When to end your client/link provider relationship


It seems that everyone wants to outsource or hand off their link development. One of the most common reasons people contact me is that they know they need links, but they don’t have enough time to devote to the process. That is true for business owners, webmasters, marketing managers, SEOs, and even link builders!

Because of my extensive experience, I feel that I’ve finally gotten a good handle on what makes for a good client relationship. Since I’m also a business owner, I totally see things from the client’s perspective, too — so here’s hoping you can benefit from my experience without having to go through a few of the nightmares we’ve been through.

7 signs that it’s not the right fit for the client

1. The link team isn’t transparent about what it’s doing. This is, by far, the biggest and most critical red flag. And you know what? It’s still happening! Whatever they’re doing, you need to know about it; you’re the only one who can decide whether it’s worth the risk (if it’s risky) or the effort. That applies to everything in SEO.

2. They don’t listen to your feedback about the links they build. If you don’t like a link and explain the reasons why, but all they do is push back without taking your feedback into account, that’s something that probably won’t change. One instance might not be a big deal. If you’re unhappy with several links they’re building, then that is a big deal, especially if they aren’t trying to work with you on how to make it better.


3. They don’t report the links they build. I’m always amazed when someone says they had no idea of the links a past link team intentionally built. We’ve had a lot of clients come to us asking, “Will you be reporting the links each month so we know where they are?” If the link-building team isn’t reporting on the links they’re building, then either they aren’t keeping up with the links (and why wouldn’t they?) or they have something to hide.

4. Their efforts aren’t generating a positive ROI for you. With links, there are definitely clients who feel that even if they’re not seeing positive results, as long as they aren’t seeing negative results, they still need to keep moving so they don’t get left behind. If you’re okay with that, fine with me. If you aren’t, then don’t keep paying someone who isn’t helping you.

5. They don’t come to you with questions, problems and suggestions. If you never hear from them, and they aren’t actually getting links for you, that doesn’t bode well for the future. We have clients for whom everything always goes well each month, and we don’t communicate much other than when it’s reporting time. But with everyone else, we’re reaching out to ask if they could make a content change, or telling them something a webmaster has said that might help make the site better, or anything else that just shows that we’re actually working.

Effective Communication

6. They don’t talk to you about risk. Lots of clients ask us if we can make guarantees, and we always say no. If your link team is telling you that what they’re doing is 100 percent guaranteed to be risk-free, they’re lying — even if what they’re doing is supposedly white-hat. If they don’t understand that any site can get penalized, whether it’s manual or algorithmic, they don’t have enough experience to be handling your campaigns.

7. They try to lock you into an airtight, lengthy contract that you can’t get out of if you need to. I understand that lots of marketing efforts don’t immediately yield results, but it should not take 12 months of link building for you to know whether or not it’s working.

7 signs that it’s not the right fit for the link builder/team

1. Your outreach response rate is abysmal. We have data on our response rates for all client campaigns. When the response rate is significantly lower than average, I realize that all we’re doing is wasting time when we could be doing a better job for someone else — so I don’t hesitate to call it a day and end the relationship.

2. You’re getting responses but no links. With this one, it’s easier to quickly see that the problem most likely isn’t due to your outreach. It could be due to poor targeting, of course. But generally, when this happens to us, it’s because the client’s site is not really link-worthy for various reasons.

3. Webmasters say rude things about the client or the site. We’ve only had this happen with a few clients, but with those clients it was painful. Maybe they had a bad reputation. Maybe the site was horrible. Maybe the industry was uncomfortable. Whatever the reason, if you hear mostly bad things about your client or their site, you’re probably not going to do a good job for them.


4. The client has unrealistic guidelines and ideas about what you should be doing. Usually, I can just say no in the beginning when this is an issue, but there are times when a current client decides to completely change everything. That’s their right, but we also have the right to say, “No, that’s not going to go well.”

I’m sure tons of link builders have had a client send them an article containing information that in some way contradicts what you’re doing, so they want you to change direction. If you agree, and it’s possible, no problem. If you don’t agree, and it’s not possible, speak up.

5. The client complains about every link you build. Whoever is at fault here is anyone’s guess; but from my perspective, all it means is that we’re not right for each other. You’d think that if a client were that unhappy, they’d just bail, right? Not always. We’ve had some that might have just been overly optimistic, but they weren’t the ones to walk away. We were.

6. The client won’t tell you what else is going on. You might need to be proactive here, as clients often have other things on their minds. But let’s say you ask something like, “Are you also using other link teams and spamming forums? Because I keep seeing these weird links popping up.” If they are evasive, things won’t go well for you — especially when they get dinged by Google.

7. The client is completely unwilling to make changes that could help your efforts. I love the clients who actually listen to me when I make a very easy recommendation (like a title tag change). But when I have a client who keeps complaining about getting nowhere yet refuses to implement any of the suggestions I’ve been making for the past six months, I really just give up.

Final thoughts

No matter which side you’re on, your relationship needs to work well for both of you, or neither of you will be as happy and satisfied as you could and should be.

Considering the fun I’ve had working with certain clients and the satisfaction I’ve felt with making them happy with my work, it’s something I’ll always strive for. I’d hate to think that a client didn’t speak up and tell me he or she wasn’t happy, so remember, if you’re concerned, make your concerns known.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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