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Putting The Client In The Driver's Seat

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9 replies to this topic

#1 bobmeetin


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Posted 01 July 2009 - 05:16 PM

I do web development for a number of small businesses, some Ma & Pa shops. As part of what I do I ensure that the websites are search-engine friendly, educate my clients about the importance of fresh "quality" content and talk about the importance of having other websites link to theirs.

I commonly set up forms on their websites so that they can add articles, blog, update FAQ sections as well provide for them documentation and help files on link exchanges. I commonly give them ideas on articles, good subjects to write about, but not being their subject matter expert, I can't really write the articles for them to keep their sites fresh. If they were to give me a draft I could handle that, but they are too involved in the daily operations of the business to even do this.

Regarding link exchanges I give them an overview of why its important, give them a hardcopy they can refer to when talking to their suppliers, dealers, sister businesses, etc and of course they have my name to help with the admin/tech stuff.

Unfortunately the end result of the client education is nothing happens. Delegating to them to help themselves does not tie the knot. I don't hear complaints, but I don't see success stories.

Client specific:

Recently a client asked me to convert their service website to an eCommerce site. When asked of me if the content in the product descriptions would help with SEO I said yes. Much of the product they "hope" to sell is found online via manufacturers', distributors', and other retailers' sites.

I went on to explain that they need to do more than simply copy/paste; the content, descriptions, etc will need to be massaged in order to keep it from falling into that duplicate content bucket. The more I think through this, they are looking for a "canned" solution - copy/paste is a canned approach.

I suggested early on that they should focus on doing a super job with 10-20 products rather than copy/paste with hundreds. The best link to your website is the one you don't have to work for because your content speaks for itself. Unfortunately I don't see the organic link happening with copy/paste process, thus you have to actively procure links.


I'm not sure what needs to happen to help these small businesses help themselves. Or is that in itself the broken part of the plan? I'd like to hear some process improvement suggestions on how to balance education and delegation versus taking control from A-Z.

It may be a mistake, but the reason for going the educate/delegate route is to help make managing a website affordable to small businesses. It also gives them a sense of control.

Ideas, suggestions, constructive criticism openly accepeted...

#2 Jill


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Posted 01 July 2009 - 05:39 PM

Not sure what your question is.

#3 bobmeetin


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Posted 01 July 2009 - 05:55 PM

I can educate the heck out of clients but if they don't take the warranted effort to heart it will meet with failure. I would like to know what I could be doing better with clients like these who don't have much budget to do true SEO work? Educate/delegate sounds good on paper, on paper on paper....

Sorry - to clarify...

The eCommerce business will put up 500 products for sale (cookie-cutter style) but little content worthy of linking to. Knowing their habits, would you focus on a manual link exchange process involving footwork or would you go another route to help make them successful?

#4 BBCoach


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Posted 01 July 2009 - 07:20 PM

I deal with this same exact thing over and over again. Mom & Pop shops don't want to hear that SEO is important and that it requires effort on their part. They want the programmer to make it as easy as possible to setup their site. They don't want to spend the time entering product information and getting the pictures for those products. That's too much work!

For example, I just accepted a $4K job to build a M&P shop an informational product data driven website. The owner's stated plan for getting the product copy and pics is to steal from other established sites. I've given up on these kinds of business people. They know it's stealing, but they don't care because the other way is too hard and time-consuming. I'll make them an SEO friendly site (without their knowledge) and they can populate it the way they want to. I get the build fee and the monthly hosting fee. Since most of my customers are referrals I listen to what they want and build it. Honestly, it's one of three things, they're either clueless about SEO and/or they're down-right lazy about doing it right and/or they're not technically oriented and think it's too hard. Today, I barely mention SEO to most new customers because these M&P shops don't/can't understand the value of it. They just want a website that works.

I used to sit down and attempt to explain (in detail) how to take their internet business to the top (SEO/PPC/Copy/External links/Press-release/Forum involvement/Twitter), but after years of watching their eyes gloss over and numbing their mind to the amount of work necessary I now just let them tell me what they want and I do it. A year or so later, when they hear about SEO, they'll ask and then I'll tell them. Even then I get some with a glossy-eyed response like "That's too much work." Then there are those that do "get it" and go to work to make it happen and reap the benefits. These folks especially like it when I tell them I built their site to enable them to optimize the copy when they were ready to get the work done.

Not that my way is the solution to your situation, but I sure sleep a lot better and the sale is that much easier. You're not alone and you can only lead a horse to the water.

#5 Randy


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Posted 02 July 2009 - 10:26 AM

It's the old You can lead a horse to water... syndrome.

