I can say with all honesty that 100% of our clients are great to work with. We partner with them, create really productive relationships, and everyone makes money. It's a win-win. Best of all, we have fun doing it. That's not a coincidence - we're careful of the types of companies we work with.
However, there was a time when we couldn't afford to be as discriminating with our clients. We had to take the work we got. And, as is true with any vocation, there were a minority of fringe cases that often made me want to bite my pillow... or something. You know the clients I speak of, the type that always seem to take a quick turn to negative town in client meetings.
As SEOs, there are times when we do site audits, or other search projects that require investigation, meetings, and documentation, and we're frustrated by a lack of response. The client sits on the recommendations, they don't take action, or they put up road blocks to implementation. This is all standard stuff for SEOs, we live and deal with it every day.
The hardest part of SEO is the IMPLEMENTATION!
The crowd cheered louder for that one comment than any other time at the conference (at least that I saw). It rang true for everyone.
Taking a Turn to Negative Town
There's another kind of frustration that's harder to pinpoint. Have you ever worked hard on a project, maybe put in some long hours in the evenings and maybe been put under a tighter-than-expected deadline by the client, only to have the client say things like this?
Client: we can't say that to the developers.
(Us: we talk to developers all day long. Trust us.)
Client: we're going over the deliverable, thanks, we'll let you know.
(Us: thanks for asking us to bust our butts overtime so you could sit on this.)
Client: are you sure? I thought X and Y and Z, so-and-so told me something else.
Even worse, is this scenario: the client (on the one hand) expects you to give them the "ultimate answer" to something (which doesn't exist), but (on the other hand) resists and/or reluctantly accepts your recommendations. This, too, is all part of it... and it's all frustrating. Very rarely are there perfect, clean, exact answers to anything in SEO. More often there are nuances, judgements, ideas or gut feelings (based on experience, you'd hope), and trial and error.
• If you can't say X to developers, then engage in a discussion with them. Show them the consequences of X, Y and Z and talk about the reasons X exists.
• If you won't do anything with the deliverable we created for you, don't ask for it double-time in the first place.
• If so-and-so told you something else, why aren't you working with them? Why'd you call us?
It's All About The Input
High-quality search marketing requires creative input from different angles, and from different personalities and mindsets. It can't and won't work if it's coming out of a vaccuum, no matter how hard you try. On any level of SEO it's absolutely crucial to have another search strategist to bounce things off of, or ask for input. Without that, you're flying solo, and there are very few Amelia Earhart's in the search world. This is why even in-house teams seek outside consultation, why independent freelance SEOs IM and DM each other about clients and projects, and one of the reasons why we spend all that time and money to attend conferences.
I can't tell you how valuable it is to work with people like Aaron Shear, Alex Kirmse, Brian Kalma and many others at Zappos, with Meg Thompson and my entire team at AudetteMedia, and the other awesome search marketers I get to work with every day.
It takes a village to market a website! Now get out there and start harrassing your fellow search marketers. And for those clients who are thinking "no" rather than "yes" during meetings with their search partner, I'm just going to say one thing: please don't take a turn to negative town.