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How to Deal With Difficult SEO Clients

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There's such competition in the SEM world that few of us will ever turn down a client, but there are some companies you just don't want business from.

Unfortunately, some clients can unintentionally limit or harm the work you're trying to do on their behalf. It's frustrating. They're usually ambitious for their Web sites, but lack any real understanding of SEO methods.

Marc Poirier's latest article about client reports is true on many levels. So let's look at some of the more difficult types of client, along with some pointers for working with them more effectively.

The Impatient Client

This client wants results yesterday and lacks the patience for a long-term organic SEO campaign. They won't make an investment if they can't see immediate benefits and aren't that interested in the finer points of online marketing.

Usually this kind of customer won't approach legitimate SEO agencies because they get seduced by those less professional outfits guaranteeing top of page one in the SERPs within 48 hours.

How do you keep this kind of client happy? If they don't appreciate the value of long-term organic SEO work and you want to secure them immediate results, then recommend they use PPC advertising. If they want to see an instant correlation between the money they spend and the money they make, then this is the best way to give them what they want.

Of course, this also means they will spend more in the long run and miss out on the benefits of ranking highly in the natural results. That means it's your duty to keep on trying to persuade them to invest in long-term strategies.

The 'Dark Arts' Client

Sometimes, potential clients genuinely believe that optimizing a Web site for search engines is some semi-legal dark art -- just an exercise in fooling search engines. This causes several problems.

This misguided belief prevents them from listening to your general online marketing advice. There are so many ways that other promotional work can benefit SEO and vice versa, but if your client thinks you're essentially just a hacker, then they won't listen to you.

Worse, they will forward you adverts they receive, demanding to know why you aren't submitting their site to thousands of search engines, or something equally useless.

Another issue is that they might engage in some genuinely black hat SEO themselves. For example, a company will come along and sell them links, and suddenly the Web site is being penalized by Google.

It's important to take time to explain the dangers of black hat tactics and the value of organic optimization to these clients. Help them understand the work you're doing.

The 'You're my Fifth Agency This Week' Client

Some companies constantly change SEO agencies, ditching their provider before its work sees any major results and moving on to the next short-lived firm.

They switch SEO agency so often that their Web site never actually gets optimized -- all the work that's been done is lost when a new agency is brought in.

This is likely because their expectations of SEO have never been managed properly. Perhaps some online marketing cowboy promised them they'd be "in the top 10 within a week" for some hugely competitive term and then failed to deliver.

When this kind of client approaches you, make sure they understand what sort of time scale you're working with and tell them frankly what you expect to achieve within that time. That way, they can hold you accountable to realistic ambitions.

It can also help to get some references from happy customers, to show the client the potential outcomes.

The Downright Hostile Client

Some clients don't want your services. They just don't. They mistakenly believe SEO will ruin the Web site's usability, but their boss or board has insisted they work with you.

These people then argue every single change you try to make. Keywords? No, they will ruin the site's integrity. Internal links? Too distracting. Calls to action? Too patronizing.

Sometimes, they will even spontaneously change their Web site without consulting you or considering whether it will affect the SEO strategies you've put in place.

This hostility is often based on a lack of understanding about how good optimization works.

If you can win over this kind of client, you can do amazing work together because they stay focused on the visitor experience rather than just commercial considerations. However, winning them isn't easy. It takes a hell of a lot of perseverance.

The Amateur SEO Client

It's great when clients have a real enthusiasm for SEO. It's excellent when they understand how it will help their business and want to build up a long-term organic campaign.

However, sometimes this enthusiasm can get in the way. If a client reads up on SEO, that's great. But reading a few articles doesn't make them an expert. Some generic online advice won't always be correct for their Web site.

Really, it's possible to waste hours of consultation simply explaining why you aren't using various tactics on a page, or why you're recommending the budget be spent in different ways. You don't want to constantly change your campaign's tactics because the client has read something new.

One good way to maintain that client enthusiasm is to outline the work you'll be undertaking and recommend they read up on those tactics. Point them toward some blogs that you know provide good advice, so they can expand their knowledge and appreciate the value of the work you're doing.

Plan Your Approach

However difficult or indifferent a client, it's obviously essential to forge the best working relationship possible.

When you're planning a client meeting, take a few moments to evaluate how you can best work with them and gain their full support. It makes it more likely that you'll retain them as a client in the long term and that your SEO efforts will succeed.


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