Sorry this site requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser. See the following guide on How to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox and Safari. Alternatively you may be blocking JavaScript with an advert-related or developer plugin. Please check your browser plugins.

Don’t let the title put you off - this is an outstanding article on the difficulties associated with doing SEO consultancy for small businesses.
Comments38 Comments  

Comments

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Very good article that anyone doing SEO consultations can relate to! (Too bad it was sphunn by a default avatar person as it deserves some sphinns.)

Avatar
from IncrediBILL 2219 Days ago #
Votes: -5

If you think keyword stuffed fluff pieces are good, then enjoy.

Avatar
from martinibuster 2219 Days ago #
Votes: -5

Geez. Never mind. Bill said it all.

Avatar
from g1smd 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 3

*** SEO consultation is worthless unless it results in the strategy being implemented.  ***<div><div></div><div>No shit, Sherlock!</div><div></div><div></div><div>Consultation generates a list of problems and goals.</div><div></div><div></div><div>Working with the developers/programmers/webmaster/content-writers the list is worked on. </div><div></div><div></div><div>Part of the consultancy is education of the client why the problems are problems, and then leading them to the correct and appropriate solutions for their site(s).</div><div></div><div></div><div>I take an education-led approach to SEO. I’ll teach them how to do the job, so that I can be freed up to do the higher-order-stuff, and work on things like their .htaccess file which most people are never going to get their head around. </div><div></div><div></div><div>The final outcome is that the site-owners are empowered to do some of the work themselves, whilst knowing they can come back anytime to get it reviewed and critiqued with pointers to online articles that will help them do an even better job in the future.</div></div>

Avatar
from Alysson 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 5

***Don’t let the title put you off...*** <div style="margin-left: 40px">That was done purposely with the hope of grabbing some attention  :)  I’m glad you liked the post.</div>*** If you think keyword stuffed fluff pieces are good, then enjoy. ***<div style="margin-left: 40px">Sorry you believe this to be "keyword stuffed fluff..." - that’s was not at all the intent.  I simply tend to ramble...and I like my soapbox - I’ll probably never get down off it.  :)</div>*** No shit, Sherlock!... *** <div style="margin-left: 40px">:)  I, too, take an educational approach.  I am assigned the task of providing SEO consultation to less than Internet savvy "small business owners" who aren’t typically willing or even able to make the basic changes necessary on their own - therein lies the frustration.  Some out there may know to whom I am referring...if you’ve ever had to explain the difference between an address bar and a search field just to get a client to the log in screen for their own site builder. I was speaking specifically of my experience with those website owners whose marketing budgets often consist of little more than the funds needed to cover the shipping & handling charges for the free business cards offered by Vista Print....not of those who employ developers, programmers and copywriters to delegate the individual tasks to.  The clients that possess those resources are often a joy to work with and benefit a great deal from SEO consultations.Before some smart ass out there tells me to "quit if it’s so frustrating...", shut it - I am trying to actually make a difference and change the SOP where I work.  I’ve not given up the delusion that I can actually do that...if I do, I will quit.  Until then, I’ll continue trying to help small business owners not waste their precious, and relatively small, budgets on consultation services they may not be in a position to benefit from.  If even one small business owner happens upon this post and realizes he/she doesn’t know enough about how to do what needs to be done BEFORE spending money on SEO consultation services, I’ll have done what I set out to do with it.The real problem is that those who don’t put forth the effort to do the work themselves after the consultation and therefore see no improvement often then classify SEO as "a complete waste of money...".  Many choose to then label the entire industry as "charlatans" and/or "scam artists".  They often proceed to share that perceived negative experience with others, rather than taking responsibility for not putting the information provided during the consultation to use or even understanding what "consulting" means.  It is that "bad press" that tends to cause legitimate small business owners - those who truly could benefit from consultation - to be so leery of SEOs in general that they simply opt to avoid the idea altogether...clearly to their own detriment.  And to the detriment of the industry as a whole.See...again with the rambling.  TOLD YOU!  ;)</div>*** Very good article... ***<div style="margin-left: 40px">Thanks.  Glad you liked it, too.  I assumed I couldn’t be the only one facing these issues with small business upstarts... </div>Thanks for the feedback everyone!  That’s exactly what I need in order to get better at what I do!  Look forward to reading what others think...

Avatar
from cre8pc 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 4

I support this effort because her target reader is small business.  Startup needs are different.  Self learning is a long process and its often peer to peer first until they gain more confidence in themselves and skills.I support your efforts.  The flames will help you develop a strong spine, which sadly, is needed in this industry.

