• http://www.springboardmarketing.com/ Billy McAllister


    This is probably my favorite posts I’ve reads in months. I’ve only been in the industry for a little over 2 years, but all these scenarios/mistakes you mentioned above are something we’ve experienced. Let’s be honest, we often hit the mark in search marketing campaign but, sometimes, budgets just don’t allow for much success to formulate. Combined with improper expectations the relationship seems to sour quickly. At the end of the day, improper expectations really just take the fun out of the entire campaign.

    Really great post. Thank you for having the courage to put yourself out there and admit some of your faults.

  • http://space-wolves-grey.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam

    I’m feeling the pain of this right now. I’m an in house SEO and only discovered a lot of problems with the business 2 months after joining. Without going into too much detail, the entire online business depends on Google rankings. No social. No email marketing. 100% rankings. And we don’t see the fruit of link building work until Christmas.

    It’s a tough gig. And I wish I’d asked a lot more questions in the second interview!

  • sarah bentall

    This is interesting. In my experience, clients don’t want to get involved in deciding what their keywords should be, it’s too much detail for them and they don’t have the time. They just want us to get on with it. They also don’t have time to read the reports we send them. We devised a snapshot report which was a 2-page graphical representation of key SEO results and they don’t read that either. Then we designed a colourful table with about 6 key performance indicators on it that show progress to date, this can be inserted directly into the email we send them, but they don’t read that either. I have one client we’ve been working with for nearly 9 month and he’s never once approved or commented on the key search term list I gave him at the start, except he rang up one day about a month ago to say he’d been talking to a friend of his who thought he ought to be ranking for a certain keyword. That word wasn’t mentioned on their site anywhere. Maybe we’ve just got the wrong clients?

  • http://www.seoagencysydney.com.au/ virginia

    OMG! What a great search marketing (SEO) post. I see this all the time with my clients. I am at the stage where I provide full marketing support as my background comes from old school marketing. Right now If the client is not willing to become involved, I have concerns about working with them. We can provide the traffic to their site, but if the site is not compelling then no SEO is going to work for them. I guess we can sell them a website in the end…sometimes! I also offered free blog writing services to one client, no response. Thanks for this post +Stoney deGeyter

  • Stoney deGeyter

    LOL, Unfortunately that’s typical of many people when they start looking into a site. Yet, all the questions in the world still won’t tell you everything you’ll find once you start diggint in!

  • Stoney deGeyter

    Thanks Billy! I’ve been doing this for 15 years and we are still dealing with the expectation gap. We’ve found that education on expectations is an ongoing process for the life of working with the client.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Superb Stoney, sage veteran advice. With Enterprise clients a key question in the discovery process is also: “will you have the IT resources and buy-in to implement technical recommendations?” SEO crosses many department boundaries and if you don’t have some degree of confidence that the client actually has the clout to make changes in all those areas, disappointment is almost inevitable. “Why haven’t results improved?” “…um, because you haven’t done any of the stuff we suggested?”


    Geez Stoney D how did you get into my head? I was just drafting a post centered on this very topic. We recently ran into this same situation but we decided to take the loss and just severe ties. Needless to say I learned a valuable lesson as a result and will be taking the points you made to heart, especially the vetting process. I’ve never read any of your posts before but will be looking out for them. Have a great weekend everyone!

  • Stoney deGeyter

    You’re welcome! That’s always a concern for us moving forward with a new client. How much buy-in will they have and how involved will they be in the process. We recently had a client reject some of our usability recommendations because they think we only know SEO (and someone is telling them their site is perfect as-is).They don’t get that 1) we know our stuff and 2) this goes hand-in-hand with good rankings. Heck, run some tests and prove us wrong. I love to be wrong!!!! :)

  • Stoney deGeyter

    Totally right. They have to have the people to implement the technical side of SEO that gets into areas that we don’t handle (programming, etc.). There’s lots to so and the SEO can’t do it all.

  • Stoney deGeyter

    Yes, I know everything you’re doing. Thanks for the blog post idea… keep them coming! j/k. It’s fun when you realize other people are in the same boat as you. Misery loves company… but we love getting out of problems together even more!

