Coping With Being Blamed For SEO Results

Sep 1, 2011 • 8:14 am | comments (23) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

pointing-fingerOne of the main reasons why my company does not offer SEO services is not being able to 100% deliver on what the client hires you for.

I'd say 99% of those seeking SEO services are looking to rank well for a handful of keywords. They want to see their web pages in the number one, two or three position of the organic listings for keywords like [diamond rings]. It can be done but in a second, after the result is released, Google can push out an update or hit the site with a penalty and the result is gone and what you delivered has also vanished.

Personally, I do not understand how SEO companies deal with the blame game. I know, SEO companies don't sell rankings and many won't guarantee them. But when the customer comes with the initial intention of ranking for specific keywords and ultimately, one day, you can't deliver - how would that make you feel?

A Google Webmaster Help thread has one SEO company seemingly upset that his client is blaming him for the site not ranking well anymore. The blame is specific to a client pointing out he is linking to his site with a banner ad and not using a nofollow. I honestly doubt a single link that is not nofollowed would lead to this issue. So it is something else that resulted in the downgrade of the site's ranking.

That being said, the SEO company is clearly upset and I am sure the SEO client is also upset.

Tell me, most of you who read this site are SEO companies or do SEO each day. How do you deal with the blame game and finger pointing?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: August 31, 2011


Jeux de Fille Gratuits

09/01/2011 01:13 pm

C'est une affaire compliquée nécessitant une bonne préparation du client grâce à une sensibilisation complète. Un client ne comprendra pas que son site soit positionné le temps d'une prestation puis disparaisse dès les jours suivants. Le but est de lui faire prendre conscience que nous ne maîtrisons pas l'algorithme de Google (élément top secret) et qu'il est susceptible d'être modifié à tout moment.

Craig Elliott

09/01/2011 01:15 pm

The client must be convinced at the beginning that SEO is a long-range plan, in most cases not capable of providing  instant gratification. Same old rules apply: never guarantee anything, target obtainable keywords, help build a client's site into a resource for their vertical, build quality links over time, etc. Sell the client on the ROI of SEO over time versus other online marketing tactics. Manage their expectations from the get-go

Dave Collins

09/01/2011 01:19 pm

We go out of our way to set realistic expectations beforehand. It's much  more important than getting the sale.

Lindsey Anderson

09/01/2011 01:20 pm

Easily, don't get yourself into trouble in the first place by guaranteeing rankings on specifics.  Don't get yourself in over your head in the first place and there wont be any problems later on!

Sonoma County Web

09/01/2011 01:53 pm

Great question, Barry, and one I am currently dealing with as well. Keep in mind we began implementing the SEO campaign only 2 months ago, targeting very specific and competitive keywords for which do not have top rankings yet. To date, the majority of  the traffic to this particular client's site has been attributed to branding - almost every search query contains all or at least part of the company's name.  When implementing any new on-page changes, I made certain branding references remained in tact, so as not to miss out on this opportunity. Client: Why do our Google Analytics numbers keep dropping, aren't they supposed to be improving with SEO? Fortunately, I based-lined the SERP positioning in a tracking software I use at the onset of the campaign. Now, I can illustrate to the client, while we have not yet attained 1st page positioning for chosen keywords - they are on the rise. And, I will combine this graphical representation with a few simple Analytics  reports to reveal to the client that traffic could simply be on the decline (5-10%) due to seasonal fluctuations. SEOs know that there could be hundreds of factors causing such a small traffic blip, but again, I need to be succinct and non-technical with this client without sounding like I am trying to defend myself ;-) So, there you have the approach I will be embarking upon today, which will entail a quick explanation to convey that our chosen keywords are not to blame since the SEO campaign has barely had time to begin manifesting itself yet and the site is still being found via their branding as always,  combined with couple of visual reports to substantiate my findings.


09/01/2011 02:02 pm

You can use google and yahoo trends to show seasonal graphs also.

Bradley Woods

09/01/2011 02:33 pm

I guarantee improved rankings but not a number 1-3 spot specifically. This has worked in my favor because as my clients continue to see their rankings improve they continue to pay.

Sonoma County Web

09/01/2011 02:44 pm

Great point! As a matter of fact, I was exploring Google Trends and Insights yesterday ;-)

Scott D.

09/01/2011 03:35 pm

I tell them our goal is page 1. I never use the word guarantee because there are no guarantees with Google.


09/01/2011 03:42 pm

At the very outset during the first meeting itself when the contract is being finalized the client should be explained that SEO results are not only about SERPs but many other metrics that matter. Usually the first meeting is a session on what is SEO all about and if the client does not understand then it is better that he appoints some other company for his SEO campaign.  Keep the client informed about the progress and pitfalls so that he is aware of the outcome. He may get bugged initially but maintaining that proper communication and keeping him informed is very important. Easier said than done but very crucial to the overall true success of the SEO project and winning the client trust. A similar discussion can be read on

Kes Phelps

09/01/2011 03:59 pm

I get them to focus on return on investment.   If the bottom line continues to increase even though one of their vanity keywords doesn't rank then they have no argument ;o)   Focusing on a handful of keywords always cause problems. I've just got a client a top 3 ranking for his 'most important keyword' and it's hardly made any difference to sales.   The majority of sales - as i always advise - come from a bunch of other keywords related to that keyword.

Etienne Clergue

09/01/2011 04:02 pm

It is all about setting realistic expectations...SEO is a long term strategy that will bring a business not only rankings but ultimately traffic and sales. As an in-house SEO and freelancer I'm always prepared to answer questions about results, and if expectations are set from the beginning, then the answers should be straightforward

Benj Arriola

09/01/2011 05:19 pm

My definition of SEO is not to improve ranking. Although that is the effect, I avoid saying that. I say SEO is improvement of organic search traffic to increase conversions. Since I do not want to make the client set to a certain expectation of looking at ranking for a specific set of keywords. But of course... there is always the challenge of getting that inline with all sales people.

