When things go wrong with an SEO campaign, it puts everyone involved in a tricky position. The first step is obviously to figure out what happened and who is responsible in order to fix the problem, but pointing out who is responsible for failure can hurt egos and business relationships if not handled right.

The most problematic situation is when a client is at fault, which is indeed possible. The customer is always right may be a good philosophy to live by in many cases, but it isn’t actually all that true when it comes to implementation. This is especially true when you are working with someone not all that informed about SEO.

Some SEOs will try to cut out the client, but that hurts the campaign as well. Instead, the best option is making sure to educate clients about the process in order to avoid issues, though that obviously can’t keep all problems from popping up. If one does arise, it is your job to talk the issue through with your client. While it may be their fault for not following through on a responsibility, it is equally likely you are also responsible due to a failure of communication.

Amanda DiSilvestro suggested a few ways clients can end up bringing down an SEO campaign, as well as how Search Engines and SEOs themselves can derail your progress. The most common issues for clients include:

  • Failing to Change – Many times, SEOs will suggest changes to make onpage to optimize a website, and often it will mean tweaking content to include keywords or possibly editing a meta tag. Clients are often very protective of their content however, and sometimes ignore these suggestions. In this case, the SEO has done their job, but if the client isn’t willing to cooperate, there is little the expert can do.
  • Failing to Plan as a Group – When SEOs aren’t confident in their client’s understanding of optimization, they sometimes begin to ignore the client all together. But, even if a client doesn’t want to be very hands on with the campaign, they almost certainly had goals in mind when they hired the pros, and those goals should be included in the plan for optimization. If a client tries to avoid being a part of the SEO process, including reading the regular reports, there will be a schism between the SEO expert and the company, which will likely splinter the campaign and weaken it.
  • Giving Up Too Early – Too many potential clients come to SEO agencies wanting quick fixes. No matter how earnestly you try to explain that optimization is a slow process, if the client doesn’t comprehend how long it will actually take, they are likely to get frustrated and shut the whole thing down before they really had a chance to reap rewards. There is little SEOs can do here except try to really communicate about time estimates and benchmarks you expect to hit, or just refusing clients that refuse to understand there is no way to get to the number one spot on Google overnight.

Now, we all know clients aren’t always the problem. In fact, it is usually the professional that ends up torpedoing the whole campaign. SEO firms and experts have the power in the campaign, and it is a tough balancing act to get everything on a site working as well as it can to impress the search engines. There are endless reasons a campaign may not work, but unfortunately the most common all stem from just plain bad practices.

  • Going Black Hat – It seems everyone writing about SEO knows how blatantly terrible an idea black hat practices are, but yet there is are never-ending “optimization” services available that use keyword stuffing, duplicate content, cloaking, shady link building  and several other bad practices that Google already knows to look out for. Sure these services might get a site good rankings initially, but it won’t be long at all before they sink under the weight of penalties.
  • Poor Communication – Just as it was said above, even when the client is at fault, the SEO is sometimes responsible for not explaining the process or keeping the client in the loop. SEO work is a partnership, no matter how independent you may be. The client relies on you to inform them about this unique field and help them make informed decisions. If you aren’t communicating and they make a mistake it is your fault. Similarly, if you make a decision without consulting the company you are working with and they don’t like it, you have no excuse.
  • Laziness – When it all comes down to it, a lot of SEO is maintaining and tweaking things to make a site the most efficient possible at signaling to search engines. Experts can get lazy too, but when a site starts under-performing because you haven’t been paying it the attention it deserves, there is no one to blame but yourself. The solution to this one is obvious. Drink a coffee, get up, and do the work clients are expecting of you.

While these categories cover many mistakes made in SEO, there are also innocent problems like misreading a market, and simply putting your faith in the wrong type of campaign.

No one likes having the finger pointed at them when things fall apart, but it is important to honestly assess who is responsible for the faults.

A bruised ego may sting for a little, but if you are the client can put that aside and focus on the good of the site, you can use the understandings gained about what went wrong to repair SEO mistakes and bad habits. With those lessons under your wing, soon you’re site will be performing as you would like it to.

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