Working in a Vacuum

by on February 18, 2013

Trust me. I'm a doctor.I recently spoke with a prospective client for a cleanup project after they received one of those pesky Google Slaps for unnatural links and their site dropped a couple of hundred pages in the SERPs. As usual, the first thing I did was send them our discovery form, so we’d have an idea of what we were getting ourselves into before I bid the job.

They courteously responded within less than 2 hours, via email, with “completed form” in the subject line. The “completed form” included the company name, site URL, physical address, contact info and the Twitter account. That was it – the rest of the form was blank.

So I called and told my contact that the person that had filled it out had neglected to address most of the three pages of detailed information we needed. The response? “That should be all you need.”

Hello? Is that what you tell the doctor when he asks you where it hurts? “I just hurt” might tie his hands a bit, doncha think? We went round and round, with the client telling me that if we couldn’t find all that information on our own, maybe we weren’t the right agency for the job.

Bells go off in your head when early communications take on this sort of flavor, so I just told him that I could do most of that, if he preferred paying me to research it and fill out his form for him. At $100 per hour, with a 4 hour minimum, he decided he’d rather do it himself.

That time, it took him nearly a week, and I still got less than 1/3 of the information requested. Most significant was the total lack of any information regarding anything to do with previous linkbuilding efforts. In our last call, I told him that since links were at the root of their problem, some information on those efforts might be helpful. “We’re not prepared to share that information” was his response.

That was our last call. He was apparently totally bewildered when I told him that we wouldn’t be able (willing) to work with him under those conditions. That’s okay… I was more than a little bewildered at his thinking that any decent agency would.

I really didn’t want to send that client packing. I enjoy pulling sites out of the seemingly bottomless pit (that they usually dug themselves) and helping them bulletproof their strategies. But I recently did a cost analysis of the first project on which I had actually logged all the time I spent getting them reinstated. My hourly rate turned out to be slightly more than $12! Jeez! I could sell my body on the corner and do better than that! (Hey! It could happen!)

Philanthropy’s cool, but I have no intention of making that my new business model.

Working in a Vacuum

hands-tiedWhile there’s some benefit to doing your own research and forming your own conclusions without outside influence, a professional consultant is capable of viewing independent evidence and client statements separately. In fact, the conflicts between the two can be (and often are) very illuminating.

But gimme a break! If you’re not even willing to share basic information, your consultant’s not in a very good position to help you. With an NDA in place, there’s some level of protection for you – or at the very least, recourse in the event of a breach of confidence.

Trust who you hire – don’t hire someone you don’t trust

Damaged Goods?

What sort of bad experience must you have had in the past, to be so unwilling to trust a consultant with more than your URL? Can you say “damaged goods”, boys and girls?

I had a buddy in the Navy that returned home from a trip a few days early, only to walk in on his wife in bed with someone else. He really loved her, and he was understandably devastated – he even spent a few months after the divorce with a psychologist, trying to come to terms with it.

Granted, the fact that the other person in that bed was his sister might have complicated it a little for him. So his hesitance to trust women after that might be understandable.

Being lied to or stolen from will do that. At some point, though, it can become self-defeating. I think that’s the place this erstwhile SEO prospect was in.

Damaged goods usually involves a wall of mistrust being erected. I can understand that. And if this company had been screwed by another SEO provider (our relationship never developed sufficiently for me to find out), a certain amount of mistrust might be prudent – certainly understandable.

But to expect a productive relationship to develop, sometimes you just have to put yourself out there a little. No consultant can do much for your company, standing outside with his nose against the glass, wondering what’s going on inside. If those are the conditions under which a company wants to work, it’s better that they just save their money.

What’s even worse than that? Lying to your consultant! Yep! I’ve encountered that, too. The guy that only after being confronted with the evidence, admits that he bought “only” ten thousand links from some guy in Baguio, Philippines.

caughtC’mon! Do they really think we won’t notice that? Can they really believe we can help them with our hands tied? I suppose a lot of murder suspects lie to their defense attorney, too. Not smart.

I’ve even seen a client continue buying links by the thousands, while we were working on getting rid of the other crap links he’d bought! When new links began appearing faster than we could clean up the others, our first thought was someone was trying to set him up.

The Moral

Personally, I’m not hungry enough to take your money just because I can. I’ll only take it if I believe I can deliver what you need.

But there are a lot of folks out there that have no such compunction. If there’s a moral to all this, it’s probably trust who you hire or don’t hire someone you don’t trust.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Park February 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm

There are really people who loves to deceive their fellow. Such a bad habit.

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Robin Jennings February 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Sounds like the guy knew he did some dodgy black hat and when confronted was a little sheepish admitting what he did.

I’ve been bitten enough times these last 2 years that if I get a funny feeling about a potential new client I run for the hills (ie. quote so high they run for the hills).

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Lyena Solomon February 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

You hit on so many great points, Doc! I think, that a good SEO should take pride in their work. They should care where their “baby” goes when it grows up. When a client refuses to provide information from the start, an SEO cannot create a quality product. Moreover, it is clear where the result of your work will go after it is delivered to the client – into the trash. As a result, you will have a wasted effort, a frustrated client, and you – dissatisfied with the experience and the result. That is why, I think, it is wise that you moved on to a different project. Thank you for sharing.

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Doc Sheldon February 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

Hi, Lyena- Thanks. It’s funny, because I really balked at the idea of turning down what promised to be an interesting (and hopefully profitable) project, but as soon as I made the decision, I felt great about it! Sometimes, it’s just the best thing to do. Never mind the fact that my net profits would probably have been eaten up by a lot of wheel-spinning… I’d rather work with clients I can actually HELP, rather than be ashamed of accomplishing little, regardless of the reasons.

Thanks for chiming in!

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    [...] I recently spoke with a prospective client for a cleanup project after they received one of those pesky Google Slaps for unnatural links and their site dropped a couple of hundred pages in the SERP...  [...]