How To Construct An Effective SEO Recommendation
Last updated: July 4, 2020
Communicating recommendations is a huge part of SEO consultancy. Recommendations are how we persuade clients to make changes that improve their SEO. You want to make progress implementing your SEO strategy. The client wants to achieve their online goals. Getting SEO stuff done faster is win/win for both parties.
The idea for this blog post came to me when reading an SEO audit by a different agency. The recommendations in this audit were so vague, they almost seemed pointless. For example, one recommendation was:
“fix canonicalisation errors”
I imagined a client receiving the audit and either:
- Not understanding any of it or why these recommendations are important
- Having no idea how to go about implementing anything
That was as descriptive as any of the recommendations got. Now, this audit was for a small business of which the owners know nothing about SEO. It made me wonder how much genuine value small clients gain from SEO consultancy like this? I assume, very little at all.
The purpose of this post is to outline the key elements an SEO recommendation should include. I use this system for all my clients and I find it really effective.
I split my SEO recommendations into 4 elements.
- Where is the problem or opportunity?
- What is the solution?
- Why is this worth doing?
- How to do it?
Before sending SEO recommendations, consider the SEO knowledge of the client stakeholders. You need to present your recommendation in a format and language they can understand.
It also helps to understand the client decision-making process. Who actually signs-off on actioning web changes. This will give your recommendations the best chance of winning buy-in from the client.
1 – Where Is the Problem or Opportunity?
Any SEO recommendation should relate to a clear purpose. There should be a problem to needing solved or an opportunity to seize upon. I always prepend my recommendations with this rationale and context. This way the client has a greater understanding of why I’m suggesting a particular course of action.
Examples could be:
- We’ve noticed increasing search demand for a topic but don’t have a page to service those searches. If we create a page we could capture some of these searches.
- We’ve discovered that Google has indexed a load of pages that shouldn’t be indexable. This could suggest a problem with our canonicalisation which lead to index bloat.
Remember that you’re the expert, not the client. They’re paying you to provide them with your expert knowledge and insight. To understand your guidance, they may need this initial education.
You must be able to explain in simple terms exactly why you’re pitching a recommendation.
2 – What is the Solution?
In clear and unambiguous terms, explain exactly what you’re proposing. Outline the change you wish to put in place and the effect this change will have. This area needs special care and attention.
If there are technical elements to your recommendation, be sure to explain these. As an example, if you were to suggest adding a noindex robots tag to a page, you should outline what a noindex tag is and the effect it will have on pages where it’s added.
It’s important you pitch recommendations that are achievable. The client needs to be in a position to put in place whatever you’re recommending. There’s no point suggesting SEO improvements way beyond their technical capability.
3 – Why Should We Do This?
The most important bit. Why should the client take up your recommendation? What is the BENEFIT to them in taking this course of action? I capitalised the benefit because that is what your client needs to know.
If the client does what you’re suggesting, what is the predicted outcome? This part of the recommendation needs to be specific and understandable. It’s no use citing ambiguous benefits such as “increase crawlability” or “enhance trust”.
Instead, explain how you expect search engines to respond to the proposed change. What is the exact benefit this could deliver? Using the first example above, a better description of benefit would be:
“The logs show that Google crawls this part of our site rarely. Our proposed change will encourage Google to crawl this section more frequently. This will help fresh content in this section get indexed faster”.
You should already have KPIs and understand your client’s online goals. If you can show how your recommendation aligns with those objectives, the client is more likely to see the value.
You also need to make clear any risks. SEO changes can have unforeseen consequences. So it’s important you make sure your client understands and accepts this.
4 – How to Implement the Recommendation?
This is where weak SEO recommendations fall short. Your recommendations are only useful if your client can go ahead and implement them. Often, the client will need advice and guidance on how to do this.
I always provide clear step by step instructions on exactly what needs to happen. Never assume the client knows what a term or process refers to. Be available to explain things further. If necessary, walk them through the entire process.
This is where a good relationship with the development team can help. Complex SEO features are easier to explain in person with the technical team. This removes the risk of misunderstanding and helps you get things right the first time.
To deliver true SEO value to your clients, you need to provide hard-hitting SEO recommendations that move the needle on their most important KPIs. This can only happen if stuff moves forward and you make real progress.
Your SEO recommendations can’t sit in someone’s inbox waiting for review. They need to win the attention of the decision-maker, and then compel some sort of action.
Remember these key points:
- Explain why you’re suggesting a course of action. What is the problem, or where is the opportunity?
- Back this up with solid data
- Describe your recommended solution. What is it and what effect do you predict it will have.
- If your client implements your recommendation, what’s in it for them? How does it help them achieve their online goals?
- Give step-by-step instructions on how to implement.
- If necessary, have a direct conversation with the development team.