Walking a Fine Line: What to Do If Your Agency Partner Screws Up Your SEO Efforts

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Apr 5, 2010
More Articles by Janet


I’m sure we’re not alone as a search engine marketing firm that partners with agencies to help fulfill their clients’ SEO requirements. But agency relationships can become sticky when your agency partner (for instance, a web design agency partner) accidentally screws up your SEO efforts. ACK!

I got thrown under the bus.The conundrum you may find yourself in is a common one when agencies partner. On the one hand, you don’t want your friend and partner to be “thrown under the bus”, but at the same time, you have to save face and address SEO mishaps so they can be rectified. What to do? Here are my guidelines on how to tactfully walk that tight rope.

Above All, Be Respectful and Professional

It’s understating the point to say that SEOs get frustrated when others muck up their hard work. But in fact, that’s just human nature. Web design partners would be frustrated with SEOs who mess up their layout, right? No matter how upset you are, above all, be respectful and professional. If you’re working with a partner that brings you lots of business, you don’t want to risk harming that relationship over one mistake. Keep your cool!

Solve Problems Before the Client Knows They’re a Problem

Nothing may be worse than when a client spots a problem you have not identified. Clients hire agencies to be on top of potential pitfalls, so if you can, be sure to identify and solve the problem before the client even knows it’s a problem. For instance, if your web design partner is relaunching the client’s website, be sure to check rankings every day to be sure that rankings aren’t slipping. If they are, the web design partner may have forgotten something simple that can be rectified quickly, like adding 301 redirects from old to new pages.

Treat It Like Crisis Communications

If you can’t solve the problem quickly, work with your agency partner to formulate an action plan. Clients expect us, the experts, to tell them what the strategy should be in a crisis. So be prepared! Treat a crisis as such and formulate a crisis communications action plan. Let the client know that you are aware of the issue, what may have caused it, and the action plan to resolve it. It won’t completely make the client feel comfortable that the problem occurred in the first place, but it will demonstrate your commitment to right a wrong.

Only Expose If It Is The Last Resort

Unfortunately, sometimes a client will directly ask who is responsible for a screw up. Bottom line: don’t lie to your client. Whoever makes the mistake has to own up and promise to do better in the future. And if you do have to place blame, again be sure to have a crisis communication action plan in place. This will at least make the client feel like the SEO team and the agency partner are working together and have the crisis (at least somewhat) under control.

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