month, they’re not ranking at the top of Google? Sound familiar? For better or worse, managing the expectations of your SEO is just part of the job. There’s no avoiding it.

Let’s embrace the need to manage client anxieties together with this 8-step plan on how to manage SEO client expectations.

SEO Client Expectation Management in 10 Steps

Ten steps to sweet-sweet SEO client success.

Step 1: Onboarding That Balances Expectations from the Start

Your onboarding process isn’t just about logistics. It’s the perfect time to proactively establish realistic expectations for your freshly-acquired SEO clients. Typically, onboarding should be rolled out in three steps: 1)  a welcome packet, 2) a questionnaire, and 3) a kickoff call.

The welcome packet shows them you’ve got your act together—your agency’s branding, a clear outline of what to expect, and introductions to their main points of contact. The questionnaire gets all that essential info upfront, so you’re not scrambling to play catch-up later. And the kickoff call? It’s your chance to put faces to names, make sure everyone’s on the same page, and address any anxieties before they turn into full-blown panic later on.

Step 2: Deeply Understand Your Client’s Business

Forget about generic SEO goals because truly setting your client up for success means becoming a temporary extension of their team. Instead, to truly understand their needs (your onboarding questionnaire is a great place to start), ask yourself:

  1. What are the pain points keeping them awake at night? Are they worried about losing customers to competitors or seeing their website traffic stagnate?
  2. What are their biggest website struggles? Is it getting enough qualified leads or maybe turning visitors into actual paying customers?
  3. Have they worked with other SEO agencies before? Did they have a great experience or get burned with empty promises?
  4. What’s their vision for growth? Are they a scrappy startup looking to break into the market or an established company aiming for even bigger things?
  5. How will they really measure success? Is it about getting more leads, boosting their bottom line, or something else entirely?

If you can understand your clients intimately and align your KPIs with their bottom line, you’ll be the agency they can’t stop raving about.

Step 3: Client Education from the Start

Your clients don’t have an SEO PhD. That’s why they’ve hired yours truly. Okay, sure, some clients will have a general understanding of SEO, but they likely don’t know the specifics of your process. So, take the time to explain your approach in clear, non-technical terms. Do you start with a deep technical audit? Do you prioritize on-page optimization first? Or maybe you have a unique approach to competitive analysis?

Walk them through your key strategies and the rationale behind them. This proactive education does two important things: it shows clients you’re not just pulling tactics out of thin air, and it helps them understand the “why” behind the dollars they’re investing in your knowledge and strategies.

Step 4: Create a Realistic Roadmap

Nobody likes surprises, especially not your clients. That’s why a clear roadmap is a must-have. Outline the major milestones you expect to hit—things like completing the technical audit, launching an initial round of content, and building a batch of high-value backlinks.

But here’s the key: be upfront about potential delays. Maybe their website needs more technical fixes than anticipated, or a sudden Google algorithm update throws a temporary wrench in things. By proactively addressing the possibility of changes, you’ll manage expectations and build trust instead of letting unexpected hiccups cause client anxiety.

Step 5: Choose Your Client Communication Cadence

Think of this step as preventing those dreaded “just checking in” emails from anxious clients.  Set a regular communication schedule—whether that’s bi-weekly updates, monthly progress calls, or something in between—and stick to it religiously. Consistency builds trust.

Ideally, find a communication cadence that respects your client’s response time, is easy to respond to, and provides enough information to keep them informed without bombarding them with updates is the best approach.

Also, find out upfront how your client prefers to communicate. Are they all about quick email summaries? Do they prefer a phone call to discuss strategy in more depth? Tailoring your communication style to their preferences shows you’re invested in making the partnership work smoothly. It’ll put their nerves at ease and more money in your back pocket.

Step 6: Reporting That Matters (Not Just Numbers)

Imagine a client opening your report and their eyes light up instead of rolling back in their head.  That’s the power of great reporting. Your job isn’t just to spit out numbers, but to show clients how those ranking improvements translate into more leads, more customers, and, yup, more revenue.

