8 Topics Guaranteed to Drive Every Good SEO Consultant Mad

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Sentences like “Your competitors are much cheaper!” or “We will pay as soon as all our keywords are in position 1.”  make many a SEO consultant send hurried prayers to heaven. After a while on the job, everyone experiences situations that push you to your limit. An SEO consultant’s everyday work is constantly changing and full of new challenges, but to often we are confronted with clients who have little experience with SEO. More often than not, these clients have utopian ideas concerning performance or ridiculous requirements that make even the most patient SEO consultant pull their hair.

We have collected eight common situations SEOs face. Writing them down, however, is intended to amuse (former) SEO consultants and perhaps open up a dialogue. Maybe this list is the perfect occasion to revisit topics and explain them once more in order to make the collaboration more effective and efficient.

“Content is only relevant for search engines…”
Creating content requires balancing additional value for users and optimization for search engines. Good SEO consultants have long since taken this to heart and roll their eyes when they hear: “Content is King!” For some clients, however, content is secondary and they don’t realize the importance of captivating text. Some even want to hide the text near the footer, to avoid decreasing conversion rates. It can be a real challenge to convince clients that content offers unexpected opportunities. Instead of hiding content, clients need to understand how essential it is to give the user a reason to share, like, tweet and – above all – to return to the site. Creating content should no longer be regarded as a duty but as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

If your customers see content production as a duty, try providing them with good working examples of how content can be optimized to increase the conversion rate. Additionally, consultants should refer to the Google Webmaster Guidelines in order to convince customers of what good content means.
Performance-Based Compensation

Clients who have mostly worked with other online marketing channels often ask for a performance-based compensation for SEO. With SEA, affiliate, and display marketing it is relatively uncomplicated to agree on compensation per click or sale, but it is nearly impossible use performance-based compensation in the SEO field. Good rankings depend on various factors that can’t be influenced by an SEO consultant.

The delayed impact of SEO is another factor that makes performance-based compensation unthinkable. SEO is a long-term, online marketing channel. The effects of the optimization can’t be seen instantly.
“Why haven’t my sales improved?”
Some clients don’t understand that SEO and conversion optimization are two different disciplines in online marketing that ideally go hand in hand. The aim of SEO is to get good rankings in the organic search results and thus generate traffic. How a site converts visitors into customers is the supreme discipline of conversion optimization. Without interaction with conversion optimization, SEO alone can’t make sales rise if the usability of the website, the service, or even the product itself are unsatisfying.

“I’ll make you an offer you can’t resist.”
Sometimes customers compare the offers of several companies and decide on the SEO firm with the cheapest prices. Of course, some SEO consultants offer an unrivaled price, but potential customers should be aware that the gap between good and bad SEO consulting is enormous. In fact, the gap is much larger in performance than in price.

Very good SEO consulting isn’t cheap – and there is a reason for this. Strikingly cheap offers go hand in hand with a low-quality service that falls short on sustainability and maintenance. Worst case, it even inflicts damage. The old adage applies: If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

In case the customer argues for the “cheapest competitor”, you can defuse this point easily. Simply ask your customer for the competitor’s service package, and compare not just costs but also benefit. A detailed evaluation of the two packages will give you the leverage you need to demonstrate why you charge more and show the value of your service.

“Our competitors do it differently…. ”
Many customers pay too much attention to their competition. Of course, you need to keep an eye on your rivals, but it is more important to build a site that meets each company’s specific needs. There are a lot of reasons why their competitors are doing things differently – perhaps they have a huge budget, or even a really small one. Maybe what they are doing isn’t actually working.

For the SEO consultant whose customer only has an eye for the competition, try providing examples of websites from different competitive fields which are well-optimized from an SEO perspective. In the end, the consultant has to argue from a best-practice point of view rather than following the herd. Since you want to be better than the competition, it doesn’t make sense to use the same approach.

SEO Consulting After the Launch of the Website
Some customers consider SEO as the cherry-on-the-top of website design and don’t consider hiring an SEO until after the website is launched. While this can be more cost-effective, there is a great deal of value in SEO advice in the early stages of web development.

