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SEO Traffic Baseline – Is Your Client Aware of the Site’s Stats Before You Begin Your Work?

December 16th, 2009 | | Pricing Models for SEO

I’m sure this will sound familiar:

Last week I was contacted via referral by a business owner wanting SEO performed on his site. It was apparent within the first 12 seconds of the phone call that he had had his fill of SEO promises and possibilities. He said his site was just redesigned with some SEO design practices but his site wasn’t ranking page 1 for any strategic keywords aside from his company name. He also said he had been talking to other SEO Specialists who wanted to charge him “an arm and a leg” to rank on keyword phrases he thought he already should be able to rank for.

I told him I would take a look at his site.

Sure enough, his site was filled with typical beginner SEO mistakes:  unfilled title and alt tags, chronic duplicate meta data, no keyword-rich anchor text…

So I asked him, “Do you know what your rankings are now?”
“Not really.”

“Do you know what your rankings were before?”
“Not really.”

I asked the following question, already pretty certain of the answer:

“Do you know what kind of traffic your website is getting?”

You could probably guess the answer.

Skipping to the end of the page, the prospective client didn’t have any web analytics on the site, the site wasn’t in the search engine webmasters, and the person in his company who was monitoring his IT wasn’t sure how to get to the server logs.

So I did something some SEO Consultants will hate me for: I walked the IT guy through the steps to adding Google Analytics to the site and verifying ownership of the site in Google Webmaster Tools, looked over his work, told him what he missed, and helped him finished the process.

And then I didn’t charge the client (you can commence with the yelling now).

The reason I didn’t charge for the hour of consultation was because I can’t show the client the effects of my work if he has no SEO baseline with which to compare. Not only that, but the client would not be able to see how far along his site has come unless he knows from where it came.

And now because the client has the beginnings of an SEO Baseline, he can better appreciate the necessity of my labor.

You will see the SEO Baseline as “metric of progress;” clients will see it as a return on their investment.

Now, because the client has a better grasp on what we’re working towards and why we’re working towards it, I can call him my “client” because I got the gig.

And for those upset I didn’t charge for analytics and webmaster implementations, relax. I haven’t trained the client how to use Google Analytics yet. :-)

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  • http://twitter.com/mycmps James K Barath

    Nice job showing value before offering a recommendation. Congratulations on earning the trust of a client that you will have way beyond this initial consultation.

    • Finn

      Thank you, good sir.

      I hope I’m able to continue to earn the trust.

  • http://www.mustudios.com Richard Orelup

    Yeah it’s always funny when the client has worked with other “experts” and they don’t do the simple stuff. As well I love when they promise them they will get a high ranking in a keyword for them when

    a) They don’t have that keyword anywhere on the site
    b) The keyword is so vague that even if you did rank #1 you wouldn’t want the traffic from it because it has nothing to do with your business (client wanted to be #1 for “hydraulic” but were doing a very specialized thing working with hydraulics.)

    And it’s good that you didn’t charge for that because it shows the client you trust in your skills and are willing to back it up with numbers. And really will all know that takes very little time to do (well, dealing with their IT person probably didn’t, but in general setting that up is nothing) so really the benefits you and the client gain from this will be repaid easily.

    • Finn


      Especially if the project includes article writing, content writing, and the like. Sacrificing an hour in a show of good faith is a no-brainer.

  • Tom P.

    Saying you are not going to charge someone because they currenthly have no metrics is insane. Not only are you earning their trust, you are teaching them that there is no value in what you do. It took you years for you to gain the knowledge and understanding that you do. Don’t slut yourself out like that!

    I think more people in the world should help other people out and not think a thing of the time spent or money lost. Not during your first business dealings with a new customer. You are only teaching the client that your time is not worth money.

    • Finn

      Thank you Eric & Tom P for your passionate view points,

      If the best I have to offer is showing an IT guy how to put on 8 lines of code per page from a free service, then I’m already in trouble.

      I didn’t set up his goals. I didn’t set up his ecommerce tracking. I didn’t show him how go get into the depths of the data. I didn’t modify the code to get any more depth about the referrer pages. I didn’t get into anything more than the raw data. The same raw data Google themselves claim only provide a “good picture” of the site’s performance. But now he gets a better picture of what he has, and from this, what more he can attain.

      And if the client doesn’t want anything more than a good feeling of their potential, then it’s better to find out now that to have to hassle with it later.

      I do have the potential to offer a litany of services. Giving one free service away for free that can track my other ones is easier than me having to track them myself.

      In the end, it isn’t so much about what we know so much as what we’re learning.

      Okay, here’s a question: Who still charges for Search Engine Submission?

  • http://www.seoboy.com Eric

    When “Good Client Relationship” is equated to “slutting oneself out” then there is a larger problem of trust and value. Being an industry leader isn’t acheived by charging for everything that comes out of your mouth.

  • Tom P.

    A “Good Client Relationship” should consist of one party recieving goods and one party recieving payment for goods. When one does this for free because of the following reason…

    “The reason I didn’t charge for the hour of consultation was because I can’t show the client the effects of my work if he has no SEO baseline with which to compare. Not only that, but the client would not be able to see how far along his site has come unless he knows from where it came.”

    … it is not a good business relationship because he is setting up a reporting program and offering “goods” for nothing. His set-up of this clients account was possibly the most important thing he will perform for the client.

    There are not many professionals out there today offering free services today. Why should we? There is a difference between charging for “every word coming out of your mouth” and spending and extra 45 minutes to an hour with the IT guy providing value. I know sometimes you have to do this or that maybe the IT guy has to give his thumbs-up to get the deal signed. In general, I don’t think our industry should provide free services because it says to the person who is getting the free stuff…
    1. My time in not worth money
    2. I have tons of extra time in my schedule
    3. I am desperate for your business

    People are willing to pay more for good, quality expertise.

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  • jatin bata

    When “Good Client Relationship” is equated to “slutting oneself out” then there is a larger problem of trust and value. 

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