How to Communicate Additional and Unexpected Costs to SEO Clients

How to Communicate Additional and Unexpected Costs to SEO Clients

SEO and digital marketing are dynamic fields. There may be unforeseen challenges and opportunities that may lead to additional and unexpected costs. Communicating these costs to your SEO clients is one of the most delicate aspects of managing SEO campaigns.

In this article, let’s talk about the best practices for effectively communicating these additional and unexpected costs to your SEO clients. Whether you are a fledgling SEO professional or an experienced SEO agency, these tips can improve your client interactions and contribute to the success of your SEO journey.

SEO agency owner explaining additional costs to a client

Table of contents

1. Explain why unexpected costs can occur

Effectively communicating these unexpected expenses begins with helping SEO clients understand the inherent complexities and uncertainties in SEO. Educate your clients about SEO, so they understand the investment required for a successful campaign. Make it clear that there is no clear-cut investment number because SEO has a certain level of unpredictability.

  • Explain algorithm changes and industry trends. Educate your SEO clients about how search engines such as Google update their algorithms, which can impact the website rankings of your clients. These changes sometimes require immediate action, leading to expenses that are not originally included in the budget. There may also be new industry trends such as new marketing strategies that just pop out of nowhere, and they may need to be implemented for the clients to remain competitive.
  • Tell them how issues can arise along the way. Issues may suddenly arise, leading to unexpected expenses. Issues can arise as early as the initial SEO audits as you find many technical issues such as broken links and website security vulnerabilities. Issues can arise in the middle of SEO campaigns as you find out that the content gaps you need to fill are bigger than you initially realize. Highlight the potential areas where unexpected costs can occur.
  • Show them how strategy adjustments and competitive analyses can lead to more costs. Sudden changes in the digital marketing landscape, your SEO client’s industry or location, or market trends may prompt the need to shift strategies. Another thing that can make this happen is competitor movements. These immediate actions may lead to unforeseen expenses.

2. Provide a detailed breakdown of the additional costs

A detailed breakdown of the additional costs is crucial for ensuring your SEO clients understand what they are being charged for and why it’s necessary. They are spending their hard-earned cash on you, so they have the right to know where this cash is going and how it is helping them achieve SEO success.

  • Itemize the costs, complete with explanations. Break down the additional costs into individual items, specifying what each charge covers. For example, you may have separate charges for different SEO executions, such as content creation and technical fixes. Add an explanation for each item, so your SEO clients understand it will contribute to their overall SEO strategy. Describe the benefits and long-term value if possible.
  • Relate the costs to outcomes, such as ROI. Each additional cost should be tied to a specific outcome. For example, a cost associated with fixing technical issues could be related to faster website loading times. If you explain the costs this way, your SEO clients will see their immediate value, increasing the chances of them completely understanding the additional costs and giving you the money. For maximum persuasion, try to focus on the return on investment.
  • Offer comparisons and use visual aids. Do a cost-benefit analysis to compare the benefits and the additional costs against the risk of not opening their wallet. This helps the SEO clients see how spending now is actually more beneficial than spending more later. While explaining the value of the additional costs, it’s a good idea to use charts, graphs, and detailed reports to make concepts and numbers easier to grasp.

3. Present multiple options and alternatives

When unexpected costs arise, your SEO clients will feel much better if you offer them multiple options and alternatives. You empower them to make more informed decisions that align with their budget and business priorities. Be transparent about the pros and cons of each option. SEO clients appreciate this kind of honesty about potential limitations and realistic outcomes.

  • Offer tiered solutions. Making tiered packages is a great way to maximize SEO agency profits. But tiers are not always about money. They are also about providing the best solution for the level of investment your SEO clients can fulfill. Your basic, intermediate, and advanced tiers can include quick fixes and comprehensive enhancements. Don’t forget to be flexible with your packages. Remember that different SEO clients have different situations.
  • Divide the tasks into critical and non-critical. Help SEO clients understand which issues need to be addressed immediately and which ones can wait a little longer. When you prioritize tasks, you allow your SEO clients to have the most bang for their buck immediately. They may inject more investments in the future for the less critical issues. But the important thing is you fix the critical ones while staying within an additional budget your SEO clients are comfortable with.
  • Try to present alternative strategies that may lead to similar results. Present alternatives that may differ in execution and cost but may achieve similar results. For example, if your SEO clients find blogger outreach and link building expensive, social media engagement may be a lower-cost solution for them to gain brand authority. If you can think of strategies that scale up or down depending on your client’s budgets or needs, the better. This flexibility can be appealing to SEO clients who are not comfortable in immediately committing to high upfront costs.

4. Document changes in associated costs and project scope

Maintain transparency and trust with your SEO clients through documentation. Make sure you officially record any changes to your original SEO contract and its associated costs. This formality ensures that both parties (you and your SEO client) acknowledge the changes.

