10 Things Most SEO Consultants Hate

Image via Crestock.com  under license

Image via Crestock.com under license

Having spent over ten years as an SEO consultant, I’ve gathered a list of “top ten challenges” (or, as I think of them, my pet peeves) about the industry and our clients.

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences to share with our community. I’ll go first, and list out 10 things that challenge and push SEO consultants to come up with their very best efforts.

1.  Fascination With Quick Fixes

Our clients, normally savvy business owners, are strangely driven by the urge for “quick fixes” in their SEO. Even though they understand the complexity of SEO and the potential benefits from getting it right, many just want a quick win.

My clients are evaluated on their quarterly or annual results. Even though my convincing pitch with fact-based reasoning demonstrates that they will double revenue from organic search by taking a long-term approach and working on a 24- to 36-month timetable, I still see resistance. They don’t like this. They want faster results. They prefer 12 month horizons.

Often, I’ll get anxious client emails before board meetings. They’ll break down our organic traffic goal into a 12-monthly figure, get pretty graphs drawn, and then discover (to their dismay) that the traffic we’re receiving is nowhere near what we “agreed upon at our initial discussion.”

Businesses should understand that organic search is important, and it cannot be rushed. Quick fixes may deliver quick wins, but it is unreal to expect them to be sustained and long-lasting.

2.  ”But My Competition Does…”

One of the toughest questions I’ve had to field begins with, “My competitors are doing _____ , so why can’t I?”

Many sites ignore Google’s guidelines and exploit loopholes in the search giant’s algorithms. They indulge in practices like shady link-building, exact match domains, ranking on duplicate content, and so on. In the near term, sometimes, these techniques help them outrank other businesses.

As an SEO consultant, I get frustrated at hearing Google’s never-ending string of (rarely implemented) rosy promises and dire threats to discourage webmasters against such practices.

In Norway, we have 5 million citizens. That isn’t many. But when I’m responsible for SEO strategy at some of the biggest, highest-traffic sites in the country, I am frequently left red-faced at Google’s lack of effective responses to such under-handed and crooked tricks to game search rankings. My personal opinion is that Google isn’t quite good at filtering out low-quality content in Norway. Even when I report poor-quality sites, nothing happens.

There are times when I even feel sorry for my clients. Their competitors have been using tricky techniques for years, and yet nobody stops them or penalizes them for such actions. They make a lot of money through their shenanigans. On the other hand, my clients are practicing ethical and white-hat SEO, adopting best practices and respecting guidelines, only to find themselves outranked by low-quality sites. It’s frustrating for SEO consultants. Have you ever felt the same, or had similar experiences?

3.  The Conundrum of “Hourly Rates”

So, I’m called to bid on an SEO consulting project. I make a presentation, hand over my proposal… and a few days or weeks later, my prospective client will call to complain that my hourly rate is too high. They love everything else about my proposal, but try to negotiate a lesser rate, saying that my competitors claim they can do it at a lower price.

Well, that’s true. They can. And it’s because they have a different approach and attitude toward SEO. Instead, wouldn’t it be nice when clients look at how much more money I’m going to add to their bottom-line? At how quickly I can help them achieve their financial goals and targets? At how effectively I can help them grow their business?

Look, a good SEO consultant is so much more than just a technical specialist. A great SEO consultant is excellent with analytics. Armed with access to valuable data, a consultant can help with your business development needs, guiding you grow your business in new ways. It is meaningless to evaluate such value by “hourly rates,” yet we see it all the time. How do you deal with it?

4.  SEO Cannot Compensate For A Poor Product

SEO can’t fix everything. I know that’s contrary to industry-driven myths, but hey! If your product, service or customer care are mediocre or just not “awesome,” you should fix that first before you call in the SEO guy (or gal) to get you more traffic.

SEO can amplify your business results. If you have a great offer which adds value to people, SEO will help you expand your reach and help many more people while making a bigger profit.

5.  Learn To Say “No” More Often

I should follow my own advice! Sometimes I get a bad feeling when a prospective client calls for a meeting. Maybe he wants to switch agencies for the 3rd time in 2 years. He isn’t happy with his present SEO vendor, or recently had a confrontation, and so, wants to change consultants.

