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Despite the fact that SEO can make or break a business online, SEO still conjures up a lot of negativity.

Some of the negativity is fair. While there are plenty of legitimate SEOs, the market still has its fair share of snake oil salesman going from client to client in a hit-and-run fashion promising the world but delivering none of it.

The negativity and controversy that exists around SEO can make the SEO market a tough place to do business. Here are 10 ways to be a great SEO and to demonstrate to your clients and prospective clients that you're committed to providing a legitimate, top-notch service.

  • Don't guarantee results. No matter how skilled you are and no matter how good your track record is, it's impossible to guarantee results since there's so much that is out of your control, even if you do everything right. So instead of promising things you aren't able to promise, describe what you can do to put your client in a position to achieve results and how the things you've done in the past resulted in success for other clients.

    If you find yourself dealing with someone who is demanding guarantees, consider moving on since these situations rarely end well in my experience.

  • Set expectations. Even though you can't guarantee top SERPs, you can help a client create realistic expectations. Whether it's giving the client timeframes for the tasks you'll be completing or explaining the process of SEO, it's important to be sure that the client knows what to expect.
  • Educate. Some SEOs don't like to tell their clients what they're doing. They think of their knowledge as a trade secret and believe that if they educate the client, the client will eventually fire them and take over SEO themselves.

    This type of mentality is the hallmark of an amateur consultant. Most clients prefer transparency to secrecy and aren't interested in firing consultants performing services that don't fall under their core competencies. You should think of knowledge sharing as a way to demonstrate your competence to clients, making yourself even more valuable.

  • Admit when you don't know something. SEO is a dynamic field and things are always changing. In many cases, hard and fast rules don't exist and there aren't any 'official' answers. So when a client asks you about something and you don't have an answer, don't make one up; say so and look into it.
  • Keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date. Search engine algorithms are in a constant state of flux and the field of SEO is one of the most dynamic on the internet. Make sure you're staying on top of the latest developments since no client wants an SEO in 2009 who has 2005 skills and knowledge.
  • Define deliverables. Last week I wrote that SEO is a journey, not a destination. It's important for clients to understand that. If someone wants to hire you for a few weeks, there's a lot that you can deliver but there's also a lot that you can't deliver. Therefore I always recommend detailing what deliverables you can provide in the timeframe that the client gives you, being realistic about what this means to the client's overall SEO strategy.
  • Don't push the limits. The line between white hat and black hat is often blurred and even if your risk tolerance is high, you shouldn't assume that a client's is too. Think of yourself as a doctor when working with clients and remember to 'do no harm'.
  • Provide references. Even though some prospective clients won't ask for them, offering up references proactively is a good idea because it helps you stand out in a market that still has more than a few snake oil salesmen.
  • Don't confuse SEO with PPC. Be careful about confusing organic SEO and paid search marketing. Yes, I've actually met people who didn't know the difference because their SEO 'experts' had led them to believe that the two were the same. Obviously that was probably a way of masking the fact that they were unable to deliver organic results.
  • Remember that SEO is more than just Google. Even though Google deservedly receives most of the SEO attention because it has the marketshare in the major markets, good SEO is holistic and many of your clients might receive significant benefits from other search engines. Therefore don't exclude other search engines from your services.

Hint: if you're on the client side, be sure to look for the above when dealing with prospective consultants and don't hesitate to ask tough questions! A great SEO will welcome them.

Photo credit: Xurble via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 30 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2377 more posts from this author

Comments (17)

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Emilio

Yes , Good Post . Most of the SEO don't guarantee results these days because rankings has become very dynamic . I am working with a client and instead of rankings going up they are going down.

over 7 years ago

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ContactUsUSA

Great read,

Don't push the limits

 "Think of yourself as a doctor when working with clients and remember to 'do no harm'."

I like the way you put that :-)

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Well written article. I think that not guaranteeing results is the most contentious for potential Clients - why am I investing if you can't guarantee a return? I completely agree with the explanation, just needs careful management to make people comfortable with what they are investing in. 

I think the key point you make is setting realistic expectations. The SEO industry has suffered from the charlatans making rash promises and then using shoddy techniques to try and achieve them. A professional service provider will work on a roadmap and set clear goals that can be evaluated. Taking a long-term view for SEO is much more beneficial than obsessing over short-term targets, every website has an off week.

Thanks

james

over 7 years ago

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Harry Brignull

How to be a great SEO, point 1: Don't guarantee results

I know what you are trying to say here, but your wording sounds so, so wrong! What you are describing looks exactly like a classic rainmaker scam. Wikipedia definition:

Rainmaker scam: The con artist (a "rainmaker") convinces the mark to pay him to make something happen. If it happens, then the mark is convinced it is because he paid the rainmaker; if not, the rainmaker can say he needs more money to do it.

