Why Your SEO Clients Keep Leaving (And What to Do)

Why Your SEO Clients Keep Leaving (And What to Do)

SEO clients leaving and going to the competition is very frustrating, especially when you are doing your best to boost their search engine rankings and drive organic traffic. Understanding why SEO clients keep leaving you is a good starting point for saving your digital marketing business.

In this article, let’s explore the pitfalls that lead to client dissatisfaction and make them go to another SEO agency. By enumerating these issues and suggesting solutions, we can build longer-lasting relationships and improve SEO client retention.

SEO owner in debt because many clients have left

Table of contents

1. Unrealistic expectations

Many businesses come into SEO agency partnerships with many misconceptions, especially about the time it takes to see results, the level of effort involved for SEO success, and the nature of the outcomes they can expect. Because of these misconceptions, SEO clients become dissatisfied and try to look for solutions elsewhere.

  • SEO clients are looking for immediate results. Businesses think they can get a significant traffic increase within a few weeks. For example, an e-commerce company may expect to rank on the first page of SERPs just because they hired you. The company becomes frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Set realistic expectations from the start by explaining that SEO is a long-term investment and creating a clear roadmap with milestones.
  • They underestimate the complexity of SEO. Some SEO clients think that SEO is just about adding keywords and building links. They don’t understand content optimization, content quality, authoritative backlinks, technical SEO, and everything else in between. It’s important to educate clients about SEO, especially when it comes to on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. Provide educational materials, share case studies, and make analogies to make concepts easier to understand.
  • They overestimate SEO and ignore other marketing channels. Some clients think they can triple their revenue via SEO alone. They ignore other channels such as advertising, email marketing, and social media. Encourage clients to integrate SEO into their overall digital marketing strategy. Some SEO agencies even have these other digital marketing executions, and they end up cross-selling services to their clients.

2. Misalignment of goals

When an SEO agency and a client are not on the same page when it comes to objectives, strategies, and expected outcomes, the client can be frustrated and dissatisfied. Before you even onboard a client, make sure you are on the same page. Have a clear, shared vision to have a successful and collaborative partnership.

  • A difference in metrics of success leads to misunderstandings. For example, if an e-commerce client prioritizes increasing sales while you are focusing on improving keyword rankings, the client may become confused when they don’t see a direct correlation. Collaborate and agree on metrics for success, such as conversion rates, revenue, and traditional SEO metrics such as traffic. Make sure these metrics align with your client’s business objectives.
  • A misalignment in the target audience leads to ineffective SEO strategies. For example, if your B2B client targets small businesses but you are trying to attract large enterprises, there is a clear mismatch in the target audience. This can lead to poor conversion rates. Collaborate with your client to truly understand their audience. If they don’t know their audience too, conduct an audience analysis and base your SEO strategies accordingly.
  • A conflict in priorities leads to friction. For example, if a client is looking for short-term gains and you are focusing on long-term strategies for more sustainable growth, your client can become more impatient. Collaborate with your client to establish short-term and long-term goals. You can’t disregard their short-term objectives just because SEO is generally a long-term game.

3. No visible results

Businesses invest in SEO agencies with the expectation of seeing tangible improvements in their website’s performance, such as increased organic traffic, higher rankings, and better conversion rates. When these results don’t materialize, they feel they are wasting their money and try to look for alternatives.

  • Unrealistic timelines often result in frustration. A new client may expect to be on the first page of Google within a month after getting your SEO services. They then leave when this doesn’t happen. Explain to clients that it takes 3-6 months or longer to see significant improvements. Provide a detailed roadmap with short-term, mid-term, and long-term milestones and goals to reinforce your argument.
  • Inadequate reporting and communication make SEO seem less valuable. Since SEO is a long-term game, it’s a good idea to show your clients what is actually happening behind the scenes. The last thing you want is to get paid for multiple months without your clients knowing what you are up to. Give monthly reports to your clients, outlining the work you have done. Also schedule regular meetings, such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, to discuss progress and address concerns.
  • The lack of short-term wins makes clients feel that there is no progress. Even if you are playing for the long game, try to achieve short-term wins to demonstrate progress to your SEO clients. These wins could include optimizing for less competitive keywords that can rank more quickly, fixing immediate technical issues, and improving website speed. Highlight these quick wins in your next report to keep clients happy and motivated.

4. Lack of communication and transparency

When SEO clients feel they are kept out of the loop, they don’t see the value of the SEO products and services they are paying for. This is why the lack of communication and transparency is one of the biggest reasons why SEO clients leave. Get rid of this problem and you can immediately see a significant improvement in your client retention rates.

  • Infrequent and poorly detailed updates make clients feel in the dark. If you only tell your clients that “traffic is improving” and nothing else, you are being extremely vague. The lack of details makes SEO clients unsure of what is being done for them. Use clear and specific metrics in your regular reports, such as keyword rankings, organic traffic, and backlink profiles. If you can include explanations for each piece of data, the better.
  • Failure to explain SEO makes clients think it is a waste of time. For example, if you plan to build backlinks to boost a client’s authority and reputation, explain why it is important to their overall digital marketing strategy. If you don’t, they may think it’s just a waste of time and they are wasting money on you. During onboarding or pitching your services, thoroughly explain your SEO processes, including keyword research, link building, on-page optimization, and technical SEO.
  • Unresponsiveness to their concerns makes clients think you are not committed to their success. If a client emails you about a sudden drop in organic traffic, make sure to respond as soon as possible. Your responsiveness is a direct reflection of your commitment to SEO client success. Have a dedicated account manager for each client, so each client can have a primary point of contact who responds quickly. You can also schedule regular check-ins to proactively discuss issues.

