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September 6, 2007

How Not to Deal With Clients

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There’s some buzz over at the Cre8asite Forums lately (via SER) after an SEO got himself into an unfortunate situation by promising a client that he would deliver 20 PR6 links in one month for the low, low price of $475. If the SEO is able to meet this task, the client promises to give him full control of his Web site. It’s also worth noting that the links have to reside on a page with a PR6, it’s not enough if it’s just a PR6 site. Isn’t SEO fun?

I’m sorry, but Lisa has one giant question: Why is this SEO being asked to jump through hoops to prove his worth before the client will give him access to their site? I understand that good clients are hard to find, but why are we bending over backwards to please a client with unreasonable expectations? Here’s a hint: A client with one unreasonable expectation usually has more. Actually, they probably have a truckload.

Run.

Seriously, there are just so many problems with this entire situation. First of all, pressuring an SEO to accomplish a feat of this caliber really does nothing but encourage bad search engine optimization tactics, which in the end is just going to add to that reputation problem we already have. Based on what I’ve read, it doesn’t even sound like this client is interested in search engine optimization, they just want to rank.

Elizabeth Able was one of the Cre8asite members kind enough to chime in and offer advice. She suggested that, instead of focusing on quick, disappearing links, have the client create valuable articles, i.e. something worth linking to. Apparently, this isn’t an idea the client was interested in. The forum member speaking for the aforementioned SEO doubts the boss will want to write articles. He’s more about "creating" the vision than actually working towards it.

Well, then. Maybe he should cross his fingers and toes and wish really hard for high rankings. See if that brings him any luck.

There are two ways to acquire 20 PR6 links in 30 days. One is through some kind of grand linkbait scheme and the other is through spamming. I wouldn’t trust my eggs in either of those baskets.

Clearly, this SEO should not resort to spamming regardless of how much pressure the client is applying, but is designing a really big linkbait attempt really that much better? I mean, yeah, it’s better in that it’s ethical, but it’s not exactly reliable. I’m all for social media and using it to better an optimization campaign, but linkbait alone does not an SEO campaign make. Social media should be used as a complement to an already formed campaign. Digg-bait is not SEO. It’s why people outside the industry hate us.

Someone needs to educate this client and explain that real search engine optimization takes both time and effort. If they’re not willing to write content until after they’ve already secured links, then I’m not sure what to say to that client other than goodbye.

I also don’t like that by agreeing to jump through these ridiculous hoops, the SEO is basically giving off the impression that it’s the SEO who is responsible for the success of a search engine optimization campaign. This could not be further from the true. Site owners are the ones responsible for the success or failure of an SEO campaign. We’ll give you the tools and show you how to use them, but you have to put them to use.

It frustrates me to see SEOs stuck in situations like these because they really are avoidable. All it takes it establishing reasonable expectations before the contract is signed and the project is started. Part of being an SEO means being able to deal with clients and it’s clear that this SEO was not able to do that.

How do you prevent yourself from falling into a similar situation? You talk with the client and set clear, attainable goals from the state. You keep the lines of communication open and tell the client what you need from them, not the other way around. You’re crystal clear up front what kind of tactics you will and will not employ during the course of the campaign. And lastly, you educate your client on what exactly goes into an optimization campaign. Education is key if you don’t want clients trying to bully you into delivering 20 authority links in 30 days for a measly $500.

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7 responses to “How Not to Deal With Clients”

  1. CasieG writes:

    “All it takes it establishing reasonable expectations before the contract is signed and the project is started.”

    I think this is one of the most important aspects of an SEO campaign. Gosh, there is nothing better than a client who knows what’s going on and what they should expect. Nice post!

  2. Doug Heil writes:

    Lisa; you are faaaar too kind. I know you are nice most all the time, but where is the line drawn? Our industry is just too politically correct. When does it cease to be politically correct and fall into a case where our industry destroys itself because of the political correctness?
    If anyone read all the replies to the original poster in that thread, they can quickly see that there was almost no teaching whatsoever. No one said one word about why this is very bad stuff.
    Would you Lisa or would Bruce Clay actually take any amount of money at all from “any” one for the same task under the same circumstances? NO; neither one of you would. Not 500. Not $5000. No amount of money would you take for this.
    Our industry really needs to stop this stuff. We need to start taking firm stands about what is right, and what is simply false and very wrong.
    I know that Bruce is doing his very best with things, but what he is doing and what other’s are doing just isn’t working… including me. Something needs to be done or the industry can continue on and on with things as they are.
    That thread is pathetic. There; I’ll say it. More of this industry needs to start saying the same thing. Politics needs to stay in Washington where it belongs.

  3. Allan Schmidt writes:

    Excellent post.

    Bear in mind though, that the advice does not only apply to your industry. It applies to almost every consulting company with customers.

    It’s the person who makes the sales that needs to be educated to take a stand instead of making ridiculous deals.

  4. Paul Bradish writes:

    20 PR6 one way links for less than $500 – is this even possible? Not if they are quality, relative links that’s for sure (or else they’d be very temporary).
    I’m a little disappointed that the SEO would even attempt this and hope that he’s at least being paid rather well, because not only is he ultimately going to fail but he’s also setting yet another unrealistic client expectation.
    Sorry to be so negative. It’s 7AM and I’m cranky trying to register for PubCon!

  5. Astone Agency writes:

    I would never promise anything to the client. It’ is impossible to predict the rankings especially if you are trying to target very competitive keywords.

  6. paisley writes:

    I agree with CasieG.
    potential (not after the meeting, before the meeting.. lol), client the other day wanted detailed document that listed everything we were going to do and when we were going to do it so he could give it to his webmaster to approve before he signed our estimate..
    plus… tomorrow the whole link thingy could be gone in one fell swoop by google.

  7. Wil Reynolds writes:

    This is part of the issue with the proliferation of mis-information in a vaccuum. Very often clients don’t know what is reasonalbe and unreasonable.

    They just hear that links from PR6 sites and higher is a good thing, and make the request. THIS IS NOT THEIR FAULT. It is the job of the SEO to take the time to explain how that might not be a good idea and why.

    Additionally, I tell clients all the time that I don’t care as much where they rank, but how their revenues are impacted by SEO efforts. In the same way that they shouldn’t care about how many links we get, but more about the revenue it drives (assuming that we don’t use spam for links which of course we don’t).

    If SEO’s don’t stop to explain and educate even a little bit, it just makes the job that much harder for all of us. But hasn’t this always been the plight of SEO, and will likely always be?



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