When a Prospect Drops From #1 to #2 on High-Value Keyword, I Get a Call Immediately


I run an agency. When a client drops from #1 to #2 on high value keyword, I get a call immediately. Is this normal?

I launched an SEO company about 3-4 years ago. Most high value keywords for our clients are typically in top 3 (some clients have 300+ in top 3 that we monitor for – previously unranked before I took over). However, about half of my clients (15 or so) email or call me within a few hours if they drop from #1 to #2 for certain keywords. It's like they just Google all day.
It gets really stressful when you're trying to build a long-term SEO program for a client, and there's so much focus on short-term results.
Are most clients like this? Is it normal?
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Here's what I do and it's gonna be a little in-depth but I haven't had to do this in a while since it's worked 100% of the time.
This is the core of being a SEO in my experience and It's a common issue
I'm sure you have a written effective process but you have translate ALL of your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)s and make a 'for the client' version translation of them.and once its explained to clients, they don't bug you again.
The answer most likely isn't gonna be hidden in some comment here.
Just explain to your client the capricious nature of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and then define to them the process of what we do when that happens.
Use some kind of rank tracking tool to notify you about keyword position. Clients should not have to notify you of something they pay you to manage, right?
In fact should already be mentioned during the discovery phase how you will be tracking the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) ranking.
If client keyword 'foo' went to #2 from #1 then first you analyze the why.
β€’ (Don't punch me for saying this) 100% of the time the tech stack is what determines 90% of the SEO value in ADDITION to the next major determinants being the usual ones.
β€’ After analysis you'll walk away with edits needed.
Essentially the competition beat your SERP so we have to now analyze the content. It could just be better. I'm sure you know what to do there.
If you need help with setting it up or need more info lmk.

Would you mind giving a bit more info on your comment about tech stack determining SEO value?
I'm not questioning it, would just like to know more as the technical side doesn't get much mention here.
What do you mean when you say the tech stack determines 90% of SEO value? I know what a tech stack is but haven't considered in relation to SEO.

Fancy way of saying technical SEO.

I'm in the same boat as you. Have been running a website design and digital marketing company for 5-6 years now. Have a number of clients that just don't understand Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), spend all day monitoring Google and love to send emails with "alerts" and questions.
I have a speech I give in the beginning to manage expectations. Every client nods in agreement when I state the importance of being "patient." Yet, a few weeks in, they're wondering why they don't rank #1 for 10 highly competitive keywords with their brand new domain and website.
I've just learned to expect it. If you know you're doing a good job, there's nothing to worry or get nervous about. Now, if you feel you're slacking and they're calling you out, then I'd be nervous.
Additionally, with experience I've learned to over estimate my timelines on expectations. If I think we can get returns in 6 months, I'll quote them 9. This helps plan for unforeseen circumstances, also updates, etc.
I also spend time in the beginning explaining why Punjab from India is bullshitting when he promises you "page 1 search results all terms" in 1 month for $10.99. When comparing real SEO firms against each other, we all typically have the same timelines, rates may vary a bit, but nobody is cheap. It's competing against the spam/scam emails they receive almost hourly, promising the impossible for less.


Not to sound rude, but honestly, this is 100% your fault and can easily be avoided by setting the proper expectations up front and periodically reminding them of those expectations.
I tell clients from the beginning that there will be times when keywords are going to fluctuate. I also explain to them that there is no longer any such thing as universal SERPs. What they see is not necessarily what someone two miles away Googling on their phone is going to see.
I even tell them that ranking reports are never going to be 100% accurate across all locations and devices. All we use ranking reports for is to look at trends.


All we use ranking reports for is to look at trends.

This has to be said early and often. Manage expectations from the first conversation and this won't be an issue.
Before any new engagement we stress that our job is to make them more money. If we get some #1 ranks in the process, that's great but it's not our goal.

These people get it!
If my client made more money ranking 8th, I'd try to keep them there.
Clients need to be aware that keyword rankings change according to time of day, day or week, even what device the user is on.
The client may well see different results to you – even if you see them in first, they could be lower for them.
I have clients who smash high volume keywords but are closed at the weekend. Their weekend rankings are, on average, much lower – presumably because Google knows they're less relevant at this time.
Rankings changing is normal, constant, and unpredictable. Even then you can't necessarily change the rankings within a few hours if they do dip down the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). A lot of SEO doesn't work like that.
Honestly, what can you do after getting that call to get them back on top of the page by the end of the day/week to make them happy? Because it's either likely to take longer, be an unrelated change, or something grey/black hat.

This here is spot on. If those #1 rankings directly correlate to cash then they need to invest more to maintain.

I'm upfront about the service I offer. I also have a policy that you can only call me at xxxx times, other times email only. Don't just bend over and accept whatever the client says to get them to sign up.
Set some ground rules and you're life will be easier. I honestly don't have the time or patience for high maintenance clients. Another thing I've found is most of my high maintenance clients have been on the lower end of the spectrum.
Finally tell them, nobody owns Google, no one can predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone in a weeks time. Google dances are normal because while you are spending money on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so are your competitors.
You can use any situation to your advantage with the right words…


Yeah it is completely normal; A precise strategy would be helpful to maintain the keywords for your client's website! It's not their fault either. They are paying you for the exact same result. If your result is not maintained they are likely to inform you. In SEO, Search is very important they might have loss due to the drop in rankings.
Work on your link building strategies with proper guidelines, that will help you to prevent the odds of getting lose the rankings.
Position 1 has so much less impact these days for a lot of queries. This is because of all of the search features popping up, and there's more of these by the day.
You should get your clients to stop obsessing over a single SEO KPI and looks at larger business Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s for your clients.
Yeah some clients just look at their rankings and usually focus on one or two keywords that they have in mind. This requires a bit of education on the "bigger picture" and you can put more focus on those specific keywords they mention to please the client as they're only looking at those one or two keywords so build some links for those.
It's normal for some – because for a marketing department, you can instantly see in your conversions in Google Analytics (GA), that you have dropped a place. For some companies, they'll lose tens of thousands dollars a day, just to rank two instead of one.
This is not uncommon IMHO, but it is your responsibility as an agency owner to educate clients about rankings. When I work with clients and set expectations that my primary metric is not rankings, rather it's conversions/Return of Investment (RoI) from search traffic. Rankings can literally change multiple times a day and can even differ based on any minute detail (personalization, time of day, location, direct previous search, etc…). I usually set the expectation that we will track the trend of rankings overtime to look for improvements MoM or QoQ.
It isn't typical that clients are that reactive. However, what is the context of their call, and, what is the long-term conversation that you are having?
I have a minimum of these calls from clients because I don't focus on individual keyword rankings as a measure of success.
My initial (and subsequent) conversations are about "conversions" rather than ranking. That is to say, the success of my clients' companies IRL depends upon leads being generated – forms being submitted, or more often, incoming phone calls inquiring after products or services.
Measure these "real" marketing deliverables – improve, report and discuss them rather than indirect and possibly irrelevant indicators like individual keyword rankings.
My experience is that this is more productive and less stressful long term.


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