6 ways to handle it when a client changes your copywriting

Frustrated womanTalk about frustrating.

You thought what you wrote showcased your best work ever. You expertly followed your client’s content marketing strategy. You chose good keyphrases. And when you finished writing your SEO copywriting masterpiece, you could almost hear the harp music playing softly and feel the sunshine on your face.  Your copy didn’t just sound good.  It sung.

Then a week later, you see what the client actually uploaded. All of your tricky turn-of-phrases were gone. Your Title was changed from a compelling statement to a list of keyphrases. And your headline…you can’t even look at what they did to your headline. You aren’t just mad.  You’re hurt. How could they destroy your copywriting baby like that?

Rule #1 of working with clients. They will change your writing, no matter how good you thought it was. Get over it.

The question is: How to handle it. Here’s what to do:

  1. Leave your ego at the door. Sure, it’s easy to get miffed when a client tweaks your SEO copywriting genius. But take a big step back before you send that nastygram. Did the changes mess with anything important (like the keyphrase usage.) Is the tone and feel consistent? Does the edited copy stick out like a sore thumb? If there’s no real damage to your conversion strategy, keyphrase strategy or Title, it’s probably not a big deal (except, of course, to you.)
  2. Check-in with the client.  You need to understand what happened before you react. Often, it can be a good idea to phrase your initial email as a question. For instance, “I noticed that you changed the Title. Can you help me understand why?” That tends to sound better, than, say, “WTF did you DO?” Asking questions can uncover additional information you may not have known about – and helps you figure out how to proceed.
  3. Respond and educate. There could be a host of reasons why your work was changed, ranging from, “We thought it would be better this way,” to “Our SEO told us to change it.” Some of these reasons are more logical than others – and they all require thoughtful responses. If a client added a bunch of nonsense paragraphs because their SEO told them a page had to be “750 words for search engine positioning” (true story,) point out exactly how the new copy hinders conversions. If your Title was totally tweaked, help your client understand how Titles need to be keyphrase-rich, yes – but also compelling and clear. Within your response, consider including links to articles and blog posts that echo your sentiments. That way, the client sees that multiple experts feel the same way you do – and it adds credence to your position. Educating the client helps them make more informed decisions – and can often help them see the “SEO copywriting light.”
  4. Offer a compromise. Depending on the scope of work, it’s sometimes worthwhile to tweak the copy one more time, merging the client’s changes with your original text. Sometimes, a little copy-massaging can go a long way – and the client will (hopefully) see the difference between their edits and your shining final product.  Or, if nothing else, you’ve made the page just a little bit better.
  5. Try testing. If a client is sold on their 1,000-word sales page – and you’re trying to slice it to 200 – see if the client is open to testing your version against theirs. An A/B split test will provide irrefutable data that will show your client what really works (rather than what they think will work.)
  6. Let it go. At the end of the day, your client is the “decider” – not you.  If you’ve emailed your thoughts, backed them up with evidence and discussed the SEO ramifications – there’s really not much else you can do. Give it some time and see if you can revisit some options at a later date (like A/B testing, or tweaking the copy.) A few months of so-so results may help the client be more open to your expert advice – and you can finally start showing them what good SEO copywriting can do.

 

12 replies
  1. Heather
    Heather says:

    Giving it an hour before you respond is smart – very smart. It’s so easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and fire off something…regrettable. An hour gives you a chance to step back, reassess, and deal with everything – calmly. :)

    Thanks so much for your tip!

    Reply
  2. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    What a great post! I had a client some time ago who knew very little about writing for the web, though she had published many books. I wrote excellent copy for her and explained countless times the importance of the decisions I made as well as how different writing for the web is (from print/books).

    She constantly rewrote everything I did, ruining all my work. She just didn’t get it. I couldn’t take it any more and just dropped her. She still hasn’t launched her site. Every time it is ready to go, she fires her web designer and starts over again.

    She was such a sweet person and I hated to drop her, but I could only take so much. Guess I need to practice that “leave your ego at the door” thing, huh?

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      LOL, oh, I understand. I really do.

