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The longer I work in the industry, the more apparent it becomes to me that there are essentially two types of clients: those who want to be guided to higher rankings and those who want to be pushed to higher rankings. As SEOs we are capable of doing both, but the goal of this post is to explain the vast superiority of one method over the other.

The Client Who Wants To Be Pushed

Some clients come to SEO.com wanting to be pushed up the rankings. They view search engine optimization as a ticket to a bigger return on investment and need the whole process to take place pretty quickly. I’m not sure these clients really know what SEO is. They might have been told they need SEO to make more money on their website and called us because we are the first SEO company they saw in the rankings. To be honest, I don’t really know a lot about these clients because they don’t like to talk to us. They consider us their SEO company, nothing more and nothing less. We are in charge of getting them to the first page and they really don’t care how we do it.

More often than not we do achieve first page results for these clients (an accomplishment I am sure must confirm to them they don’t need to be involved to see results). Nevertheless, it can at times seem like an uphill battle, often taking longer than it should to see results. The main problem with a client like this is that they only care about one thing: rankings. If their rankings look good, we are met with praise. If they are taking longer than expected, we are scorned. Yes, we will work with you if you are a client like this, but there is a better way and I will show it to you.

The Client Who Wants To Be Guided

These are the clients we love and have the most fun with. These clients have three great things going for them.

  1. A unique value proposition. They have a great business model combined with a great product or service. They know they deserve to be No. 1 for their keywords.
  2. They have a great website. This isn’t to say their website is perfectly optimized, since we can work on that together. Instead, their website is well designed, has lots of great content and will convert once they start seeing traffic.
  3. They view us as part of their marketing efforts and business strategy, not just SEO. These clients realize that SEO is much more than building links. They want us to work with them to achieve lasting results and increase brand awareness.

The main thing that sets this type of client apart is the level of involvement. Instead of a “set it and forget it” attitude, we become more of consultants, combining SEO best practices with their current marketing efforts.

What SEO Firms Can Do

Not every client will understand what a good SEO does. Let’s face it, there are many SEO companies that will take a client’s money and get them rankings through shady methods without the client ever needing to pick up the phone. But potential clients need to understand that a legitimate long-term SEO strategy will require a lot of work from both the SEO team and themselves. Without the ability to commit on this level there may be some frustrations in the campaign and results may take longer to achieve.

Finally, we as SEOs need to do a better job at setting expectations when taking on a new client. Too many clients have been conditioned through past SEO companies to count links and come with an expectation of a certain amount of links per dollar paid. To convert a client from one who expects to be pushed to one who wants to be guided means dispelling all past expectations they might have heard about the SEO industry and explaining to them what really works and what your vision is for their campaign. Failing to do this could lead to animosity and unmet expectations six months from now. On the other hand, doing this right will lead to rankings, ROI and a great relationship.

So I would like to hear from others, what tips do you have for setting realistic expectations and what myths do you make it a priority to dispel when taking on a new client?