SEO can be a black box, and many business owners have minimal understanding of it. To that end, that’s why you hire a professional to help you out.

At the same time, there are many things that agencies wish their clients knew so that progress could be made faster.

In an effort to help agencies and clients work together better, we asked the agencies and consultants of Credo to answer the question:

What is the biggest mistake you see clients making in regards to SEO?

Here’s what they said.

Dani Owens of Pigzilla

“Being cheap. This is by far the biggest issue I come across.”

Theme: you get what you pay for

Jim Lastinger of Deep Field

“Success with SEO is all about building authority within a niche. A big part of that is building consistent, relevant content over time. SEO clients often don’t have a content strategy and are relying primarily on on-page SEO to achieve their goals.

Theme: content matters to SEO

Wouter Van Der Meij

“Site structure, most sites can make huge gains by just structuring their internal link structure more naturally. SEO isn’t about keyword usage in your content, it’s about the context of your content.

Say you have a site about widgets, and 7 categories of widgets, with each category containing hundreds of widgets. If you structure poorly, Google thinks you just have a bunch of widgets. If you structure correctly Google sees that you have a lot of blue widgets, a lot of red widgets and a nice collection of premium class special widgets. You’ll be viewed as the company that sells quality goods instead of a bunch of unrelated cheap imported stuff.”

Theme: build your site so it makes sense for the user

Tony Wright of WrightIMC

“Kneejerking. Clients want instant results, which doesn’t happen in SEO. Results fluctuate, especially in the first few months. Over time, the fluctuations lessen and results move forward – in almost all cases. I understand why client’s kneejerk- especially those that have been burned in the past by other agencies. But if a client leaves before the end of 3 months (really, 6 months), they are wasting their money. We’d be better off spending their money on a few nice steak dinners. At least they’d get something out of a steak dinner.”

[I]f a client leaves before the end of 3 months (really, 6 months), they are wasting their money. We’d be better off spending their money on a few nice steak dinners. At least they’d get something out of a steak dinner.Theme: treat others how you want your customers to treat you.

Theme: patience

Adam Draper of Gladiator Law Marketing

“Not making time for marketing. I understand they hire an agency so they don’t have to spend their time marketing. But no agency provides a 100% hands off approach. Online reviews are a great example. The client can ask their customers for a review. The client can provide us with the name and contact information and we can solicit reviews for them. Either way, some involvement from the client is required. “

Theme: clients have to be involved

Miguel Salcido of Organic Media Group

“People cannot seem to accept, or understand, that SEO is THE most ROI positive things that one can do to market online. It will blow every other “online” channel out of the water when it comes to profitability. It may take 2 years to see the return, but it will always provide a positive return, over time.”

Theme: patience

Jonathan at Thrive Agency

“An aversion to content on their site. We often hear that clients “want a clean, minimal design, with striking images and not much content”. This obviously hamstrings your ability to add optimized content to the page in a way that the search engines will approve of. Our approach is to educate the clients, and try to sell them on the idea that content doesn’t have to be ugly, and that sites with a good quantity of content can still provide a very engaging and attractive user experience.”

Content doesn’t have to be ugly, and [sites] with a good quantity of content can still provide a very engaging and attractive user experience.

Theme: content matters

Steve Latronica at SL Development

“Unknown disruption of the site due to domain changes, SSL implementations or other major site changes. With a little planning the headaches can be reduced.”

Theme: be proactive in your planning and loop in your consultant or agency as early as possible

Vin at SEO Smooth

“Clients overlooking the technical parts due to lack of understanding or ignoring basics such as page speed and technical SEO and thinking they need link building or paid ads but their page load time is 5+ or 10+ seconds.”

Theme: take care of your site first

Dan Sallai at Fordel

“Approaching SEO as a numbers game. Amount of backlinks to a page, keyword density, amount of internal links, etc, and forgetting about the actual humans they are trying to sell to.”

Theme: SEO is about users, not bots or mindless metrics

Jonti at White Hat Ops

“Not taking in interest in long term, sustainable SEO. They expect it to be “magic beans” and beyond their realm of understanding, so they often tune out when we try and involve and educate them. They just want to pay for someone to manage it, and not realize their contributions make a difference to the overall success.”

Theme: clients have to be involved

Brian at House of Search

“Missing or improper tracking. I still cannot believe how often I audit a site pulling in 1MM+ in annual revenue yet doesn’t track traffic or conversion data. With every audit I do, I can count on several issues occurring with a client’s tracking and analytics: 1. No tracking at all. 2. Improper analytics configuration so that only some visits are tracked. 3. Tracking is not QAed when any major updates are made to the site, meaning data stops coming through. 4. No goals set up. 5. No event tracking set up. 6. No content groupings, ecommerce, or additional features being used to help determine wtf people do when they are on your website. 7. Improper tagging (“facebook”, “Facebook”) or no tagging at all. 8. No Google Tag Manager in use.”

Theme: Analytics is ignored too often

Ben at Today’s Local Media

“The biggest SEO mistake I see clients making is usually on their home page. And this is definitely something I work with all my clients on. But usually when we are just getting started, they do not pay enough attention to their home page. Your home page is the starting point for both customers and search engine crawlers. It should have robust content, beautiful imagery, optimized markup, and maybe even a few reviews. And I would argue that you should spend a disproportionate amount of time improving it.”

Theme: users users users!

Ruth at UpBuild

“Not thinking about it until after their website is already built, or after a redesign has already launched. So many businesses think “we’ll get the new site launched, then we’ll hire someone to ‘do SEO’ to it” – but SEO works so, so much better when it can be baked into the site’s design and information architecture. Launching a new or redesigned site without thinking about SEO can really tank your search performance, and it takes a lot more time and effort to recover from that than to do it well in the first place.”

SEO works so, so much better when it can be baked into the site’s design and information architecture.

Theme: bring SEO in at the start!

Selena at Orthris

“Going against recommendations and looking for the fastest way rather than the most effective way, especially when it comes to technical items. It’s understandable on the client side, because the faster way often requires less budget/resource allocation, but it can cost more down the line. The shorter, faster route equates to less wins and improvements overall, whereas really addressing the problem head-on and getting it taken care of from the beginning can provide the best results. Recommendations should be treated just as any other item that contributes to the bottom line when it comes to importance and prioritization.”

Theme: patience!

Dominic at Hive Digital

“During almost every conversation, I hear stories about how an SEO firm they hired promised first page rankings, or built less than reputable backlinks, or never provided updates or reports on the progress of the engagement. It’s so important to properly vet the SEO agency you are going to hire. Make sure they have a solid rating from the BBB. Make sure they are on Moz’s recommended vendor list. And make sure their SEO strategies are white hat, and adhere to SEO best practices.”

Theme: vet your provider!

What about you? What do you wish you had known before hiring an SEO agency?