  • Provide clear and detailed descriptions. If you have been following the other tips in this guide, you may already have a detailed and itemized list of these potential changes. Specify what new tasks or services are being added and break down their associated costs. If you are removing or altering some of the older tasks or services, make sure to indicate that too.
  • Document the client’s approval. It’s important to document the confirmation that the SEO client agrees to implement these changes and shoulder the additional costs. There are many ways to pull this off, including physically signed documents, email confirmations, and digital signatures on online contracts. It’s a good idea to store all these documents in a place where it’s accessible to both parties. SEO management tools such as client dashboards and project management platforms such as Trello are good central locations.
  • Learn how to document changes. You have to be very specific in your itemized list and their associated cost. Make sure to be as specific as you can to get the point across. For example, if you are going to add a new technical SEO audit to identify new issues, then say so. And then include the exact amount of money you need for the auditing and the fixing of the issues. By being meticulous, you and your SEO clients can have a mutual understanding of any adjustments.

5. Use advanced analytics and reporting tools

Enhance your ability to communicate additional and unexpected costs through advanced analytics and reporting tools. These technologies provide transparency, evidence-based justifications, and real-time insights into the performance of your client’s SEO campaigns. You can leverage these technologies to convince your clients that their additional investments are worth it.

  • Justify the additional costs with data. It’s likely that you are already using analytics and reporting tools to monitor key performance indicators such as bounce rates, conversion rates, keyword rankings, and organic traffic. Show these metrics to your SEO clients, together with analyses that highlight shifts in the data that require extra work and investment. Examples of these shifts include dropping website traffic because of algorithm changes and losing rankings because of competitor efforts.
  • Provide detailed insights to be more convincing. Identify specific metrics and explain specific issues. For example, you can highlight the high bounce rates on certain pages and how the pages may need content improvements or technical fixes to lower the rates. That’s where you swoop in and say you need additional investments. You can also compare your metrics to competitors, industry standards, and other factors to provide more context as to why the additional costs are necessary.
  • Make your reports interactive. Nobody likes reading pure words and numbers. Make your reports more exciting and less overwhelming by adding visual aids and making them interactive. Use charts and graphs to highlight the shifts in metrics. Use tools such as Google Data Studio or your agency client dashboard to let the client explore the data on their own. This level of freedom allows them to discover new things on their own and gives them the peace of mind knowing that you are not just ripping them off with random data. They can study the data you give them and make their own conclusions whether the additional investments are indeed justified or not.

6. Maintain a positive relationship

Additional and unexpected costs can be stressful for your SEO clients. They already have expenses for their primary business operations. Having more expenses in their SEO and digital marketing adds pressure to their finances. It’s important to acknowledge where they are coming from and show empathy for their situation.

  • Frame the news of additional costs positively. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news. But the news doesn’t have to be necessarily bad. You can frame the news of additional and unexpected costs positively to lighten the blow. Explain how the additional investments can enhance their SEO strategy and lead to better results. If you can provide case studies and success stories that are similar to their situation, the better.
  • Show appreciation for their loyalty and trust. While communicating the news, thank your SEO clients for their continued partnership. A simple thank you can go a long way and it shows that you are sharing the news in good faith. To enhance your show of appreciation, consider creating some kind of incentive or reward program for your long-term SEO clients. Discounts on future SEO services and additional value-added services at no extra cost are popular choices.
  • Give them personalized attention. Additional and unexpected costs are a serious issue, so you have to make your SEO clients feel that you are serious about it as well. The best way to do this is to personalize your communication. Instead of just emailing them the news, you can set up a face-to-face meeting or a video call. You can also follow up with an email containing key points in your discussion. This personalized attention reinforces your commitment to client success and transparency.

Communicating additional and unexpected costs doesn’t need to be difficult

Additional and unexpected costs are inevitable in SEO and digital marketing. But this doesn’t mean that they are always a big problem for you and your SEO clients. They can be managed more effectively with the right communication approach.

You can also soften the blow by providing an outline of potential costs during your SEO pitch or client onboarding. When additional and unexpected costs do occur, they will be easier to communicate and justify because they have already been outlined before.

If you know how to properly communicate additional and unexpected costs to SEO clients, you strengthen your agency-client relationship and increase the chances of having a successful SEO campaign.


  • Andrew David Scherer

    My name is Andrew David Scherer and I've been involved in digital marketing since 2006.. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about marketing your local clients online, I'm always happy to help and share what I know. I've built local businesses from 0 to 6 figures in sales. Leased, sold, and rented a handful of them. And I've had hundreds of them as clients. Marketer's Center gives digital marketing consultants the ability to easily scale their local marketing agencies in a way that isn't labor-intensive and still very profitable. If you want to get my "6 Month SEO Plan" please request a free reseller dashboard account here. You'll also be able to download a price list for all of the services we offer. You can connect with me via Facebook in our Local Marketing Freethinkers group, or via Twitter and Linkedin.

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