In order to convince a client of this, be ready to give examples of optimization methods that should be applied before the launch of a website. For example, a well thought out URL structure. Although it is possible to change the URL structure after the launch, it causes redirects and may even diminish the value of backlinks. Failing to perform an SEO check before the launch of a website can lead to disadvantages in costs and performance. A good overview of Pre Launch SEO can be found at Moz.

SEO for Innovative Product Ideas
Unfortunately, some ideas or products are so innovative that using SEO is not profitable. If the primary keyword set has no search volume (yet), it is pointless to try and optimize a website for it. Users will not search for products or services that don’t know about. In these situations, it is vital to make the audience aware of the product through other marketing channels first.

A good example of an innovative product where SEO is not relevant is Birchbox. The members of Birchbox receive monthly boxes filled with test sizes of products with the idea that clients will like, and hopefully purchase, the products.  However, no client will explicitly search for “monthly products”. This idea spreads more effectively by word of mouth and social media marketing. Certainly, a content marketing strategy may help bring visitors via search engines on a long-term basis, but SEO will never constitute the core of the marketing mix.

Limiting Link-Marketing Actions     
Generating natural links with first-class content paves the way to the top of the SERPs. Some customers, having obtained good rankings with a relevant set of keywords, play with the idea of shutting down the volume of link-marketing activities entirely.

Completely halting link-marketing activities is a bad idea, however, reducing the link-marketing volume has not shown to be problematic. Good rankings can be lost quickly, so make sure to continually monitor results so you can head off any negative trends.

Limiting link marketing methods rarely make sense. Let’s assume that the customer gets 20 links a month via link marketing methods, whereas the competitor gets 10 links. Regardless of the power of the link, the customer will generate 120 links after six months, the competitor only 60.  If you stop building new links, the competitor can easily make up the difference in six months. Just like that, your client loses their competitive edge. Slowing volume of link marketing would, however, keep the competitive advantage if the competitor does not change their strategy. This is a simplified example and many factors influence a good ranking. Still, it makes sense to clarify complex matters using simplified examples for the customer.

These situations are likely familiar to a lot of readers. Hopefully, this reinforces how important it is that project leaders and external SEO consultants work together. The latter should be responsible for guiding the customer through the subject of SEO and assisting with decision-making while discouraging non-purposeful actions.

Of course, these examples also apply your in-house SEO colleagues and managers who might be less familiar with SEO. After you have amused yourselves with this article, why not use it to fuel an interesting and lively discussion over the finer points of SEO?

Andre Alpar
Andre is a German online marketer and enterpreneur with 15 years of experience.
Andre Alpar
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  • http://gurueffect.com Michael George

    I’ve wanted to write an article like this for months. I’m a full-time SEO and have been doing this type of work since 1998. When in college, I had a 400-level systems database analysis class the same year Google showed up. My professor was google-obsessed from Day 1. Back when everyone used Yahoo, Google was super-popular among academics. And I started attempting to manipulate it (for good, not evil) 15 years ago.

    Sorry for the preamble, but it is necessary to make a point: I have a formal education in Management Information and Systems analysis. I have two bachelor degrees and working on a masters. Most importantly, I get results.

    When somebody tells that they found someone cheaper, I can only assume they are hiring somebody without my education. Nobody as smart as me comes cheap. I guess when they tell me that my competition is “cheaper” they are also telling me my competition is less-educated. Perhaps they are telling me that I am too good for them. Maybe all they want is page 3 results and tons of backlinks from directory blogs in the Phillipines.

    As far as guarantees: I do offer my clients reasonable guarantees. For example, if your website is clean and you haven’t paid another SEO company- I’ll definitely make guarantees. But if you come to me with a local business domain that has 87,000,000 links – I don’t guarantee anything. I can’t retroactively guarantee the work of the cheap SEO they hired before they called me.

    • http://www.webdesign-malek.cz Václav Málek

      100% agree with this opinion!

  • http://phoenixseoconsultant.com/ TJ

    Pricing seems to be an area that drives seo consultants mad. We hear all the time mostly from SMBs “I got an email from some random email spammer they can do SEO for $99/mo” or “I don’t want customers to call me if we get good rankings from SEO efforts that don’t pay cash or have money, oh by the way my budget for SEO is $200.00 a month”..

