Disagree with Your SEO Writing Client? Here’s What to Do
What do you do when you’ve got an SEO copywriting client with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye?
Perhaps you’re developing new content or maybe you’re just taking direction and making straightforward tweaks to existing copy, but at some point, your client asks you to do something you know is a bad idea.
Sometimes it’s because your client thinks she is an expert in not only her own business, but yours as well. Sometimes it’s because she’s trying to help but is simply misinformed or has information that’s out of date.
Either way, you know your ideas are going to be the more effective, but you don’t want to risk offending or angering your client by being rude about it.
Here are some tips on championing your own, superior ideas while making your client feel respected, comfortable, and enthusiastic:
If the idea’s a turkey
When the client’s idea is something that clearly won’t work but she is pushing you hard to do it anyway, vent to a disinterested third party before you address it with a client. This way you get to say all the snarky, insulting things you want, and get them out of your system so you can collect yourself before you ruin an otherwise perfectly good client relationship.
One funny example I can share with you is when a former client of mine really, really wanted to publish almost a dozen pages on his website that would feature “articles” brimming with relevant keywords.
He had no intention of publishing content that was well-written, useful, or necessarily relevant to his audience, and he didn’t even have plans to promote the content. He merely wanted to have the keywords all over the website so that, theoretically, the site’s Google ranking would rise.
Of course, anyone who’s read a little bit about Google’s Panda update knows that publishing low-quality content is pretty much worthless. It took me a few deep breaths not to yell about this particularly “fowl” idea.
Don’t be a lame duck
You may be just the hired help, but permitting a client to steamroll you even one time is dangerous because that will set a precedent for the client to do so all the time.
If you believe that the client’s idea will be detrimental to her business, steel yourself to say something. She hired you because she respects your expertise, so now is the time to show it off. Furthermore, you might be held responsible when things backfire down the road, so protect yourself by putting your reservations in writing.
Don’t be chicken either
You should be working on content that you’ll be proud to put in your portfolio, so don’t be afraid to stand up for it.
Your reputation as an effective copywriter could take a beating if you put out material that’s weak, not in keeping with best practices, or otherwise low quality. Don’t let a fear of upsetting your client deter you from raising the issue.
Show off your slugging percentage
Let’s say your client insists you use absolutely perfect schoolmarm grammar despite the fact that her target audience is unpretentious, regular people with average educations. You know that type of language will alienate prospects, so hit the books yourself.
Do your due diligence and provide your client with evidence from your own work with other clients showing how colloquial wording is more effective than flawless grammar.
Three strikes & you’re out
My rule of thumb for persuading a client to drop their bad ideas in favor of my superior ones is borrowed from baseball. You can argue – politely! – no more than three times for your ideas, but if you’re shot down all three times, you have to let it go. Either the client is too stubborn or you need to improve your persuasion tactics!
One last piece of advice: Always allow your clients to explain why they want you to implement their ideas because often the reasons they have can help you lead them to an understanding of why their ideas won’t work and which ones will.
When you know what their reasons are, you can come up with solutions to the problem rather than appear to be arguing for the sake of argument.
About the Author ~ Siân Killingsworth
Siân Killingsworth is a freelance copywriter, content curator, and social media manager. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she blogs about marketing for small business at www.sianessa.com and spends a lot of time studying various social media channels to guide her clients with best, freshest marketing practices. When Siân isn’t writing, she enjoys discovering elegant wine bars, traveling, and working on her lifelong quest for the perfect prawn burrito. Find her on Twitter.
Photo thanks to allygirl520
Thank you for this article. It always makes me feel better to see that I’m not the only one who goes through these pains with clients and bad ideas. I like the idea about venting to a third party, before speaking with or responding to the client. I think I already do this with my wife, but I wasn’t aware of it until I read it here…haha.
Hey Aaron, you’re welcome. I think that freelancers and agencies alike have this experience with clients; you’re definitely not alone. There are probably a lot of spouses & partners on the listening end of our venting sessions!
I especially like the last two paragraphs – getting a person to see why something won’t work is a powerful tool, but a tricky skill to master.