The real way to be a great SEO is to distinguish yourself from scammers by educating your clients and delivering undeniable value, regardless of the short term effect on their ranking. Since SEO is a long distance journey, you have to equip your clients for this, even if your engagement is brief.

over 7 years ago

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arnie katz

I have to agree with some of the other responders. As an SEo I have to tell potential clients that we are aiming for the top two pages of the major search engines. In todays world, most of the business owners know that if your website is not found in the first few pages of the search engine results you will gain little traffic. I generally tell my clients we always shoot for the top, but I also tell them I will guarantee 30 - 40 % of their keywords in the top two pages. Fortunately I have been successful more than 85% of the time. With PPC campaigns they know what they are getting. Clients only want the SEO if they know that they will be found on the First or second page of the results. Otherwise wy bother.

over 7 years ago

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arnie katz

I have to agree with some of the other responders. As an SEo I have to tell potential clients that we are aiming for the top two pages of the major search engines. In todays world, most of the business owners know that if your website is not found in the first few pages of the search engine results you will gain little traffic. I generally tell my clients we always shoot for the top, but I also tell them I will guarantee 30 - 40 % of their keywords in the top two pages. Fortunately I have been successful more than 85% of the time. With PPC campaigns they know what they are getting. Clients only want the SEO if they know that they will be found on the First or second page of the results. Otherwise wy bother.

over 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Harry: I included "Educate" and "Define Deliverables" in my list for a reason.

Arnie: you don't "have to" tell potential clients anything. It's fine to set goals (you should) but the bottom line is that you have absolutely no ability to guarantee that 30-40% of their keywords will appear on the top two pages of Google or any other search engine.

I hate to say it but you're being dishonest with your clients to win business. I hope you give refunds to the clients who found this out the hard way.

over 7 years ago

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Alec East

A wise and pragmatic approach. Great to hear a voice of reason once in a while.

over 7 years ago

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Pete Gronland

Patricio, I loved this article because it speaks the truth.

I believe that great SEO is only achieved with the clients input and understanding, education is paramount. I also think that traffic is a fantastic way of showing performance when linked to ranking ups and downs.

I do not and will never advocate SEO where the client is "kept in the dark" for many reasons, but selfishly, its because it makes your life harder. Enthused, educated clients generally shoulder a large part of the ongoing SEO work, particularly in content production & link building.

I do though have great empathy/sympathy with those in the SEO field that are enforced to make some sort of performance promise. Not all SEO's have the control that they would like with regards to the financial side of the service and many agencies still do not understand (or do not want to undersand) the complexities of SEO. They certainly would not understand the premise that SEO is a Journey rather than a destination, as this is an alien concept with almost all other media.

With online being the only media form that is bucking the recession and SEO being the fasest growing media within that field. It should only be a matter of time before companies/agencies will have to take the time to understand SEO better....hopefully!?

over 7 years ago

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Felicitas Betzl

Very good article! For me some of the most important points are definitely "Don´t guarantee results" and "educate". I think creating a good relationship with the client is absolute key, as in order to become the SEO the client wants, you need to truely understand the client´s market. SEO doesn´t happen overnight, I like to look at it as an "investment". Defining deliverables becomes definitely beneficial at the start of a campaign. After all the major foundations are set, I would also suggest that month on month activities are planned and actions are outlined accordingly. Keeping the campaign transparent ensures that the client stays involved. And if the client is happy, the SEO is happy.

over 7 years ago

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craig mclaughlan

A good article and should be read by lots of potential clients before looking for an SEO consultant.

One item I think has been overlooked; let your client know that they themselves will need to dedicate resources to a successful campaign (writing texts, helping orientate you, getting their own team on board).

It's not a case of the client simply paying your fees and reaping the rewards. They need to know it's a working partnership and that the more they put in, the more they'll get out of it.

over 7 years ago

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SEO Notes

Your best point is: Educate!

I think a SEO will be better with the help of the clients and this means sharring the SEO knowledge.

over 7 years ago

Felix Adewoye

Felix Adewoye, search & e-marketing at mvgmedia

i think the biggest challenge to being a great seo is the term itself. The term seo is probably one of the most misused and misrepresented terms ever. I agree with comments above about education. Seo is not an end in itself and should only be one part of the e-marketing mix

over 7 years ago

Felix Adewoye

Felix Adewoye, search & e-marketing at mvgmedia

i think the biggest challenge to being a great seo is the term itself. The term seo is probably one of the most misused and misrepresented terms ever. I agree with comments above about education. Seo is not an end in itself and should only be one part of the e-marketing mix

over 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Thanks for the outline of your process Patricio.

I've had some annoying would-be clients turn up lately looking for the smooth talking promises. When I gave them the real goods on their situation, they were disappointed.

But better rid of them early than listen to their whining about the missing Yellow Brick Road for months afterwards.

over 7 years ago

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vina84.com

http://vina84.com , thiet ke web , thiet ke website

almost 7 years ago

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Jafar Sadiq

I do not have any language to thanks.
I generally dont like to post any comment in any site but for this site i'm feeling proud to post a comment.
May Allah bless your business.
I'm Speechless. VERY GOOD CONTENT.

almost 5 years ago

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