Tough Love Can Benefit Your SEO Content Client

The biggest buzzword for Internet marketing these days is content. For writers and editors, this is pretty good news. The need for quality content makes our experienced professional services of premium value to clients. We all know it’s not a perfect world, however. Especially not the world of pre-existing websites that may have been created by someone’s cousin’s nephew’s brother-in-law using content copied and pasted from who knows where.

My Advice Interactive colleague and local SEO wiz Justin Liles recently shared a link to a blog listing some common marketing agency misconceptions about SEO. A couple of the “cringe-worthy comments” could apply perfectly to content, as well. It got me thinking about how proactive client education could avoid problems like these in the future – making the developers, the creative team, and ultimately the big boss (the client), much happier.

Trust the Experts: A Two-Way Street

“I know a little SEO content, we should be fine.” One of the industry’s favorite catch phrases recently has been “content is king.” Of course another tried-and-true marketing axiom is “the customer’s always right.” In the case of content writing, those two concepts don’t automatically mesh. Sometimes that’s a tricky issue to navigate with diplomacy.

Of course the client is king when it comes to providing insight about their individual industry and their customer base. We depend on our clients to share their expectations about what they feel is the most profitable target market to attract to their website. Trust them to know their business. At the same time, ask them to trust that you know the content business. We don’t expect the client to provide online marketing strategy, keyword research or Web development. That’s our expertise and it’s why they hire an Internet marketing agency. Content writing for the Web is just as much a technical specialty as search engine optimization or HTML coding. That’s where client education comes in.

You can give content intrinsic value by specifically detailing content strategy, developing, writing and editing as part of the full-service Internet marketing package. By never suggesting (even subconsciously) that content is a commodity, you can prevent some costly developmental delays and hurt feelings. Avoid lumping content development in with everything else you do. It’s not the same as that free plastic drink cup you got when you bought a “giant swig” soda at the gas station last week.

You Own the Results

SEO Content was already done to the old site, we won’t need that for the new one.” Also avoid promising that you will use client-supplied content on the website. Especially not word for word, sight unseen. Even the most specialized content requires the trained eye of an SEO copywriter and a competent editor. Certainly some client’s are great writers, and some employ excellent copywriters to create their Web content. Others may simply have a knack for proofreading their kid’s homework. None of those factors make a client the SEO content development expert. In the end, you are responsible for the quality of the content and its ability to do what the client needs it to do.

Let the client know you are not changing any of their content just for the sake of making changes. Avoid making negative judgement statements about content they provide. Simply explain that content changes are part of the process. Listen to and implement the client’s ideas, but remember that your team controls the content. If you lose control of the content, you potentially lose control of the outcome. If a client insists on control, that’s another level of education needed. Let them know upfront that anything less than best practices for SEO copywriting can negatively affect their future rankings.

War of the Words? Declare a Truce

No matter how much authority you have over content strategy and development, the client always has the last word. It’s up to your sales team to establish realistic expectations for the client ahead of time. Ideally, the client reviews their new website using “broad strokes.”  They ensure that content reflects their business with appropriate tone and accuracy. Names, faces, addresses and phone numbers should always be confirmed. They should not need to worry about details such as commas, grammar, line breaks, text formatting or anything related to SEO (title tags, page descriptions, etc.) Your content team is the authority.

This does not happen every time. We all know certain people simply don’t feel comfortable giving up control. (If you don’t know anyone like that, your co-workers may be reading this and looking straight at you.) If a client seems reluctant at first, it can be helpful to educate them about the various quality control steps your content and development team take to ensure a site’s success:

  • Proofreading
  • Plagarism checks
  • SEO auditing
  • Link testing
  • Redirecting old URIs
  • Browser compatibility testing

In some cases, clients will insist on changes that you may feel are unnecessary or excessive. As long as the content still meets best practices for SEO and Internet marketing standards, the client can enjoy a silent victory. If requested content changes endanger the success of the project, however, be sure that the client is informed in writing of the potential repercussions such as lower rankings or penalties from Google. Then, if problems crop up after launch, the client can refer back to the initial recommendation from your team.

This prepares you in the event of the rare “client with short-term memory loss” situation, and provides a clear plan of action to correct any content issues. In this case, the client is always right – they just might not be right the first time.

By keeping a detailed record of client content changes, you have the opportunity to show them the true value of your expertise. No need to gloat; just get the job done and the client will see the light.

For you editors out there, I leave you with a beloved quote from author Neil Gaiman:

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

2 Comments
  1. Spot on!! This can really be a sensitive topic when egos get involved. When I’m presented with these issues, I always have to remember that the client is working with our team for a reason. That reason is not to get bossed around by some nerdy internet geeks, but to get professional, fact-based recommendations on the most frequently changing advertising medium in the history of man….. or aliens….

    1. Lola Howle says:

      Thanks for the comment, Nate. You are quite right. The whole point is not who wins a tug of war over content, but how to get the best possible Internet marketing results for the client. They are right to feel protective toward their online investment. It’s up to us make them feel completely comfortable with our ability to write engaging content that delivers just the right message, image, tone and visibility. Communication (and education) is the key!

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