Should I give SEO advice, before asking for payment?
These are all questions SEO experts ask themselves.
- Do I give free SEO advice before closing a deal?
- Should I divulge SEO tactics before asking for payment?
- How much SEO advice should I give before asking for payment?
- Should I actually help a client with SEO before charging.
So a client comes to you for your SEO services.....
Exactly how much time and effort should you put in to researching their business, and how much information should you actually divulge about what you can do for them, before a deal is in place?
It's a tricky one for any expert in this type of field and can often leave you torn.
Those who have already made a name for themselves in the SEO industry need not always give away free advice to land new contracts. Then there are those who do not have a proven track record, they will need to give away some tips before earning the trust of their clients. The burning question is how much?
Getting started with SEO...
The trouble with being an SEO expert is just how much of your expertise do you reveal to a potential client before you seal a contract? It's a tricky question really because the client obviously wants to know what they are getting for their money and the expert doesn't want to waste his/her time giving free advice for clients to wander off and implement themselves.
There are plenty of free tips Online for helping you on your way with your Websites SEO but if you simply don't have the time to spend on your Websites SEO then you need to employ an SEO expert who can do this on a day to day basis for you.
Good quality, generic SEO is different for different businesses. E.g you have a Website about recipes, then you would create back links on relative Websites to the food industry that compliment the Website in question. A Website for clothing would be linked to Websites in the clothing industry and so on. A good SEO expert will do lots of research on the niche he/she is working with but might not necessarily do this before he/she starts to work for you 'officially'.
Should you give away something for nothing?
The trouble is that some (most) people are after 'something for nothing'. You can spend hour upon hour doing research on a particular business, then tell them exactly what steps you intend to take, what the business might need, where they might be going wrong etc and they could then simply just walk away with all of your ideas and implement them themselves, leaving you out of pocket and having wasted your own time.
Most people who pay for SEO are usually clueless about what's involved and genuinely want to know what they are getting for their money. In this instance you obviously want to be able to give them as much information as possible, there is a lot of work involved with SEO and you want to ensure your client knows his/her business is being well taken care of.
There's two possible types of response you can give a potential client:
A generic response - This will detail aspects of SEO that all experts undertake such as Social Media creation, keywords, tweaking etc.
A detailed response - This will (after research) tell the client what exactly you intend to do for them E.g run a competition via Facebook to generate 'likes' and in turn business. You will have taken the time to draft up said competition for them to simply steal your idea.
The right thing to do?
Truth is that there is no 'right thing to do', you simply have to use your judgement. I personally know some SEO experts who will give up to an hour of their time for free, while others give zero time and send out a generic e-mail to their potential clients.
Some things to consider:
- Does the client seem genuine?
- Can I commit to doing research for maybe no return?
- Do I just give a generic response and hope my reputation is enough?
- How is the business ranked at present (are there any signs of SEO being done prior)
- How knowledgeable is the potential client?
Ask yourself these questions and you will have your answer.
But please remember, giving away all details of links you are exchanging is not recommended. I personally give them a fair amount of advice, but try to keep it on the side of here's what's wrong with your Website/blog etc. I will very rarely do any extensive research before hand, unless it's a client I have worked with prior or a new project for a client already on the books. I do have a generic e-mail that I always send out but it rarely satisfies their thirst for more information.
Usually if their business has some sort of online presence you should ask them how, so you can get a feel for what they already know or who they might have paid prior to get their business online. It might have been them just 'having a go' and using their initiative. It might also have been paid for SEO which wasn't working.
Have they been stung before?
Your potential client may have already been paying for SEO services and have used an un-reputable company. This would of course lead them to wanting to know more about what you intend to do.
I would in this circumstance do more research and give a more in-depth report back, since you know they are potentially willing to pay and are genuinely unknowledgeable.
They will obviously be a lot more wary of paying out any more cash. I have personally worked for clients that have been conned out of thousands of pounds for their websites SEO. These are my longest standing clients, when they realise what can actually be done for their money, they will stick with you.
These clients are most likely to recommend you to their friends, family and other business associates.
When to be aware
I get a lot of requests for my services from businesses that aren't established yet, they will have an idea for a website or items to sell via E-bay, Amazon etc and that's all thy have got, an idea.
These types of requests I usually avoid like the plague, in my experience they are just trying to get free ideas to market their business.
I understand there are genuine people out there but 9/10 it will be someone trying to get ideas for free.
My advice would be to send them a very generic response and tell them to come back to you once their business is up and running, although this never happens which leads me to believe I am right.
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I would love to hear other SEO experts thoughts on this, so if you do vote please drop us a comment.