Avatar
from IncrediBILL 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 1

A strong spine is needed in any industry unless you prefer being a spineless worm getting kicked around by merciless clients.

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 8

Holy crap. Tough crowd. What is this f#@king Digg?Yeah the article was long. But of all the crap I read posted here, finally I read one that while long is fairly well-written and speaks the truth no less.Fluff? Huh?SEOaly, wait till you work with larger companies, you’ll see even less of your ideas implemented. As to you meanies trying to discourage this author, yes, we all know that stuff needs to be implemented or nothing will happen. Duh. But that wasn’t the author’s point. She was explaining to anyone in the business how frustrating this can be. Many who are new to the industry have no idea that most clients don’t implement recommendations. They find out quickly, and it’s something that all of us have in common.

Avatar
from cre8pc 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@IncrediBILL Perhaps you’re right. I envy my football playing son, who LIVES to kick butt and pain has no effect on him at all. He wears bruises and cuts like trophies :)

Avatar
from SEOhack 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 4

i’m with Ms. Whalen and Ms. Berg (i hope that’s right!).  it’s not the worst thing i’ve ever read here. ;)  i also like the fact it’s not necessarily written for those who do this stuff day in and day out but perhaps someone who’s considering consulting.  consulting is frustrating because usually the only person who’s interested in SEO is the one the called you in.  doesn’t matter the size of the company, like Ms. Whalen said, small or large, you’re either dealing with ego or inter-company politics and shit doesn’t get done.  it’s tough all over.

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Ms. Whalen? Why so formal today ole hacky?

Avatar
from SEOhack 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Ms. Whalen - oh, i actually put on pants and a collared shirt. ;)

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Oh but you’re so much cuter in your underwear.Ok...stop it...no more ruining this thread...

Avatar
from Alysson 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 4

@Jill - I work for a huge company...that’s part of the problem.  :(  That’s also how I’ve learned much of what NOT to do, so I suppose I should be thankful.  :)  No worries.  I don’t get discouraged.  I was one of pageoneresults’ many targets...and on my first submission, no less.  ;)  @cre8pc - thanks.  I’m glad you understood my intended audience.  I assure you, my spine is strong, straight and covered with VERY THICK SKIN!I’m not sure if IncrediBILL’s comment was a digg at me personally, or just a response to cre8pc’s comment in general.  IF IT WAS directed at me, here is my response to anyone who might share that opinion: If you think I’m spineless, you clearly don’t understand my intent and have no idea what I’m trying to do.  I believe you may have neglected to realize that this is a post on my blog and while it includes a "Sphinn It" button, I didn’t submit it and haven’t Sphunn it.  I shared it with my followers via Twitter and asked for feedback.  And, just for the record, I’ve never been kicked around by anyone, let alone a "merciless client...", whatever that is. I included the "Sphinn It" button on the post to see how many other SEO consultants out there may have experienced the same frustration at any point in their careers.  I’m a f#@king rookie, dude...give me a break!  At what point in any post or comment have I claimed to know all there is about SEO or classified myself among the experts in the industry?  Never.  I’ve got a LOT to learn, and I’ll be the first to say it.  While you have every right to dislike my conversational writing style, calling an entry on my blog "...keyword stuffed fluff..." isn’t constructive and doesn’t help me learn. 

Avatar
from cre8pc 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 3

@SEOhack  You can call me Ms. Berg, but my even my husband would find that funny. He calls himself "Mr. Cre8pc",  My kids call me "taxi", "packmule", and "Hey mom" :)@SEOAly  I started out in 1995 as a single mom, self taught all the way in the SEO biz.  Everything I have now, I earned.  The support from the small biz/startup community is tremendous.  A conversational writing tone is often easier to read and learn by.  I was never able to stay focused on all techy stuff :)

Avatar
from SEOhack 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 3

@Ms. Whalen - so you’re a Spongebob fan too? :)  for some reason pants make me feel, er, what’s the word, professional?@Ms. Cre8pc - =)  that sounds better than Ms. Packmule.@SEOAly - keep up the good work.  learning by doing is one of the best ways to learn. ;)

Avatar
from Alysson 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 3

@SEOHack - I’ve always felt the same way.  Thanks for the virtual pat on the back.  :)  @Cre8pc - 1995, huh?  So you’ve been through all the changes SEO has seen over the years...looking to adopt?  HAHA!  Thanks for the encouragement!  I’ll keep pluggin’ away at it.  :)

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 0

You can call me Ms. Berg, but my even my husband would find that funny. He calls himself "Mr. Cre8pc",  My kids call me "taxi", "packmule", and "Hey mom" :)Kim, that sounds similar. Mine generally just call me "Toad" these days...(it’s in a loving way, I swear!)

