Losing Clients – Top Reasons SEO Agencies Get Fired [& How to Avoid Them]

Be the one who knows how to avoid losing clients. The moment when your Agency is getting fired!   We all know that losing marketing clients  is the worst thing that can happen to the business.  That is why you need to be the one who knows how to avoid losing clients. 

So, this article is like a cure for ill:

  • You will learn what are the most common reasons for an agency to get fired,
  • How to avoid losing clients,
  • And how to improve your agency’s client satisfaction.

The most effective SEO agencies all have one thing in common – they all use the same standard tactics. But there’s a difference between what industry practitioners see as ‘standard practice’, and what common businesses understand about what SEO agencies actually do.

This reality is that there remains a murky perception of search engine marketing. How SEO agencies communicate and bridge the gap between perception and reality separates a good agency from those that get fired after three months.  

And while solid SEO work entails tons of technicalities, some are losing clients, not because of their methods or incompetence. They get fired because they failed in some basic, albeit, key principles.

Here are some of the top reasons why SEO companies get fired, and a few tips on how to avoid them:


Most of the pitfalls between client-agency relationships fall under this simple, but vast tenet. It takes time for companies to feel the tangible effects of SEO work, relative to their investment. And throughout every step of the process, there is always the possibility of a communication breakdown.

This is why it’s crucial to maintain clear and open communication channels from day one. This is crucial in ensuring everything between the client and the SEO agency is aligned – from the objectives and the steps taken to achieve them, to the metrics used to measure success, and the project timeline.

Here are some of the other aspects where miscommunication can occur:

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Lack of transparency

One of the ways how to avoid losing clients is transparency.  You have to be honest with your client comunicate more.


London-based artificial intelligence search analytics agency, Artios, studied over 500 businesses from around the world who have worked with SEO agencies. It found that one in four terminations, which occurred within the first six months was due to secrecy and lack of transparency.    

Achieving SEO objectives requires a long-term commitment from both the client and the SEO supplier. As such, trust – in each other and in the process, is a critical tenet to achieve aligned success. You must develop this as early as the SEO agency’s sales pitch.

Agencies should also look to be transparent about their work processes. Some businesses want their products to appear in front of people when they search for it online. This type of clients may not understand why it could take a year before they can feel the tangible effects of the SEO work.

If your clients aren’t sure what they’re getting for their money, then you’ve failed at being transparent and this is no the way how to avoid losing clients.

How to avoid losing clients

  • You can arrange a meeting between your client and their account team during the pitch phase. This will foster trust in the earliest stages of the relationship. There’s a massive difference between clients speaking with persuasive salespeople, and meeting the people who will actually be doing THE work for their company.

Arranging a meeting with the account team during the pitch phase will also prevent making unattainable promises. There have been many instances where clients have felt betrayed. This is because SEO account teams can’t deliver on promises that they didn’t make.

  • The onset, process, objectives set, steps, timeframe involved, among many others, should appear clear on both sides. The client needs to understand what the steps to achieve their goals are. And the agency needs to understand what the clients want out of the project. This ensures that SEO agencies work on improving metrics that matter most to the client.  

Unaligned goals and objectives

Looking to get sales leads for his small business, Brian Signorelli spent $70,000 on an SEO agency. The relationship, though, was short-lived because the agency was working on improving metrics that didn’t matter to him. Instead of getting leads, the agency worked on his Twitter presence, getting him followers instead of what he wanted.

There’s something to be said about the value of having increased Twitter following and how that can later translate into sales leads. But because the agency didn’t properly align their methods with the client’s objectives, they wound up losing the account.  

How to avoid losing clients

  • Before moving forward at all, the goals and objectives of the project should be clear on both sides – preferably in writing. This should include which metrics you will use to measure progress and evaluate performance.
  • Equally important to aligning goals and objectives is challenging your clients’ assumptions. You shouldn’t act as a “yes man”. They may ask you to improve their following on social media, or make design and keyword improvements on their website. You can’t just give them what they want, you need to find why they’re asking for such. This will give you a concrete understanding of how to move forward with what the client is trying to achieve.

Lack of patience

It’s difficult enough to make clients understand the big picture when it comes to SEO work. It’s even more of a challenge to make them see the whole picture. In some cases, SEO agencies get fired not because of miscommunication, incompetence, and lack of transparency, but because the client lacked patience to see the process through.

How to avoid losing clients

  • As discussed earlier, you can tackle this matter very early in the client-agency relationship by making the amount of work required and the time it would take accomplish the stated objectives explained clearly. You can also provide regular progress updates, the upcoming steps and timeframe of when they’ll see tangible results.
  • You should measure your impact on their business during pivotal steps in the process to ensure clients understand the value of your work. To keep those retainer checks coming, you should measure, analyze, and repeat.  As noted by Shopify, it is advisable for you to check the analytics at the start of every week, not just for reporting purposes but to have a clear view of what you should focus on for the rest of the week.

