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SEO 10 min read February 11, 2020

Top 5 Client's Unrealistic SEO Expectations And How To Deal With Them

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Top 5 Client's Unrealistic SEO Expectations And How To Deal With Them 16261788097074
Tom Shivers
Founder of Capture Commerce
After 16 years of working with SEO clients, I'm sharing these client's expectations about SEO to help others recognize them and handle them better than I did.

"I want to be ranked on page 1 for this competitive keyword"

Yes, and so do 357 competitor sites that are optimized for it.

So, as you seek page 1 rank for those competitive money keywords, don't lose out on the huge number of long tail keywords that don't require a lot of effort to win and bring in a nice share of business. Sometimes businesses want to start going for competitive keyword topics that their site has relatively little authority for. They may be adding a new service or product line that is unrelated to their core offerings.

If they don't have plans to create a new site or add a new, in-depth section to their website, you could be wasting time and resources only to achieve a page three search rank at best. The real issue is recommending the competitive keywords a site should and should not go for based on the amount of quality content, link earning ability and budget dedicated to the venture or topic.

Don't be afraid to walk away from the table even when you know a competitor agency will take them. It's better to say "No" today than to regret taking on an unqualified client tomorrow.
Warning: prospects with bold demands like this do not realize the complexity of gaining a top ranking for a competitive keyword; most are not qualified until you help them set both short term and long term goals that are realistic.


"Paid search is killing us, we want to replace it with SEO for the same keywords"

When I hear stuff like this, all kinds of thoughts go through my brain:

"Yes, running your ads on broad match keywords, not using negative keywords, not using ad extensions and not tracking conversions can kill you."

This prospect was motivated to get SEO going, but the expectation is off a bit. I tried to talk this gal off the ledge and help her understand that SEO will replace a portion of that paid search budget, rank the site for lots of keywords that align with her prospects, improve the usability and conversion rate for the site and fill in the content gaps along the way.

I've seen organic search traffic overtake paid search traffic numerous times for client sites and become the top revenue source, but expecting SEO to replace paid search is not realistic. Paid search and SEO work well together.
Warning: if you cannot help this prospect modify his or her expectation to something like "we want to reduce our paid search budget by investing in SEO strategically," then he or she is not qualified for SEO.


"I just pay someone to do that stuff for me"

Businesses who have an aversion to technology can succumb to peddlers of SEO which can further entrench their fear of tech. Yet, most owners and executives are quite successful at running their business and don't want to learn tech stuff.
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A good way to help them is to layout your plan with a timeline and define key performance indicators (KPIs) that will show them whether you are doing your job or not. Then track those KPIs and go over the reports with them each month. This builds accountability into your process, builds trust with your client and helps you communicate in terms your client already understands. I track 40+ KPIs for my SEO clients each month.

You'll want to help your client roll with the constant changes of search engines as you do, rather than allow them to get stuck in a by-gone era of SEO or web design. When I see an inevitable change coming, I warn my client in advance and clearly lay out the steps we need to take to deal with it.

I've noticed with these "special" clients that they tend to upgrade the website right before their busy season because they think it won't take long, or worse, they do the upgrade without telling me. So, to keep my sanity, I stay in communication and bug them until I'm sure they know the dangers of doing a web upgrade without my input.
Warning: executives who are afraid of technology require more than average time to explain the basics of SEO and extra communication to prevent them from making marketing decisions that will harm their search rankings.


"The more traffic the better, thus to get more sales we need to increase the traffic"

If your client's website content is cold and doesn't engage prospects, conversion rates will suffer. And all the traffic in the world won't matter.

I had a person on my staff with empathic ability. He put himself in the mindset of feeling the pain of the prospect and go through our client's website in search for the remedy. In the process he documented all of the problems and confusion he felt along the way. We created two different versions of the landing page that incorporated all of the elements in our hypothesis and tested them against our client's original landing page.

What we found is that our new landing pages increased the number of sales by 91% — nearly doubling the sales! I realized that getting a lot more business from the same amount of traffic comes down to a focused picture of the ideal prospect.
Warning: Yes, conversion optimization is part of SEO; think of client retention.


"Two months is quite enough to be ranked #1 for my desired keywords, isn't it?"

Lots of clients I was working with didn't associate SEO work with something time-consuming. But it is. It takes time to execute SEO regardless of the size or age of the website. Sites that are large and have been around for awhile often have technical issues that can take months to clean up. Sites that are new or small must build up their authority and create content that attracts their ideal prospect to compete for top rankings.

Sometimes search engines like Google rank and un-rank web pages for unknown reasons. Don't get up tight, if you do your job, you have a better chance of getting in a favorable position for known reasons.
Warning: If a prospect isn't committed to long-term success, they aren't a prospect for SEO.

Realistic SEO expectations start with solid business objectives

Objectives are goals that tell everyone where the business wants to go. For example, this business sells barbeque sets online and wants to grow to $250K this quarter (that's the objective). One of the key results might be to rank on Google's first page for "buy barbeque set."

Some businesses do not articulate a clear business objective as it relates to SEO and that's why you and I need to clarify SEO expectations. Unless you can help a prospect get specific about how SEO fits into their business objective, you probably have an unqualified prospect who will bail before they've given you an adequate chance to prove your worth.

It's hard to find a business person today who hasn't experienced a rough ride with an SEO provider in the past. Most say something like, "They told us we needed to do X, then later our rankings tanked."

As SEO people, we know about Google's Panda, Penguin and so on. But rather than blame Google, we need to own up to our mistakes, especially those that have misled clients – enabling their unqualified expectations or intentionally hiding things from them.

SEO is one of the most profitable marketing channels a business can invest in, but many businesses are afraid to get back in because they think our industry has too many untrustworthy people and they don't know who to believe anymore.
Can we change that negative perception by working only with those who have expectations that are realistic and fairly certain we can turn their frown into a smile? Share your thoughts in comments ;)

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