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Navigating Economic Uncertainty for Digital Marketing Agencies

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

I started in SEO as a Search Engine Marketing Account Manager in 2008. Within weeks the stock market crashed, banks were failing, and the word recession was echoing throughout the business world.

I began each day at my new job assuming I would be laid off at any time. I was the newest team member at a large digital agency and felt very dispensable.

And yet, six months later, I was still employed. It wasn’t luck and it wasn’t anything I, in particular, was doing to weather the storm. Instead, the leadership of the agency did a great job navigating economic uncertainty. Instead of losing traction, the agency continued to steadily grow.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to navigate my own SEO agency through such times —the COVID-19 pandemic to be specific. Despite that fact, here we are again talking about economic uncertainty and circulating the word recession as 2022 comes to a close.

As a result, we’re focusing on these five things to better serve our clients and continue to grow.

How to Navigate Economic Uncertainty

1. Remind Clients that Now is the Time to Invest in Marketing

You’ve heard it before — when the going gets tough, the tough get going. This expression holds true as markets contract in the face of economic uncertainty.

If search volume for a given keyword is down 20% this month compared to last, then we need to double down on our efforts. Doing so keeps our focus on having strong visibility on the search engine results page. This allows us to maintain and grow our traffic while continuing to generate leads for our customers.

While some clients may want to put on the breaks to reduce their monthly expenses, those who understand the power of marketing will stay the course. Some clients may need the reminder that now isn’t the time to cut marketing budgets to save money, but rather the time to invest for a deeper impact.

2. Keep Your Terms Flexible

When navigating economic uncertainty keep your contract terms flexible. SEO is a monthly engagement just like website maintenance. And while it’s great for your agency to have 1-year contracts for such services, that is a big commitment for a business that is navigating the unknown.

Instead, consider implementing a 30-days notice clause. Note that you are in this partnership with your client and that your campaigns are nimble and flexible by design because the world is ever-changing.

3. Focus Campaigns on Impact

As search engine marketers, we’re always focused on impact. In times of economic uncertainty, it’s time to get hyper-focused on impact.

Ask yourself, what is the single next most impactful task you can take to help advance a client’s campaign?

Maybe you had SEO maintenance on the to-do list for this month with tasks like reviewing a Google Maps listing and fixing broken links. Yet, investing in writing a high-quality blog post or expanding the copy on your client’s homepage may be more immediately impactful.

Keep your monthly task lists dynamic and push yourself and your client to focus on doing the most impactful thing next. And if you aren’t sure what will be most impactful, schedule a coaching session. That’s what our SEO coaches are here for.

4. Anchor Results in a Broader Context

A 20% decrease in traffic from organic search is an initially alarming statistic. But, it lacks context around demand. If the search volume for keywords in a given space is down 50%, then a 20% drop is actually a sign of success.

The traffic decrease was insulated by your SEO work and perhaps by improved visibility on Google. Without SEO, traffic from organic search would have likely fallen even more.

When communicating with clients via calls or sending monthly reports in the face of economic uncertainty, stay positive. Consider the big picture of what’s happening in the market. You can do so by looking at search volume demand in Google Trends or by comparing impression data in the Google Search Console.

5. Lean In and Stay in Touch

Now is the time to get closer to your clients. Ask good questions. Listen to their answers. Check-in. Stay dynamic. Stay focused, and stay optimistic.

You've Got This

Navigating economic uncertainty as an agency is doable. Try to remember that market volatility is always temporary. And it bodes well to impress that fact upon your clients, too.

Following these five tips is likely to bring great things for your agency and clients in 2023.

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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