Lee Odden

What Makes an Ideal SEO Client?


Believe it or not, there are a few things we do to avoid new project inquiries. But truth be told, I love talking to people about SEO. It’s really interesting to me, learning about the kinds of situations companies are in, their marketing goals and how they’re going about growing their business (or business unit) online. Search marketing is like solving puzzles in a way, except with the SEO industry, the picture on the puzzle changes every so often. 🙂

There are all kinds of companies that we get to talk to ranging from large corporations with official buyers of search marketing services to virtual ecommerce companies and also businesses that have been doing search marketing in-house or with another consultant for a few years and need to take it to the next level. With as many different companies there are even more different perspectives about search marketing.

Recently I spoke with two companies back to back and the difference was night and day.

Caller one sounded like a savvy marketer and had been referred by the web dev company for another client of ours. Referrals are usually the best situations. The caller had a new site that had been launched 2 weeks ago with 1600 pages of content (articles, how to’s etc) including an online store. Sounded interesting, even though it would have been better for us to be involved during development, not after the fact and it seemed like an awful lot of content to go live with on a brand new web site. Except it wasn’t a brand new web site. Not really.

It was another web site for the same company which still maintained the old version of the site on a different url. Two different domain names, two different web sites with very similar, but not exactly, duplicate content. Seemed a bit odd to me, so I asked, “Why not replace the old site with the new site under the same domain?” The answer was something about an advantage to having more than one web site competing for search results. Sigh.

The caller went on to espouse these advantages and seemed pretty sold on the idea regardless of my explanation about duplicate content, disadvantages of starting from scratch with a new site, the extra maintenance, etc. I was not up for a debate considering Google’s longstanding guidelines, “Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.” and decided to state no interest or availability, good luck and finally, goodbye.

Another call was already waiting when I put down the phone and it was for a 2 year old ecommerce site. The company also had a brick and mortar presence and was doing very well with PPC. They wanted to expand their market reach by focusing additional attention on natural search.

This company had tech savvy internal marketing resources but simply didn’t have the time to work on site optimization and link building. They needed to outsource natural search and goals were both specific and clear: increase sales via search channels.

The caller was open to ideas about making the site crawlable, adding content – maybe even a blog, improving usability for conversions, pursuing links on an ongoing basis and work with web analytics for ongoing usability, conversion and SEO recommendations.

While this was a small company, their allocated budget for natural search met our minimums and combined with the perspective and goals of the business owner, may likely turn into a working relationship.

What was the difference in these two situations? In the first scenario, the caller felt they had search all figured out and that over confidence combined with the apparent desire to take shortcuts simply didn’t resonate with our philosophy of doing search marketing. Most importantly though, nothing can be more frustrating for both parties when a company hires a SEO consultant for their expertise and then wants to debate every recommendation.

After having hundreds of conversations with potential SEO clients, there are certain signals you can pick up on (besides budget and intentions) pretty quickly that give an indication whether it would be a good fit or not. Something I learned from the very smart Bryan Eisenberg of Future Now was, if you can’t hit a home run with it, it’s not worth taking on. That perspective has paid off for us over and over again.

I’m curious if any Online Marketing Blog readers that happen to provide search marketing services would share any signals that make or break it when talking with perspective clients? What indications make you decide quickly it’s not a good situation? What signals tell you that it’s a great fit and might be an ideal SEO client?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.