Advice needed: Client wants refund..

35 replies
Hi all,

I a have done quite a few SEO jobs and although I know how to get a site on the first page, I don't know everything.

I need advice on how to handle this situation. Here is the email my angry client sent me and tell me what you think it means and how to handle this:

I am sorry but i have, decided to terminate our engagement. The changes you have made are creating confusion and harm to the google adds we are running. Specifically, the code/meta tag changes you have made are now disrupting google adds for my brother's practice in Pueblo. For example, the meta tags, "St. Louis Family Attorney" changes the title on the family law services page so that instead of reading "family law" it reads "st louis family attorney" . Now, when someone checks a pueblo add for pueblo attorney, the meta tags you have installed direct our potential clients in Pueblo to reach the saint louis service page and, our phones have stopped ringing in pueblo. The changes you made are costing us time and money in the form of lost revenue due to disruption of google add services and time spent reversing your work so that our web page presents correctly to pueblo customers.

I don't understand how changing the meta tags for onsite SEO would affect her Adwords other than for possibly quality score.

Help.....she wants her money back and she is a lawyer......

Thanks!
#advice #client #needed #refund
  • Profile picture of the author maxrezn
    Originally Posted by kershawm View Post

    Hi all,

    I a have done quite a few SEO jobs and although I know how to get a site on the first page, I don't know everything.

    I need advice on how to handle this situation. Here is the email my angry client sent me and tell me what you think it means and how to handle this:

    I am sorry but i have, decided to terminate our engagement. The changes you have made are creating confusion and harm to the google adds we are running. Specifically, the code/meta tag changes you have made are now disrupting google adds for my brother's practice in Pueblo. For example, the meta tags, "St. Louis Family Attorney" changes the title on the family law services page so that instead of reading "family law" it reads "st louis family attorney" . Now, when someone checks a pueblo add for pueblo attorney, the meta tags you have installed direct our potential clients in Pueblo to reach the saint louis service page and, our phones have stopped ringing in pueblo. The changes you made are costing us time and money in the form of lost revenue due to disruption of google add services and time spent reversing your work so that our web page presents correctly to pueblo customers.

    I don't understand how changing the meta tags for onsite SEO would affect her Adwords other than for possibly quality score.

    Help.....she wants her money back and she is a lawyer......

    Thanks!
    Explain the situation to her and educate her. If she still wants a refund...give it to her and apologize....you never want to have a lawyer seeking money from you.
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    Ahhh, the joys of running a business!
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  • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
    It effects their adwords because you're changing information that led them to a higher quality score. The higher the quality score, means the lower CPC.

    This is something that could easily be fixed. If they don't want an ad for St. Louis showing up in peublo and vise versa, create different campaigns and limit who can even see the ad.

    Don't give a refund. You did work, no one gets work for free, they canceled and you put forth your best effort.
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    • Profile picture of the author kershawm
      Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

      It effects their adwords because you're changing information that led them to a higher quality score. The higher the quality score, means the lower CPC.

      This is something that could easily be fixed. If they don't want an ad for St. Louis showing up in peublo and vise versa, create different campaigns and limit who can even see the ad.

      Don't give a refund. You did work, no one gets work for free, they canceled and you put forth your best effort.
      Yes, the quality score would potentially change but I still don't see how that affects which page they are linked to....?
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  • Profile picture of the author Daikatana
    The thing is that sometimes even if they're wrong, a lot of clients will not listen to reason. If that's the case, I usually apologize, give the full or partial refund and good riddance.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rodger Hood
    Try to satisfy your client with efforts and changes you can do for them to serve better service. still she not agree, refund her amount after deducting few money for your efforts.
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  • Profile picture of the author kershawm
    Thanks guys. Actually, the client's brother, who is also a lawyer, fancies himself as an Internet marketing guy. He really only knows enough to dangerous.
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    • Profile picture of the author wally247
      Originally Posted by kershawm View Post

      Thanks guys. Actually, the client's brother, who is also a lawyer, fancies himself as an Internet marketing guy. He really only know enough to dangerous.

      In no other field do people seem to "fancy themselves" as much as internet marketing.


      Next time I go to the dentist I'm gonna be like "Well, I have some sand paper and I've read up a bit on cleaning teeth, so I'll just do it myself"....


      Absurd.
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  • Profile picture of the author Slave1
    Quick question, did you have a monthly contract (or any contract) that outlines performance guarantees?
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    • Profile picture of the author jimbo13
      Not commenting about the SEO as I would have no idea on that sort of thing but in general no company can guarantee there will never be a problem with a product or service.

      And therefore nearly every company will have a clause in their contracts to the effect that should a problem occur with a paid for product or service, in the first instance the company must be made aware of this and given reasonable time to rectify in a specified manner.

      Refunds are normally given after this step in accordance with consumer laws/company policies etc.

      I'm being vague in the wording but you get the gist. Do you have this in your contracts at all?

      Because if so she has sidestepped this (based on the e-mail you posted, so this isn't legal advice you understand)

      1. You did work.

      2. This purportedly caused a problem.

      3. You weren't notified.

      4. She has had work done to rectify (maybe causing a problem herself)

      5. Now she contacts you. I am presuming this is the first you were made aware.

      Most large companies would expect her step 5 to be after step 2 above to fulfill contractual obligations on both parts.

      That's all I will write because I am not US based and have no idea what your contracts say or your company procedures.

      But if you don't have this then consider it a good wake up call to have a contract lawyer draft up something like this.

      Dan
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    I think you need to talk to them more.

    I'm not sure what you did opr what they think you did which would effect the other office. Were they running one website for both?

    Honestly this sounds liek a sitaution where more questions before the close would have helped.
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  • Profile picture of the author HAdrian1239
    I don't mean to ask a stupid question, but this is just ONE website right? Are there TWO practices?

