Q and A: How should I manage the client expectations of my SEO efforts?

QuestionHello Kalena

I saw your recent post about how SEO freelancers can generate new business for themselves and I wondered if you could answer a related question please.

I am currently the in-house SEO for a real estate chain, but I am quite keen to start my own consulting business part time. The major reason I haven’t done so already is that I wouldn’t know what to tell clients to expect when it comes to the projected results of my optimization efforts. I mean I know how long it took me to optimize these sites for my boss and it was many weeks before they even started to show up in the first few pages of Google.

But isn’t every site different? Doesn’t it depend entirely on what Google thinks of each site and the indexed content? How can I get potential SEO clients interested in my services if I don’t know what type of results they can expect and when? How do you handle this type of situation and what advice can you give me?

Thanks so much Kalena



Hi Kelly

Thanks for reaching out – and your question is a good one. Search engine optimization is a unique service in that you rarely see the results of your efforts right away. It can take days, weeks or even months for Google and the other search engines to index and re-rank your newly optimized pages. It’s vital that you explain this to your clients up front. Most of your clients will be expecting results quickly and it’s your job to extinguish that myth.

The key to managing client expectations is to be as transparent as possible about your process and educate them in the process. [My Udemy course – How to Earn a Full Time Income as a Part Time SEO Consultant – can give you more tips about this]

It always astounds me when I hear about SEO companies who don’t actually explain to clients what they do. Some SEOs don’t even inform the clients what changes they are going to make to their web sites! Sometimes I’ll take on a new client who has worked with another SEO in the past and when I ask them “what changes did the SEO make to your site? What SEO tasks did they perform?” they will have NO CLUE. Or they’ve been told that the process is “secret” or “proprietory”. What a load of bollocks. How can a client possibly understand the value of what you do if you don’t explain to them what you actually do?

You want to know why some SEOs refuse to reveal their process to clients? Because they don’t actually know how to optimize a web site. It’s true. Many of the large so called *SEO* firms you see advertising and cold calling these days claim to be selling SEO services, but they DON’T PERFORM ANY SEO WHATSOEVER. What they are actually selling is Google AdWords. They make grand claims to help customers get their sites ranking high in Google using *proprietory SEO methods*, when what they’re actually doing is buying up masses of cheap keywords on AdWords via bulk accounts and displaying ads pointing to their customer sites. Yes, the ads might appear above the organic search results from time to time and deliver traffic, but the click costs usually increase month on month. As soon as that customer stops paying, the traffic stops coming. And what are the clients left with? The same unoptimized site they started with, no more traffic and the opinion that SEO simply doesn’t work.

No wonder SEO has such a bad name!

Some SEOs I’ve talked to are afraid that the client will take that knowledge and use it to perform their own SEO or to train staff in-house to take over the SEO process, putting them out of a job. You know what I say to that? Fantastic. The best SEOs work themselves out of a role, in my opinion.

If you can educate your client to the point where they understand the importance of SEO and the value to their business, you have done the very best job possible and I guarantee you they will be singing your praises for life. Because you will have turned them from a customer into a fan, you will probably get more business from an ex-client you’ve educated than you would have from that same client if you had kept them as a long term customer. How? Via referrals and word of mouth. A passionate testimonial from a happy customer can win many, many clients. You can use that testimonial on your web site, business cards and marketing material. You can use that client as a verbal referee if future clients want to talk to a previous customer.

So don’t be afraid to educate your clients during every single step of the SEO process. Make sure they track their own progress via Google Analytics. Show them what you’re doing and manage their expectations by explaining to them that you don’t know exactly when their site rankings and traffic will start to climb and you may have to tweak things along the way.

Simply be honest with them and they will ultimately respect you more and thank you for it.


Like to learn how to earn a full time income as a part time SEO consultant? Check out my Udemy course on the subject.


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Is offensive media commentary spoiling the Rugby World Cup?

This is the image used on the TV3 site to represent the WallabiesIt’s been a while since I’ve had a rant on this blog and this one is unrelated to the search industry, so please bear with me.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a rugby NUT and an All Blacks tragic. So I’ve been following the Rugby World Cup action very closely over the past few weeks. The thing is, I’m finding this particular RWC season to be almost unbearable from a media perspective.

First it was the media coverage following the All Black’s 41 to 10 win over Tonga. The New Zealand media were bad enough, claiming the All Blacks played poorly and that the 41 point victory wasn’t decisive enough.  Which prompted me to ask Twitter:

“If a 31 point win margin *fails as a decisive victory* then how many freaking points did the #allblacks need to win by?”

Then there was the Wall Street Journal piece, written by someone who clearly doesn’t know anything about rugby (“New Zealand – nicknamed the All Blacks due to their attire” – REALLY?), claiming that the All Blacks “failed to inspire” and that “the win wasn’t sufficient to reassure fans”.

Of course, there have been the expected digs at the All Blacks team by the Australian media, about how they were going to choke, just like the last World Cup and Aussie television news anchors having a good old chuckle at the done-to-death sheep / Israel Dagg jokes wheeled out by the sports reporters. Commentators Andrew Slack and Ken Sutcliffe for Channel Nine in Australia clearly find it difficult to hold back their bias when it comes to their coverage of Wallabies matches. But in my opinion, there is a clearly defined line between light-hearted fun poking and outright racist commentary.

Today, New Zealand’s TV3 stepped over that line, in my opinion. With their One Eyed Kiwi Commentary of today’s game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies, I think 3News have sullied New Zealand rugby with their offensive, juvenile and racist pre-match banter. I wanted the All Blacks to win as much as anybody, but that promoted commentary was simply embarrassing.

Think I’m over-reacting? Here are some extracts:

  • “Well here we go… the big one, the All Blacks totally dismembering our Aussie cousins from across the ditch and marching on to hand a hiding to the limpet mine-carrying nation in the final.”
  • “Refresh your browser occasionally. We’ll warn you when video is up with the words ‘VIDEO UP’ (even an Aussie could follow that)”.
  • “…here’s some friendly folly fire at the convicts from the island.
  • “The first Wallaby has been seen inspecting Eden Park.” (accompanied by the picture above of a giant convict carrying a rugby ball and chain).
  • “What do you call an Aussie with half a brain? Gifted.”

And on it goes, with more crude anti-Australian jokes thrown into the mix. Based on his tweets, the content appears to have been written by a post-grad journalism student called Michael Oliver who is apparently about to be employed by TV3.

Now my main problem with this is not so much the content, as juvenile as it is. You can see this type of immature trolling on Twitter or Facebook about any big sporting event. No, my problem with this lies in the way it is presented on the 3News web site. It is published as *official* RWC content. There is no banner or byline indicating this content is written by a guest blogger or a student. The content is simply presented as endorsed coverage of what is likely the most important game of the World Cup, on the site of the official media sponsor covering the event.

I am concerned that the content will be viewed as offensive, if not outright racist and by allowing it to be published, TV3 is endorsing those views. As an Australian, I was quite offended, even though I (mostly) live in New Zealand and am a hugely vocal supporter of the All Blacks. I can only imagine how Wallabies supporters would feel upon reading that. And the petty limpet mine (Rainbow Warrier) reference is really quite a controversial and dangerous topic to bring up with so many French media representatives in NZ right now.

What’s worse is how proud the author is of his field day approach:

@mj_oliver : I’m manning tonight’s live updates for 3News.co.nz. We’re gunning for the most parochial commentary known to human kind. #RWC2011 Link to tweet

@mj_oliver: Sanctioned trolling. I love my future job. http://www.3news.co.nz/One-eyed-Kiwi-VIDEO-LIVE-UPDATES-All-Blacks-Vs-Australia-semifinal-2-RWC-2011–highlights/tabid/1534/articleID/229706/Default.aspx Link to tweet

With millions of international viewers studying New Zealand closely right now, can TV3 really afford to be seen as endorsing such potentially racist drivel? I don’t think so.

TV3 have a very strict policy when it comes to comments left on their site:

  • No comments that seek to cause offence on the grounds of race, sex, sexuality, religion, age or ethinicity will be tolerated
  • No comments that are obscene, offensive, pornographic, vulgar, profane, indecent or otherwise illegal
  • No comments that are defamatory in nature

Right. But that apparently doesn’t apply to their own contributors?