The bottom line is you cannot force them to be successful. No more than any of us who dispense SEO or Business Building information can force or guarantee success. Sometimes the best you can do is provide them with good information and hope at least some of it sticks. Because even if it's not helping them today, who knows. They remember it years down the road and finally start using it to their advantage.

For the small business people thing, is it safe to assume these are mom and pops that are local to you? Back in the day when I still did that kind of work for others I used to give little talks to local business groups. You know, the local Chambers of Commerce, local business districts that have memberships, etc. I spread out over 30 miles or so, and there were literally dozens of these. Most of them will agree to let you give a little talk on web marketing. Once they hear about you giving a talk at one (for free mind you) other organizations will likely ask you to give a presentation to their members too.

Is this a business building opportunity for you? Sure it is! Even if you don't really pitch your services. FTR, the most common question I got at each and every one of those was what it would cost them. The 2nd most popular question was how much extra they can make from gaining a web presence.

Even though it's not a direct correlation I still see and hear from business owners who got involved in getting their business on the web. Not because I told them something directly or even because they hired me necessarily. But because they heard me giving these little talks more than once. Either more than once at one group they belonged to (typically the orgs want you back each year once you start) or from them belonging to more than one of these business groups. That I still hear about it when I've not done one of those little chats in several years now should give you an idea of how long it takes sometimes for people to start getting it.

Once one business in any of these groups does get involved and sees some success, it becomes a snowball effect. Because they talk to each other all the time and people can't seem to help from bragging on how well the web portion of their business is doing. Which plants the seed with other business owners. Which leads to more business for you and a more informed client base to boot.

But it doesn't happen overnight. And definitely cannot be forced.

#6 adibranch


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Posted 02 July 2009 - 10:35 AM

yeah its echoed everywhere... i've been pleading with some siteowners to add content to article pages which i've created ready for them, and still they remain empty. There doesnt seem to be a way round it unless the siteowner is proactive with a modocum of business sense. I have one bloke (bit of an enterpreneur) who i handle three or four sites for, and he regularly beats me to the work ! He also obtains very good quality links and working with him is fantastic, as he does most of it and i just do the technical onsite stuff.

BUT , like randy said, its an opportunity for you to create some additional work when it comes to shoddy upkeep. I have a client who runs what is now the leading site in its sector (or not far off), yet their product descriptions and upkeep of the site was appalling, and they were losing sales because of it. Eventually after me harping on about it, they contracted me to sort it all out, with a 500% increase in invoiceable work to them ! Result.. Plus i dont get as frustrated when i see their crappy layouts and ideas (or lack of) about how to sell online.

#7 smc_online


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Posted 02 July 2009 - 03:21 PM

BB and Randy are so right. I've dealing with those types challenges too long myself. I was hoping that things would be different by now.

#8 Randy


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Posted 02 July 2009 - 09:02 PM

It'll never change SMC. Tis the human nature I'm afraid.

But on the flip side, it can give you some wonderful stories to tell. lol.gif

#9 bobmeetin


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Posted 02 July 2009 - 11:42 PM

The failure I'm seeing with the educate/delegate approach is that this company will put many thousands of dollars (in hiring a temp to add products) believing

1) that all this content is going to improve their internet visibility
2) no sales

I told them a year back that they needed fresh content and inbound links. I went into anal retentive detail how to approach their relevant (mostly) contacts (suppliers, distributors, local biz groups, major clients, etc) - but it was just too much work. You've got George on the phone... how much work is, "Oh my the way, would you be up doing a link exchange with us?" That took too much thinking. So now we have the cookie cutter eCommerce 'duplicate' content approach. Also known as the "I can do tasks that don't involve thinking" approach.

They will probably spend $3k to $5k in copy/paste inventory with little to no unique content worth an organic link. For that amount of money I could have advised them to hire a copywriter for a month of Sundays.

#10 Randy


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Posted 03 July 2009 - 08:07 AM

If it helps any, I never approached the fresh, quality content vs copy and paste content from the Duplicate angle at all. People not involved in SEO just don't get duplicate content and the possible implications.

So the way I always approached that with clients was that they needed to update the stock copy in an effort to improved conversions. eg I've never seen stock copy, which is usually written by someone with the manufacturer who has no concept of how to convert web site visitors into buyers. Thus is always much better to revamp things like product descriptions to add a bit of zest, descriptions that work better for web-based applications and especially a call to action.

I've also never seen stock product description that included even a decent call to action. Most contain none at all. Listing features instead of pointing out benefits.

That sort of approach seems to get through to business owners better, since they often understand sales much better than the manufacturer's writing staff. And they certainly understand that how a product is presented can have a direct effect on sales volumes.

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