Avatar
from bbcarter 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 2

@seoaly I think I understand where you’re coming from.  Sometimes managing the client’s education or expectations is the most important thing- it depends on the client.  This happens for us with both SEO and PPC.  Sometimes we educate, sometimes we turn a job down (or threaten to in order to see if that makes the point)... it’s definitely tough with less web savvy clients, but sometimes that’s not the only issue... ;-)

Avatar
from Alysson 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Oh...to work for a company with the balls to turn a job down!  :)  IF ONLY...

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Seriously SEOAly? How do they stay in business otherwise? If they figured out their profitability, I think they’d see they were losing money on the bad clients.You TOTALLY have to turn business down (the wrong business) to make any money in this biz.

Avatar
from cre8pc 2219 Days ago #
Votes: 0

"@Cre8pc - 1995, huh? "’Fraid so.  In Internet years, I’m near ready to kick the bucket :)

Avatar
from mike 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 2

The most important thing about havign clients is realising that you are paid to work with each person differently. Too many people are simply incapable of varying their approach. An SEO consultant is first and foremost in client services, and secondly in SEO, e.g. you have to do a lot of stuff that is irrelevant to SEO, adn usually this is more important than the actual SEO you do. If you can’t live with that fact, go do something else. 

Avatar
from Halfdeck 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 1

"Oh...to work for a company with the balls to turn a job down!"Dropping the wrong clients can save you not only a headache but time and money. Otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels. Sure you’ll throw a few bucks out the window but there are plenty of ways to make money on the web without the frustration that comes from working with the wrong client.

Avatar
from NickWilsdon 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 1

True you have to learn how to fire clients who are too demanding on your time. It’s that old 80/20 rule, 20% of your clients will bring in 80% of your income. Learn to target and look after these guys and your business will grow. If you’re really devious, it’s also a good idea to refer your most demanding and troublesome clients onto your competitors. That keeps their wheels spinning while you move ahead. They will even thank you for it

Avatar
from Lyndon 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 1

"Oh...to work for a company with the balls to turn a job down!  :)  IF ONLY..."I have to turn work away constantly. It would be wrong to take work on and produce sub-standard stuff because you don’t have the time. I could always outsource, but just can’t get the quality I want.

Avatar
from tonyp 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I feel this is an excellent article about real world SEO issues.  I will be doing some SEO seminars soon and will incorporate many points from this post in my presentations.  Working in-house for the big boys is very different from selling SEO services to small business.  Thanks very much for this informative post.

Avatar
from MarcSEOJAX 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I have to agree with this article and I work for the same company as she does. I feel the same way that SEOAly does.

Avatar
from Alysson 2218 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@cre8pc - nah...that just means everyone wants to know what you know!@NickWilsdon - that’s hilarious!  I’ll remember that tip once I’m out on my own...maybe the company I work for now will get some inbound sales that way.  ;)  @Lyndon - hiring?  You wouldn’t have to turn away as much business...  HAHA!  ;)I completely agree with ALL OF YOU regarding knowing when and how to walk away from business.  If only this were my company...or if they shared the same philosophy.  The sad reality is that I work for a publicly traded company whose commitment is focused on a Board of Directors and shareholders...which unfortunately is the case with numerous huge, publicly traded companies.  :(  Once I set out on my own, I will get to follow MY business philosophy and never again have to deal with outbound sales.  YIPPEE!I’m trying to change the philosphy around here, but I’m just one girl in the trenches...and the "big-wigs" label me a "boat-rocker who hates outbound sales...".  They’re right, on both accounts.  What they fail to recognize is that this boat-rocker knows what she’s talking about!  This isn’t my first lap around the pool when it comes to customer retention at a huge company, nor the unbelievably difficult task of rebuilding a reputation the company has no one but themselves to blame for destroying.    Eventually they’ll get tired of hearing the same wheel squeak.  I have a feeling they won’t opt for making proactive and positive changes...they’ll just fire me.  And that’s cool.  I don’t belong here...but I’ve not yet given up the delusion that I can actually have a positive influence, even if it’s just on the agents and customers I interact with directly, rather the company overall.

Avatar
from IncrediBILL 2217 Days ago #
Votes: 1

"you have to learn how to fire clients who are too demanding on your time"@Nick, or do what I did and fire them all. If you’re really good at what you do you can easily replicate your income without any clients whatsoever. 5 years client free and loving every minute of it.

