Why I Scare Off Most Potential SEO Clients Looking for an SEO Specialist

A few years ago, I stopped selling SEO services to prospects who were interested in hiring me as an SEO Specialist. Jumping from initial outreach to an SEO engagement was moving too far, too fast. (I’m not that kind of girl).

Instead of writing up a proposal after a conversation or two, I switched to selling a low-cost, quick turnaround “SEO ROI Analysis.” (I know, I know, LAME. I must think of a much cooler name.)

This ROI Analysis, or Roadmap, for lack of a better name, is designed to uncover the best course of action, with firm deliverables and costs outlined, that will get the client to where they want to be in the time frame we both mutually are aligned with.

Essentially, the Roadmaps are designed to assess if the client will genuinely see ROI from working with me. And to make sure I have properly set expectations that are backed up with data I’ve pulled together and analyzed from their various website and digital marketing accounts.

Beyond what I see from the data, there are 5 key areas I need to decipher where clients fall on the spectrum of the top SEO pitfalls I have seen time and time again. These are the areas I see that make or break an SEO engagement.

  1. How prepared is the client for a fast-moving content development cadence? Are writers in place? Are they subject matter experts? Do they know how to write compelling content? How quickly can we crank out and publish this content? For clients who want to pursue keywords they’ve never targeted before, I would estimate 80% of the time this is going to require new pages, posts, or articles that will need to be created with the full SEO workup.
  2. Do they have too many keywords categories they want to target? While I appreciate ambition around SEO efforts, having too many keywords on a client’s wish list is the kiss of death. Trying to target and pursue too many different keyword categories at one time is detrimental to SEO efficiency, and something I call “diluting your efforts.” SEO wins by going an inch wide and mile deep with a keyword family, not a mile wide and inch deep. Thankfully, most clients who come to me understand prioritization is truly the place they need help.
  3. How sophisticated is their marketing calendar? In my SEO Analysis questionnaire, when it comes to the question, “Do you have a Marketing Calendar?” the answer I get the most is “I wish!” Most clients I work with don’t have a documented formal marketing strategy or calendar that shows all their marketing channels and campaigns in one place from January through December. That’s fine. But what I do need to glean quickly, is what other marketing is being implemented regularly. SEO is contingent upon working parallel to a comprehensive marketing plan: social media marketing, PR and brand awareness campaigns, partnership and collaboration efforts, and a culture of creating content on multiple platforms is necessary and what Google is looking for. Its algorithm and evaluation of over 200 ranking signals are designed to look for this. The level of sophistication with existing and historical marketing efforts, allows me to predict how quickly we can get desired results.
  4. How prepared is their site to build trust and convert cold traffic? Most websites (well, those who are not a household brand name nor the 800-pound gorilla in their respective industries) are not built to engage with prospects who are higher up the funnel. Most sites, sadly, are focused on the company and its products and services, not on the customer. (This is why I think StoryBrand took off – because it is based on copywriting 101 principles). Copywriting best practices are critical to SEO, as they put the emphasis on the “who” the organization is trying to attract to the site. This is where so many businesses get SEO wrong. Most of the time, SEO is designed to bring new people to your website. But most business websites are not prepared to attract, compel, and convert new audiences; they’re designed as brochures.
  5. How prepped are stakeholders, subject matter experts, and peripheral team members? An SEO Consultant’s job is more orchestra conductor and less one-person band. SEO stopped becoming a 1-man job about 8 years ago. Because of the factors that contribute to SEO today (Google uses over 200 signals – all weighted differently – to determine rankings), the work that needs to be done and resources required cross roles, disciplines and silos. Many SEO requirements need to be factored in with UX and technical capabilities and considerations in mind, so frequent collaborations and brainstorming will be required before final recommendations can be handed over.

By the time I go through the Roadmap and show these companies the battle we’re going to need to suit up for, 50% of them are already tiptoeing backward, hoping they can make a clean getaway.

I totally get it. And I always wish there was an easier way for organizations on their journey to finally hiring an SEO specialist to start seeing results.

What’s Better? Does the “Sara Blakely” SEO Approach Work?

Sometimes, I think some businesses may be better served by jumping in to SEO blindly and hiring a decent agency. Meaning they’re better off not knowing all the challenges, obstacles, details and nuances of what they face, lest they never get started. I call this “The Sara Blakely way of doing SEO.”

Sara Blakely, the mega bajillionaire founder of Spanx, always said that when she was starting out those first few years, navigating and failing her way to produce and market her shapewear, she was so glad she never knew how things were supposed to be done, otherwise she would’ve been too intimidated to ever stay committed.

Those who want it bad enough, will find a way. I truly believe that.

But with SEO, there is too much at stake. And my pet peeve is wasting time. I don’t want to waste my time, or the client’s time (or budget!) on failing to get traction because we didn’t have everyone on board and they were caught blindsided. Personally, I want to come in and make a contribution to growth. I can’t do that if clients aren’t adequately prepared in the above areas.

What do you think? Can businesses who slowly dabble in SEO be effective today? I’ve yet to be convinced.

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.
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