Speaking the right SEO language

One of the most common issues SEO agencies face is being able to get clients to agree on suggested changes to their website and/or suggested changes to their SEO strategy. As SEO consultants , it is our job to provide suggestions on how companies can grow their business via SEO or other kinds of online marketing and this means coming up with new ideas and putting these forward to our clients. Often we get resistance from clients, and we wonder why. The problem is not because our ideas are bad ideas, but because we are not talking the right language. At most companies we tend to talk to one, maybe two people as our point of contact. Understanding what role these people play in their company and being able to talk the right language to these people is essential in getting your ideas across effectively. Here are some tips on being able to talk the right language to your point of contact.

The Director / Business Owner

The Director / Business Partner / Business Owner is more likely to be interested in the vision, or long term benefit of our suggestions. They like high level numbers and are often uninterested in the detail of what it takes to get there. Unless particularly tech-savvy, these type of people couldn’t care less how many articles you are going to get written for their blog, whether you think the alt tags on their site are not optimised or whether the current page title on the services page needs to be rewritten. If you talk about how much money it will cost them and how much this is going to benefit them and by when (in terms of traffic, conversions, sales etc.), they will be able to assess whether there is a big enough return on their investment to go ahead and make the changes.

The Marketing Guy

Similar to the above, the Marketing Guy is interested in numbers and return on investment. The only difference with the above is that marketing people have budgets. Budgets they need to stick to. If you can find out what their overall marketing budget is and how much is currently being allocated to SEO, you’ll be able to better understand how important SEO is in terms of their overall marketing strategy and will be able to talk about ways in which you can get a slightly bigger slice of that pie.

The Web Designer / Web Developer

While trying to avoid a massive sweeping generalisation, Web Designers and Web Developers tend to be a protective breed. They don’t want you to mess around with their ‘baby’ (the design and functionality masterpiece they have been nurturing over the last few months or even years). They want specifics. Why do you want to make these changes? If you don’t explain to them why you want to make a certain change to their website you’ll get resistance straight away. Explain the reasons why in technical language, not in terms of return on investment. For example “there’s evidence that h1 tags are good for rankings – I noticed the main heading on your home page is styled using span tags as opposed to heading tags – we can keep the styling exactly the same, we just need to label it as a h1 instead. I’m expecting a nice lift in rankings from doing this”. Web Designers and Web Developers are a learning type too, meaning they may have ‘dabbled’ in SEO in the past or may have been reading up on it in recent months. The problem is, not everything you read about SEO is true and a huge amount of it is out of date. You have to be prepared for questions like “I read something about PageRank sculpting using nofollow on internal links, should we be doing that?” (The answer is no, incase you weren’t aware).

The In-House SEO Guy

This is the hardest of all. There are many companies who have an in-house SEO consultant but also contract the services of an agency. There are benefits to both, which I won’t go in to, but when working together it is essential both sides are singing from the same song sheet. The In-House SEO guy is expecting elements of all three of the above points. They want to know what the return on investment is (so they can tell their boss), what it means in terms of their SEO budget, and technically, down to the smallest detail, what we are going to do to make that happen. You can expect the most amount of resistance from the In-House SEO guy. As we know SEO is often about trial and error, and if he/she doesn’t agree with your trial, there’s going to be conflict. Allow the In-House SEO guy to come up with their own ideas and mutually agree on the best course of action. You could even try hinting your idea and then leaving it for a few days. The chances are the In-House SEO guy will come back to you a few days later, after having thought about things, and will suggest exactly what you were hinting. Now he thinks that he came up with the idea. He feels happy, you’ve got your way. Everyone’s happy.


While this is not far off the mark for many medium to larger style businesses, not all businesses or people operate in this way. For example in businesses with a very small number of staff, The Director might also be the Marketing Guy, The Web Designer and The In-House SEO guy all rolled into one. In small businesses, people tend to wear a lot of hats. Whatever the size of the company, knowing who you are talking to, what role they play in the company, what their goals are, what their constraints are and what makes them tick, will help you to be much better at your job. If you are on the client side, then working with an agency who understand you as a person and understand your business is essential in developing a long lasting, mutually beneficial and successful relationship.

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