A 10k Monthly Budget Client Doesn’t Think Content Helps SEO. They Want Sales ASAP

u/bodega

Client doesn't think content helps SEO. Any advice on where else to provide quick value?

Little context: managing a client w/ two websites with a roughly 10k monthly budget. This client thinks blogging and content generation is basically a waste of time. While this isn't the entire focus of our strategy, it's baked into our process because they're the type who wants to see tangible SEO deliverables in order to feel this is a good use of marketing budget. While I've done my best to educate them how why developing new content–even refreshing some old content–creates new rank opportunities, they're pushing back.

I'm in the process of developing a Q1 strategy and was wondering if anyone had some advice on where to focus time/energy on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). My immediate thought is more focus on link building but this is a tough area to provide tangible results MoM.

Edit: Thanks to everyone who replied, rather than responding individually I figured an edit might suffice. Lot of good advice an I appreciate the thoughtful responses.

Little more context: This client is driven by sales. Covid has hurt their numbers, like so many others. I'm told they already locked in budgets for other channels (bad idea) and they're trying to squeeze as many extra conversions as they can from Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For my two cents, they're looking for immediate, dramatic results\-it's putting undue pressure on a channel that is historically slow to produce quick results.

I was transparent with my employer coming in, I'm a content heavy SEO. I believe things like content gap analyses and on-site content refreshes are useful exercises\-I make sure to include other technical aspects of course, but I'm not a developer. I'm basically a writer with ~ 10 years experience doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in different capacities.

I'm happy to fall on the sword and admit my experience probably isn't a great fit with this client in particular\-in fairness, I came into this job being told it would primarily be a content manager job with some SEO. My employer means well, but didn't understand the logistics of one person managing this account\-he just took the business because he had an existing relationship managing this clients affiliate channel. I have virtually no resources or budget to outsource\-I'm set up with Ahrefs and. Screaming Frog license, that's about it. It's increasingly apparent I don't have the resources to succeed, and I intend to have a frank conversation with my employer year end here.

After I settled into things my first few weeks, I discovered the client had previously fired three consecutive SEO providers in three years. I've made an effort to explain the importance of content\-but past providers "focused too much on that". Funny thing is, many of the pages they have driving traffic were produced by some of these content heavy providers. Genuinely, it feels like an untenable situation\-but after losing my job to a layoff in June, and another kid on the way, I'm doing what I can to make it work.

I haven't had enough time to really absorb all the advice, but intend to tomorrow. Again, I appreciate all who offered some tips, even if it's just a harsh truth and questioning my methods, it's helpful. Thanks everyone.
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Grendel
I've run into this several times. The client wants to either produce content in their own way (with no SEO in mind) then have me magically match a keyword and fix it, or not produce content but wants their website SEO optimized.

They simply don't make good clients. The best advice is to cancel on them and find a better client who understands how SEO actually works.

Link-building without focus around keywords and content is a waste of time.
Henri
Guessing by the budget, the client might have a large site. Most large sites will have plenty of issues that can be getting in the way of crawling, rendering, or indexation. It might be good to start there, along with optimizing some of their existing non-blog content as a way to gain some early wins and establish some trust.

As for blogging and its merits, maybe try zooming in on some queries the client would recognize as valuable to the business, and walk through what you see in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) together. If the top rankings are mostly blog content, and their site lacks the type of content that searchers seem to want, they'll realize blogging and creating new content might be the only way to rank for those terms.

You could also prioritize articles that address middle-of-the-funnel searches rather than top-of-funnel so that you pull in visitors who might be more primed to buy/do business with your client, or start with articles that could bring big organic numbers AND be used in email marketing, as a resource for sales reps, or in social ads.
InternetWilliams
I'm going to go against the grain and say maybe they're right. Just "producing content" without a clear approach will not get them anywhere.

But the only way to know is to ask them "what kinds of things would you like to rank for?"

Then show them how competitors are doing it, and explain why your approach is necessary to beat them.

If they don't go for that, there is some other hurdle you are going to have to overcome.

Why do you think content production is a good approach?
ClickedMarketing
Well, the client isn't necessarily wrong that blogging isn't needed. You can do just fine without having a blog on a site. You can create new content without it being part of a "blog".
TinkerLytics
Tough. How big is the org? As a marketer, you do have to be revenue aligned, but not focused. I'm wondering if this is a typical sales-driven company – meaning they have a big sales department.

I'm not fully sure the client has a solid grasp of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how it works. Wondering if you've done your part to put 2 & 2 together for them.

It's super tough for a sales focused business to change to long-game marketing. Social, SEO, blogging, podcast – all have a very hard time showing attribution. They all take a while to produce results. Generally, there are a few iterations of the marketing plan to find that message fit.

If that could be the case – I might see about mixing in some paid ads – if not done already. Immediate gratification.

If they don't go for that – make sure you've done your best to get them to understand the connection between brand – message – people finding the company – and ready to buy.

Otherwise – I'd go on to the next.
bonermoanr
Maybe do a search for a keyword they want to rank for. Click on the #1 spot. Point at the words. Tell them "this is content, without it they wouldn't have the #1 spot." If that doesn't work, idk.
uncoolcentral
In my early SEO days I fell into clients like this a couple of times but I quickly learned how to screen them out.

..you want me to make your site rank better but you don't want me to change the content on your site? Have fun with that.

I mean, back in the day it was easy to rent or buy links and affect rank without much else, but things have changed.
edgarallanbro
Have you talked to them about content pillars, how they work, and if/how you're implementing that strategy? Have you pulled reports to show MoM/YoY improvement in traffic/conversions based against detailed descriptions of the work you've done to show your efforts have in fact had a tangible effect?

There's definitely a complaint behind the complaint. Identify it, address it, and tell them what you're going to do to try to fix it. 90% of the time it has to do with "not seeing the Return of Investment (RoI) (we) were expecting." May just need to explain to them that SEO is a long-term process, the goal is progress on a monthly/yearly basis, etc. Any progress you can show should settle them down; sounds like they just need heavy reassurance that the strategy is producing a result.

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ryanmonahan
Content only matters if it's A) ranking on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) that support the customer journey and lead to sales

(content refreshes are a waste if your content is evergreen. Your consumer will not remember the old version so you're not delivering new value. Also, content that's informative but doesn't lead to conversions is almost completely useless. Far too often I see content recommendations about tip, tricks and how-tos. Those people aren't buying they are just looking for an answer.)

I didn't see you say anything about link building. The best content is worthless without traffic. SEO requires solid link building to rank.

Your client needs sales not traffic. Those are two very different things. Blogs need traffic. Business need leads and conversions.

Talk to them about how to optimize their sales funnel. Then you will retain them
ukphotog
I recently hired for a junior SEO position and was shocked at how many applicants recommended "blog posts" as their preferred strategy. while ignoring all the long-tail potential of the main site's pages and technical potentials.

Good content– whether blog posts or whatever– works. But I can see why your client is pushing back– in his eyes he is probably thinking he could have hired a writer instead of an SEO professional if your advice is to focus on content. Keep in mind that many freelance writers can also do keyword research.

Your direct report might also face pushback from inside the company if they see he is spending money on blogging while the ship itself is burning. Keep in mind he or she has to justify this strategy all the way up. In the meantime, the company is probably looking at who to fire if business does not return. The guy or gal who paid $10k to write "Top 10 Cruise Destinations" while the cruise ship itself was burning would probably be at the top of my list.

I would make sure the client understands you are listening to their needs and understand the pressure they are under. Many freelancers neglect to do this and you should spend some time refreshing yourself on how to do it well. Keep building content but focus on other strategies as well. Maybe buy some links to deliver a quick win.
FStudio
Possible, he is right. Let me explaine…

I think he didn't say that content doesn't help SEO, because major search engines are semantic search engines. But sometimes corporate or ecommerce websites needn't blog and content marketing.

I understand you because one of our SEO users is copywriter, who became SEO couple of years ago. But Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a creative occupation.

First, to provide SEO you needn't SEO tools. Ah? Uh, wait… It is true. You need Google Search Console, Bing webmaster tool, and a web tracking tool as Google Analytics. All are free. I recommend you to find articles which explain how to use these tools.

Second, you should set clear relationship with your client. As you wrote, SEO is historically slow to produce quick results. I think it means SEO spesialist needs some time to analyse, create changes, and to implement changes. For example it takes 2 weeks to build 1-3 quality backlinks, if a master do it.

Third, you must provide customer research. How do they search product/services? How do they live? How have their lives changed since this year? It will help you to create a strategy. From our experience (as the digital agency) sometimes it makes sense to invest in Google Shopping, sometimes it is a good idea to invest in content marketing or linkbuilding. Unfortunately, linkbuilding doesn't work the way many people think. For example, one of our SEO add the one link into comment to article and a client got ~200 referral visitors/per day with 10% conversion rate. But the main point is you need to understand the target audience. Because it isn't a magic. This SEO knew an audience, he found this article, it took 8 hours to write a comment.

Unfortunately, many SEO users and marketers ignore this simple rule. They want to use a magic bullet (SEO tool, SEO technique) that will help them to achieve goals.

Also, in your case, I think you need to find a new job. If you client says "produce quick results", it means he don't understand what it's got to do with it. It seems crazy because you got some serious personal issues. So, you should allow time to create CV and to search few companies where your knowledge and skills will be accepted.

Good luck!
Kieth
If the site is more relevant to the search I believe Google charges less for Cost Per Click (CPC). Good SEO can help lower Pay Per Click (PPC) budget.

MrRedditKing
This. Search engines would rather show a site with absolutely horrendous products and great content, than a company website offering superior products but without enough of that required great content. This is not easily understood by most people, as it lacks reason.

MrRedditKing
Tell them your team can focus on technical SEO. Page speed, core metrics. The user experience will be awesome.

But then, as they realize this will not boost their ranking, they will seek other solutions.

Then tell to your client to simply make a better product that users love. Reviews will come, Forbes will create editorials boasting about that magnificent company that everyone should know about. This sounds like what they've been told is the case. It will take time for them, but they will eventually realize this will never ever happen.

After five years their understand that product quality means zero in the eyes of search engines. Only marketing matters. And that marketing can go the easy way with Pay Per Click (PPC), the long road with content / internal marketing, or in-between with bought links.

Quick value can be had of course. Just get them the right do-follow links via your partner network.

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