Denver Web Success

09/01/2011 09:59 pm

I agree with the other comments. Firstly, do not commit yourself to guaranteed SERPs; it's all about sales. Secondly, make it clear that this is long-term - I always run a campaign for 12-months. Thirdly, do track the SERPs from the outset, so that you can show improvement. Finally, produce and explain simple analytics to show how their traffic and conversions have improved. With these factors in place, it's important that clients track their (increased) income from the online marketing. It then follows that, as long as the customer makes money (every single one of my clients has easily made more than they've paid me), you'll never find yourself being blamed for anything. Quite the reverse - most of my business comes from referrals.

Ammon Johns

09/01/2011 10:58 pm

Hey Barry, long time no chat. Funnily enough, my answers to this have changed very little since before the turn of the millennium, so I'll refer back to my previous answers at Cre8asite, made back in 2002. " I don't guarantee SERPs positions - I guarantee ROI. There's only one type of metrics I use and that's bottom-line figures such as increased sales, increased profits, and decreasing marketing expenditure. I find that my clients find that both refreshing and reassuring" "With an ecommerce site I could lower their marketing costs (as I did in the PPC example), I can improve marketing results without a corresponding rise in costs, I can generate more overall sales per month, I can seek to help them decrease overheads and thus increase profits from the same volume of sales, I can help them develop new revenue streams ... the possible ways in which I can generate bottom-line ROI are almost endless. It's therefore generally a cinch to charge £2,000 for 20 hours of my time, and be assured that they'll get £10,000 value back as a direct result." Full discussion at

Noam Judah

09/02/2011 01:41 am

Hi All, Great discussion point here. Ultimately SEO is about traffic increase to a website that will enhance the prospect of an increase in sales / enquiries etc. Even with all measures in place - great white hat SEO techniques, an increase traffic combined with professional looking site,  with correct call to actions and /or easy checkout there should be no guarantee or implied guarantee that SEO is the king of business increases. It is all too often that many SEO Sales reps of our rivals here in Australia, dive into the return on investment of the prospective clients product or service. "If you sell 10 products a month you will make X Gross Revenue which will well and truly cover the cost with us" they say. The SEO sales rep isnt suited to act as a 'consultant to this degree'. SEO Companies are not typically privy to (nor should be disclosed to) information about the company's ins and outs of operations on the following points: 1. Business overheads including all staff fees, rent, cashflow 2. Current marketing spend outside of online 3. Profit margins per product 4. The risks in currency fluctuations that can impact profitability of the clients products etc. 5. Other business risks that can jeopardise the company's future ability to pay for SEO costs each month. Our company's greatest challenge as a leading SEO in Australia and especially given our decision in the choice of our business name - is that many clients until today have the false sense of belief that the end goal / aim is TO BE RANKED BETWEEN POSITION 1-3 ON PAGE ONE OF GOOGLE. My tip for all SEO's that care about managing their clients expectations is that its about education from day dot.  EDUCATE EDUCATE EDUCATE that THE TRUE VALUE OF AN SEO CAMPAIGN OR SEO COMPANY is best measured by the total number of visitors to the website across X number of keywords through natural search. (deduct crappy keywords that don't relate to the product or service and deduct searches by company name). NEXT CONSIDERATION: Keep in touch with the client to understand their progress 'on the ground'. ASK 1. We see a dramatic increase in traffic - without disclosing to us the volume of sales - is it working for you YES/NO. If YES or NO let's review keywords - do we need to substitute some top keywords? Do we need to add keywords? Are there any new products or service on offer etc - let's add it to the list of 'longer tail keywords' to be optimised which may increase sales 2. Educate the client that even when they may reach a best case ranking for a strong qualified keyword - there will and historically has been lulls in sales via ecommerce and sales via a service based company. One month they will have record sales directly attributed to SEO, the following 3 weeks they may experience 10% of the record sales of the previous month - all the while rankings havent dropped. When you condition the clients honestly at the beginning of the campaign they will not treat you as the 'sales rep' of the company who is accountable for sales for the month - but rather an external pull marketing service provider. It is for this reason (in my opinion) that no SEO Company should EVER lock their clients into any long term contracts 6 or 12 months.  We live in a business community of accountability, where clients will also speak of your company's ethical stance during the business relationship - so when you run any form of business keep the client at the forefront of mind and the way you conduct your business.  


09/02/2011 03:41 am

I check  all seo  update  . all user show new update , I gained it. more  seo update check it...


09/02/2011 05:36 am

What A useless article. Thanks for providing only a problem and no solution.


09/02/2011 07:54 pm

Just be consistent in your message and reporting.  As long as you are getting various results you shouldn't get stuck with blame on one keyword.

Painting Hopes

09/04/2011 06:33 am

Blame game is bound to happen in the world of business. We are all trying our best to rank well in SE.

shopping cart software

09/08/2011 01:10 pm

SEO is some which takes a lot of time to produce your desired results according to your wishes, and yes the every now and then Google updates have smashed the seo industry quite badly. But i believe these updates have done wrong with only companies who are not doing seo work up to the standars/google guidelines.


09/08/2011 05:01 pm

Fortuantely I have not had to deal with this yet, my clients ahve always had week on week growth in organic traffic.  I was concerned that Panda would hit my clients, but it seems as though I escaped that too!


11/24/2011 12:05 pm

What is your company name?

blog comments powered by Disqus