My wife and I had a conversation with our daughter the other day about responsibility. The gist was she wanted to do something that interfered with commitments she already made. We talked to her about how you have to honor your commitments, even when they get in the way of something else you want.

As we talked, we produced a couple of options that allowed her to do what she wanted (albeit less of it) while also allowing her to fulfill her commitments. But, she continued to protest. She wanted what she wanted and no other option was acceptable!

The whole conversation reminded me of conversations I’ve had with clients in the past. You know the ones I’m talking about! They have paid for recommendations to improve their Web marketing; said recommendations are made; and then they reject them because some chap with more “experience” whispered sweet nothings in their ear.

Oh, I’ve heard all the reasons. My favorite is (and I paraphrase), “You do the SEO, we’ll do the usability/conversions/social media/content.” As if one works without the others.

want-but-wont

What never ceases to amaze me, however, is that these same clients are the first to come to us when rankings are not what they want them to be. Yes, they are actively standing in the way of our helping them build a holistic Web marketing campaign and are shocked (shocked!) when they see their rankings start to drop.

Sometimes you want to look at them and say, “Why don’t you censored these censored and censored them censored!” or, more politely, “My kung-fu is strong. How’s yours?”

Every business wants to increase their online exposure; but all too often, they simply won’t do what is required to get there. If that sounds familiar, keep reading. I’ll give you some pointers on how not to be your own web marketing’s worst enemy.

Listen — AKA: We know our $#!^

The way I see it, you hired your SEO because you believed in them. You believed they knew what they were doing and how best to achieve your goals. Why is it then that you don’t actually trust them when it comes to doing the things they believe are required to get you to where you want to be?

All too often, clients seem to compartmentalize what they believe their SEO knows, thinking that the SEO’s experience and know-how only encompasses a small subset of all web marketing. Maybe they see their SEOs only as on-page optimizers whose job it is to focus on getting rankings, while they think they can manage the usability, conversions, social media and content strategy in house. I’m sure this is true in many cases, but if your SEO is hinting otherwise, it might be a good idea to stop what you’re doing, pull out the ear buds and pay some attention. You’re about to have a religious experience!

SEOs never want to offend their clients by telling them their in-house team doesn’t know what they’re doing. But if they keep coming to you to tell you that there are things that are not being done well that are impacting rankings, start to wonder if they are onto something. Hear them out.

The alternative is accepting a hole in your web marketing that neither you nor your SEO team is properly filling. You can either climb in that hole and keep digging your way to China (or whatever is on the other side of the globe from your current GPS coordinates), or look for ways to fill the hole so you’re not just digging a money pit for all the cash you’re putting into web marketing!

Understand — AKA: You Should Know Before You “No”

Before rejecting any particular recommendation from your SEO, regardless of how big, small or ridiculous it might seem, always seek to understand why that recommendation is being made.

We’ve seen solid SEO recommendations sent to their deathbed on the basis that it doesn’t fit with how someone wants the site to look. Appearance can be a valid reason for killing an optimization recommendation, as long as you know the marketing consequences of the rejection. But sometimes, you have to tell preferences to take a hike, especially when it’s standing in the way of the success you really prefer.

There are all kinds of reasons that recommendations are rejected, and they all seem “right” when you do it. However, unless you know what’s behind the recommendation and the impact it might have, you might be trading a big improvement for a minor preference. You have to be able to properly vet the performance impact of the recommendation against any other impact it might have. But, unless you’re looking to understand, you simply can’t do that.

Know what you’re rejecting before rejecting it. And then, own the decision. You can’t reject recommendations and then complain when you’re not getting the results that the recommendation would have achieved.

Act — AKA: Try it. You Might Like It!

Just like Mikey in those old Life cereal commercials, sometimes you just never know if you’ll like a recommendation until you try it. Maybe it helps;  maybe it doesn’t. But you’ll never know until you try. There is nothing wrong with implementing your SEO’s recommendations to see if what they believe to be true actually is.

I’m a big advocate of testing — especially when you think the SEO is wrong about the impact a recommendation might have. Think of it as a double dog dare to prove them wrong. The worst that can happen is you prove yourself right and things go back to the way they were.

On the other hand, what if you’re rejecting a big win for your site? You’ll never know unless you give it a shot. But, don’t take my word for it, just ask HealthCare.gov about the value of testing before implementing!

The fact that you hired an SEO shows that you want your website to be successful. Don’t be one of those that wants, but won’t do what it takes to achieve that. Listening, understanding and acting are all vital components of not only having a successful relationship with your SEO but a successful website marketing campaign.

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

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About The Author: is president of Pole Position Marketing, a leading online marketing strategy company established in 1998 and currently based in Canton, Ohio.

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



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  • cboulanger

    Thanks for this. A lot of the problem is the dated perception of what SEOs know, but I’m also really bothered by how many clients don’t understand that usability and CRO are factors in their SEO success.

  • Ithamar Fenerson

    Great article. I have ran into this issue in various forms all throughout my business life, whether as a construction contractor, or as a web design consultant. It seems that no one likes to appear ignorant and vulnerable, even when they are seeking help and advice, so a lot of time gets wasted because clients get caught up in trying to appear as if they already know all the answers to their problems. Very frustrating! Nice to know that I am not alone in my sentiments.

  • http://www.polepositionmarketing.com/ Stoney deGeyter

    I’m fully behind you on this. SEO no longer works without web marketing. The sooner businesses looking for “SEO” realize this the better off they will be.

  • http://www.polepositionmarketing.com/ Stoney deGeyter

    I’m fully behind you on this. SEO no longer works without web marketing. The sooner businesses looking for “SEO” realize this the better off they will be.

  • http://www.polepositionmarketing.com/ Stoney deGeyter

    We always try to give our clients an “out” from looking ignorant. We say “Test it. If we’re wrong, great… at least we know!” That way it’s us who appears like we may be wrong, not them.

    We have one client that totally gets this. They ran a test at our suggestion, but didn’t implement the test the way we thought. Their version tanked. They were super excited to at least know that their ideas are not always the best ones. They later ran our test and we killed it!

  • Ithamar Fenerson

    That’s good advice. Will definitely be testing that “test it” line with my clients!

 

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