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Be The Expert

John Doherty —  June 19, 2012
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I recently read this article on SearchEngineLand, asking if SEO/online marketing companies might need to protect their company from clients who essentially “go rogue” and start building links in ways that are against Google’s guidelines, and are not necessarily links that you would build for them. The whole article is built around the premise of iAcquire being deindexed (though we should note that this was because of iAcquire’s actions, not their clients’).

I respect Tony Wright and what he has done for the SEO and online marketing community, and this article brings up the important point about SEOs/consultants overall and their clients.

Tony says:

So, the question is: How do you protect yourself? What do you do if a client is demanding that you purchase paid links, or they are going to hit the door?

The answer, as often is the case, is another question. Is it worth my company’s reputation to cave into my clients demands should the worst-case scenario happen?

I recognize that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but the SEO community isn’t so big at this point that we’re really competing for business by undercutting each other and playing dirty to get clients. There’s enough work to go around. So to the point of “cav[ing] into my clients demands…”, all I have to say is:

You are the expert. They hired you for a reason. One of those reasons is to get them results. The other is to give them the right answer, which is not necessarily what they want to hear.

Quit the Client Pandering

You’re a consultant. You were hired because the company had a problem that they needed solving, that they could not solve themselves. Usually in our world, they’ve been hit by a penalty, they’re starting to see the need to focus on SEO, or someone went to a conference and so they thought that it was a good idea.

In all of these cases, obviously they’ve been doing something wrong. Their current efforts have not been working, therefore they have approached you. So why are you going to listen to what they think is right, when obviously what they think is right has not been working?

It’s time to step up and be the expert. Be what they are paying you to be. Your job is not to do whatever it takes to rank, because often that will end them up in trouble whenever Google decides to roll out an algorithm change to combat what you’ve been doing. Your job is to sustainably increase their traffic, adding value to the Internet and keeping them in Google’s good graces.

The question Tony asks that I really respect is:

Is it worth my company’s reputation to cave into my clients demands should the worst-case scenario happen?

Are you willing to risk the good name of your company in order to take on a potentially risky or shady client that might pay you a lot of money, but at the end of the day will not listen to what you say and could ultimately harm your company’s reputation. If you are a legit consulting firm, I’d highly recommend that you pass on these kinds of clients, as ultimately you, your staff, and your company will be happier. There are plenty of fly-by-night firms out there that will take these clients, and maybe the clients you turn away will come back to you once they are ready to let you be the expert.

By the way, if you want a phenomenal book to read about consulting, I highly recommend The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully. It has changed the way that I think about consulting and interacting with clients.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

7 responses to Be The Expert

  1. Anthony Pensabene June 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Good thoughts, John. I’ve never been in an owner or money-taking consultant position, but my people experiences and intuition tells me you hit the mark when you reference sacrificing your reputation.

    I’ve read sentiments from reputable sources, regarding the need to have to take on clients they really didn’t want for financial reasons… I get it; but, reputation is huge. It may be worth passing on immediate funds to secure the brand of reputation, which is reflexive of your business ethics and morals.

    Reputation is a long-term asset no one can afford to tarnish.

  2. I’ve added that book to my wishlist. Thanks for sharing.

    In regards to the article….I wouldn’t risk the reputation of the company! But, I could think of people who might not afford this option and seems a little bit unfair I would say. Don’t you think?

  3. in our part of world .. I get 100s of people who can work for these kind of client.. So when I come across this kind of situation ( which I often) what I do is .. just connect both parties couple of respective mails to both of them.. that’s it.. thn I enjoy my late night coffee..

  4. With that traffic figure in mind, a good SEO will work with you to identify potential keyword targets to drive that volume, the level of competitiveness for those terms and the strategy and tactics that will need to be adopted to improve your search engine (and wider digital) presence for those terms.

    • I have a better pitcure of Em photographing me. Mwa ha ha ha. You dad has such a fun sense of humor. My three girls in dresses. Does he know that one (JQ) flies first class? Oooh. With that one photograph od Julie, Em, and Abi, you get the successful team of Julia Quinn that won the RITA.Every single pitcure (even the redo’s) of Elizbo has her in them with her eyes closed. Well, except for the one where she’s sticking her tongue out. But that one’s just for blackmail and so will be kept safely private.

  5. I think your observations & comments are 100% accurate.
    There’s no content without keywords , he best keyword tool is whichever one you’ll use regularly. But ideally, you’ll have a handful of keyword tools in the rotation to consult for different purposes. Some good options include:

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