You hear all the time about bad SEOs. Bad SEOs are offering worthless services, failing to deliver on their internet marketing promises, polluting the search engine results–well, a lot of bad things. But how much ever gets said about bad SEOs’ spiritual counterparts: bad SEO clients?
As an SEO, I can see things from the other side of the table. You see, despite trying hard to make it clear I’m a good, ethical, results-oriented, smarter marketing, white-hat SEO, I have gotten no end of inquiries from bad prospective SEO clients. Sure, no one who gets cheated is ever entirely to blame, and some cheated businesses are entirely blameless. But the bad SEOs would have too small a market to stay in business if it weren’t for almost-as-bad clients.
Shades of Bad SEO Clients
First, let me make clear what I mean by “bad” SEOs. Bad SEOs are bad because they either do unethical things to get e-marketing results, or because they consistently fail to deliver results. A good SEO delivers results and does it without trampling over other people’s rights (like submitting automated comments to their websites or trying to get good sites de-indexed).
A bad SEO client, in turn, is someone who will only be satisfied (albeit temporarily) with a bad SEO. Because they refuse to consider ethical web consultants or smarter marketing strategies, they are creating markets for the e-marketing charlatans and black-hats. There are two basic types of bad SEO clients: crooks and fool–oops, I mean, ethically challenged and judgmentally-challenged.
Ethically-Challenged SEO Clients
I haven’t gotten so many inquiries asking for out-and-out unethical services. Still, I’ve been asked about blog-sp@mming software and other shady internet marketing tactics a couple times. A colleague shared this gem with me: “Have you thought about just scanning a book from the library and using it for web content? Or is that too high-risk?” (Seriously, someone asked him this.)
Of course, judging from the amount of comment sp@m and SEO-motivated hacking on the web, there is plenty of demand for this stuff.
Judgmentally-Challenged SEO Clients
A much larger group of bad SEO clients are simply those who insist on putting themselves in the way of fraud. Yes, that’s right: I’m blaming the victim. Someone who goes looking for a $5 gold watch can’t cry too long if the watch turns out to be fake or hot. With SEO, there are a few more nuances, but it’s the same essential idea.
The overwhelming majority of these judgmentally challenged souls are private individuals whose only business is the business-in-a-kit variety. Yet they are also sometimes representatives of actual successful companies. The real businesspeople tend to be quicker to let their misconceptions go (after all, they can afford the real SEO alternatives), but not always. Let’s look at some representative types of this group, straight out of my own inbox (note: these are inquiries from prospects, not actual clients).
- Something-for-(Little More than)-Nothing Clients
Really, I tend to think these people should be in the ethically challenged group, but maybe that’s just the remnant of my work ethic making me be mean There are actually two kinds of these clients:
- The ambitious but cheap client: “I’d like to get to the top of Google for the keyword, ‘mortgage’ so I can turn over $100,000/month in revenue. I can spend up to $1,000.”
- The Adsense-is-my-business-plan client: you wouldn’t believe the numbers of inquiries I get from people who only plan to make money off AdSense or other on-site advertising–they don’t even have a plan for getting repeat traffic, nor do they have content to synergize with the SEO effort. By buying promotional services, they would essentially be buying advertising in order to make money off advertising–you see where that could be a problem?
Another way of looking at it: why wouldn’t I just create a site myself and keep all the profit from my efforts? In fact, most SEOs do have their own project sites, which are often monetized by Adsense. The money we could otherwise get from AdSense is one very low baseline for pricing our services. Legitimate SEO clients are typically selling goods or services at a profit rate that works out to ten or more times what they could get from Adsense.
In addition to the greedy, I also see a few other kinds of less common, but still problematic prospective SEO clients:
- SEO-Starry-Eyed Clients: “Search engine traffic is definitely the best way for me to get pet-sitting clients in my tiny Himalayan village.”
- The Little-Knowledge-Is-a-Dangerous-Thing Client: “Don’t tell me about keyword research, content, anchor text, or natural linking strategy, just get me the PageRank (or links, keyword density, or whatever the fad is).”
- Gullible-and-Not-Letting-Go Client: “I know of at least two services that will submit my site to thousands of search engines for $29.95. If you can’t do that, I’ll take my business elsewhere.”