No Client Left Behind

Defining SEO Shouldn’t Be Your Goal

by Dave Curtis on 08/04/2010

in Search Engine Optimization,Small Business SEO,Web Site Design


Walking Into a New Prospective Client Office, one who contacted me to perform SEO I ask myself “Do they have a clue as to what SEO is or is not?”

Walking into a prospective client’s office after receiving a phone call or email is usually pretty much a given sale. I go in with an upbeat attitude, clean shaven (everywhere but my goatee, that is), I have my sales pitch down and can intelligently field questions on the fly. In other words, I know I’ve got the job. The only thing I have to do now is not screw it up which is fairly easy not to do since I’m agreeable, friendly and don’t deviate from my professional “can do” attitude of providing any and all services SEO and web related that the prospective client wants.

What is SEO? So now that I’m sure the job is mine, I need to narrow down the area of common mistakes that can occur and which inevitably will occur with a percentage of clients simply because in their imaginations they are wanting one thing, but they don’t know what SEO really is.

Some prospective clients look at SEO the way my 90 year old mother looks at a car engine. The fact that you’re speaking a totally foreign language doesn’t mean a thing – the prospective client is smiling and nodding like bobble head doll and somehow I just know there’s a total lack of understanding:

What is a Web Site: New Rules of Marketing & PR and World Wide Rave: The site you’re describing, the one in your mind has not only SEO but conversion factors built in. The one your client may be thinking about is a web designers simple pretty picture book without anything of substance. You expect that the site you design and or perform SEO on will not only be found for as many terms possible that can make a client some direct cash sales, but that it will be the one amongst the other 10 returned sites on page one in Google, Bing, Yahoo (or upon whichever search engine or within which directory you have had it placed) to wind up being the rave of the bunch and the one chosen by the most web surfers to buy from.

The web site the client is imagining is one with really pretty pictures.

To your mind the choice to make between “SEO or Pretty Pictures?” SHOULD seem obvious because the client actually wants (you tell yourself, because you are still in stunned disbelief) the site to be a working site that functions like a sales machine – so of course you can’t help thinking of all the great things you know how to do to make all that happen using all of your vast array of SEO skills, web analytics and letting the monthly numbers and conversion statistics guide you. The client won’t stop talking about pictures – asking questions about your photography, your camera, talking about the flowers outside on the property… all the clues that should be telling you what you most dread to learn.

The Prospective Client Wants to Pay You to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Ah, yes, something, something, but what? Do you know what I’m trying to say here by something? Am I trying to tell you that the customer may be thinking of something entirely different from sound web design or search engine optimization? Because if that’s what you might be thinking right now then B.I.N.G.O! You’ve just won a cupie doll. If you run into a prospective client like this and recognize it early on you can save yourself a ton of work.


Take a deep breath. Let it out. Relax all of your muscles and realize the truth. This client wants an online presence. The client wants a brochure site. The client has not transcended to, embraced, or been embraced by the cyberworld / information age level of consciousness we take for granted.

This same kind of split development in human mental evolution occurred after the invention of the printing press and the first and second generation of readers were dealing with those who were far less exposed to print.

Doing it all with tact: My belief (as of today – tomorrow I may find an exception, who knows?) after dealing with many types of client over the years is that once you know the client fully grasp SEO and resists being educated as to what it can really do and how it needs to be done is to just go along with it and give them what they want. A basic web site built as solidly as possible with as much SEO as you can get away with. It’s better that you do it than someone else who is totally unqualified.  Remember, the prospect is only telling you what he thinks you want to hear so you’ll take the job (that’s a switch – the client conning the SEO!).

Creating a burning desire for SEO by the SEOs standards: IF you’re a glutton for punishment or feel that the client is bright and open minded enough and / or REALLY NEEDS (for their business to survive – e.g. if you see the writing on the wall for the economy and know they can do sooo much better) then feel free to dive in and spend a lot of time via email, on the telephone, and even in person as you essentially educate the client from the ground up.

Choose carefully though – because you might just make a great friend for life. 😀

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