  • http://www.thesalesexpertusa.com tfl

    Great article, it would be funny if it wasn’t ALL true.

  • http://www.overeasyseo.com Ron

    Yup!. Mostly spot on. Sales in particular are interesting. I tell people, “I’ll get them into the door, but then it’s up to you to close the sale.” Having a compelling product line that’s a good value is absolutely necessary, but I’ve been around marketing and advertising long enough to know that you can’t just blurt that out to a client…. None of them want to think that their “stuff” just isn’t good enough….

    @Michael. Yea, the site that has been seriously mangled by former SEO sharks just isn’t worth the trouble. I recently turned down a gig when I saw 20,000+ backlinks. I was honest with the client, and I felt bad for him, but it just wasn’t worth my time and trouble.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/company/quantum-pc-support Quantumpcsupport

    Ya, i faced most of them in my SEO life. It is very difficult to convince clients about our strategy, policy and the tricks we follow. Most of the times they want prompt action but often that is not possible.

    • Daniel

      Especially when they want prompt action but aren’t willing to co-operate when you give them suggestions.

  • http://www.rankhouse.pl Robert

    This article could be translated for every language and mailed to all clients, becouse of it’s line with reality on every market. Thanks Andre and regards from Poland.

  • Daniel

    Seeing on the freelance boards that a client is looking for an SEO but is only willing to pay the same amount as an unskilled bartender would earn reallly grinds my gears.

    • http://www.overeasyseo.com Ron

      We are clearly not the only profession in which the drive to ever lower pay is relentless, but I know exactly what you mean.

      To my mind, SEO is like advertising and I want to tell some clients; in what world did you think you could open a business and not have a hefty ad budget? If the mantra for a good brick and mortar store is “location, location, location,” then I think that “SEO, SEO, SEO” is the same for a website!

  • http://seobandwagon.com/ Kyle Alm

    Yeah, I’ve heard every one of these and have fired every one of those clients after I went out on my own. Don’t forget the client that wants to pay you in referrals.

  • http://www.lightboxwebsolutions.com Casey_Ordoña

    I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes you really have to manage client expectations. Some client’s demand are superficial.

  • http://seovet.com/seo-consulting-services/ Lyman Perrine

    It’s for these exact reasons I am picky about my clients. I only take on clients that meet a certain criteria. Once I know they meet a certain criteria I do a free consultation with them where I show them potential revenue that can be achieved by ranking for certain keywords. This of course all depends if the business in question already has conversion history I can make these assumptions for.

    I then develop a strategy where certain KPI’s are agreed on. I always go for the low hanging fruit. For example I figure out if I can maximize their current 1st page rankings by enhancing their meta data or implement schema to improve CTR for pages responsible for generating revenue or other key businesses goals.

    If you can prove your worth within the first month they will gladly pay you a higher price vs the other cheap SEO services that sell on the premise of 1st page rankings. Business care more about revenue than rankings and that’s where I focus my strategy development.

    If your trying to offer a higher ticketed SEO/marketing service you have to be picky with your clients.

  • http://www.seologist.in/ Mayur

    Perfect 8 pointer. Last month we decided to step up our marketing efforts and guess what we got all sort of weird thing from performance SEO to conversion SEO where client do not want to pay anything until we increase sales.

    This is similar to buying a car and and asking money for petrol from the makers.

  • http://www.burgeonsoftware.com ParamKumar

    I have enjoyed reading your post. So, now it is necessary to share my point of view. Now days doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become one of the difficult task. You must be agreeing with me. Because, Google is regularly updating its algorithm and targeting SEO experts.

    I always follow SEO steps which are suggested by SEJ (Search Engine Journal) Expert Authors. But I have few questions which I want to ask here.

    Some people say content is king and we have to update content of website on a regular basis. So, my question especially to (“Andre Alpar”) is that now SEO is only Content Optimization?

    Please give us proper guidance related to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

  • Zain Shah

    I agree. You typically get what you pay for. You cant expect to pay $10 and receive a $100 service !