Five SEO Clients Who Have Hang-Ups

by Tom Shivers June 20th, 2011 

I’ve experienced my share of clients who have issues, and I know that there is a silver lining in dealing with each of them.

Some clients can’t be made happy


I took on a client several years ago who had a real problem with their previous SEO provider – instead of moving up in search rank their site seemed to be stuck on the second page of Google. I immediately spotted the problem, fixed it and within a few weeks the site was back up where it had been. I then initiated a more reputable link building strategy that took the site up for many more search terms. However, the client seemed to hound me every month when we went over the reports on his progress. I began thinking he must owe someone a lot of money or perhaps he thinks I’ll be motivated to work harder if he whips me every time I show him that things are improving.

I might have saved myself the trouble of working with this guy if I had noticed his rather demanding tone from the beginning.

Some clients don’t realize the scope of work involved


This is common among businesses who have never done SEO before. They usually know who their main competitors are but they don’t have a clue about how many competitors. Usually I find lots of websites who have been at SEO for a long time, targeting the keywords they now want. It usually means they have a real battle on their hands for each competitive keyword just to get in the top 10, never mind the top 3. When I try to tell them it will mean adding content and building links as if they just set up a publishing house in their business, they often interpret that to mean publishing one or two articles per month.

Seriously, people who have never done SEO before, especially for a site that has never ranked for anything but the brand name, cannot fathom what’s ahead. It can kill the deal but that’s way better than allowing them to carry on with unrealistic expectations.

Some clients don’t know how to measure success


It’s all about rankings right? Yes and no. Rankings are not a great way to measure success today because of user history cookies, local results and a few other things Google can track when users search. There are better things to measure like achieving defined business goals on a monthly basis from the resulting traffic.

A couple years ago I was working with a client who sold a luxury service to consumers during a slow economy. After the client had good rankings we implemented a strategy to build up their email list, upon getting approval from the CEO, which worked phenomenally well packing in new subscribers every day. The problem: they rarely sent out an email newsletter, like maybe once a quarter. “Why in the name of massive opportunity didn’t they email every week?” you ask. As best I can tell, the CEO did not seem to understand how to measure success – all he was concerned about was maintaining his good rankings.

Some clients don’t implement recommendations


Ok, this is a rather complicated issue, but it does come up sometimes. When a particular strategy or tactic is not agreed upon or implemented by a client, it can be a trust or confidence issue. Most of the time trust and confidence issues are resolved before we ever get started, but if there’s still a hold out they are usually persuaded within the first two months of service because they see good things happening.

Another reason recommendations are impeded is due to a client’s multiple consultants who conflict on strategy and/or tactics. This often applies when a client has been working with another consultant in the past and interprets new things through the previous consultant’s philosophy. Sometimes the client has to go through an unlearning and relearning phase to get going again.

I had this occur with a client and it took several months for him to recognize what I had been explaining. During a consultation, “the penny dropped.” He assumed that what I recommended was in addition to what his previous consultant told him to do. Wow, what a break through! Within about one month of abandoning the previous consultant’s philosophy and implementing my strategy he saw significant changes in his rankings and gained new hope in achieving many goals for his business.

Another reason recommendations fall flat is due to poor or lack of communication with the client. I normally see this when a client enters their busy season and it’s often like resorting to Morse code until they finally emerge from the chaos. Sure, it’s understandable but the busy season is also the peak time to establish relationships that can significantly impact the overall SEO efforts. Although I warn clients about this before the busy season hits, I’m usually saying something like this afterward, “Oh well, there’s always next season.”

Another reason client’s don’t implement recommendations is due to perfectionist tendencies. This is the scary client who acts like he/she knows more about SEO than I do and demands that I follow their direction, also known as a control freak. Fortunately, I’ve been able to spot this one before formal agreements were made.

Some clients can’t stay focused


Yes it happens even among professionals. This tendency usually occurs with clients who have never done SEO before and who have a great vision for their business, perhaps an entrepreneur. They often have new ideas and directions they want to pursue every time you meet to discuss the SEO plan.

As you may know the keyword selection process can be painstaking because selecting keywords means ignoring others. Well, I finally got through the keyword selection process with one client and within a week she was emailing me new keyword ideas for her business on a daily basis. When I got on the phone to try to resolve the confusion, she started talking about new directions for her business that had to be addressed with SEO now – how could I say no? After all, her business was going to save the world. Soon enough I shared the news about focus, focus, focus with her and then she delivered some bad news to me.

The common theme with each of these clients is that they have a “hang-up” when it comes to achieving business goals with an SEO partner. You could share with them your most guarded secrets and it wouldn’t make much difference – no matter how successful they appear to be or how much you want to work with them.

The silver lining for you, if you can spot each of these hang-ups early on in the relationship, may be saving yourself some headaches or perhaps charging differently before taking them on as a client.

What client hang-ups have you experienced?

Tom Shivers

Tom Shivers is a SEO professional and founder of Capture Commerce.

Exploit Online Demand

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8 Responses to “Five SEO Clients Who Have Hang-Ups”

  1. Sandra says:

    A variation on the perfectionist client is one who doesn't pretend to know about SEO but stands firm on their knowledge of their own business so will pour over all content with a magnifying glass! Which is great but can takes months to get sign off.

    • Tom Shivers says:

      Sandra, I agree those type of clients are great except that it can slow the process down. You could suggest that every time you miss an agreed upon delivery date you will pay them a fee and vice versa.

  2. Focus on strategic and tactical outcomes — that's seriously the biggest hurdles I've seen. "I want traffic devoted to X" changes to "no, Y, then Z — but also 'sigma'", and so on.

  3. Sandy says:

    Handling the clients are most crucial job in any field of working. The regular communication with clients may help to resolve most issues. SEO requires the patience from Client side, if they do not have patience then it will surely create some issues.

  4. Justin says:

    A Client who thinks they know SEO, even though they insist on outdated techniques. They are insistent upon their own strategy, and they have their boss's trust, which makes it a lose-lose situation.

  5. Tad Chef says:

    Clients who will basically relaunch the site in the middle of the SEO process and break everything you have done for them in years without even noticing while outsourcing their CMS to a third party are even worse.

  6. Most of the clients that never start SEO thinks that if they pay for SEO they go no. 1 in one month max. That can give you a headache

    Nice to read this article!