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Telling a prospective client, “You’re screwed”.

Telling a prospective client "You’re screwed"

(OK, I was much nicer and didn’t actually say "You’re Screwed", but that’s still what it came down to.)

His situation:
He’s calling for one of his clients, a doctor, who was involved in a lawsuit (based on a specific medical condition) some time back.

The first 10 results are all "This doctor is evil" type pages.

The prospective client tells me that the doctor wants to be #1 in the natural search results, nothing else is acceptable. Then the prospects says, "I just need you for some link campaigns. I know all about search engine optimization, and I know exactly how we’re going to do this."

"Oh, what is your plan?" I ask.

"We’re having 2 other websites built right now as we speak. Both Search Engine Optimized. Those 2 you’ll do your linking campaigns on and we’ll be at the top with those sites," he replies.

"Hum, have you heard of the "Sandbox" and the "aging factor"" I ask.

"Yes, and I’ve heard it can take up to 6 months, but I’m sure you can do it much faster with a good linking campaign"

I then give him a brief talk about the "age of sites", and "natural link growth", and how he might be waiting years for these new sites…if the content is great.

"OK, give me the doctors name (that he want to be #1 for), and I’ll see who’s in the top 10."
He gives me the name and I check out the top 10 using our Cool SEO Tool.

The top 10 are all "lawsuit this, lawsuit that, this doctor is evil, etc."

So I ask, "So you want to be on the first page?" and he responds with, "Not just that, we’ve got to be #1 to make sure we’re found above that "evil doctor" page at #1.

"Hum…well, let me tell you why they’re #1. The site was started in early 2002, and has 400 pages now. They have about 4000 backlinks to thier domain, and a little over 1000 backlinks to that specific "evil doctor" page." I tell him.

I then add, "When I look at the backlinks to the #1 "evil doctor" page, I see they’re all coming from  pages about this specific medical condition, all natural backlinks, placing this page right in the middle of the perfect backlink community."

Then, in so many words, that it’s going to be "impossible" (I might mention other work arounds to people who are interested in listening…but he was not going to be one of those people).

So he tells me, "But the page that ranks #1 is only a pagerank 4, and google only show a few hundred backlinks" – (and I think "case for "fairy dust"").

I tell him that doesn’t matter, it’s all about "age of site", "natural link growth", "link neighborhoods" and that this is going to be impossible to achieve with his new site.

So I tell him, "Sorry man, it just isn’t happening. Why don’t you pay that company that has that #1 evil page to remove it."

He responds with "no chance".

So I end with "ok, well good luck, I’ve got to go".

about 10 minutes later he calls again and asks, "but what if we had everyone link to our new pages with the doctors name, won’t that beat the top page."

My response "I already thought of that, and that specific page that is is #1 in the natural results, is also #1 for "allinanchor" (along with an explanation of that), so sorry, again, it’s not possible. Good luck".

So I’m betting that he scratched my name off the list, and he’s on to the next SEO to see if they’ll promise him anything better…someone just might….think about this, for he might be calling you. Do you have a solution? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d also like to know how you guys would handle these types of situations. 


8 Responses

  1. Jim,

    I commend you for taking the high road here. Here’s what’s going to happen: Probably his 2nd or 3rd SEO company that he speaks to will respond with, “You’re absolutely right, we can rank #1 for that that term, sign this contract for 6 mo’s of SEO services and we’ll rank you no problem. They’ll tell the client exactly what they want to hear, and will attempt to deliver on their promises. 6 months from now the client will be ticked off, and will be ranked on the 3rd or 4th page.

    What would I do? I would explain to them the situation as best as I can, and tell them exactly what you did. However, if they still want me to execute their plan and pay me to do it, I would, and I would do the best I could. My mortgage will be there whether they believe me or not.

  2. Josh,
    realize I was paraphrasing in by post…I did explain more in debth what those phrases meant.I mentioned PPC, but he wasn’t interested. No blog is going to get him to #1 knowing the page that’s #1 already. (at least for several years).

    I wasn’t thinking in terms of “how stupid” this person was. Education and giving realistic expectations is “smart”.

    but if you still think you can get him to #1 in natural results and you want this guys phone # I’ll give it to you and you can do a follow up on “what you sold him” and “how you did”.

  3. Someone approached us (our SEO site) a while back with something similar. The first page of Google was about the negative things that the company did. The company didn’t care to rank #1 for there site they just didn’t want to see the negative publicity on the first page.

    The best thing we could have done was to just raise the rankings of sites that had nothing negative to say about that company. We never signed the client b/c they wanted to accomplish this for next to nothing.

  4. Jim – I think you were dead right not to make false promises. I suspect I would have pointed him squarely at PPC as well. I know as an SEO I wouldn’t make as much but the client’s money should be spent where it would be most effective. Plus, “evil doctor” – there’s got to be some ethical issues there. Would you really want to take a contract from someone with so much bad publicity. Just the act of association could damage your own reputation.

  5. Bravo! Jim. I give you major props for making the right decision. Cases like this would require a minimum of 12 months, and possibly more.

    The only way I could think to do it would be if you hired a few programmers to build a crazy cool “web 2.0” tool or mashup or something and called it – Dr. So and So’s Google Maps meets Skyping Podcast RSS. Then just and digg it and wait for the links to roll in.

    It would take some damn creative thinking and a hell of a lot of programming time (and UI time) to make it, though.

  6. They might want to try some black hat techniques in a case like that. A few Googlebowls or a little redirection fun might help 🙂

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