Do You Have a Bad SEO Company, or Are You Just a Bad Client?

I admit it, our SEO services are pretty bad.

Speaking of bad, the Beatles couldn't sing a tune, John Grisham has never written a decent novel, Dell makes crappy computer's, TiVo's and iPods suck, the Lord of the Rings movies lacked imagination and video killed the radio star. (OK, that last one might actually be true!)

Do you see where this is going? To somebody, one or more of the above statements are true. Not to the vast majority, but some people do feel that way. No matter what the product or service there will always be those that are dissatisfied. Have you ever heard of a company with a 100% customer satisfaction rate (outside of their own marketing gibberish)? I haven't.

There have been a number of blog and forum posts and articles recently about what to do if you're with a bad SEO company. All good advice, but sometimes it's not the SEO that's bad, its the client. Yeah, that's right, sometimes the client's are just plain clueless, have unreasonable expectations, or fall prey to the "grass is greener" scenario presented by competition. Yes, sometimes clients are bad.

It's Not You, It's Me!

Like every other company, product and service on the planet, search engine optimization firms will always have dissatisfied clients.

Our firm has a significant number of very satisfied clients since 1998. We have also had a handful of clients that walked away dissatisfied with our services. I'm sure the same is true with every other SEO company out there. Does that make them bad SEOs? No, not necessarily.

Can good SEOs sometimes produce bad results for their clients? Absolutely. Happens all the time. Let me give you a few examples.

We worked with one client for several years. In the early phases of their campaign they selected some really poor keywords. We let them know this but they were insistent that we move forward. We were able to get most of their keywords ranked very well on the search engines, but as we suspected, sales did not increase. Every few weeks the client would call us asking if there was anything else that can be done to increase sales. We often made suggestions on how to improve their site along with recommending they change their optimized keywords. The site improvements they considered and often made. They keyword changes were considered but never approved. Eventually they left us.

We often find clients changing their website causing our optimization efforts to be overwritten with un-optimized versions of their pages. Those clients will then call us wondering why their rankings dropped. Duh! When this happens repeatedly with the same client you start to realize that you're just not going to get any good sustainable results. [Shameless plug: our new CodeMonitor tool notifies SEOs and/or clients when page changes are made.]

Still other clients have limited our ability to optimize their websites with all kinds of restrictions. Don't change this, can't change that. There is always a "good" reason, but when your hands are tied there is only so much that you can do.

So What's the Problem?

I recently had a client leave dissatisfied because his rankings dropped for a couple of weeks and he felt we just were "not working for him" anymore. The worst part about it is that he just canceled the contract without talking to me or anyone on our team to find out what's going on. I took me several emails and phone messages to find out why he left.

We often get calls and emails from clients asking why rankings dropped which affords us the opportunity to explain things and usually ask for patience as these type of fluctuations occur every now and then. One client did just that and once his rankings popped back into the top positions he emailed me just to say, "hey, you were right!".

We get a lot of calls (and clients) that come to us from other SEO firms that just didn't pan out for them. Before I go off telling them that their SEO company is bad I try to find out a few things. How long have they been optimizing your site? What changes have they made? Is their name Traffic Power? Etc., etc. A few such questions will usually give me what I need to know to determine if they have cause to jump ship or not. If they have been with the company only for a few months I usually tell them to hang tough and give them a chance to produce results. Unfortunately SEO does take time, especially when a site gets sandboxed, and you wont' always know that you're with a bad firm for quite some time.

Talk to Me, Baby!

Communication is the key. If you have difficulty getting calls and emails returned, or are not quite sure what your SEO company is doing for you, then there is a good chance you're not with a great firm.

One company came to us from one of the largest SEO firms after their one-year contract expired. We checked their rankings only to find sub-standard results. There were no penalization or sandbox issues, just lack of good performance. I was able to determine that their current firm simply wasn't doing a good enough job. Once this client signed with us we were able to get most of their keywords on the first page within the first two months.

nother firm came to us after their previous SEO got them banned from Google. Coming to us we couldn't guarantee any more than we would fix their site to make it compliant with search engine guidelines and work aggressively to get them back into the index. After fixing the spam issues, and several months wait? and several phone calls asking "when", Google finally re-included them, and with great rankings on top of it.

Denial is Often the First Sign of a Problem

Nobody wants to think they are a bad client, but here are some signs:

  • Does not communicate concerns to their SEO firm
  • Does not listen to advice given
  • Refuses to change their site based on SEO recommendations
  • Demands optimization for poorly targeted keywords
  • Constantly overwrites optimization efforts with page changes
  • Expects rankings to appear overnight
  • Calls all the time to complain about lack of progress due to the above

The signs of a bad firm are pretty obvious, bad communication, spammy optimization, getting your site banned, etc. If you work with one of them then run away as soon and as fast as you can. It's usually pretty easy to tell a good from a bad. Communicate with (don't harass) your SEO firm. A trustworthy and respectable firm will keep open lines of communication. Just be ready to listen to what they have to say and implement recommendations that they provide, even if those recommendations are to be patient.

Maybe it's you. Maybe it's them. Get the facts before you do anything. You definitely don't want to be stuck with a firm that's just sucking your money away and doing very little work for it. On the other hand, you don't want to jump ship mid-way in what will turn out to be a substantially rewarding campaign just because things didn't happen fast enough. Before you dump your SEO, make sure the problem isn't you!

Stoney deGeyter is president of Pole Position Marketing, a professional search engine optimization and marketing firm providing SEO services since 1998. Stoney is also a part-time instructor at the community College in Reno, Nevada where he resides as well as a moderator in the Small Business Ideas Forum. You can read his SEM blog at (EMP) E-Marketing Performance. You can email him with any questions at [email protected]

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