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When you are hired to do SEO for a client, it’s best if you’re the one fully in charge. Although it’s a natural assumption to make that since you are the one responsible for the results that you have complete control. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. There are some situations where the client will hire you as an SEO consultant although they already have an in-house person who is supposed to take care of it.  Usually, that’s person is from the marketing department, however, in some cases that can be the person in charge of internet marketing, web development or even actual SEO. In those kinds of situations, you have to be very careful about strongly defining the terms you will work under. You need to know who will be in charge, who has the final say and who will ultimately be responsible for the SEO results. In my freelancing career, and later running my SEO agency, I have run across this problem several times.

In-house person thinks they know SEO

SEO strategies

If an in-house person has some SEO knowledge, (especially if they are not an expert,) often this person will try to determine which SEO strategies you will use. They will also try to control not only the strategy but also the tools you will use.  Once, I had this situation where the clients in-house marketer wanted me to create original articles, add links to them and submit the same article to hundreds of article directories. This person had heard about ‘syndication’ and figured that’s how it worked. He didn’t know if you publish same articles on too many article directories, the duplicated content will lower the links value of every article. Plus, this strategy often draws Google attention in a negative way and puts you on the ‘suspicious’ list which actually lowers your ranking.

What they were talking about used to work, but not any more. In fact, the week prior, all major SEO players started discussing how bad having links from exactly the same articles pointing back to your site from different places on the web could be. As I said, this used to work when Google devoted lots of attention to article directories. Though those tactics had already become ancient history, this client and his in-house SEO person didn’t believe me. Since I couldn’t convince them, I figured the easiest thing to do was just to pacify them by doing the work. Now, I had to spend one day a week on research and article writing and another day for submitting it. It was a total waste of time, especially since I knew there was zero SEO value. To top it all off, I was responsible for getting better results in SERPs, for getting targeted visits, and now I had less time to spend on that. It was a very tricky situation.

Wrong tools to keep track of results

I had a client whose ‘person of trust’ was a web developer. Though he was overall a smart person, he was living in some past time when it came to SEO, internet marketing, ROI, and similar stuff. For example, his main analytics tool was Alexa, hardly a reliable tool. Though they had Google Analytics, they were tracking only visits. They didn’t bother to look at visits from search engines, keywords, the visitors’ geo location or anything else that can show them the big picture. Before me, the client had a SEO provider who worked mostly on a link building; This SEO created a lot of links from Asian web forums and blog comments. Also, when I really looked at the analytics, I saw lots of visits from auto and manual surf web sites.  Naturally, the bounce rate was very close to 100%. In other words, they had lots of visits but very few from search engines and very few fromUK. This last one was the saddest part because their web site targeted UK business.

When I started to work with this client, I made great progress in raising his position on Google.co.uk. This increased the visits from theUK, and visitors from search engines, went up too. However, the unrelated and untargeted traffic went down, so Alexa and Analytics showed that total visits went down, too. I had a big problem explaining that he was getting much more value now. ROI was up, bounce rate got smaller, time spent on site was up, and none of that mattered to him. Alexa was down and that was his #1 indicator. Something was wrong and I wasn’t doing my job.

Conclusion

I learned a lot from these and other similar experiences throughout my career. These days, before I start work on SEO for a client’s web site, I sit down with client, explain to him how I will work (in general of course), what shall be done on site and off site, what tools and data we will use to determine and track results along with making my expectations clear. Though you cannot foresee every eventuality, you should note that for future clients and projects you will have fewer headaches.

Aleksandar RatkovicAuthor Byline: Aleksandar Ratkovic lives in Serbia. Aleksandar has been in the internet business since 2002, worked as freelancer until 2011 when he started an internet consulting agency.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicolas Liu February 13, 2012 at 5:59 am

So, it’s not really who’s in charge. It’s who has the latest knowledge. A simple rule of thumb for me is to ask the latest change in Panda and its impact. One could develop a set of ‘test’ questions before make a hiring decision.

Nicole March 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Well somebody has to be in charge…somebody needs to make some final SEO related decisions and it will be confusing if it is not determined who is really in charge.

Adam Chronister March 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Thanks for your comment Nicole. Like our gust author Aleksandar has pointed out it’s so important to determine who will be the last word when there are multiple people making marketing decisions. Often too many cooks in the kitchen can spell disaster for a project.

SydAlyssa Marie Dong Gon October 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

I agree on the point that it is not who’s in charge that matters but who has the latest knowledge. It seems that SEO rules have changed dramatically in the last couple of months and if we are not updated every now and then We might end up doing something that can badly hurt our site.

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