5. Feelings of neglect

Feelings of neglect can quickly sour an SEO agency-client relationship, making the client leave for another agency that will give them the attention they need. When clients invest in SEO, they expect not just results, but a real collaborative experience where they feel valued and prioritized. Address these negative feelings proactively to improve your client retention. Here at Marketer’s Center, we have a client dashboard for easy ordering, helping reduce the feelings of neglect and showing our commitment to accessible SEO services.

  • You don’t give your clients personalized attention. Different SEO clients have different needs and goals. For example, a small indie company may want to focus on brand recognition and local SEO while a global enterprise may want to focus on customer engagement and global SEO. Take time to truly understand your clients, from their industry to their target audience, so you can tailor your SEO strategies accordingly.
  • You don’t allocate enough resources to your clients. Time, personnel, and effort are some of the biggest resources you can give to your clients. A medium-sized company, for example, may need a dedicated team for their SEO. Make sure you are juggling your account managers accordingly, with some handling one big client and others handling multiple smaller clients. Give clients the appropriate resources they need to make them feel prioritized.
  • You overpromise and underdeliver. We get it. When you are pitching SEO services, especially when it’s just an elevator pitch, you tend to go overboard to win businesses over. Don’t make outrageous promises, such as getting a specific number of backlinks in a month, because you are just shooting yourself in the foot. When you don’t achieve this, your agency just looks bad, and the new clients you just won over end up leaving immediately. Set realistic expectations, even when it means not getting the difficult clients that expect too much.

6. Budget concerns

Budget concerns are a significant reason why SEO clients may end their partnership. SEO can be a significant investment, and if clients don’t feel they are getting the value they need, they may decide to take their business elsewhere. By demonstrating a clear ROI, maintaining transparent pricing, and offering flexible terms, you can address budget concerns and build a more positive relationship with your clients.

  • SEO clients leave because of a perceived lack of ROI. If a small business invests $2,000 a month in your SEO services and doesn’t see a corresponding increase in revenue, they may feel that the investment is not justified. This prompts the client to just discontinue the service. Demonstrate the value of SEO by clearly linking SEO activities to business outcomes. For example, show how increasing website traffic leads to increasing leads and improving conversion rates. You can provide case studies to make SEO clients see and understand SEO ROI.
  • They leave because of additional and unexpected costs. A client may sign up for a standard SEO package, but you end up asking for additional charges for technical audits, content optimization, and link building. Feeling blindsided by hidden fees, the client leaves. Prevent this from happening by breaking down the costs as detailed as you can, also explaining the reasoning behind them. For instance, the additional costs may have come from search engine algorithm changes that need to be accounted for. When they understand what they are about to pay for, they are more likely to open their wallets.
  • They leave because of rigid SEO contracts and billing terms. A startup can initially agree on a one-year contract. But what if they suddenly face financial hardships? Your inflexible SEO contract terms lead it to end the relationship. Always offer flexible terms, such as month-to-month contracts, adjustable service levels to allow scaling up and down, and tiered packages. Clients can adjust based on their changing needs and situations, improving client retention and building stronger client relationships.

7. Intense competition

The SEO and digital marketing space is highly competitive. You are not just competing against other SEO agencies. You also have smaller SEO contractors and freelancers to think about. When your SEO clients feel like you are not keeping pace with competitors, they may choose to explore other options. Understand the dynamics of intense competition and address client concerns to keep your SEO business running.

  • Other SEO agencies offer lower prices. If you charge $3,000 a month but your client is being swayed by another agency for $2,000 a month, your client may decide to switch agencies. Highlight the unique aspects of your SEO services beyond the price, such as specialized expertise. Here at Marketer’s Center, for example, we specialize in local SEO, building local links and writing local content for our clients. With our case studies, testimonials, and performance metrics, we can prove our agency’s effectiveness and worthiness for our price.
  • Competing agencies promise faster results. SEO clients may decide to switch if they get a proposal promising first-page rankings within 3 months. Educate them about realistic timelines. Also, tell them about the dangers of aggressive promises, such as potential penalties due to black hat SEO strategies. Use past successes, industry benchmarks, and data-driven projections to prove that your SEO executions are more sustainable and white-hat.
  • You don’t have a good branding. SEO clients may be eager to switch agencies because the competition has a more professional website or a catchier logo and tagline. This only happens because you don’t have a good brand. Your branding is not just about your competence to deliver results, commitment, and transparency. It is also about your story, vision, and mission. If you are someone your SEO clients can get behind because of your brand’s story, the competitor’s shiny logo won’t be enough to make them switch.

Client retention requires a multifaceted strategy

Here at Marketer’s Center, we understand that retaining clients requires a combination of smaller strategies, including clear communication, personalized services, and a deep commitment to client success.

By addressing the root causes of client dissatisfaction and frustration, your SEO agency can build a loyal client base and achieve long-term success in the competitive space of SEO and digital marketing. 


  • 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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