stop making excuses

SEOs – Stop Making Excuses

In SEO, when things go wrong, we have the job of diagnosing why. And even if whatever went wrong was genuinely out of your control, your response to it is NOT.

We’re all guilty of making excuses when things don’t go right. That rankings dip? It was Panda, right? It was because the SEO agency before you built a load of crap links and the site got Penguinated? Or it was because the developer screwed up and all that link equity was lost in a site migration.

You know what? All of the above might be genuine reasons for a lack of progress on an SEO campaign. But your client doesn’t give a shit. To them, Penguins are black and white birds that waddle around in the Antarctic and Pandas are just bear-type mammals eating bamboo.

Penguins and Pandas have no place in a board meeting when a director is demanding to know what return he’s had on a hefty SEO investment. Penguins and Pandas mean nothing to the finance dude who’ll ultimately decide whether you get to keep on working on the campaign.

It’s small mindset and action changes that can turn something from sounding like an excuse to your client to a diagnosis and action plan that instills their confidence in you.

  • Pre-empt problems where possible
  • Have an action plan
  • Communicate in plain English and in the context of your client’s business 

Pre-Empting Problems

It’s our job as SEOs to know, when we start a new campaign, whether there’s anything that could turn up and bite us in the backside later. It’s our job to sift through the existing link profile, to identify exactly what the former SEO was doing, to be aware if there’s a new site in development and to be liaising with any 3rd party developers. It’s our job to check where our client’s content came from, whether it’s their own and whether they are likely to fall foul to any updates.

Right from the outset, we have to be communicating that to our clients.

If something goes wrong and you explain why after, it sounds like an excuse. If something goes wrong and you’ve identified this as a risk before it happened, it sounds like you were on the ball and you’ll be the man or woman to fix it.

Action Plans

It’s easy in SEO to present problems to our clients.

“Here’s something that’s gone wrong.”

“Here’s something on your site that’s not good.”

“This is an issue.”

What they’re really paying us to do is to solve those problems.

Let’s say your client has a lazy approach to writing product descriptions. In fact, when you asked for product description, they just sent you a CSV export of a load of data pulled from the manufacturer’s database.

“All my competitors use this, so why can’t I?”

“Even the site at number one for my keywords is doing it and they’ve not been harmed.”

You’ve got 3 options here. Either:

A)   Complain and sulk internally about how your clients just don’t get it but put the content live anyway

B)   Tell your client the content can’t go live and refuse to move your position on it.

C)  Grow a pair. Tell your client why the content shouldn’t go live (in plain English with minimal reference to things that mean nothing to them) and suggest what you’re going to do to fix it.

The key here is that, as is oh-so-common-and-annoying in SEO, someone is getting away with something naughty so your client doesn’t see why he can’t as well. It’s our job to:

  • Present facts backed up with evidence (get hunting through that official Google blog and the quality guidelines)
  • Based on those facts, provide a solution (potentially a couple of different options)
  • Put that solution into the context of their business

So in this case, you get all the data you can about Panda and duplicate content. You present this in a way that makes sense to the business and present different potential actions and their implications. So, maybe your options could be:

1)   Ask the client to write content using internal resources. This means there’s no physical costs, but of course, time is money. The client will have to allocate resource for what might be a notable period of time

2)   Quote the client for you writing the content. No internal resource to be allocated, but additional costs will be incurred. Give the client an idea of the likely benefits to his business of actually getting you to do the copy. More traffic? Better rankings? How much better?

3)   Content is done bit by bit and built up over time. Either you’re doing some of it as part of the SEO or they’re doing it internally. Again, present the likely benefits and downsides to doing it this way in a manner your client can understand. “We might not see a notable increase in traffic, thus sales, through your site for 6 months if we do it this way, but it’s more cost effective in the short term.”


Facts, Diagnosis, Solutions…

Having a plan that you can communicate without talking about Pandas and Penguins is all it really takes to turn something from an excuse into a solution.

Pre-empt problems, diagnose issues and put in place a realistic treatment plan that your client’s board of directors can actually understand. No Pandas and Penguins in the boardroom, please!