I left the very first comment on the page, politely expressing my concerns, but for some reason, @3newsnz seems to be only publishing positive comments. When I tweeted Mr Oliver about this, he claimed he didn’t have control over comments.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments. And unlike the team at 3News, I’ll actually publish them.

POSTSCRIPT 1: Since I started writing this blog post, TV3 have put up a pseudo disclaimer in red text on the page. It reads:

“Thanks for tuning in to tonight’s completely biased commentary. It was all in good fun, and no offence to our friends across the ditch was intended. The Wallabies weren’t allowed to play, and that’s entirely due to their opposition being on another level.

Yeah, that’ll fix everything.

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Q and A: How reliable is the data from Alexa?

QuestionHi Kalena

I regularly use a tool that I think is super useful but one of my colleagues believes it is bogus. The tool is Alexa.com, have you heard of it? The site seems to show really good audience demographic data and I’ve used it quite often to give clients visitor statistics and a ball-park value for their web sites and their competitors.

The site has been around a long time and I’ve shown my friend the reports I’ve generated, but he said that the data is exaggerated. After talking with my colleague, I’m concerned about whether I should be using it. What’s your opinion of Alexa?


Hi Bruce

I’m with your colleague on Alexa – I am not a fan. In my opinion, the information they provide is completely skewed and inaccurate because of the way they gather their data and install their toolbar. Sure they’ve been around since 1996 and sure, they’re owned by Amazon but that’s about as impressive as the stats get I’m afraid. You might want to read these past articles about Alexa:

If You Cite Compete or Alexa For Anything Besides Making Fun of Them, You’re a Moron

3 Reasons Why Alexa Sucks (And They Know It!)

Alexa Says YouTube is Now Bigger Than Google. Alexa is Useless.

Why is Alexa Still Relevant?

My view isn’t just based on these articles either. I downloaded the Alexa Toolbar and reviewed it for several years before discounting it. In my opinion, you’re better off installing Google Analytics and generating more accurate statistical reports for your clients.




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Promote JS! A noble cause ruined by dodgy implementation

promote js

CAUTION: Rant Ahead

I was alerted to the Promote JS! site today by a programmer pondering the benefits and tweeting to ask about the SEO logic behind the idea.

Basically, Promote JS! is a cause born out of the JSConf held in April this year. The idea is for JavaScript programmers to spread the word about Mozilla’s JavaScript Developer Center via the use of links to try and improve Mozilla’s Google ranking for searches relating to JavaScript documentation.

A noble cause right? Maybe. However the implementation is inherently flawed in several ways:

1) First of all, the site provides a banner for web site owners and bloggers to place on their sites.  The banner uses a script which creates a link to a different page of the Developer Center at every refresh so you can choose the destination link of your choice. This method is just plain silly, in my opinion. They’ve taken a noble idea and tried to implement it using link farm tactics. A series of identical banners with nearly identical link code smells very much like an affiliate program to Googlebot. Their code has basically created an affiliate link farm which is likely to be filtered out by Google’s ranking algorithm, potentially doing more harm than good to the Developer Center’s link popularity.

2)  The alt tag for the banner is stuffed with multiple JavaScript related keywords. Keyword stuffed tags of any kind can easily be detected and ignored by Google’s ranking filter. There’s just no need to shove multiple keyword repetitions in there.

3) Developer Andrew Hedges had written a blog post about Promote JS! questioning the value of linking to multiple sub pages of the JavaScript Developer Center and suggesting perhaps everyone should link to their home page instead. He cc’d me on his tweet asking for SEO advice and inviting comments on his post. My response is that people should link to ANY page in the Developer Center that they want to promote! If their blog post talks about APIs, they should link to the API documentation. If they were impressed by a particular javascript tutorial, they should link directly to that tutorial.

The whole point of the PageRank algorithm is to attribute relevancy weight based on inbound links to specific pages. It’s not about the top level domain. If everyone points to the home page, the inner pages – those containing the most valuable, useful content – won’t rank as well. For a web site to rank well for a wide number of keywords, you need to spread the link juice, not channel it to a single page. You have to trust Google’s own system of rewarding good content – they have a zillion brains working on this full time.