      Sometimes, you just have to fire a client – especially in your situation. After all, if they aren’t listening, they’re changing everything you do and costing you time (plus, probably adding a few grey hairs,) it just isn’t worth it.

      That’s hard. I’ve been there. And it’s twice as hard when the client is really nice, isn’t it?

      Thanks for your post! :)

      Reply
  3. Rahman Mehraby
    Rahman Mehraby says:

    Very informative post! I’ve never come across such a situation, but I must admit that it could happen to anyone.

    Sometimes, I don’t know if this strategy works or not, but in other careers I’ve got powerful responses:

    Establish your concrete-based position as an expert to prevent any such situations. If it didn’t work, listen to this valuable post!

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      How wonderful that you’ve never come across this situation. That’s a very GOOD thing!

      What’s sad is when clients try to second-guess experts. I’ve had situations where I’ve shown articles that I wrote back in 2003 (to show that I’ve been in the game for awhile) and case studies – heck, I’ve even brought in other top consultants – and yet the client still says, “Well, what’s so wrong with buying a bunch of links” (and then buy them anyway, even after I explained the ramifications.) :) Sometimes, you can’t help clients like that no matter how much you try. Although they say that they want to outsource, at the end of the day, they really want to control it in-house. They just may not know it yet.

      Thanks for your post!

      Reply
  4. Damian Doman
    Damian Doman says:

    Point No. 3 – educating the clients – is essential. They often think that after reading an SEO guide, they have knowledge wide enough to correct us, or they feel that their preferences are more important for the success than SEO. Although they appretiate our knowledge, they often choose to change the text according to what they think is right.

    However, it’s our task to educate them because only then they are able to understand what we do and what we do it for. Of course, there will always be some suggestions but with a good dialogue you can reach a satisfying compromise.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      So true. Clients should be educated…but at the same time, remember why they hired their experts. It’s the same as when I talk to my doctor. I may have reviewed my symptoms and condition before I walked through the door. But I expect her to be the expert and have better answers than what I can read in a book. :)

      Do I love sharing information when a client says, “I read this…what do you think?” Heck yeah! Do I get frustrated when a client says, “I read a blog post, and let’s do it like this from now on.” Heck yeah! Reaching a compromise, where the client feels (and is in) control – and is educated about the different SEO ramifications – is a happy balance.

      Reply
  5. Allison
    Allison says:

    I have learned that it takes 4 times as much time and energy to oppose or fight a client than it takes to try out what the client wants. Even after recommending against the requested changes – and providing valid reasons – some clients need to SEE their ideas, be able to compare, and then know that they have the final say.

    The important thing here is to get paid for your time – minimizing any resentment. Monitoring scope creep is something that I am getting better at identifying and handling, but that has come with experience.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      You’re right – the scope creep does come with experience. If you’re constantly tweaking the copy to meet the client’s ever-changing needs – and you’re not paid ’til the copy is finished, resentment will set in. Oh yes. It will. :)

      And often times, the “fight” isn’t worth it…sometimes it’s best to change the copy, say your peace, and encourage the client to test the results…

      Thanks for your post!

      Reply
  6. Beth Hrusch
    Beth Hrusch says:

    Remember- the customer is always right, even when they are not! We always hash out expectations beforehand. If the client chooses to make changes afterward, that is their prerogative. As a writer, you should try not to be offended when approved content is changed. There could be many reasons for that. After all, if a client doesn’t like your work, they would not approve it for upload in the first place. What happens after you’ve written it is the client’s business. They will live with the SEO consequences.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      True, and I completely agree with you. However, “living with the SEO consequences” sometimes (and thankfully, not always) means the client blames the copywriter when “This SEO stuff doesn’t work” That’s why the CYA documentation is so important. If the client chooses to make the changes after hearing the pros and cons of that decision – cool. Like you said, it’s totally their prerogative, and the changes could have been made for a multitude of reasons. As long as the client understands that the copywriter is no longer responsible for the outcome once the copy tweaking starts, it’s all good. :)

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] SEO Copywriting | 6 ways to handle it when a client changes your … […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *