Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither is good SEO. Just like the Colosseum, your client campaigns are designed to stand the test of time… and they won’t be completed overnight.

Semify SEO reseller Eric Smith of Forge Media says SEO campaigns are like relationships: “A good relationship takes time, attention, and consistent maintenance. In time, the relationship becomes stronger and stronger. But if you stop, you lose ground.”

As an experienced marketing professional, you’d never anticipate getting instant results. But your clients might not yet have the knowledge to differentiate unrealistic SEO expectations from reality.

Learning how to sell SEO effectively involves setting clear SEO expectations upfront with your prospects. If you follow the guidance of our SEO resellers, you’ll soon master this art for yourself.

how to set realistic seo expectations

Why Set Realistic SEO Expectations?

The thought of having these conversations with prospects can seem scary at first. Some agency owners don’t set SEO expectations because they’re afraid they might lose the sale. Others don’t feel confident enough in their own knowledge or they assume the client knows more than they actually do. In some cases, agencies don’t want to reveal they’re using black hat SEO tactics to achieve their unrealistic results.

But if you fail to set clear expectations with your SEO clients, you’ll risk:

  • Frustrated phone calls
  • Premature cancellations
  • Refund requests
  • Negative reviews

Rather than put your productivity, revenue, reputation, and sanity on the line, it’s better to have these discussions up-front so everyone’s on the same page.

The good news is that you can set realistic SEO expectations with your clients without tanking your sales numbers. Let’s take a look at how members of our white label SEO reseller program have done it.

How to Set Expectations With Clients: What Our SEO Resellers Say

Knowing how to sell SEO is about more than recommending specific products and services. You’ll also need to guide your prospects through the process, provide them with compelling data, and put their minds at ease.

This involves a delicate balance of honesty and publicity. You’ll need to highlight the benefits of SEO without painting it as a magic cure-all. Here are just four methods that our SEO resellers use to set clear expectations with their own clients.

1. Show Them the Data

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the numbers don’t lie. Without hard data, SEO often feels theoretical and intangible. You’ll have a better chance of getting a client to take a leap of faith when you’ve got facts to break their fall.

As Smith explains, “Google is infinitely more accurate with traffic count, search results, and page views [than traditional advertising]. This is phenomenal because you can more accurately predict audience reach.”

So how can you prove it? Semify’s ROI of SEO calculator can show clients the kinds of returns they can expect from a long-term SEO investment. We’ve also got a ton of Semify SEO case studies and other campaign data that we can white-label and send to you to share with your clients. While it’s important to communicate that it’s impossible to precisely replicate these results, these resources can show prospects what’s possible and what SEO can do for their business.

Additionally, you can share some SEO statistics with your clients to convince them that SEO is worthwhile. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • SEO offers the lowest cost per lead of any other top lead generation tactic. (PointerPro)
  • Nearly half of all marketers say that organic search has the best ROI of any other marketing channel. (Search Engine Journal)
  • Organic search makes up the majority of top website traffic sources, outpacing paid search, social media, and display ads. (HubSpot)
  • Over 75% of people who search on their smartphones for a product or service nearby will visit a local business within 1 day. (Think With Google)

    While you don’t want to overwhelm your prospects with facts and figures, showing them that there’s a business case for search engine optimization can help them take your services more seriously.

    2. Explain the Typical SEO Timeline

    We all know that it’s not enough to launch a site and wait for the money to come pouring in.

    As Smith says, “You can build an incredible website, but if you do nothing to get people to see your site, it’s like smiling in the dark. The only one that knows you’re smiling is you! You can’t throw a party, send no invitations, and expect people to come.”

    Of course, SEO acts as the invitation to the party. But you’ve got to send out those invitations far in advance – and customers won’t RSVP right away.

    Unlike many other types of advertising and marketing, SEO is meant to be a long-term strategy. It’s not designed to show immediate results. Explaining the typical timeline of SEO results is perhaps the most important aspect of expectation-setting for your clients.

    “The more time you invest in SEO, the more authority your site gains,” says Smith.

    SEO isn’t a one-and-done process. You can’t hunker down for a few weeks and then put it on the back burner. It takes consistency and tenacity to see results.

    In fact, the typical timeline for SEO results is 6-12 months, according to SEMRush. Although a client might start to see some progress within the first 3-6 months, they need to stay the course to build up their organic presence over time.

    Before onboarding a client, be crystal clear about what they should (and should not!) expect to see within the first six months to a year of their campaign. Otherwise, you should anticipate an angry phone call when they don’t immediately achieve their rankings goals.

    3. Check In on Milestones

    Part of knowing how to sell SEO is realizing that your work doesn’t stop when your customer signs a contract. You’ll need to continue nurturing your relationship with clients throughout their lifespan with you.

    Semify SEO reseller Steven Walters of 1023 Digital Marketing explains:

    "As a small agency, we’ve found that up-front communication and education with our clients sets the best expectations. We educate them on their current rankings, competitor rankings, and what we are going to do to help them reach their goals. The communication we have is 100% transparent. This leads to happier clients and longer lasting business relationships."

    And, as you may already know, happier clients tend to be more profitable clients. Nearly 60% of customers pay more for a product if the company provides better customer service, and existing customers have a 60-70% chance of making an additional purchase (compared to just 13% for a prospect). Existing customers also spend 67% more money, on average, than a brand new customer.

    Keeping in touch with your customers will provide more opportunities for upselling – but only if they have nothing to complain about. Make it a point to check in with your clients on a regular basis to update them on their campaign progress, highlight their wins, and make adjustments to their strategy as needed. They’ll appreciate your transparency, attention to detail, and commitment to providing them with the best possible service.

    4. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

    When learning how to sell SEO services to clients, you might be tempted to highlight only the benefits and none of the drawbacks. While SEO certainly has a lot of pluses, no marketing tactic is foolproof. And in reality, your clients will need a well-rounded strategy – rather than just one service – to succeed in SERPs.

    We’d recommend that you adopt an "honest yet optimistic” approach to selling SEO. It’s crucial that you help your clients understand what’s possible for their budget, their industry, and their location. There are a lot of great things that SEO can do, but it isn’t a magical overnight solution.

    Instead of implying the results you’ll achieve, be clear about your obligations to the client and give them an idea of what’s typical. Walters says, “Never guarantee anything but the work you will perform. Underpromise and overdeliver.”

    This doesn’t mean you should sell yourself (or SEO) short. But the secret is to set the bar relatively low and then exceed it. This will also keep you from falling into the trap of making rankings guarantees that you simply can’t control.

    Don’t forget: you can always lean on your white label SEO partner for support. We’re happy to provide you with the guidance you need to promote your services while maintaining your integrity.

    You Don’t Have to Struggle With Setting SEO Expectations

    Writers are often told to write what they know. As a marketing and sales professional, you’ll also fare better when you market and sell what you know. By investing in your own education, sharing your knowledge, having frequent client check-ins, and staying grounded, you’ll be able to set realistic SEO expectations with clients for healthier, stronger relationships and campaigns – just like these rockstar resellers.