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Offering Transparency, Building Trust, and Doing the Right Thing

Insights December 30, 2013

It’s still surprising to me that SEO is somehow one of those untouched industries when it comes to offering transparency on work that is being done. It seems to me that at the end of the day, consulting is all about giving sound recommendations and staying ahead of the curve. Your clients want to know what’s going on and you want to be the one with all the answers. So how do you stay at the top of your game, as well as keep uncomfortable emails and phone calls at bay? Be transparent with your work.

In a lot of ways, people don’t like to be transparent because it may feel like they are being micro-managed, or perhaps they see it as an inconvenience that isn’t worth the rewards. I think the exact opposite occurs when transparency is executed properly. Sharing your work in a timely fashion isn’t only beneficial for the client; it’s beneficial for yourself and brings you one step closer to true peace of mind. And who doesn’t want some peace of mind these days?

So why and how should I be transparent with my clients? Where do I start? I’m so overwhelmed by this absolutely innovative and groundbreaking idea!

Real talk ahead:


In a Nutshell, Transparency Builds Trust


A lot of the SEO done today strays away from the old school, dark ages tactics such as keyword stuffing, link farming, and hidden text. Instead, today’s off-page white hat SEO practices focus more on a traditional marketing approach. To do this, more and more SEO providers are becoming an integrated extension of the brand’s marketing department. While this approach certainly has its advantages to aid in the creation of thoughtful strategies, it also means the client will want to keep a closer eye on the methods that are being carried out. But don’t worry, it’s a good thing. You have a shared common goal, and they want to do everything they can to help you help them reach that goal.


Offer Client Buy-in Before Taking Action


This is sometimes a tough one. On one hand you want to be the one in control. After all, they hired you because you know what you’re doing and are the best of the best. On the other hand, there is a lot at stake when operating on behalf of a brand. Do both. Do your homework, develop strategies that you know will work, and then get buy-in from the client to fill any gaps. By explaining your thought process as to why your approach will work, as well as having some legitimate talking points about the brand and how it all fits together, they will trust you know what you are doing.  They will also be happy you took the time to consult them first instead of just going forward with your plans.

And this isn’t just for new clients either. Make it a point to always keep the people on the other end in the loop no matter how long you have been working together. It’s a common courtesy that gets overlooked more often than you would think.


Set a Schedule for Updates and Meetings


You know your client. Do they want to get you on the phone all the time? Are they sending you emails at three in the morning? Or maybe they are the hands-off type and want you to do what you do. Whatever profile they fit into, at one time or another they will need to know what is going on and will be looking to you for information.

Set an agreeable system for the delivery of updates with your client. Doing so will allow you to know you are holding up your end of the bargain and giving them everything they need to relay up the chain and continue the relationship.

Personally, with some of my more hands-on clients, I’m a big fan of getting in touch early in the week and touching base with what’s on the schedule for the week to come. This allows everyone to be on the same page and transitions perfectly into a recap email at the end of the week. Rinse and repeat.  Regular contact doesn’t even have to be this often, maybe a monthly phone call and regular update emails works for you and your client. That’s fine. Just make sure you are consistent.

However, I do feel it’s important to note that this scheduled system of communication should not impact the delivery of industry-related news and updates as they occur. Being a consultant means knowing the ins and outs so the client doesn’t have to. So do yourself a favor and report the updates that matter in real-time. It’s always embarrassing to have the client fill you in on something they read on twitter that you slept on for a few days instead of sharing with them.

By setting the schedule yourself, and being ahead of the curve you can sleep a bit better knowing you won’t be getting a “what exactly is going on over there?” email in the early hours of the morning when you should be dreaming of go-karts and extra-cheese pizzas, or whatever.


Transparency Encourages and Promotes Organization


Being a transparent provider means that you have to be on top of everything. Like really on top of everything. You have to be ready for anything that comes your way, and that means getting organized. And I’m not talking about that cop-out excuse of organization that many people give when they know they are full of it. You know the whole, “I know where everything is in my black hole of a dwelling, so yeah, I’m totally organized.” No. I mean like actually being organized. I’m talking spreadsheets on spreadsheets on spreadsheets of pertinent information that can be located easily and sent along in a few clicks. And while that may sound like a pain, it’s really quite awesome to truly know where everything is and know that it’s readily available.


OK, but This Sounds like Extra Work.


Regular delivery of insightful information to clients will never be seen as a bad thing. Sharing the things you are working on in a timely fashion, getting their buy-in, and being consistent with reporting are ways to make sure you are on the right track with the work you are carrying out. But at the end of the day, it’s a lot of work to be insanely organized and on-top of your ever-increasing pile of work. I get it. But there is an upside: once you get going, you will be so much more autonomous and left alone to work on the things that are truly impacting your client’s business.

Think about it; you covered everything you need to cover, you are way ahead on reporting the upcoming pipeline of your workload, and you are keeping your client in the loop on the latest industry news. Congrats, you just became a transparent and autonomous member of SEO society. Now sign a new client, make more money, and save for the best mid-life crisis indulgence ever.

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