How to handle SEO client problems


As an entrepreneur and SEO professional, you crave credibility and good relationships. This is all well and good. To nourish any business relationship, you should go “the extra mile” – not just because it’s savvy business but also because it’s the right thing to do. I know in this day and age that might be a concept most don’t embrace anymore, but I think it is paramount, even just to sleep at night.

On the other hand, we’ve all had hair-pulling situations with SEO clients. Phone calls in the middle on the night requesting next day edits on a random white paper. Mandatory six-way conference calls that meander and have no point. Heated e-mails randomly directed your way.

So what should you do in these kinds of situations? More importantly, how do you determine when to give in to weird client requests/demands and when to jump ship?

Here are some good working tips:

1. Get opinions from other people whom you trust

Often, we get so knee-deep into these SEO situations that we cannot see the forest for the trees. Talk to friends. Get an objective read on the situation. Take yourself out of the equation to arrive at a more professional and resourceful decision about how to proceed. Getting the emotion out of the situation can be the first step to properly rectifying it.

2. Break ties honorably

If you decide to break ties with a client, do so professionally and honor the terms of any contract or agreement, if at all possible.

Always be a good guy (or girl). Even if a client has behaved unprofessionally or even abusively, that doesn’t give you an excuse to return the favor. I always want to feel like I came out of a situation doing all I could to make it right. You always sleep well at night if you do.

3. Remember: A bird in hand is worth two in the bush – not six or seven

Sure, it can be a pain to lose any client – and not just because it throws your budget out of whack. No one likes dispensing bad news. But beware of the tendency to overvalue what you already have. Sure, an abusive client may provide a steady stream of work. But every ounce of energy you waste attending to the abuser’s tyrannical demands is one less ounce you have to lavish on a new prospect. We have found the often heard saying of 10% of clients take up 90% of you time to be true, unless you make the hard decisions to dump some of them, or never take them on in the first place.

This tendency to overvalue current assets is all too human, by the way. For instance, who hasn’t had a friend who has been mired in a terrible relationship? This person will admit that he/she should get out of it but ultimately refuses to break things off because of a fear that he/she will never again find anyone “that good.” It’s nonsense. But sometimes you can’t see it if you’re too close to it. That’s why reliable outside feedback is so key.

4. Serenity now

To paraphrase (and butcher) the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the SEO clients I cannot change but want to keep; the courage to change/get out of dysfunctional SEO client relationships I can change; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Well, that’s really clumsy and ineloquent, isn’t it? Hopefully, it still drives home the point. Doing what is best for your company, and doing it the right way, can get tough, but in any small business, it sets you up for greater things in the future.

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