Ditch those clunky PDFs and provide visually engaging reports that make it easy to see the ROI of their SEO investment. Remember, when clients understand the value you bring, they become long-term partners, not just another line item on your invoice.

Step 7: Normalize Fluctuations, Focus on Solutions

Your client calls in a panic because their rankings have dropped. It’s nothing new to you, but it certainly isn’t what they’re expecting to see. Do you want to be the agency that scrambles or the one that calmly says, “We’ve got this”?

Take it as an opportunity to prove your worth. Instead of panicking, be ready with solutions. Did a competitor snag a coveted featured snippet? Time to revamp your content strategy. Did a technical glitch mess with indexing? Let’s jump straight in there and fix it. Not to sound like a broke record, but drive to point home, by being proactive and demonstrating your expertise, you turn those inevitable dips into opportunities to showcase your value, not moments of crisis.

Step 8: Celebrate Wins, Big and Small

SEO can sometimes feel like a slow burn, which is why it’s important to celebrate those victories along the way. Make those wins a big deal. Did you knock their biggest competitor down in the rankings? Did the blog strategy you implemented start converting visitors into customers like crazy?

Don’t just report the numbers. Turn them into success stories that get your clients excited. Think of celebrating wins as a key part of your strategy—it builds momentum, proves your value, and makes you the kind of agency clients brag about (and stick with) for the long run.

Step 9: Evolve Your Strategy Alongside Their Growth

Think of SEO as a journey alongside your client, not a one-time fix. As they hit those initial goals, it’s time to start thinking bigger. Maybe their early success means they’re ready to expand into new markets—time to discuss international SEO. Maybe a boost in organic traffic has them dreaming of even greater conversions metrics—let’s dive into CRO strategies you can implement.

Don’t wait for them to come to you with new goals; suggest ways to level up their success. After all, it’ll position you as an indispensable strategic partner invested in their growth, not just someone who executes tasks.

Step 10: Address Difficult Conversations Like It’s Nothing

Whether it’s a budget that needs to increase, an algorithm update that messed with rankings, or a strategy that’s simply not performing, the unexpected happens, and avoiding the issue won’t make it go away. In fact, it’s the surest way to erode client trust.

To set yourself apart from agencies that duck and weave when things get tough, be the agency that faces challenges head-on. Don’t sugarcoat the problem, but always come armed with solutions. Focus on using data to clearly explain the situation. Then, shift the focus to action: how can you pivot your strategy or adjust the timeline to get them back on track?

This kind of solution-focused approach turns a potential point of friction into an opportunity to showcase your expertise and dedication.

SEO Client Management Software

From automated rank tracking that saves you from staring at spreadsheets to collaboration features that keep everyone on the same page, the right software will seriously streamline your SEO client management workflow. Check out these great tools:

Client Reporting and Analytics

SEMrush and Ahrefs

Both are heavyweights that offer a full suite of SEO features, including in-depth rank tracking, backlink analysis, and competitor insights. Their reporting options are robust, allowing you to customize data visualizations for clients.

DashThis and AgencyAnalytics

These platforms excel in creating visually appealing and easily digestible client reports. They integrate with popular SEO and marketing tools, pulling in data automatically to save you tons of time.

Project Management and Collaboration

Asana and Trello

Perfect for agencies that need a flexible way to track tasks, deadlines, and client communication within SEO projects. Their Kanban board-style setup is visual and intuitive to use.


Offers a more structured project management experience, including message boards, to-do lists, and file sharing, keeping everything organized in one central location.

Conclusion and Next Steps

By now, you get it: managing SEO client expectations isn’t a one-and-done task. Continue to educate your clients on the process, celebrate the wins along the way, and be ready to tackle the inevitable bumps in the road.

Ready to level up your client relationships and deliver the kind of results that make you the agency everyone wants to work with? Loganix offers seamless white-label SEO services, from in-depth audits to client-friendly reporting, that take the hassle off your plate.

🚀 Head to our white-label services page, and together, let’s have you signing new SEO contracts like no tomorrow. 🚀


Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Adam Steele on April 16, 2024

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.