SEO Poll: Would You Work With Competitive Clients?

Oct 27, 2011 • 8:31 am | comments (15) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

seo exclusivityA Sphinn discussion asks, would you accept new work if that new work is competitive to your existing client's niche?

In short, do you offer official or non-official exclusivity to your clients?

Most of the responses in that discussion claim they would never work on a competitive project. They said it just isn't fair to their clients. Here are some of the responses:

Just imagine the situation you could get into with one doing 10 times better than another. Or one gets dinged by Panda and the other doesn’t. Too much hassle for me explaining that.

No no no no not ever nohow no way. And believe me, I've been asked. In fact, none of my partners are allowed to take on a client that directly competes with one of my existing clients. That's the way we've operated since 1996, and that's the way we will continue to operate (as long as I'm calling the shots here).

But I know many companies that do, especially the larger ones. Their rational is that they have different teams working on different projects, so they won't put the same team on two competitive projects, they would just give it to a new team.

In addition, some argue, working on two clients in the same niche would benefit both clients because they learn twice as much.

In any event, please take our poll and let us know if you would take on competitors:

Forum discussion at Sphinn.

Image from bioraven/Shutterstock.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: October 26, 2011


Gavin Smith

10/27/2011 12:43 pm

I guess it all depends on what the client are willing to pay for the privillage and how big the clients name/brand is.

Lionel Miraton

10/27/2011 12:44 pm

You clients needs to be informed. And if they agree, they could benefit a lot of your acquired experience on this niche.

Rebecca Gill

10/27/2011 12:52 pm

I personally find the poll results sad.  I am one of the four that said no to not working with competitor clients. How can that be?  How to you effectively work with two clients that compete on the same high volume keywords?  You can't in my opinion and it isn't fare to your clients either.


10/27/2011 01:06 pm

I read the question in the second paragraph  "do you offer official or non-official exclusivity to your clients?" and without thinking, scrolled down and voted yes -   Only now do I realize that I voted incorrectly - It's absolutely a conflict of interest, and to claim otherwise is ridiculous. I would hope that the majority of "Yes" votes were also in error, because like Rebecca, I agree it can't be done fairly.

Subatomic Media LLC

10/27/2011 02:14 pm

If they are in the same industry but operate in different geographic areas then everyone might benefit from the knowledge sharing. If they actually compete? Absolutely not, it's unethical.

Nick Stamoulis

10/27/2011 02:35 pm

There are a lot of what if's to take into account. Do they work in the same industry but aren't direct competitors? Then maybe it would work. I think you have to be very upfront about it though, and be very careful that you don't default to the same campaign for both clients.

Jim Rudnick

10/27/2011 02:46 pm

plainly - no. one client per's what we've always done...and will continue to do too...I think the word 'ethics' might be in this area....but of course your own mileage may vary... :-)


10/27/2011 03:21 pm

What if you work in a very niche market?  Just because clients aren't "direct" competitors doesn't mean they wont compete for the same broad shopping terms.  If I work for a company who only services Restaurants and I have a client who owns a Mexican Restaurant on the North side of Jacksonville, Florida and another who owns a 4 star Steak House on the South side - they are not direct competitors at all but "Restaurants in Jacksonville, FL" is going to be a very important term for them both - does that mean I shouldn't take one of them as a client?  I don't think so because many searches will start with the broad location term but become more refined long tail terms as the searcher narrows down what they are looking for.


10/27/2011 04:18 pm

Never had such a situation and I would believe it only happens 0,1% that a client has the same niche. Anyway I would wonder what I would do. Probably decline saying I already have that niche covered.


10/27/2011 08:07 pm

Honestly, there's no single answer to this, other than to be open and transparent. My initial reaction to it was that you can't, but if your agency is large enough and you really do enforce a "Chinese Wall" between teams, then ... why not? Of course, the answer is "because my client says so"


10/27/2011 10:07 pm

It really depends on who's easier to deal with and who pays more. Sometimes it's easy to say Yes other times it's easy to say No.

Kes Phelps

10/28/2011 12:33 pm

Can't imagine a client wanting to if you already worked for one of their competitors... Always puzzles me when an SEO says they specialise in a particular sector. High chance of conflict if they do. But then previous experience is a selling point

huntington beach day spa

10/28/2011 05:53 pm

I agree with Jeff.  If your business is big enough and you have teams that work on different projects without sharing what they do, then sure why not.

SEO Iberica

06/06/2012 08:56 pm

If competing clients are locked into a locality, I believe it is wrong to work with the client's competitors.

Tim Rowley

09/12/2013 02:12 pm

I would naturally think that it raises conflicts of interest. I'm interested to read the justifications for multiple clients though. I think the the argument from 'big' companies is quite funny. "Our left hand doesn't know what our right hand is doing" - Oh yeah !

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