15 Smart Things Most SEOs Never Do

Image courtesy swallowtailgardenseeds.com

I’ve seen SEOs do all kinds of dumb things for clients.  Far less often do I see them follow some wise practices that can help them get better results, and with less heartache.

My suggestions also can help you if you are your own SEO person.

This may have a slight bent toward local search (as you might expect of me), but it’s equally applicable to national / organic efforts.

Before you start

1. Send questionnaires. You need the facts, and you need them early.  Preferably before any money changes hands.  I rarely even get on the phone with a potential client until he/she has filled out my basic questionnaire.  You want to be confident that you can help.  If the client’s too lazy to do this step then you’ve got a problem.  It’s an important hurdle to clear.  I also like to send a link-opportunities questionnaire, usually a bit later.

2. Tell the client up-front what he or she MUST do. Maybe it’s fact-checking any content you write, or it’s approving any link opportunities you want to go after, or it’s devoting 30 minutes a week to answering any questions you might have.

3. Give potential clients every opportunity to lose interest. First there’s my questionnaire.  Then I send a quick opinion on their situation, what areas need the most work, how tough I think it will be, and on what I’d charge.  Then I ask whether they’re interested enough to want a proposal.  Then if they like what’s in the proposal we’ll schedule a call to go over details.    Then I’ll tell them there are some step they’ll need to help with (see point #2), and that it takes a while to see results.  If they’re still with me by this point, I know they’re committed and not deadbeats.

Early on in the project

4. Add the client to your project-management tool. I assume your elves are on it.  But the client should be privy to what’s going on.  May make both your lives easier, and it should cut down on email.  (For the record, I use Asana, but I also like Teamwork.)

5. Read the damn site. Especially the “About” page.  Important questions will come up, and you’ll probably get a link idea or ten.

6. Read the client’s reviews and mine the reviews. This is usually more applicable to local SEO, but ecommerce and other national and international types of businesses also have their own review sites.  In either case, it’s crucial to understanding what types of people become customers (happy or unhappy), what specific problems brought them to your client, why they picked your client, and how your client can do better.

7. Watch the client’s videos. Same principles as in #5-6.

8. Show clients your internal resources. It’s probably a bunch of ugly spreadsheets: site audit, link-outreach status, content ideas, maybe citations, etc.  This gives clients a sense of how much work goes into your work.

What if they’re the “Just Do It” [swoosh] types – and not too interested in details?  Well, it’s especially smart to do in those cases.  The hands-off types only care that work is being done, and that’s what you’re demonstrating.

In the thick of things

9. Revamp or add to existing content. Rather than start on new material.  It’s what I like to call “content CPR.”

10. Work with a copywriter. Getting people to take the next step – whatever that step is – is good for SEO in all kinds of indirect ways.  It’s also a shame to lose visitors when you’ve worked like a dog to get them.  Consider someone like Joel Klettke.

11. Provide suggestions that aren’t just all about rankings. Like on conversion-rate optimization.  I’m channeling my inner Rand here.  But I’m also telling you the best way to get more work from clients you already like.  If possible, your non-SEO suggestions should come as a free and pleasant surprise.  Clients will often hire you for a bigger project, with a more-exciting scope.  You’ll be the consigliere, not a one-hit wonder.

12. Fire a client. Be classy about it, and leave the door open a crack if possible.  But you need to think of your ability to do great work for other clients, and to have something resembling a life.

13. Show what’s in your head whenever possible. Be clear about why you suggest what you suggest.  (Why don’t you suggest using microsites?  Why do you suggest using a certain type of Schema.org markup?)  Also be clear about what you don’t know.  If you don’t have hard evidence (which we SEOs often don’t have) that something works or doesn’t work, can you explain what your educated guess or hunch is based on?

14. Pay for a 2nd opinion. Posting on forums and Google+ communities and on my blog posts and on others’ blog posts is fine.  It has its place in the world.  (And I like when people leave insightful comments or questions on my posts.)  But knowledgeable people keep an eye on the clock and can’t help everyone.

Also, the “community” of longtime and serious SEOs – especially of local SEOs – is smaller than you might think.  People run usually across each other more than once.  Don’t be a schnorrer.

15. Take a less-is-more approach. Don’t try to blog, and create videos, and research link opportunities, and do outreach, and get into pay-per-click, and put Schema.org markup everywhere, and create local citations, and build city pages, and dabble in AMP, and offer foot massages and exfoliating mud packs every single month.  Some months you should focus on crushing 1-2 tasks, and block everything else out.

What are some other practices you think SEOs never or rarely do (that they should)?

Do you already do any of those 15 points?

Leave a comment!

Why Does Your Business Deserve Success in Local Search?


What’s really different about how you’ve represented your business online?

  • Do you have 100+ blog posts that help make a potential customer’s life a little (or a lot) easier? (Update – January 2014: here are 100 practical ideas for blog posts.)
  • Do you have better reviews, more reviews, and reviews on more sites than your competitors do?
  • Have you done anything to earn a mention or write-up in the local newspaper – and can you do something like it again?
  • Do you describe each of your services on a separate page and in so much detail that your potential customers might (temporarily) think they don’t even need you?
  • Do you produce videos that are informative enough you’d send them to relatives who want to know exactly what it is you do for a living?
  • Do you practice any other forms of RCS?

Give people a reason to click, pay attention, and get in touch.  Give Google at least one concrete reason to rank your business well.  Worry about them in that order.

You might say, “But my competitors don’t stand out in any way.”  Well, they may do the boring stuff better than you do.  There’s also nothing to say that their rankings will last, or that they get many customers out of the deal.  Above all, it doesn’t matter much what your competitors do or don’t do if your goal is to outrank them.

Start working on at least one of those standout factors at the same time you work on (or ask for help with) the rest of your local SEO.  You’re more likely to get visible, and for that visibility actually to bring phone calls.

(If you find that I went too Seth Godin on you just now, please leave a comment and demand more explanation.)