Comparing SEO effectivity vs. other channels

In theory, you could map out the process, methodology, and timeline in black and white even before starting a project, to set objectives, goals, and expectations. But in reality, patience can wear thin quicker than you think – especially when clients misguidedly compare SEO’s short-term returns to other marketing strategies they’re using like PPC, and paid social.  

The fore mentioned, by nature, provides quick, tangible returns in the immediate short term. And within a six-month timeline, a two week dip in SEO-related KPIs could result in premature concerns about the project.

How to avoid losing clients

  • If the terms of communicating every aspect of the project remain from the get-go, you’ve set a good foundation for trust. However, avery SEO agency should work on building client-agency trust, continuously. Consistent updates on progress can help temper the tendency to compare SEO’s effectivity in the short term against other channels.
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of every project endeavor so you can quickly identify any performance changes. Ideally, you’d want to notice any changes before your client does. But in the event that they beat you to it, get in touch with them by explaining what’s going on to allay potential concerns.
  • In the event that things aren’t progressing as forecasted, it’s best to come clean with the unforeseen realities. If there’s a need to pivot to a different strategy than originally agreed upon, it’s best to be honest about it. This way, everyone can get on board, and you can proceed with the best recourse. Clients will always appreciate integrity.   

Restricted access

It’s tough to implement the necessary changes to a client’s website when you have restricted access to it. This is often the case with larger clients, where a huge bulk of technical recommendations have a tendency to go unimplemented. Whether it’s because they need to go through a long web development queue, or they’re outright overlooked, if you don’t control the client’s website, it makes your job to promote it exponentially tougher.

How to avoid getting fired

Communicate why you need to have access to their website, and present a business case for your recommendations. This will help them understand the value of your recommendations.

For larger clients, you might need to develop a relationship with senior decision makers. Having a high trust level could help prioritize SEO recommendations to aid the work you do.

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You can create a dashboard that tracks which recommendations get implemented, and which ones got left out. This way, both sides can see where the bottlenecks and issues are. 

Clients feel that the work is already done

When clients receive initial audits and strategy documents after the SEO heavy lifting, there’s a tendency for them to feel like they can take it from there. This is especially when you’ve done educating them about the process along the way.

They may think that the following steps would be limited to occasional maintenance and coming up with some reports. It’s your job to tell them that’s not the case. Explain the long-term value of what you do to help them understand why they need you.  

How to avoid losing clients

  • You could provide case studies showing how your SEO work’s cumulative effect. It should prove how your intensive SEO would develop their website over time. They need to understand that SEO practices provide more value through consistent application over time, and that’s part of your job.
  • If in case your client hires an in-house SEO specialist, make sure that you carefully transition your activities over to the new team. The work you did with the client will be on your resume even after it decides to take over. You don’t want the new team to undo all the hard work you did. Make sure that they’re set up for success.

Overlooking mistakes of previous SEO agencies

Speaking of transitioning, there are many cases where you won’t be the first SEO agency to handle your client’s affairs. In some cases, you may not even be the third. When that happens, you’ll find it’s much easier to start from scratch than to clean up mistakes in previous SEO work. You might also find a manual penalty levied on your client’s site due to someone else’s mistake. You never want that.

How to avoid losing clients

  • You need to practice due diligence in reviewing any work done by a previous agency. In fact, even before agreeing to take over, you should have already done that. You’ll rarely get away with telling your clients that it was someone else’s fault. It’s more likely that that’s exactly what they were told before, and why they’re looking for a new SEO agency.

How do YOU avoid losing clients?

While businesses have increasingly grasped the benefits of doing solid SEM, not everyone has the understanding of how extensive SEO work actually is. SEO agencies analyze trends, identify opportunities, and prepare documents, along with the other multitude of work done in the background. Apart from the tedious work entailed, few understand how that work’s benefits are something that accumulate over time.

This is why communication is perhaps the most important factor in SEO client retention. You must factor this in at the very onset of the client-agency relationship. Everything should be clear, from the process, metrics and objectives, to the timeline, projected long and short-term effects, and even any unforeseen issues that may arise.  

It’s also important to understand that there are no secrets to what makes for a solid SEO work. The very best agencies all use the same techniques to promote their clients’ sites. What separates them from those that get fired is their ability to communicate clearly and consistently how and why they’re doing what they do, and what it’s meant to do for the client’s business.

Take a look at how your current SEO projects are coming along. Have you experienced any of the points discussed above? If so, what did you do to address them?

For further reading:
Then take a look at how your current SEO projects are coming along:
  • Have you experienced any of the points discussed above?
  • If so, what did you do to address them?

author headshotThe article was created by Jolina Landicho. She is a marketing strategist working with various brands online, and the content marketing manager of Avenew Media. She is devoted in helping businesses bridge relationship gaps by providing in-depth, actionable advice on online marketing, business development, and growth hacking.