Avatar
from Alysson 2214 Days ago #
Votes: 0

That’s awesome, IncrediBILL!  I hope to be in that position at some point in the future.  :)

Avatar
from johnandrews 2213 Days ago #
Votes: 3

That’s often misunderstood about consulting... you are hired to help, not necessarily do. And what gets done is not always your call. That’s the job by the way.The problem comes from those who impose judgements outside of the reality of the consulting job. "your consultant screwed you" and "our SEO was terrible" etc. may be true, but are more likely to be false IMHO. Clients spend more time scapegoating than consultants spend golfing.I have been brought into more than one situation where the hiring of the SEO consultant was 99% power play and 1% SEO goal oriented... once hired I simply made it my job to help create win-win for everyone involved. Are the resulting sites outstanding examples of my best SEO efforts? No way. Was the resulting win-win an example of my outstanding consulting efforts? You betcha.

Avatar
from NickWilsdon 2213 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@incredibill Yep that’s been the long-term plan ever since I read Andy Hagan’s piece on going client-free. I enjoy working on client work though and luckily, in our Russian niche, almost all our work is done in partnership with clued-up Western SEO/SEMs.

Avatar
from JohnHGohde 2213 Days ago #
Votes: -4

Where there, it is. You cannot have it both ways. "you have to learn how to fire clients who are too demanding on your time"Sounds a lot like SEOs whining about Clients who actually expect to recieve value for the dollars that they spend on hiring a SEO firm.

Avatar
from NickWilsdon 2213 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@JohnHGohdeNot at all, most service-based businesses have this issue to deal with. Try a search for "demanding clients" and you’ll see the problem is not exclusive to our profession.

Avatar
from JohnHGohde 2213 Days ago #
Votes: -2

See the Sphinn on: You Think You Know Enough To Do ALL Of Your SEO In-House?There they are whinning about potential clients foolish enough to do their own SEO work.  Here, we see SEOs whinning about clients who are too demanding.I think that I have made a valid point in both Sphinns.  It is far too easy to over promote the value of your SEO services.  And, it is all too easy to fall short on service delivery with demanding clients.

Avatar
from Alysson 2213 Days ago #
Votes: 1

The one thing we seem to forget is that the client’s perspective is their reality.  No matter what they were sold or what services they actually receive - if the results don’t live up to the outlandish expectations they’ve set in their heads, it is invariably the fault of the SEO.  The goal is to work with clients sophisticated enough to understand what the reality of SEO consultation is - as well as grasp the reality of what results will likely follow once the strategy has been implemented.  It all starts with expectations.  And in the world of small business SEO and dealing with less than Internet savvy small business owners, those expectations often exceed what is realistic.  Pair that with an aggressive and SEO ignorant sales team...well, then you’d be in my shoes.  :)

Avatar
from Halfdeck 2213 Days ago #
Votes: 1

"if the results don’t live up to the outlandish expectations they’ve set in their heads, it is invariably the fault of the SEO. "With some people it doesn’t matter how low you set expectations and it doesn’t matter if they insist on not following any of your recommendations. People enjoy the luxury of having a scapegoat, and an SEO is exactly that if results don’t meet expectations. This isn’t a whine about clients. I make no plea for clients to act differently. Its a solution for SEOs that are burdened with the wrong kind of clients: simply, get rid of them.Clients who think they know SEO are especially difficult to guide because they will know enough to argue with you or go on autopilot every step of the way.The fact is, to many people, SEO is a faith-based religion driven by fear. People will jump to conclusions (e.g. sitemap XML will lead to deindexing, knol pages receive an automatic ranking boost, 2-3 rank fluctuations indicate a possible penalty) without bothering to base their fears and suspicions on conclusive facts. All they need to see are patterns, A-before-B correlations, and suspicion that an idea *might* be true. If you want to believe Google wants to force people to buy more AdWords, you will be susceptible to the idea that Google manipulates organic search results for that purpose, even if there is no evidence to prove it. It’s guilty until proven otherwise.A professional SEO knows enough to play the odds instead of going on fact-finding missions or to make impulsive moves based on blind fear. But many clients aren’t that sophisticated and are willing to shoot themselves in the foot. In that case, sometimes its better to stay miles away instead of babysitting them 24-7 to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.

Upcoming Conferences

Search Marketing ExpoSearch Engine Land produces SMX, the Search Marketing Expo conference series. SMX events deliver the most comprehensive educational and networking experiences - whether you're just starting in search marketing or you're a seasoned expert.



Join us at an upcoming SMX event: