There are clients SEOs love to have... and then there are those other kind. Every SEO has them and very few SEOs can be so selective as to weed out every client that isn't the "perfect client" (and those that do generally work only for themselves.)

Being the perfect client may not be attainable, but you can certainly avoid being the bad client nobody wants. Here are seven things bad SEO clients do:

  1. Unreasonable expectations

    It's not always the client's fault when there are unreasonable expectations. Sometimes the SEOs propagate misinformation in order to get the sale. Other times once they get involved in the site things look far different than they originally appeared. It is the responsibility of the client to ensure their expectations are in check with reality, despite any claims of the SEO. This is especially true when it comes to overall expectations vs. monetary investment. There is only so much that can be done with the time and money allotted.

    Expectations should be closely guarded with plenty of room for moving the goalpost, depending on the situation. Bad SEO clients expect results outside the bounds of what is likely and refuse to temper those as things change.

  2. Don't return calls or emails

    There is nothing worse than an SEO campaign being slowed down or halted by lack of client communication. If your SEO is asking for feedback, there is a reason for it. If they are waiting on you to provide information it's possible that your campaign will remain at a standstill until they get it. Make it a point to answer all communications from your SEO as quickly as possible. The only person that suffers from holding things up is you!

    Clients need to be engaged with the marketing process. Bad SEO clients can often be their own worst enemy and can impair the marketing efforts by not returning calls and emails to the SEO.

  3. Forwarding SEO spam emails

    Why is it that SEO clients often have trouble with recommendations proposed by their SEO but whenever they get a spam email they forward it asking, "why aren't you doing this?" This is the ultimate example of not trusting the SEO. You're putting your faith in a complete stranger who's spamming every site they can rather than trusting that your SEO knows what they are doing. If your site can't be found, did you ever wonder how the spammers found you?

    Clients need to be involved in the campaign development process, but bad SEO clients forward every SEO spam email they get. This forces the SEO to take time away from actual SEO work to explain why the email is wrong, why things aren't as the email says they are, and to defend their work. That's hours of wasted time.

  4. Overwriting SEO's work

    This is a personal pet peeve. SEOs go though a lot of research and effort before making any changes to a client's site. Whether the changes are a major reworking of a page, or a few minor edits to a title tag, they all have reason and merit. The quickest way to keep an SEO from being successful with your optimization campaign is to overwrite their changes with your own. Fortunately, the CodeMonitor tool will notify the SEOs within 24 hours any time a monitored page changes (we monitor all our client's optimized pages.) However it's still up to the client to ensure such overwriting doesn't happen.

    To be successful the SEOs work must remain in tact. Bad SEO client's don't take the time to ensure they or their team work only from the live SEOd version of the site.

  5. Argue every recommendation

    I once had a client that went item by item arguing every recommendation we made. Calls to action? Too lowbrow for his audience. Using keywords? Too pedantic. It's important for the client to seek to understand the reasoning behind the changes, but you can't expect the SEO to improve your website's exposure if you are tying their hands in their efforts. If you don't agree with what the SEO is doing, give them the rope to hang themselves. Track the results, if conversions drop then undo it. But at least give it a chance to perform.

    Clients need to understand the value of what the SEO is doing. Bad SEO clients question every change forcing the SEO to exhaust hours of time explaining and defending every decision.

  6. Try to out SEO the SEO

    I'm a strong proponent of the client being involved and having an understanding of the overall SEO campaign. However there comes a point where the client has to let the SEO do their job. The SEO was hired because they have a skill set and area of expertise, presumably one the client themselves don't have. The client can't assume they know more about SEO than the SEO does and must give the SEO freedom to implement SEO their way.

    Working with the SEO with brainstorming and strategy development is a good thing. Bad SEO clients push for every SEO tactic they learn about or supplement their own SEO knowledge into the campaign.

