The Real Truth About Doing SEO for Clients

Clients often employ SEO agencies or Freelance SEO experts to do SEO for them which is always good for people who provide SEO services but what are they actually getting for that money? The real truth about doing SEO for clients is that it can be a bit of a nightmare.

We all hear stories of SEO companies taking clients to the cleaners, doing little or no work and that is a real problem in the industry, so many so-called experts are learning the basics and then running out to clients promising the world.

seo client reporting

This over the years makes it really difficult for SEO‘s who actually know what they are doing because when it comes to a real SEO doing client-side SEO they have to take on board all of the crap that has been caused by shoddy SEO work done in the past.

I do have a handful of clients I do SEO for and will always be happy to do SEO for  these guys because I’m simply allowed to get on with the job. Those are clients who have worked with me for a number of years and can see the benefits of good SEO and will continue to be clients as they are easy to deal with, so it is a win-win situation.

There are many problems that can happen when taking on a new SEO client. I’m listing a few of them below so that people can understand it from the SEO‘s point of view as doing SEO for a high number of clients is impossible unless you have the right set up and structure in place.

Client Expectation of Success

When working with a new client who has next to no idea what’s involved in internet marketing you can be sure that the expectation level in almost every case is going to be highly unrealistic. What happens is the client comes on board and gives you exactly what they want to rank for. After 2 or 3 months if they are not ranking position 1 on page 1 for every single one of them, the moaning starts.

Part of the original proposal is that there is NOT a focus on one particular keyword. The job is to get more traffic to clients websites via a number of different keywords and this will typically be a combination of long tail keywords and some of the main keywords you will want to rank for.

The job here is to get traffic and leads to your website to get the client to continue paying so that over a longer period you actually have the time and resources to build out a decent SEO campaign for them.

seo questions to ask client

Clients want Reports, Communication & Changes all the time

When pricing an SEO package it is very hard because I need to take into consideration how much time and effort is going to have to be put in to rank well in the niche we are quoting in. There are tools available to do competitor analysis, keyword research and all of that type of thing which means that this can be done quickly.

An SEO will use such tools to save time and automate some of the research that goes in by choosing to use whatever tools they want to use.

What I can’t quote accurately for is the amount of time that goes into working out how different clients want to know different things. For example, some want to dig deep into what’s involved in SEO and some of them even ask for weekly updates ( that isn’t a joke ).

Now clients do deserve a report monthly or quarterly whichever you agree to, but do you need weekly communication? Do you need the interruptions when the phone goes for the client to ask the most bizarre question going?  Can’t the client understand that the SEO guy might not want to answer the phone whilst he is in the middle of doing some work?

I do SEO for myself alongside doing work for clients. The great thing is when I rank my own sites, I don’t get the calls, emails or have to do any reporting which allows me more time to crack on and do some valuable work on my websites.

I estimate that around 40% of most clients budgets can be spent on things that offer no value to the client. By that I mean there is so much time being spent reporting, answering questions and doing general admin duties that there isn’t any time being spent marketing the clients business – a lot of it is pure admin and appearance work.

how to explain seo to a client

Even Big Companies Make Mistakes

I’m asked regularly to do website audits or consultancy work on websites that are in a lot of cases not ranking as well as they should be. Some of these companies turn over millions of pounds but end up running into problems because of things such as:

  • The bosses nephew or some bloke down the pub was building the links
  • The company employed someone who read an SEO book for a couple of hours and took 3K a month off them for doing nothing at all
  • The company wanted so much reporting done that the SEO guy had no time left in the day to do any work

There is a massive need for good, honest SEO people who are able to provide a good job. You need to be careful when doing work for clients as it is very easy to get bogged down with certain clients.