I’ve often found that these clients are impatient, frustrated, and difficult to work with. Any trivial thing can affect their behavior and attitude toward their SEO consultant. A sleepless night, a bad quarter, a rough review by their boss, and they’ll impulsively leap to random conclusions, second-guessing your judgment, and blaming everyone but themselves.

It’s a bad situation to be in, as a consultant. Such a client’s attitude can drain your motivation and mess up your mood. You have to promptly break off these relationships. Say “No” when you see it coming. Cry “Stop” when it begins with an existing client.

Yes, you may lose an account. But it’s still the right decision. Keeping on “energy vampires” as clients can have devastating consequences on the rest of your consulting business.

6.  An Obsession Over Hit-Counters

People love “hit counters.” Ok, maybe hit counters isn’t the right way to describe this. But, many clients still place disproportionate emphasis on page views, search rankings and other such low-quality KPIs (key performance indicators).

None of these correctly reflect your business’ performance. You need to focus on the right KPIs. Ones that are actionable, and which contribute directly to bottom-line profitability. Those are the ones you seek to improve through your SEO strategy.

In many clients’ eyes, ranking is still king. But, SEO consultants understand that a site’s placement in the SERPs is only a rung in the ladder to business success. Without an acceptable conversion rate, more sales and higher profit as a consequence, even a #1 ranking on Google will be worthless.

7.  SEO Is Still Icing On The Cake

A few business owners cherish a naive belief in the ability of SEO to transform everything and magically create results. So, they put off consulting an SEO expert until everything else is ready with their website development.

Unfortunately, when this poorly planned and constructed site generates sub-optimal results, fixing it will need expensive changes. It’s far better to involve an SEO consultant right from the planning phase so that all aspects of your commercial website will work in harmony and synchronize with other elements to deliver stellar results.

8.  IT Consultants Can Fix Everything

It still amazes me that my family will call whenever they have trouble with their printer, PC, mobile phone, scanner, or have a virus problem — just because I’m an “IT Consultant.” Sometimes, they’ll even call for help with their TV, cable connection, or satellite dish!

It’s the same story at work, too. Clients don’t see a difference between a Web designer, Web developer, paid search expert, or SEO consultant. They figure that “If you’re an IT manager, you should be able to fix everything that runs on electricity.” Well, that’s not how it works!

9.  ”Content Is Easy”

Sorry, it’s not. Unless all you need is to fill in some white space with text and stuff it with keywords.

Time and again, I hear clients saying they can handle content by themselves. I no longer go into raptures of delight when clients say they have a “good copywriter or writer on their staff.” Rarely, if ever, do those writers have a good understanding of SEO.

Whenever I’ve relied on these “inside experts,” I’ve been disappointed and ended up having to teach them how to do what’s needed. That also cuts into my SEO budget, wasting time that’s better spent on other SEO tasks. Does this sound familiar?

10.  Getting Paid Per Link

When the SEO discussion turns to link building, the issue of buying links crops up. In the aftermath of Google’s Penguin update, it’s weird to even hear that businesses dare buy links from people offering “pay per link” deals.

This is risky, and I always turn down such requests from clients. But, some still go ahead with shady or black-hat link building techniques, and then blame SEO consultants when the ax falls on their business’ head.

So there. These are my pet peeves about being an SEO consultant. I’m sure there are many others you’ve faced in your career. Please go on and share them in the comments below. Let’s get some discussion going on these vexing problems and talk about how to solve them.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is Head Of SEO at MediaCom Norway. He has over 10 years of experience specializing in digital strategy, e-commerce and SEO. Trond is the author of the books "Importance of SEO for Your Online Business" and "Power Social Media Marketing". He can be found on Twitter @TrondLyngbo.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://twitter.com/centpercent Raj GROVER

    Thanks Trond. These are the top 10 most difficult points to convince the clients. You’re right. Clients need ‘quick fix’, ‘instant results’, ‘low hourly rates’ , ‘high ranking on Google’ , ‘way ahead of their competition’. They don’t try to understand their own limitations, rather expect SEO consultants to have a magic stick to change the fortune of their website instantly.

  • http://twitter.com/Yakezie Yakezie

    Do you think the SEO is disappearing since there are so many tools that make SEO easy to implement and google’s changes have continued to debunk SEO efficacy time and time again?