  7. Call/email all the time

    Communication is essential to a well-oiled optimization machine, but too much of anything is a bad thing. Clients who call the SEO up on a regular bases because they want to talk about this, that or the other, are not doing themselves any favors. Whether they want to talk strategy, success, implementation or whatever, these communications must be done in an orderly fashion. The SEO should not be expected to field regular unwarranted calls from the client that suck up the time they would otherwise be investing in that client's SEO campaign.

    Clients should be interested in their campaign but not at the expense of the campaign itself. Bad SEO clients spend more time talking to the SEO than the SEO has available, preventing them from doing the job they were hired for.

SEOs love to work with good clients. Consequently, good SEO clients get better results than bad SEO clients. Bad SEO clients suck up the SEO's time, create distractions from the campaign and prevent the SEO from doing the things that get the results the client ultimately wants. Ensuring that you are not a bad SEO client also ensures that the SEO can focus on your success.

October 14, 2009

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


I don't think this behavior is limited to SEO. It's a common problem for any service or consulting business.

Every such business has a component of the client from hell, the one who resists everything, argues everything, always knows better. Often these are small businesses themselves, usually run by an owner of manager who lives by the "have a finger in everything" school of command and control management.

You're not going to change these people. But, going by Pareto's principle, they usually compose only 20 per cent of your client revenue, even though they take up 80 per cent of your time.

Consultants are hired for their expertise. Presuming you have some, don't put up with clients who treat you like plumbers. They'll never understand.

Want to stop this kind of behavior? Refuse to work with them if they continue. Or fire them as clients. They're not worth the hassle.

Then do some pre-interviewing before you take on new assignments. Discuss how you're going to collaborate, and insist on some ground rules. Put it in writing, so you both have something to refer to.
Good luck!
Tony Wanless, Knowpreneur Consultants,

Great post thanks Stoney. I'm tempted to copy and paste this into a mass email to all my clients.

I already had a lot of clients and almost had clients like those in the list. I really hate those kind that expect instant results and don't understand that SEO takes time.

Nice post. Probably will use it as an insert in our client welcome letter.

Yes, I've encountered those who call and email all the time. it's good that they do, but sometimes its just too overwhelming for me. Will keep this handy to pass onto my clients.

Sadly we've got one too many clients like this. Unfortunately "online marketing" is a concept that is just starting to gain some traction in South Africa. Right now we've taken on more of an education role to existing clients. I'm still amazed how a client can spent 1000's on a site and then consider a couple of 100's on SEO unnecessary. Oh well... we toil.

Great post, definitely going to use this as a reference to some of our clients, old and new!

Great Post! I find these problem's occurring all too often as well, but I have to agree with Stoney these problem's are probably all too common far beyond SEO, but it is mainly due to miscommunication and these situations cannot be avoided with everyone unfortunately.

We, too, have had many instances like this. The basic problem is that, generally, people do not understand how SEO works and nobody could really write an enticing sales page which would give much of a clue either (I would click of such a page myself!). If clients are expecting instant results, they do not know the time constraints involved and should be made of the probable timeframes at interview. We find it better to have an in depth "exchange of views" before starting a project in the hope of correcting the potential clients' unrealistic expectations. However, there will always, in any trade or profession, be clients who are just unreasonable. Be strong and never be afraid to decline to serve them.

Great Post, I'm thinking about making some bullet points out of this post and using it as hand out for my employees together with some strong how to avoid guidelines.
I think clear pre interviewing is key.

great post man... I think I will surely send this link to my SEO client... LOLzzz.... just kiding...
Sometimes it is so hard to explain client the reality that arguments too take place....
keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.

Yeah. Excellent point which all SEO experts getting from bad client. It should be shown to all of my clients. Thanks.

While I don't do SEO for anyone but myself, I've toyed with the idea of taking on clients at some point. I love the idea of the CodeMonitor tool. I had to giggle at what a follow-up conversation might sound like, though. "Howard, I see you touched the code again." :)

Very helpful information. Thanks!

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > 7 Worst Things (Bad) SEO Clients Do