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When an SEO Client Is Only Interested in One Keyword

Yes, you read that right—one keyword. An SEO client I worked with a few years back was adamant about it. They wanted all their SEO efforts focused on one main keyword, no variations, no long tail, no nothing. Keep in mind that this was in a pre-Penguin world so even though diversification of anchor text was important, the repercussions of failing to diversify weren’t quite as well recorded and publicized. Every month our phone conversations would go something like this:

SEO Client: “We sell purple widgets. That is what we sell so that’s the keyword we want to go after.”

Me: “I understand that, but if you only use ‘purple widgets’ as a keyword, you are limiting the long-term success of your SEO. Plus, ‘purple widgets’ is highly competitive so it is going to be a while before you start making headway there. ”

SEO Client: “But that’s what we sell.”

Me: “But plenty of your customers are searching for mauve widgets and lilac widgets and plum widgets. These are still great variations of your product that we can do really well for.”

SEO Client: “Well, we only care about ranking number one for ‘purple widgets.’ Nothing else matters.”

For several months I went back and forth with my client on this, but they refused to budge. They only cared about doing well for one keyword, and so my hands were tied. I can’t force a client to listen to my recommendations. At the end of the day, I work for them, and I have to do what they give me the green light to do.

But every month I pleaded my case and did my best to explain why going after one keyword was such a risky SEO venture. And wouldn’t you know it, a few months into their link building, I got a phone call from my client wanting to know why their traffic hadn’t increased the way they were expecting.

Me: “Because there is only so much search volume for ‘purple widgets,’ and like I mentioned, it’s extremely competitive. Your site is going up against some major industry players that have been targeting ‘purple widgets’ for a lot longer than you have.

SEO Client: “Well, how can we drive more traffic to our site?”

Me: “Let’s start targeting more keywords and long tail variations.”

SEO Client: “No.”

Eventually this SEO client and I parted ways. The last time I checked, they had gone out of business because, among other things, they had put all their SEO eggs in one keyword’s basket. When they failed to unseat the big players in their industry for that keyword, the whole company failed because they had no alternative traffic sources. Any SEO professional could tell you that this is a pretty quick route to failure.

As SEO consultants and professionals, we are sometimes limited by our clients. At the end of the day, we can only do so much if they aren’t willing to listen to our recommendations. That’s why it is so important to take the time to educate your clients and prospects. They might not need or want to know the nitty gritty details, but it’s important that they at least understand the overall picture so they know how an SEO campaign pieces together.

This can be extra hard when you’re working with a client that has been burned by a black hat SEO practitioner or a spammy SEO provider or when you’re working with a client that thinks they know SEO better than you do (Then why hire us?), but you have to keep plugging away at it.

I may not have been able to get this particular client to understand why targeting only one keyword was a bad idea, but you better believe that from that moment on, that became one of the first things I make sure any new client understands completely.

I’d love to hear from other SEO providers. What are some crazy/weird/dangerous requests you’ve gotten from clients regarding their SEO programs? How did you counter their requests?

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ GrandeDuc

Category SEO
Nick Stamoulis Brick Marketing

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO firm. With nearly 13 years of experience ...

When an SEO Client Is Only Interested in One Keyword

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