  • http://twitter.com/lukeglassford Luke Glassford

    I get number 2 all the time – very annoying and frustrating to tell a client not to do something ‘spammy’ while their competitors continue to rank high and don’t get penalised!

  • keaner

    ha no. because the tools “make it easy” does not mean they do it right. Its often people who know nothing of SEO that use these “Easy Tools”.

    Please explain this :”google’s changes have continued to debunk SEO efficacy time and time again?”

  • Randy Stuck

    #2 Is definitely not restricted to Norway. Here in the US it’s just as big of a deal. It’s quite frustrating to have to say, “I don’t want to risk your brand for the purpose of shady tactics,” over and over again… Google, stop making good SEO’s look bad.

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

    I guess we all have our different peeves due to different types of clients. Many of my clients seem to think 12 months is way too long. No matter how well they say they understand long term goals, the time it takes, etc – I still get that call after a week asking why they aren’t #1 for everything. I often have to pitch my services as if it was a new client on a monthly basis – even when it is an amazingly good month.

    I’d like to add “helpful” clients who decide to buy links on fiverr, add lots more keywords to the carefully crafted page titles, make all the meta descriptions the same as the home page “for consistency”, or just plain do the opposite of what I recommend because of something they read somewhere… Really, if you hire a consultant, are you paying for knowledge and guidance, or are you paying for someone to argue with?

  • http://twitter.com/MandyModGirl Mandy McEwen

    Completely agree with those! I have definitely learned to say “No” more than I say “yes” – I feel like many companies don’t understand how much work it really is. It’s not like we command our fees b/c we are taking advantage of them. SEO is an ever-changing field and if you want an SEO consultant that actually keeps up with the times and engages in best practices, not spammy link-building, then you need to invest a decent amount of money and not just 1 time. Bottom line – you get what you pay for an nowhere is this more accurate than in the SEO world.
    Thanks for the article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andreakoz Andrea Koz

    Also, on-page is seen as easy compared to comprehensive SEO that includes both page and technical. The back end can get so complicated that there’s still solid career options for SEOs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andreakoz Andrea Koz

    You had me at “low quality KPIs.”

  • http://twitter.com/CheapFitness Steve Blackburn

    story of my life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sergey.lucktinov Sergey Lucktinov

    No tool will replace good SEO professional.

  • http://twitter.com/amalsilva Amal Silva

    Me too get number 2 most of the time and I have to do lot of work no number 5 as well.
    Thanks for the article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.xiao.39 Bob Xiao

    The best SEO consultants story I’ve ever read(not “one of”)

  • seonaresh

    I am absolutely delighted with the way the author has presented the
    problems faced by SEO professional. Atleast, from now onwards the
    service seeker should respect the limitations of the field and allow
    full freedom to the professional they hired.

  • Devanur Rafi

    Excellent article and very true. We SEO consultants unfortunately face clients with unrealistic expectations. ‘Educating the client’ has become a part of life for most of us.

  • Guest

    Learning to say no is an important skill to have. You know that nagging feeling you get when you feel like the client may not be the best fit for your business? Listen to it. There are many good reasons to say no. The easiest way to find out if a client is the right fit for you is to ask a lot of questions and communicate reasonable expectations for the results of your work. Thanks for the article Trond. I suspect that you’ve hit a chord with many SEO professionals, regardless of whether they’ve left a comment or not.

  • Mansoor Shaikh

    Yes..That is so true. One of my client who have eCommerce website want to drive traffic for his website. He knows that his niche is high competitive and still want to get ranking for his keywords in low time frame. I very well know in SEO we can predict ranking but we can not predict time frame for what time exactly the keywords will be in ranking. They need to understand that SEO is not a hurry job if we do it wrong way the whole campaign will be nothing but waste of time and money. When they say your competitors are offering much lower than you that means he must be tasting you as if you lower your bid amount with same time frame and result.

    By the way I want to read this article my client. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/VNiranjan Niranjan VibhanDik

    Now I don’t to put lots of efforts to convince my client. I will just tell him have look up on your point of “IT consultant can fix everything”. Thank you Trond.

  • http://twitter.com/NurraizanA nurraizan azal

    Hi Trond Lyngbø Thanks for the insights. I guess clients have high expectations of the SEO result because they don’t really know how SEO works. Hence I agree with you, that every client, should be reminded that SEO effect is not immediate. And that the SEO effort needs to be documented, so if the client is doing other forms of SEO that the SEO agency doesn’t know about, it will not be detrimental to the total result.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seoexpert2 Yosh Anown

    aw, that’s a big yes!
    having these kind of problems too.
    Especially when they think they are right.

