You hear all the time about bad SEOs. Bad SEOs are offering worthless services, failing to deliver on their internet marketing promises, polluting the search engine results–well, a lot of bad things. But how much ever gets said about bad SEOs’ spiritual counterparts: bad here clients?
As an SEO, I can see things from the other side of the table. You see, despite trying hard to make it clear I’m a good, ethical, results-oriented, smarter marketing, white-hat SEO, I have gotten no end of inquiries from bad prospective SEO clients. Sure, no one who gets cheated is ever entirely to blame, and some cheated businesses are entirely blameless. But the bad SEOs would have too small a market to stay in business if it weren’t for almost-as-bad clients.
First, let me make clear what I mean by “bad” SEOs. Bad SEOs are bad because they either do unethical things to get e-marketing results, or because they consistently fail to deliver results. A good SEO delivers results and does it without trampling over other people’s rights (like submitting automated comments to their websites or trying to get good sites de-indexed).
A bad SEO client, in turn, is someone who will only be satisfied (albeit temporarily) with a bad SEO. Because they refuse to consider ethical web consultants or smarter marketing strategies, they are creating markets for the e-marketing charlatans and black-hats. There are two basic types of bad SEO clients: crooks and fool–oops, I mean, ethically challenged and judgmentally-challenged.
I haven’t gotten so many inquiries asking for out-and-out unethical services. Still, I’ve been asked about blog-sp@mming software and other shady internet marketing tactics a couple times. A colleague shared this gem with me: “Have you thought about just scanning a book from the library and using it for web content? Or is that too high-risk?” (Seriously, someone asked him this.)
A much larger group of bad SEO clients are simply those who insist on putting themselves in the way of fraud. Yes, that’s right: I’m blaming the victim. Someone who goes looking for a $5 gold watch can’t cry too long if the watch turns out to be fake or hot. With SEO, there are a few more nuances, but it’s the same essential idea.
The overwhelming majority of these judgmentally challenged souls are private individuals whose only business is the business-in-a-kit variety. Yet they are also sometimes representatives of actual successful companies. The real businesspeople tend to be quicker to let their misconceptions go (after all, they can afford the real SEO alternatives), but not always. Let’s look at some representative types of this group, straight out of my own inbox (note: these are inquiries from prospects, not actual clients).