If You’re Not Ready to Roll up Your Sleeves, You’re Not Ready for SEO

SEO time to roll up your sleeves 600x600Two weeks ago I was talking to a prospective SEO consulting client who told me her budget was $2,000 to spend on SEO.

Not a small chunk of change by any means.

But I knew within the first two minutes we were not a fit. However, I really liked the web designer who sent her my way, and I of course wanted to help point her in the right direction, so the conversation continued.

I should’ve ended the call early. Graciously.

Because it did not go well.

She wanted—what I consider to be—pretty aggressive results in a relatively short period of time. With extremely limited team members who had SEO knowledge who could execute. In a very competitive industry.

Let me back up for a second. I have 2 strict rules about who I will and will not take on as clients: 1) the client cannot be desperate for business. Meaning, they cannot be pinning all of their last hopes and dreams on SEO drawing in prospects otherwise their business may collapse and 2) they have to understand me when I say they have to be in SEO for the long haul and foundational SEO alone will not garner them significant results.

I meant to gently explain to her why I’m not a fit while trying to give some realistic education that her budget would best be put to use elsewhere. But it was awkward. I fumbled it up.

And the instant the explanation of why I couldn’t work with her was out of my mouth I knew it was not going to be received well.

There was silence. And then then a half-screech of, “Are you saying that if I consider $2,000 to be a lot of money for me to spend…then we are not a good FIT to work together?”

I winced.

Suffice it to say the rest of the conversation did not get much better after that.

The funds she was ready to pony up were a great starter, but that’s exactly what they were for what she wanted. A starter investment. Not the end-all-be-all she was looking for to gain significant, long-lasting momentum.

Investing time and dollars into SEO is a risk. But isn’t investing time and dollars into any marketing channel a risk? Why is SEO any different?

Because it used to be different. Optimizing your website with foundational SEO alone did often garner miracles.

SEO: Not a Problem You Can Throw Money At

SEO is not a chemical reaction; it is a ranking. It is sport. If twenty website owners take the same actions, Google will still show only ten of them (at most) in their top ten results. SEMrush.

This is not to say SEO isn’t a worthwhile investment for any business, particularly small businesses. It’s absolutely worth it if you can strategically accept SEO and move forward with it for what it is: a long-term marketing channel that requires care and feeding. Not a set-it-and-forget-it tactic.

I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who simply want to throw money at a problem (one prospect told me this in his own words).

Exact wording from recent conversations have gone something like this:

I want my website to be a lead gen machine. (ahem, don’t we all?)
I want to be at the top of Google within 3 months.
If we’re not happy with the results, in, say, 6 months, can we get our money back?

I am all for questions (and a healthy desire for aggressive results). Ask me about refunds, timetables, why I can’t guarantee SEO results, all day long. But these questions have to be balanced with an understanding and acceptance that to engage in SEO means you have to commit to intensive one-time work to gain momentum, and then execute consistently. They have to accept – despite how easy SEO used to be in the past – there is no short-cutting building authority, earning links, and creating appealing content consistently over time.

Winning in Search Today

I don’t believe SEO is for only those with deep pockets. But I do believe it’s for those who do not feel like it’s a chore to roll up their sleeves nor dedicate resources to consistent activity in order to stay visible, prominent, and at the top of their industry.

Those who consistently make learning, skill acquisition, and rolling up their sleeves to get into the weeds and experiment on a few strategic initiatives will always be relevant, and will always keep their company on the forefront of SEO.

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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.


  • Hi Jenny, since I first read your blogs last a few weeks ago and first commented last week, I love the honest and heart felt approach you have to them. This is one of of those that I can really relate to having been there myself with the same outcome! SEO is a long term strategy, not a once off wonder. Cost is always a deciding factor and I will try to work with any client who I feel can benefit from the work that I do, even on a limited budget. There are those who are in highly competitive markets and who only want the “prime keywords” and very shallow pockets and need to be on position one of Google by this time time next week – Walk away and keep your sanity as it reflects a lack of understanding that will only lead to a very unhappy client who will not be writing you a favorable review of your work, work ethics and the results that you obtain for them will always be less than favorable.
    Please keep writing, will be back shortly!

    • Jenny Munn says:

      Alan – thanks so much for your comment(s) and for chiming in. What you say is so true – there is a distinct difference between good client partners and those who are beyond the help a white-hat SEO can offer. Thanks again for stopping by! 🙂

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