Provide SEO Services to Clients

Making it big in the SEO world and doing SEO for a high number of clients is likely to result in failure, you should probably stick to doing a lower amount of clients that value your service. If you go down the route of working with a high number of clients you can basically:

  • Stop being your own boss
  • Start to spend huge amounts of time messing about with client communication, reports and any other issues that may crop up
  • Catch 1 in every 5 quotes you send out, if you are really good
  • Get loads of grief for issues that are probably nothing to do with you such as domain names and web hosting problems. In fact, you can expect to get dragged into any mess going as you are expected to be the IT whizzkid just because you do SEO
  • Earn substantially less than what you could if you actually do SEO for yourself.

seo client side rendering

Some Examples of Unrealistic Expectations

In recent weeks I’ve had a chap who sells Paper Cups approach me to do SEO for him. He told me he loved my blog, liked my approach and we chatted about SEO for about 45 minutes. The conclusion was that someone has been charging him 1K per month and not got them onto page 1. They did have some fairly decent rankings and the onsite SEO looked in decent shape, so there was some genuine graft put in, however, in my opinion, they needed some decent relevant links.

I spoke with the client and told him that he can pay 1 month in advance and I’ll get him ranking. He agreed to go ahead. After day 1 I got a call from the client asking “how are things progressing?” I politely told him to give us half a chance and I had another hour speaking to him about timescales, how we need to wait for Google to crawl and index links and all of the usual stuff.

Day 2: Another call from the client, asking me about some Amazon sales ( how he can set up a page on there to sell his cups and if we could do all of the graphics work.) At this point, I’m thinking this clearly isn’t SEO, go do this yourself or get someone else to do it but the guy seemed as if he had lost trust so stupidly I agreed to help with this.

Day 5: He calls and said that he used some cheap and nasty backlink checker ( not even one I’d heard of ) and that he can’t see any backlinks being added. ( Guys clearly not got a clue ) As if any SEO would show him that.

Day 6: He calls, talks again for about 45 minutes, saying he needs to prove to his finance director that he’s got the right SEO guy and asked if I could possibly show him some backlinks I have built. I politely told him to judge me on rankings and that if he wanted to go and buy links and get a spreadsheet with that data then he could go and use one of the usual link builders that provide you with the trashy links they have got you.

Day 7: I had to shoot the guy an email telling him that he is not going to be wasting any more of my time and that he can go and seek someone who can provide all of this free time. This guy wanted to talk all day every day ( he even wanted to go on Skype ) with his little headset on chatting crap too me about nothing to do with SEO.

client seo

The truth was I never actually got paid anything at all with this guy. I didn’t start any work as I don’t generally start until people pay but instead, I had wasted about 10+ hours on someone who clearly has no clue about Internet Marketing or what’s involved/what to expect. I appreciate he may have had his fingers burnt in the past but this type of client just cannot work. How do you price that? You would need to be an SEO, Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Business Consultant and you would need to be charging him way more than the £500 per month budget he put on the table to get some link building done.

When you do SEO  you are going to have a hard time with many clients out there who have unrealistic expectations, or who bog you down with every other problem their business has. How you manage that is the hard part. Of course there are some great customers out there who have a genuine SEO requirement and who will allow you to do your job effectively but just be careful you get more of this type of client than the other type as the majority of your time will be spent doing SEO reporting and communicating with clients to a point where no work gets done.

Learn to say NO to certain types of clients

8 out of 10 enquiries that come through to me, I say no to purely because I will not entertain clients who drain so much energy from me prior to doing SEO. These clients can potentially harm your business and you do need to say no to this type of client in a lot of cases otherwise it will impact your ability to take on other client work.

Walter Mitty Type Clients

As an SEO you shouldn’t ever undersell yourself, if anyone out there thinks that paying you £100 per month is a massive noose around their neck, yet expect to make six figures in revenue every month as a result of what they pay you are clearly insane. £100 is likely to get anyone a half days worth of SEO at best, Can you even afford an auditing tool on such a budget?

Can you afford to write much content? Can you really do anything on that type of budget, the answer in most cases is no and you should avoid doing that level of work. There are many businesses out there with realistic budgets who cannot find good SEO people to do their work, so aim to get those types of clients rather than the Walter Mitty type clients that are out there.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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