Relationship Counseling for Attorneys & SEO Providers

October 10th, 2015 by Adam Draper   |   Posted in Web Marketing

Are you feeling resentful? Has communication started to break down? Are you caught in a bad relationship and wonder if it is worth the investment any more? Do you reminisce about the good times, when everything was so easy and your heart would leap with the prospects of the future together? Now you’re left asking, “How did it happen? When did things change?”

Regardless of whether you decide to work on your troubled relationship or to move on and try not to make the same mistakes again, the following advice can bring new life to your relationship or serve as a compass for your next engagement.

Setting the Ground Rules

Our goal is to get you to a better place – to a more profitable relationship with your SEO provider – so a little work on your part may be required. Let’s look at you first; but don’t worry, we’re going to be looking at the SEO provider with an eagle eye momentarily.

Understand that both parties have obligations in a relationship and be willing to accept any role you may have played to contribute to the current dysfunction. Take a moment to breathe, and remember that we’re not pointing fingers.

Mistakes Lawyers Make

Common ways attorneys negatively impact their relationship with SEO providers:

Common Mistake #1: They base the relationship on an emotional “like” of a person or SEO company rather than understanding that a contractual relationship should be based solidly on the details of the marketing agreement. It helps if you “like” your provider and think they are a “good person,” but that’s not going to drive your success. It will only keep you in a failing relationship longer than you should be, costing you the profits of lost time.

Common Mistake #2: Having unrealistic expectations and making impulsive decisions. Accept that there are certain elements in the dynamic Web marketing environment that are completely out of the control and influence of all SEO providers. The No. 1 culprit is Google. No SEO company has a switch it can flick to deliver No. 1 rankings instantly. SEO is a long-term marketing strategy that delivers increased returns over time. Refrain from acting impulsively, and be methodical in your decision-making process; it will result in higher profits in the long run.

Common Mistake #3: Some attorneys think that yelling will fix it and make the SEO provider perform better. It won’t. If the relationship has descended to the point where you are sending blasting emails and screaming on a regular basis, you need to formulate a Plan B – immediately. Take it from me, it’s over.

Good job! You’ve made it through the painful, introspective part of our work today. Now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty.

Mistakes Vendors Make

What are the common mistakes SEO companies make and how can you help your relationship avoid these pitfalls?

Poorly formulated Web marketing agreement. Drafting an agreement is one of the first steps you will take with your SEO provider, and it’s the most important. SEO agreements are notoriously vague. Arguments are made that they need to be open-ended to provide for flexibility, adaptability, and a changing Web marketing environment. The problem with this argument is that adding specificity up front does not prohibit the agreement from being amended in the future. Adaptability and flexibility are still possible within specific parameters. It is difficult for attorneys to understand why an agreement would not detail what is being provided, unless the motivation is to make it difficult to hold the SEO provider accountable for their work. [More in Part II, Constructing Solid SEO Agreements]

What Can You Do? You have a right to be demanding about the details of what will be delivered to your firm in return for your particular investment. In the beginning, you have a company eager to make a sale; you should leverage this opportunity to build in as much specificity as possible in your agreement and remember to avoid Common Mistake #2 above (Hint: Don’t be impulsive. Take the time to get it done right from the start.).

Already caught in an agreement that lacks detail or specificity? Work to craft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with your current provider as an addendum to your agreement. [More on this here.]

Disconnect between the salesmen and the work crew. How often have you been left feeling disappointed when you thought you were getting one thing, only to find out you were getting something entirely different? Note that this happens within SEO companies, too! Many occasions arise where the professionals on the production end of the agreement (the doers) aren’t given all the information from the sales team, or they disagree with the effectiveness of the strategy that was sold to the client. They find themselves immediately caught in the middle and disenchanted with the project before it even gets off the ground.

What Can You Do? Remember, you’re the client; you’re in charge. Before signing an SEO agreement, ask who will be managing your project. Who will be your quarterback? Talk with them privately to (a) confirm the details of the strategy and work to be provided as outlined in the proposed agreement; (b) share your specific expectations; and (c) ask their professional opinion about whether the agreement provides the right work tasks to accomplish your expectations. You might even ask for their signature on the SEO agreement, in addition to the salesperson’s and yours.

This may seem like a lot of work on your part – but what you invest up front will pay back dividends in the future. You are most likely making a six-figure purchase; the best opportunity to protect that investment is in the beginning.

Poor communication. Outside of Common Mistake #3, above (hint: Don’t yell at the SEO provider), the poor communication occurs on the SEO provider’s side 9 times out of 10. For the most part, attorneys like to communicate; they want to know what is going on; they seek to understand; and they’re highly motivated to make the SEO marketing work. You really can’t ask for any more, which points the finger squarely at the marketer for poor communication.

Poor communication can arise from the SEO provider for a number of reasons: overwork; lack of motivation on the part of the doers; undeveloped social skills; lack of knowledge, et al. Each of these possibilities is out of your control as a client.

What Can You Do? Identify the nature of the poor communication. Is the communication ineffective and/or unhelpful because it is infrequent? Of limited insight, openness, value? Lacks specificity or enough information? Is it unprofessional? Unorganized? Too much phone and not enough email, or vice versa? Would you prefer text updates while in trial? Does it come from multiple people, resulting in a confused message?

Identify what you want to change about the communication and request specific change(s). The SEO provider can adapt. You adjust to your different clients’ needs; SEO folks can too.


Understanding the common mistakes both attorneys and SEO companies can make will help you choose to avoid these pitfalls. Remember, like relationship counseling, listening during a therapy session but making no actual changes in behavior or communication will not facilitate change. Take what you learn and apply it in action to help repair a strained partnership with your SEO provider or to the foundation for a more profitable future elsewhere.