Running an SEO project smoothly and effectively requires juggling many skills: creativity, proactivity, effective time management and organisation, to name just a few.
But I would argue that one of the most important attributes of a successful SEO campaign is communication of knowledge – within an agency, of course, but also (perhaps less obviously) with clients. Many clients have little or no knowledge of SEO, and why should they? That’s what we’re here for, after all. But it’s unfortunately a fact of life as an SEO that algorithm updates and other external factors are not the only risk posed to a successful SEO project. Without at least a minimal level of SEO education, actions taken by a client can actually be detrimental to the SEO efforts of their agency or consultant.
One of my SEO New Year’s Resolutions (more Resolutions from SEOptimise in a forthcoming blog post by Matthew Taylor) is to help clients to help us by ensuring they have enough knowledge to understand our work, its aims and methodologies, and what they can do to ensure that we’re able to get them the best results possible. So I thought I’d kick off the New Year by taking a look at the top ways in which an SEO project can be sabotaged by a client. This is not me ranting about my lovely clients by the way – it’s more a retrospective look at some of the bottlenecks I’ve encountered in otherwise smooth SEO projects over the last year or so.
1. Changing the website without telling us
Whether it’s launching a new section, rolling back to an old version of the site, rewriting copy or even a full blown redesign, it’s really important to get the SEO perspective before any changes are made, to ensure that a) new material is optimised from the word go and b) prior SEO efforts are not damaged or lost. There’s nothing worse than finding that your client’s rankings have plummeted because the site has been reverted to an old, unoptimised version without your knowledge.
The solution: emphasise to your client the importance of liaising on potential website changes before they happen, and in plenty of time. If there’s a redesign in the offing, ensure you’re involved from the outset to ensure that the new site is structured in an SEO-friendly way. It’s much easier to make changes in the planning stages than it is to change things once it’s live.
2. CMS that doesn’t allow crucial SEO changes
Not the client’s fault, but a CMS system that doesn’t allow the implementation of such vital elements as title tags is clearly a major spanner in the works. The worst thing is not being prepared for it – you get your title tags written and signed off, then get granted CMS access only to find that you can’t actually implement them because the title tag is taken automatically from the H1 field and can’t be edited separately!
The solution: ascertain before the start of the project whether the CMS has the appropriate functionality. Ask the client to get their web developer to implement it if necessary, so that you have no nasty surprises awaiting you down the line.
3. A cripplingly slow sign-off process
SEO is continually evolving, and dramatic changes can happen overnight, without warning – just look at the Panda update, for example. That means that we have to be quick to react, and we need the flexibility to be able to adjust both strategies and actual on-site optimisation quickly and decisively if necessary. Our ability to do this can be severely hampered by the need to go through lengthy sign-off procedures.
Even in the course of normal, day-to-day SEO work, project delivery can be significantly delayed by slow sign-off on crucial elements of the campaign – for instance, not having approval for targeted keywords means we’re not able to proceed to writing title tags, which would clearly have a big impact on rankings. Similarly, if content for use in link building is slow to be approved, this will obviously limit our ability to build the highest quality links in a timely manner. It’s frustrating when ranking performance is hampered because we’ve done as much of the agreed work as we can, but can’t actually implement it.
The solution: establish a mutually agreeable sign-off process and, where possible, minimise client involvement. For example, once guidelines are in place, ask them to approve the titles of blog posts only rather than reading through every post.
4. Confusing SEO with PR and advertising
What a lot of clients don’t realise is that some SEO methods are nothing to do with their brand. When it comes to building links, for example from guest blog posts, the emphasis is on finding interesting angles that will work well as blog posts. This is particularly important when the client’s company or products are not especially interesting in themselves, meaning that we have to create the interest by looking at wider or related fields in order to gain bloggers’ interest. When clients apply their own brand guidelines to completely external (anonymous) posts, or even insist on us only writing about their products, it can become very difficult to do our job – because often what you’re left with is a salesy piece in a style that simply isn’t suitable for a blog and which will not get accepted for publication.
The solution: give your client a thorough explanation, along with examples, of what your work will entail, showing how and why it’s being done and reassuring them that their brand will not be harmed in any way.
5. ‘Helping out’ with link building
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when clients take an interest in link building. But not when they get involved by paying a fiver for 10,000 links (this has happened to us). As we’ve previously established here on the SEOptimise blog, this tactic doesn’t work and this sort of activity would seriously undermine a carefully considered link building strategy. Obviously we should be educating clients to aid our efforts by including links in their PR material (for example), but clients should be strongly encouraged to check with you before ‘helping out’ with link building.
The solution: when forming a link building strategy, take the opportunity to educate your client about link building and explain which practices are outdated. Make sure your project plan is clear on who has responsibility for tasks.
What common problems do you encounter in running SEO projects and how do you solve them? Let us know in the comments below!