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Why SEOs Shouldn't Always Listen to Clients
Posted on October 4th 2013
My brother is an electrician which comes in handy surprisingly often, usually when I've blown something up. The other day I asked him to visit our office to look at the electrics in a part of our building that has been unused in probably 20 years.
During his survey I suggested we put in a small gym with a shower to which he informed me may strain the system and cause problems later. I replied with (despite his protests): "Ah it will be fine, just get on with it."
Eventually he talked me out of it by flat out refusing to do anything that could put us at risk no matter how small the risk may be. This got me thinking:
Who was I to question the advice of a highly qualified and experienced electrician? After all, I'm paying him because he's an expert so I should trust his expertise right?
This made me draw comparisons to my own job and how I’ve been on the receiving end of clients trying to steer their own SEO and PPC Campaigns and a couple of recent cases stick in my mind:
The Vanity Keyword Obsessed Client
I recently had a very successful company take us on as SEO Consultants. This particular company had a clear motivation of ranking for what they believed to be their main search term. For several years this company had spent a fortune on SEO consultants that had attempted to rank for this term whilst simultaneously paying for PPC to ensure they obtained traffic it. Eventually the client achieved a top 3 position and then as Penguin hit they started to lose positions rapidly before getting in touch with us for help.
The client was somewhat shocked when I informed them this term only resulted in 3% of their monthly traffic and very rarely converted when it ranked well. Why didn't their previous SEO tell them this?
Now, if I'd focused on this “key term”, I'd technically be putting 100% of their SEO budget into 3% of their traffic - a ridiculous situation. Indeed, whilst it appeared their PPC was delivering for this term it wasn't, the actual exact match of the term they were obsessing about NEVER converted and cost them over $25,000 every year with zero conversions.
The Client That "Tinkers"
Another client of mine this week rearranged their websites menu system putting a specific menu item at the very top of the page. What the client didn't realise is that the page it replaced lost much of its traffic which had a direct impact on conversions from that page. When I recommended it was changed back, the client asked us to keep it. I immediately responded with the data to prove my statements were correct and the client duly reversed their decision. If I hadn't the client would have suffered and it would have been my fault.
The Path of Least Resistance
In another example: the other day I commented on a post on a popular SEO news website where an SEO consultant stated that they buy links for clients and they are aware it's risky (and may result in penalties) but because the client approves them it's OK.
Sorry, it is NOT OK.
You are a professional that has a duty to deliver sustainable SEO to your client and make them money now and in the future. You also have a duty to protect the client from themselves and it is not OK for you to take the path of least resistance to give yourself an easy ride. Just because a client says buying links is OK doesn't mean it is. If they get a penalty in the future it is not acceptable to then blame the client: you’re the expert, manage your client and their expectations better.
It's akin to your bank manager telling you to steal money to pay off your credit cards. It might work but it is definitely NOT OK and as a professional he / she should not tell you to do it.
Sometimes Clients Need Tough Love
The point is this: It's not the clients fault, they probably aren’t experts but they are paying me as an SEO / PPC consultant to make them money by doing their SEO & PPC properly. Sometimes I have to give clients some tough love and protect them from themselves, after all, It’s not right if I simply take the path of least resistance.
So the next time your client tries to steer you in a particular direction, make sure it is the right direction and if it isn't, demonstrate with data why it isn't and don't do it - it’s your responsibility.
By the way, I took my brothers advice: I never did install the shower