Lee Odden

Legacy SEO Clients

I started doing site optimization work around 1997ish but didn’t start taking on my own clients until 2000. We started TopRank in 2001 and some of our SEO clients are companies I’ve worked with for 7-8 years. That’s a lifetime in internet time, getting to know their business, hitting success goals and receiving referrals for even more business.

The services we offered then and the services we offer now are quite different and one of the issues agencies have to deal with when auditing client hours vs revenue is to decide where the business is profitable and where it’s not. Client business models change and vendors are expected to change along with the clients in order to best serve the client’s needs.

When the vendor’s business model matures there come some hard decisions about whether to continue to work with certain types of clients/projects or not because they no longer fit within the agency’s service areas of expertise or business model. The mistake of allowing legacy SEO clients to pay 2001 prices for 2007 services is one that is totally avoidable with proper contract renewal procedures and client management.

However it is possible that even with the best account teams, that some situations may slip through. Personally, I prefer to retain those long time clients even though they are not at the price point currently targeted or reasonable for services. As long as the engagement is profitable for the client and is making a positive contribution to the agency’s bottom line, I think they should stay as clients. ie profitable for both client/agency, but maybe not as profitable as the agency would like.

Another point of view is to offer those clients the option of upgrading to the current minimum services mix and pricing or move on to another vendor. If a significant number of clients were in this situation I see this as reasonable. It’s the sort of situation that often happens when one company acquires another and new clients are absorbed.

What do you think? At what point does it make sense to let legacy SEO clients go? Aren’t those long term relationships and referrals worth as much or more than a significant upgrade in services and pricing? Or does it make more sense to focus purely on the numbers? This is a topic of debate I’m having and am curious what others that have long term agency experience think.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.