For an SEO campaign to be successful it requires a good working relationship between the client and the SEO. Too often this relationship gets off on the wrong foot or worse still it is non existent right from the start. Bad SEO clients can be toxic as they can lead to disgruntled employees and even an unwarranted bad reputation for your agency. Here are 7 types of SEO clients that you might want to think twice about working with.
The keyword obsessive
The keyword obsessive only has eyes for the SERPs and where they are positioned on them. Of course everybody would like to be ranking 1st on Google but sometimes this just isn’t possible if you are a small company up against much bigger competitors with budgets to match. Gone are the days where SEO’s could pretty much guarantee page 1 rankings even for difficult keywords. In modern SEO keywords rankings are far less important than increasing traffic and ultimately conversions.
You would assume that most business owners would recognise that increasing conversions (whatever they might be) is the main objective of any SEO campaign and as such that should be their main concern. In many cases with the keyword obsessive however ego has a big part to play. They want to see that they are top dogs in the SERPs and that they are outranking particular competitors.
Solution: the only way to protect yourself against the keyword obsessive is to take keywords out of the equation as much as possible. It’s difficult to do this completely as they are necessary for your content strategy and on page optimisation but you can remove any mention of keywords from your reporting instead focusing on the really important metrics such as goal completions, new visitors, user engagement etc.
The impatient timekeeper
The impatient timekeeper wants to be number 1 in Google but don’t worry they know it might take a week or 2! Their failure to grasp the complexities involved in SEO means that they will constantly be on your back asking why they haven’t moved up in the rankings despite you warning them at the beginning that it will most probably take a few months before they see any meaningful results.
It’s this type of client that can do the most damage to the morale of your staff as they are usually pretty consistent with their requests for an update which can really start to grate after a while.
Solution: In depth competitive analysis is vital at the proposal stage. Do your research so that you have a good idea of when they are likely to see positive results and then add some time on top of that just to air on the side of caution as SEO is not an exact science. Make sure that the client knows at this consultation stage how long it should take before they see results that way they can’t unduly question you a few weeks into the campaign.
“Expert” is in inverted commas as they are anything but. This is a particularly annoying form of client as they believe that they know just as much, if not more about SEO than you do. They’ve read a couple of blog posts and learned a few buzzwords and they want to make sure that you know they are clued up.
It’s difficult to work with a client who questions your every suggestion especially when they want to stuff their content full of keywords, use keyword rich anchor text, submit their website to every directory imaginable and whatever other outdated SEO cliches you can think of.
Solution: This solution requires a bit of diplomacy as once again ego plays a bit role in this type of client mindset. You need to explain to the client that although it’s commendable that they are showing such interest in SEO that they are ultimately misguided. Do this by explaining how quickly SEO evolves and while their ideas were once valid they are now outdated. Doing this without causing offence is the real trick.
Most of these types of clients can be worked with so long as you lay down realistic goals and timeframes at the beginning however the cynic may be one that you want to avoid completely. The worst form of cynic is the client who has worked with an SEO agency in the past before and has been burned. Straight away this should raise alarm bells as it’s rarely the case that the agency was bad at what they did or lazy and decided just not to work on their campaign. If it was an agency from the same area as you then it’s far more likely to be the case that they were a nightmare client and most probably a combination of the types above. That meant that even know the agency was doing a good job for them, they were too impatient and fixated on keywords to value it and wrongly assumed that the campaign was failing.
Solution: The best approach here is to sit down with the client face to face and go over everything involved in the campaign including the realistic time frames and goals involved. You will know yourself whether it is sinking in or not and if not then it’s time to say thanks but no thanks, it’s better to lose out on their custom than have them bad mouth you too a few months down the line.
The sneak believes that he is a wily fox with a plan to tap you for all of your SEO knowledge then do all the work himself for free, or more probably get the unpaid intern to do it. The sneak can be particularly dangerous as they don’t usually even reach the stage of being a client. They will usually ask for a free audit of their website, which most SEO agencies will offer. They may even meet with you to pick your brains further and find out exactly what you can do for them. They are more than likely doomed to failure of course as it takes a lot more than a report and hour long meeting to become an SEO expert.
Solution: This is a tricky one as you want to be competitive and give potential clients enough information to show that you know what you’re doing but at the same time you have to be guarded. Never tell them everything in your audit/report. If you have spotted issues with the website then only mention a few basic ones. You can tell them that you have noted more but that they will only be addressed when you begin working on the website. It’s good to be transparent but that doesn’t mean that you have to give away everything you’ve learned over the years.
Finding a good SEO client is tricky but you can lay the foundations for a good client/agency partnership early on to increase the chances of it being a successful campaign for both sides. Much of the ground work should be done in the initial consultation phase. All you can do is be open and honest with potential clients and let them know what’s required of them. If they are a good client they will take it on board and try their best to help you to help them. If they still flag up warning signs to you however then move on, it’s much better in the long run as life’s too short to deal with nightmare clients.
Stuart Cooke is the Head of Digital Marketing at Face Communications. He blogs about his general digital marketing musings and industry foibles that he notices along the way.