  • http://twitter.com/perSEO_perse Jorge Alonso

    It seems to me that sometimes the unique way to make understandable and credible what Trond is greatly explaining here (and I completely agree) is that the person listening to it is another SEO consultant that, at the same time, is part of the client in-house staff or a colleague. SEO is not an act of faith but it is (or should be) a work based on experience, extensive knowledge and comprehension about search engines, online-offline market and users behavior. Also, every opinion is valid but to contract an SEO professional and then constantly doubt about every single advice and recommendation given is like go to the doctor and disagree its opinion and take other medication rather than the prescribed one (or just not to take any).

    PS. On the other hand, we must admit that SEO usually changes so fast, that some kind of external (and internal) skepticism is almost a need.

  • http://www.merlinox.com Merlinox

    May I add the “keyword rank obsession”? Clients that watchs only one/two keyword rank and are uncare about conversion-organic traffic-quality-… ;)

  • Nicola Brown

    Thanks for the post – it made me laugh (slightly despairingly) with recognition at many of these. So pleased to hear we’re not the only ones banging our head on the desk at some clients behaviour. I love the clients who let us get on with what we know best and this is when we can get fantastic results. The others who like to think they (or their friend
    down the pub) know best seem to like wasting their money on good advice only to throw it all away with a few of their own mis-judged changes to their seo campaigns. Guess who gets the call a few weeks later to ask why their rankings have changed! From experience, client education is an ongoing process within any campaign. As well as the
    ability to quickly spot a client’s diy attempt at seo before they become seo disasters.

  • http://twitter.com/an_in_di_ta Anindita Debnath

    Did I say amen? :)

  • Chris R

    LOL, I totally understand. I have heard similar things

  • Jim Teresinski

    One thing I find interesting in regards to articles you find about SEO on sites like Search Engine Land and many other SEO providers sites even, about link building, is that almost always they feature an advertisement for – yep, some link building company. Here apparently, Page One Power is even one of Search Engine Lands sponsors for gosh sakes. Seems pretty hypocritical to advise us to not have anything to do with a product/service you’re promoting yourselves

  • http://twitter.com/recovreputation Steven W. Giovinco

    Oh, yes, thanks for the post! Saying “no” is important, and I’ve paid for not doing so (I’m on the reputation management side, where it might be even more important to stay clear of difficult clients). Number 1–the quick fix–is also, well, number one request for clients too.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    “Their competitors have been using tricky techniques for years, and yet nobody stops them or penalizes them for such actions.”

    It seems like I am constantly fighting that battle as well. Yes, your competition is doing it and yes, they are getting away with it–but no, you can’t do that. I know it’s so frustrating to play by the rules and feel like the cheaters are pulling ahead but you just have to stick to your guns.

  • http://optimizefuquayvarina.com/ Stephen Peacock

    I agree with your whole list but am totally feeling “Content is Easy” with a current project. Thanks for venting for us all!

  • Clay

    Great post! I have the perfect client to share this with!!!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Can I use it on my blog?

  • http://twitter.com/1weekSEO Nina Greaves

    My favourite is age old but I still get is asked weekly: How long before I get to Page 1 of Google and how much will it cost?

  • Dino Maiolo

    One that I’ve heard a lot from prospects lately, “I heard SEO is dead.” Usually from clients who have had experience with #2 on your list.

  • http://twitter.com/HeatherMktg Heather Curtis

    #8 – just had to deal with this yesterday

  • Matt McGee

    We don’t allow our articles to be reprinted elksewhere, Clay. Sorry. Feel free to write about the article if you wish, of course.

  • robthespy

    A few things I tell our clients ( & prospective clients):

    -You’re hiring a consulting service….

    -If you decide to implement our suggestions, we will be all over your marketing, development, management and IT staff to get them done. Even if we have to come into your office every week to make sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be. And remember, you’re paying us by the hour.

    -We don’t guarantee rankings, sales or ROI. We do guarantee measurable results…after establishing goals and clear lines of reporting.

