Q and A: Should SEOs take on jobs involving a mix of SEO and design?

QuestionHi Kalena…

You give all kinds of great SEO advice on your site. This question is more about the business of SEO.

When you are applying or looking for SEO jobs you see a lot of postings for SEO and Design in one job. Most SEO’s I know aren’t designers. Since I don’t classify myself as a designer but, like any advance SEO consultant, can do some design/webmaster work, my question is when you see job postings like this one, what do you think? I spoke with them and in order to be completely effective the direction they want to go will need some design work. What do you think about these types of jobs for an SEO?


Dear Chris

It all depends on whether you know you can do what they are expecting and also on whether they are a good *fit* for your business. I find that when taking on new clients, half the battle is in educating them about what they want vs. what they need. Many prospects come to me with a specific idea of what they think they want, whether that’s top 5 rankings in Google, more sales, more traffic than their competitors or simply more exposure on the web.

Nine times out of ten I need to re-educate them about what’s achievable with SEO (or PPC) and help them shift their goals to ones that would actually benefit their business. If they aren’t willing to take my advice and trust me to take all steps required to achieve their goals, I would rather walk away from the business.

Example: I had a potential client come to me insistent on wanting to be number #1 on Google within two months for a particular (very competitive) search query. Researching his competition and the top rankings on Google alerted me to the fact that it would be almost impossible to achieve that goal for him without resorting to aggressive short-term, risky, link building / buying. I wasn’t prepared to do this when there were so many other search queries he could target using SEO that would have brought him just as much, or even more, traffic combined. But he couldn’t let his obsession with this particular search query go. So I refunded his deposit and told him to look elsewhere, despite having invested a considerable amount of time and effort.

So my point is – make sure the communication between you and your potential client is crystal clear about what you can or can’t do for them as well as what you are or you aren’t willing to do for them. If their site will require a complete re-design, don’t sugar-coat the news, tell it straight and explain that they will recoup the additional cost once their site is search engine compatible. If you can’t do the re-design yourself, outsource it and pass that cost onto the client in the fairest possible way.

But you’re right, many SEO projects these days do require some design work. If you can’t do that side of things, or just prefer not to, my advice is to partner with a few trusted web designers in your region to whom you can farm out the design aspects of any SEO projects you take on. Good luck!

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