  • Stoney deGeyter

    That’s pretty typical for a lot of our clients as well. We go through those approval processes on keywords, but they are based on our recommendations. Sometimes clients have comments and sometimes they don’t. We at least give them the chance. Same for optimized content. We give them a chance to edit or reject. But every now and again you get a client that only responds when they think something is wrong. Problem is… something has been wrong. They have not been responding!

  • Pat Grady

    Recent PPC prospect, currently running at 0.3x ROAS, told me he wanted me, if hired, to aim for 20.0x. Point being, this article doesn’t just apply to SEO. :-)

  • Stoney deGeyter

    Very true Pat. It’s just good marketing sense all the way around. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • http://www.springboardmarketing.com/ Billy McAllister

    I hear you, Adam. Just acquired a client for a local search marketing campaign. However, we did not discover until later that the client often hangs up on people when he does not want/need the business and has even forced some people to tears on the phone (according to several reviews). It comes back to the “help us, help you” mentality. If we want to win local, we can’t have people you hung up on and yelled at writing negative reviews. Had we known this beforehand, not necessarily someone we’d like to associate with (or work with!).

    In order to avoid these problems in the future, we’ve been actively working to create a lengthy discovery process. Before we engage, we need to know what your clients think of your brand, what your employees think of your brand and what the internet thinks of your brand. We’ll then develop deliverables and either say A) Here’s our strategy and plan to move forward or B) We don’t see this as a good fit, but here’s our strategy and plan for you to have.

    The situation you have on your hands is very scary. To have a client who depends on rankings to keep their business afloat must be extremely stressful. Best of luck with that!

  • http://www.springboardmarketing.com/ Billy McAllister

    ^^ This discovery process may sound basic, but we’re an 8-person start-up that began in 2011. Like everyone else, we’re learning as we go.

  • http://www.springboardmarketing.com/ Billy McAllister

    If there were a list that would honestly address every questions to avoid pitfalls, it would grow like a to-do list anyway. Not to mention the client does not have time to fill it out thoroughly and who can blame them.

  • http://www.seoimr.com/ Steve Sharp

    I can relate to this article and I’m sure if we all put our collective minds together we could go on and on. My mantra is I’m always looking for 5 more good clients. Wish I knew how to find them.

  • http://www.seoagencysydney.com.au/ virginia

    Yes really Stoney!! I’m thinking about leveraging some of the data from the online ‘marketing experiments’ guys as its science for them. Only thing is a lot of their info and videos as soooo long! I’ll pass something along once i start looking properly. Virginia

  • drneelesh

    Loved the post. And learned a few things.

  • Erik
  • Myron_Rosmarin

    Printing this out and hanging it on my wall. May force myself to re-read this every morning. Great post Stoney!

  • http://web-tasks.com/home/pricing Small Business SEO

    Thanks for the informative blogs…

  • http://www.otriadmarketing.com/ Christopher Skyi

    “We tried to work with the client to create a UVP (unique value proposition) that would help them stand out from their competitors.”

    This is absolutely the most difficult thing to get clients to do. To the extent they fail to do this (and no one can do it but them) is the extent any marketing effort, SEO or otherwise, will fail.

    Second, and highly correlated with a failure to work on their UVP, is the expectation that marketing, SEO or otherwise, should “deliver” fast results independent of the client’s business model, clarity of thinking about what they have to uniquely offer, and — frankly — independent of any consideration of whether they are any good at what they claim do to (relative to their competitors).

    “Bad” clients/businesses focus only on the prize (ranking, money) — they don’t value what it take to earn the prize. Like the frat boy who blows off classes all semester and then a few days before the final exam expects a tutor to give him everything he needs to get that “A” he now so desperately needs.

    Sometimes the client/business is just lazy and they don’t feel like doing the hard work of communicating their value to their potential customers. Sometimes the client/business just sucks at what they do (maybe they were never any good or maybe now they’re just tired of, and they don’t care about, what they’re doing but they don’t know what else to do). In either case they tend to look to SEO to “save them,” and more often than not, they need saving “right now.”

  • Noah Parks

    Great Post Stoney, If only all of the customers out their would trust and listen to the advice we give them. Its hard sometimes trying to help them understand the certain things they need. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • http://www.techeditz.com/ Ellen Partal

    LOVED THIS!! My mantra is “I can’t want it more than they do” I just keep saying it as I walk away. I had a client tell me “I don’t care about analytic and reporting, I just want some good traffic and the phone ringing”.
    Thank you for this great article.