4) Andrew had also tweaked the Promote JS! code somewhat to create a banner that generated a random link at every refresh. In my opinion, this method is also flawed. Link popularity is based around the acquisition of trusted, related, inbound links to a page. If links appear and disappear to a page, that’s hardly trustworthy, right? Google won’t be counting your links as trusted. They are looking for solid, stable links from directly related topic pages.

This is another reason why it makes sense to link to specific inner pages at the JavaScript Developer Center, based on your specific blog post topic/s. If your blog post talks about JavaScript drop down menus and it points to the documentation specifically about those, the TrustRank of that page goes up, as does the eventual ranking potential for related search queries.

Promote JS! shouldn’t be creating link farms to promote the value of the JavaScript Developer Center.  They should simply be encouraging developers to use logical linking strategies as recommended by Google to promote great content. Either that or convince Mozilla to make their JavaScript documentation more search engine friendly!

I’m sure there’ll be developers out there who disagree with me and that’s fine. I don’t know how long the Promote JS! site has been live, but it doesn’t have a Google PR, so it’s either too young or hasn’t built up any TrustRank. Make of that what you will.

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Dumbass of the Week: Pay Per Click Advertisers

DuhIt’s been ages since we’ve had a Dumbass of the Week, but I saw something yesterday that prompted me to resurrect the title once more.

A staff member here sent me a screengrab from a Google search he had made and pointed out one of the Sponsored Links / AdWords ads at the top of the page (see screen grab below) . He had conducted a search for *cheap glasses new zealand* and Google displayed a range of organic and paid results on the SERP.

Here’s a screengrab of the original search page showing the top 3 sponsored results:


When my colleague clicked on the 3rd Sponsored Link on the page, it took him to a 404 Error Page. Thinking that the URL was simply malformed and he could find what he needed from the home page, he stripped the tracking URL down to the top level domain and refreshed the page. Again, he was taken to a 404 Error Page.

At first I thought perhaps the site was offline temporarily or simply not loading in his browser so I asked him to send me the destination URL from the ad so I could try.

Because I have the Google Toolbar installed, when I tried to view the same broken link, instead of a standard 404 error, I received a Google error page stating: “Oops! This link appears to be broken. Did you mean: www.­lessforspecs.­co.­nz?”

Aha! Mystery solved. The advertiser Less for Specs had accidently used dot com in their destination URL instead of .co.nz. Turns out, the dot com site doesn’t even exist, which is probably for the best as they would have been paying to send traffic to their competitor’s site if it did.

Normally, the AdWords system detects malformed destination URLs and either doesn’t approve the ad or sends you an alert very quickly and pauses the ad for you. However, for whatever reason (perhaps the dot com site did exist at one point), the ad was allowed to go live.

An identical search today doesn’t trigger the same ad, so perhaps the problem is resolved. Maybe Google alerted them of the problem. Perhaps the mistake was made by a 3rd party agency managing the site’s PPC campaign. But who knows how many people clicked on the link and were taken to a 404 error page before it was fixed? Who knows how many dollars the mistake cost the advertiser in click costs in the meantime?

Now, I don’t mean to single out Less For Specs. I’ve seen similar errors in Pay Per Click ads by many companies over the years, heck, I’ve made them myself. But seeing this example reminded me that we should be taking more care with our PPC campaigns in order to get the best value for money out of them.

Here’s a list of common PREVENTABLE errors I’ve seen in PPC ads:

  • Malformed destination URLs.
  • Incorrect or misleading display URLs.
  • Destination URLs leading to a *this page is under construction* placeholder.
  • Forgetting to pause a PPC campaign during a scheduled site outage (I have to admit guilt on this one!)
  • Moving a domain but forgetting to redirect PPC landing pages.
  • Not knowing about an unscheduled site outage for 48 hours.
  • Spelling or grammatical errors within ads.
  • Sexist, racist or otherwise ignorant ad wording.

Yes, some PPC systems such as AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter have built in checks to prevent dumb user errors, but they’re not bullet proof. Dumbass happens. Just don’t let it happen to you.

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