SEO Relationship Tips: Hell Hath No Fury Like an SEO Scorned

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Phil Singleton

Phil Singleton is a Google Marketing and SEO expert in Kansas City. Contact Phil today for a free SEO strategy consultation.

how to breakup with your seo

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In the digital marketing world, agency relationships change hands all the time.

Over the years, we’ve occasionally been on the other side if the table.

The one thing I advise (actually beg) every new client is to part ways as gently as possible and do your best to leave the door open with your previous SEO partner.

Tempting as it may be, do not use the end of a relationship to let out your frustrations, teach them a lesson, or prove a point.

SEOs Are Different

If it truly is time to move on, it’s usually best to put your tail between your legs if for nothing else, to give the next agency the best possible chance of success – especially in the digital marketing world.


SEO is a different beast.

SEO folks are the most passionate and driven people I know.

They have to be!

They’re running a marathon race than never ends.

Sometimes that high drive and talent comes with thin skin and stubbornness.

You usually don’t get ambition and tenacity without some level of baggage.

In other words the things that make the best SEOs great also can make them be a pain in @ss. 

This gets tricky when they tell you to hire for attitude and train for skills – because with SEO, you’re hiring an expert not an employee.

While I’ve never left a bad review for anyone, I know what it feels like to be kicked in the teeth by clients I care about, but still I’ve never tried to hurt anyone on they way out the door.

I figure with great power, comes great responsibility (and I have to be able to sleep at night).

And while the best SEOs can get you top results, even marginal ones can wreak havoc on your website presence.

It reminds me of a Benjamin Franklin quote tweaked a little like this:

The bitterness of client relationship failure remains long after the sweet taste of their SEO success.

In other words, if you kick someone who takes pride in their work at the wrong time in their life, and they won’t care about money anymore.

Ink by the Barrel

For example, we have a newer homes services client in Minnesota.

They left on bad terms with their last SEO

It’s been the ugliest breakup I’ve ever seen.

The guy showed up at the office screaming.

He’s attacking them with negative reviews.

He’s removing good backlinks.

He’s trying to use negative off-page SEO tactics (adding bad backlinks).

But our client was not completely innocent.

They chose to take the low row road.  They wanted to teach a lesson.  They used every opportunity to escalate.

There is an old saying: “Never pick a fight with a person that buys ink by the barrel

In the digital, it is more like “pixels by the trillions.”

Now it makes our job harder because a 3.5 star rating makes a meaningful difference over the 4.8 star rating they worked years to achieve.

We’re starting in a deeper hole than we needed to.

Understand the Cost of Parting Ways

When dealing with an SEO agency, think of them as partner not a vendor. 

Give feedback the way you would to a key employee. 

Take a deep breath.

Is the relationship salvageable?

Are you prepared for lost rankings, lost revenues and a slower growth rate?

But if your SEO company is not delivering, not responsive, or not doing what they agreed to do, it’s probably time to go.

They may have had enough as well.

You may be being Quiet Fired and not even realize it.

Part Ways Respectfully & Professionally

Remember, paying for a service provider does not give you the right to disrespect them, or school them, or shame them online.

Here are some tips to help you with self-assessment?

  • Don’t hide behind email
  • Email is great for positive feedback.
  • Email is terrible for negative feedback
  • Don’t be passive aggressive
  • Pick up the phone for anything that might be sensitive or perceived as negative
  • Negative feedback sounds 10x worse on email
  • A reply to negative feedback sounds 20x worse on email
  • Don’t let things stew
  • Have I put myself in their shoes?
  • Ask yourself: am I a PITA client?
  • Is the relationship worth saving?
  • Can you withstand lost rankings?
  • Accept an Olive Branch
  • Send an Olive Branch
  • If the relationship has run it’s course, send the kind of breakup letter you’d like to receive (I wrote a template in the attached template).

Re-Motivating Your Agency

If you’ve gone through a rough patch with your agency in an otherwise fruitful relationship, only you can save the day.

Your biggest risk of a strained relationship with an agency is loss of motivation.

In fact, this in one of the biggest secrets in all of SEO: if you give positive feedback, you will get 10x the effort.

Only you can re-motivate your team.

And like it or not,  your SEO agency is a key member of your team.

You can motivate them.

Or you can deplete their moral.

Any partner worth keeping would jump on an olive branch.

Hell, I know I would.

SEO Partner Breakup Letter Template

Gratitude for Your SEO Work & Transitioning to a New Provider

Hey [SEO Company Person],

I wanted to take a moment to express our sincere gratitude for the SEO work you have done for our small business. Your contributions have played a significant role in our growth and online visibility, and we are truly thankful for the positive impact you have made over the years.

As we enter a new stage of growth and development, we have carefully evaluated our business needs and goals. After much consideration, we have decided that it would be best for us to partner with a different company to support our next phase of expansion. This decision is not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with your services, but rather an alignment with our evolving requirements.

Throughout our time working together, we have experienced both ups and downs, as is expected in any professional relationship. However, it is important to emphasize that the vast majority of our experience with you and your team has been overwhelmingly positive. We deeply appreciate the expertise, dedication, and professionalism you have consistently demonstrated.

As we transition to a new SEO provider, we are relying on your assistance to ensure a smooth handover. We trust that you will help us maintain the same level of professionalism and expertise we have enjoyed since our very first day working together. Your knowledge of our business and the strategies implemented thus far will be invaluable in facilitating a smooth transition.

Although we are embarking on a new journey with a different partner, we would like to keep the door open for future cooperation. We believe that our paths may cross again, and we would be more than happy to serve as a reference for your services when the need arises.

Once again, we sincerely thank you for all the help you have provided us over the years. Your contributions have made a lasting impact on our business and you’ll always be a part of our story – and we are truly grateful for the partnership we have shared.

We wish you continued success in your endeavors and hope to maintain a positive connection moving forward.

Again – thank you so much,

[Your Name]

[Your Business Name]

Starting Fresh SEO Services