Not long ago I provided some advice about how to hire an SEO. Today, I had to fire one of my customers for not following that advice. I can’t entirely blame them though. Well, I could – but that would be rude.
You see, as an SEO consultant I had made a very bad mistake. I assumed the customer would want to help me, that they would want to take an active role in optimizing their site and improving it’s search rankings. This is the story of how it happened. The names have been removed and the keywords have been changed to protect the stupid.
How it began
I was referred to the company, a local small business, by a friend of mine that does social media consulting. She told me they were not happy with how the site was ranking and that the person they had been working with previously had not been able to make any progress. I was naturally a bit skeptical, for all I knew the owner was unhappy for not ranking for “cat food” or “shampoo”. However, I agreed to give the site a quick review and see if anything obvious had been overlooked that might be affecting the site’s rankings.
Bake sale anyone?
You’ve probably heard the over-worked term “low hanging fruit” which refers to finding the quick and easy answers. If I had been able to hold a bake sale from all the fruit I found, I could have sent every marching band in the greater Austin area to the Rose Bowl parade – and still had money left over to send a few girl scouts to summer camp.
The code was a mess, there were no headline tags, no internal linking, page titles were not optimized, no sitemap. Name any SEO 101 task and it was undone. No wonder the site didn’t rank well.
Reluctantly, I asked my friend if she knew what the phrase was that the company wanted to rank for. I really did expect it to be something ridiculous. I was shocked when it turned out to be a very localized, long tail phrase. The phrase did have a fair amount of competition, but nothing unbeatable.
I agreed to help them out. With all the simple fixes and the easy key word I’d be measured by, it seemed like an easy task. I was wrong.
I did a more thorough review of the site, sent the results and recommendations along and was told “fix it.” Alrighty then. I asked for some additional content, some images with descriptions and some short video clips. While waiting on that, I went to work cleaning up the pages and optimizing the content I did have.
I signed them up for Google analytics, and submitted them to be listed in Google Local. Now I wait for them to send me the info they get from Google and the content I requested so I can continue.
And then I waited some more.
The beginning of the end
I get an email from them. No, not content. No, not info from Google. They want to know why they are still not on page one of Google when they search for themselves. I reply and explain that without the content I can not continue that the rankings will not improve. And, without info from Google they will not be added to the local listings. They explain they are busy and do not have time now, but will get to it soon.
I wait some more.
I get another email from them – again complaining that they are not on page one of Google. This is frustrating, I know that with a little bit of cooperation from them I could have them on page one. I again explain the situation and again I am told – just fix it.
After nearly a week, I still have nothing from them.
I (nicely) let them know they can either complain or be uncooperative, but not both. There is no way we can achieve the desired results without their cooperation. They are too busy. Sigh. I decide it’s time to cut them loose.
Who’s to blame?
I’ve already said I can’t entirely blame them. I did things I advise others not to do. I made assumptions and I did not have crystal clear documentation regarding who was expected to do what and how long it should take.
I went into this project thinking I was doing them a favor, not doing a job. That was my biggest mistake.
There should have been a well defined set of goals and time-lines. Without those we were just stumbling around in the dark hoping to get somewhere.
I flushed time (and money) down the toilet, and they (I’m sure) are now even more frustrated with the SEO industry.
I know I came out of this a little smarter. Hopefully they did too and the next person to work with them has the benefit of my mistakes.
When do YOU know it’s time to fire a customer?