    -Here’s an example of what we expect from our clients over a six month period. Is that something your organization can handle? If not, please call us when you can.

  • Sabeeh ul Hassan

    100% agreed. I just hate that moment when clients ask Pay for Performance.

  • Guest


  • Derek Abbring

    I think this article is quite self satisfying to the seo who knows it takes countless hours of dedicated work thats built from a solid knowledge & understanding of what it takes to rank a site for the terms we are after. With that being said, I would also like to make #11…social focus over search traffic. With the grounds being that too many business are allocating way to many resources to try and build (and hopefully retain) a large social following that migrates toward the website for conversions. Yet, social traffic seems to be across the board, the least valuable traffic.. specially when compared to the targeted search engine traffic any decent seo’er can obtain.

  • http://m1c.com/ Ali Almoosawi

    You are reading my mind, as a web consultant! Mandy, i agree with you too, if they don’t want to invest, then i will not waste my time with such clients. Loved the article..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Timcanfixitnow/100001341338122 Tim Timcanfixitnow

    Excellent, except I was was expecting the number 1 answer to the title ”

    10 Things Most SEO Consultants Hate” would be not to be noticed for helping others GET noticed.

  • http://www.interneta-vietnes.lv Una

    I’m from Baltic states and here people still don’t understand that you should pay for services like this. I had one potential client who said at the end that he is going to do everything by himself. Not to mention that previously he didn’t even know what Internet Marketing is. I have spent hours and hours talking with him, researching, but at the end he paid me 0 and didn’t even thank me.

  • Steve Palmer

    And if it was easy everyone would be doing it … actually, everyone IS doing it! They just aren’t doing it correctly. It’s good too know others are having the same experiences in our line of work.

  • Gui

    Hei Una, I’m also working in the Baltic States (Estonia) and even in that very IT-skilled-oriented country, it looks like SEO (and in general webmarketing) is quite a new thing. I had a very similar example a few months ago but that was for a job offer. I had a first meeting with the CEO of a small SMS Gateway to talk marketing strategy/SEO .. it went well and after the meeting he promised he’ll send me an offer soon (I never received it of course) but he would like me to write down a full SEO strategy for him !? Obviously I replied I could not do that as I was already employed and that’s something I would do as my first task at my new position.. never heard from that guy ever again !

  • Gui

    Unfortunately all this is true.. it’s so hard to find people who really understand SEO and do not ask you every day, ‘so where are we with our SEO?’

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

    Not sure what ad network(s) SEL is using, but a lot of ads you see are based on things the individual user has searched or visited and are not usually hand picked by the site’s editorial staff. I think that is what is happening here. I don’t see any link building ads, just Google Engage for Agencies – probably because I’ve recently been searching for some PPC info. So if you keep seeing ads for Page One Power everywhere, you have probably visited that site or searched something their ad campaign is targeting.

    That said, I guess they could block certain advertisers that have a clear conflict of interest with the messaging of SEL.

  • http://twitter.com/MrMazharShah Mazhar Shah

    Well, I enjoyed reading useful post about to the SEO consultancy! Special i like the people response about to their justification about getting result or not. :)

  • Tarun Bharadwaj

    sir, completely agree with 1st and 2nd one….clients need results so quickly.

  • Jane Carroll

    If you think Annie`s story is flabbergasting,, one week ago mom in-law basically easily made $5551 putting in an eleven hour week from their apartment and the’re buddy’s step-sister`s neighbour done this for four months and earned over $5551 parttime on- line. applie the advice from this site, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Bryan Gauthier

    I probably agree to those 10 most challenging situations that SEO consultants really hate. The very first thing I hate the most is that the quick fixes. Yes, I know that it is really our aim to top rank easily but in doing such thing is very hard. There are some techniques that could help you to top rank easily but it will not long last since you have a lot of competitors in this industry and also Google algorithms keeps on updating so we are not really sure that we could stick to be on top at all times and as fast as you wanted. It is said that patience is a virtue.

  • http://twitter.com/paticalamaro Patricia Del Cerro G

    Point number 2! OMG. Finally sndy said it. Here in Argentina happens the same as in Norway. I see a lot of times sitess using black hat and I cant believe they rank so well!
    But I think this same thing happens in Latin American sites too. Sometimes (well, often) I think Google only cares about US and UK (England) and that they are only strict with them.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide