SEO disasters are both time consuming and financial burdens. These mishaps can take up a lot of company resources and cause immense stress. Additionally, many SEO mistakes are small but critical and can hamper business without ever blossoming into a full fledged disaster.
We invited the CEO of Pole Position Marketing Stoney deGeyter to join us for a FOUND Friday hangout inspired by his popular article — “4 Ways To Avoid An SEO Disaster of Monumental Proportions.” In addition to his business experience, deGeyter is a guest columnist and frequent contributor for Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Guide. In order to share some tips with you on how to help prevent, and correct, SEO mistakes, GinzaMetrics COO Erin Robbins O’Brien and I joined the discussion with deGeyter.

What prompted the article

I started the discussion by asking deGeyter about what influenced him to write “4 Ways To Avoid An SEO Disaster of Monumental Proportions” and whether or not he was seeing an increase in SEO disasters.
“As far as why it was written now I don’t know if there’s any big reason for that. I just kind of was reminded of the incident that I was pretty much writing about,” replied deGeyter. “What I was really amazed was the response that we got.”
He said that he received feedback from numerous people who told him that they were experiencing the exact same problems that he had written about. “I know we all kind of go through this stuff, but didn’t realize how many people said, ‘yeah, you hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what I’ve experienced,’ so it was really neat to see that.”

What causes an SEO disaster

I asked O’Brien if she felt that GinzaMetrics had seen an increase in SEO disasters and what was causing these mishaps. “In terms of SEO disasters, I would say that what we are just seeing is such a shift in where SEO is playing and the kind of role that it has within organizations,” she replied. “I would say that the biggest disaster we’re seeing is SEO not knowing where it lives in an organization and not having access to the right stakeholders.”
O’Brien went on to explain that this misplacement created communication errors and magnified the issue. “Of course the landscape of actual search engines themselves is an ever evolving situation. Just keeping up with those changes, I think, is what most people perceive as the thing that causes disasters. But from what we see it’s really a lack of communication.”

Collaborating with clients

I asked deGeyter, “What are you doing and what can other agencies do to better work with their clients surrounding SEO?”
“One of our recent changes that we’ve gone through is not just doing a cursory look,” deGeyter responded. He went on to explain how his company has changed its approach with clients. “We’re talking about what are your goals, what is it that you want to achieve, give us some background, give us some history.”
This procedure helps his company better understand what clients are looking for and allows him to meet their needs. “It’s really just looking ahead and trying to learn as much about the client beforehand as possible,” he added.

Different types of problems

I asked O’Brien if agencies and in-house teams faced different problems or if everyone had similar challenges. She noted that every group had its own issues to deal with. She also explained that each business will typically face disasters at at different points. “A lot of the issues that we see the agencies have is trying to get ramped up and really get to know what’s going on with the client so that they can make intuitively smart decisions.”
O’Brien then described the problems that many in-house teams are faced with. “A lot of times SEO may be siloed…we’re seeing now that there are social media marketers and managers that are kind of off in their own area.” She continued, explaining that in-house teams often become distracted by the numerous tasks within their company. “I think that there’s a lot of information that’s being lost in translation there, and that’s something that both in-house and agencies struggle with I believe.”

Advice for clients

I asked both speakers if they had any tips for clients that would help them to maximize their success with SEO and dealing with agencies.
“I think everything boils down to listening and learning and really figuring out what’s going on, what the problems are, and taking all of that in,” said deGeyter. “And really understanding what the clients needs are, or what the company’s needs are, to get from where they are to where they want to be.”
O’Brien agreed and added, “I would also say that kind of starting to develop a process for doing that. Whether it’s regular weekly meetings, whether it’s kind of particular check ins, whether it’s some sort of reporting situation. Listening can’t just happen at the beginning and at the end of a relationship.” She explained that ongoing communication allowed for clients and agencies to work together while staying on task.

Cutting loses

“What can we all do as members of the SEO community to help better educate audiences about search so that it doesn’t seem to be so misunderstood?” I asked.
“Sometimes we just have to say ‘you know what? you’re not a good fit,’” said deGeyter. He explained that it is best for both parties if the agency cuts the client before beginning the project. This saves everyone time and makes the process much simpler. “The last thing I want is an unhappy client leaving,” he stated. “I’d rather just say ‘no, let’s not get into business together.’”
O’Brien noted that she had seen similar incidents in her own career. “While something might be profitable for us with a single customer, sometimes a single customer can prevent you from doing what’s best for the rest of the pack.”
“One of the things we always try to look at is we want to make sure we work with clients that we know we’re going to make successful,” said deGeyter. He then continued, “We want to be helping people, not just doing business.”

Closing thoughts 

In closing, deGeyter mentioned that he his article on SEO disasters received a lot of feedback about setting expectations. “The SEOs are believing one thing, the client is believing another, or the company, whatever the case may be, is believing something entirely different and those expectations aren’t lining up together,” he explained. “Making sure that the expectations you have and that the client has are really going to be more closely aligned.”
O’Brien agreed with this statement and said she felt that everything came down to communication. “I think that to avoid some SEO pitfalls that it’s important that somebody in the organization kind of champions organic findability and this area.” She continued, saying that, “having someone that at least understands what’s going on there and understands the important role that it plays for brands is so crucial.” She elaborated that using SEO and finding someone with expertise in the field is important for a company’s success. 
Watch the hangout below, and to subscribe to be notified of our next FOUND Friday hangout.