    Either way... I agree with Nameless....it sounds like they are not targeting their Adwords campaigns properly, and do not have them set up properly either.

    You probably made changes on a page that they have linked to one of their ads, without you realizing it, and without them knowing what the heck they need to be doing.

    Educate her if you can, and see if you can fix it. Do you manage the Adwords account too, or does the brother?

    If nothing else, you could create additional pages, targeting the new keywords, and use those in the ads, which would be beneficial to the quality score anyway. An ad for Pueblo should NOT be linked to a St. Louis site anyway, and that's why the QS tanked... one of the reasons anyway...

    More targeted is better though, so her freaking out about you changing "family law" to a geo targeted meta set... shows her lack of understanding.
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    A few things for you to consider....

    1) She has someone besides you in her life who has influence over her thinking about internet marketing. It turns out this person is her BROTHER, who is also a lawyer. He probably runs the other office. He has far more control over her thought process than you.

    2) Lawyers see litigation as a business tool (we all should) because that is what it is. It will be nothing for her to have a paralegal file a motion against you next time they are at the courthouse filing a stack of motions.

    3) You may fight, and you may win, or you may lose. Either way, you need an attorney. Is there enough cash at stake here for a fight? It seems your actions HAVE adversely affected another marketing campaign, so they have a reasonable argument.

    4) Customers like this are seldom worth the stress. A few hundred bucks isn't worth the stress and ill will she will come at you with. Not to mention, these types of people often do not go away. They can be a pain in the ass for months or years. Some people will never stop complaining and badgering you.

    All of that said, if I were you, I would take the following actions.

    1) Apologize that it didn't work out. Don't admit you caused them any problems, just apologize for ending the professional relationship.

    2) Tell her you will gladly issue her a refund. Write up an agreement that this refund will settle the issue and no further action is needed in the matter. The issue is finished and no ill will remains between you. Realistically, she could demand a refund AND demand compensation for the losses to her business including wasted PPC money and damage to business reputation when people could not call the correct office. From the wording of her complaint email, she is already thinking along these lines "you are costing us money." If she files a motion against you, it will be for much, much more than the refund. Once this refund agreement is signed, cut her a check, smile, and sincerely wish her the best of luck. It will feel good.

    3) In the future, ask more questions in your interview. Add a question about any other marketing efforts they may be doing. Find out if there is anyone else in their life influencing their decisions relating to internet marketing. You simply must know these things.

    4) In your work agreement, be sure there is a clause which mentions you don't guarantee results and you will not be held liable for any unintended effects of your marketing services. Because you are not in control of search engine algorithms, you simply can't guarantee that Google wont change their mind about what they do and don't like.

    That's what I would do.
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    • Profile picture of the author kershawm
      I actually always ask about all their marketing activities online and offline; she didn't mention Adwords at the initial interview, probably because she didn't know what it was or that it existed.

      I do have some boilerplate language in the contract that may help me out, I will have a look.

      I think I will check the boilerplate to make sure it says I don't guarantee blah, blah, blah. Then, I will show her the data that shows the increase in rankings....although those will diminish since they changed the tags back to the original ones. I will then offer a partial refund and see how that flies. (Also, I did a one-time payment and didn't do month to month. I do like to do month to month payment plans but I didn't this time. She paid $1100 to me and I did get her brand new site some rankings in a few months time, but I guess it was not top rankings quickly enough.)

      Thanks everyone for all the help....I really appreciate it.

      -Mike
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    • Profile picture of the author JTzor
      "1) She has someone besides you in her life who has influence over her thinking about internet marketing. It turns out this person is her BROTHER, who is also a lawyer. He probably runs the other office. He has far more control over her thought process than you.

      2) Lawyers see litigation as a business tool (we all should) because that is what it is. It will be nothing for her to have a paralegal file a motion against you next time they are at the courthouse filing a stack of motions."

      What are you talking about? We should see litigation as a business tool? Litigation is vehicle to achieve a remedy; this holds true for lay people, businesses, municipalities, etc. It is not a business tool. It is a protection, and a vehicle to achieve recompense should you be wronged or damaged. You state "It will be nothing for her to have a paralegal file a motion" That is borderline ASININE. First off, it costs money to file "a motion;" Yes, its true - it is called .. ready for this? A Filing Fee! Not to mention the time involved for a staff member to "write the motion." Second, You don't just show up to any court and just file - depending on the amount of the action, that would determine the filing venue, Law Division, Chancery, etc. As for it being "nothing," last I checked, Paralegals, Attorneys, and legal staff in general are paid for their time. Shocking, I know. A Paralegal or Attorney would have to be pulled off of an assignment to draft the pleading for this action. It is not Nothing as you state. Attorneys typically involve themselves in litigation with consideration given to outcomes at trial. That is a major factor in their deliberations. They do not simply take stacks of motions with them to court and file willy-nilly. Want to know why? A little thing called frivolous law suits - there are statutes that govern and often reward opposing counsel/parties attorneys/legal fees should another side prevail.

      Usually, attorneys will attempt to resolve issues "short of protracted and expensive litigation;" yes, even attorneys realize that litigation, especially protracted litigation IS EXPENSIVE. At first blush (knowing little if anything about your situation), it does not seem that this is a matter that would warrant litigation. Expect a few strongly worded letters with "Guide your conduct accordingly" at the end. It might be best for you to terminate the relationship if you cannot work something out. Most clients need an education in being reasonable clients. They don't teach that in law school.

      " 2) Tell her you will gladly issue her a refund. Write up an agreement that this refund will settle the issue and no further action is needed in the matter. The issue is finished and no ill will remains between you. Realistically, she could demand a refund AND demand compensation for the losses to her business including wasted PPC money and damage to business reputation when people could not call the correct office. "

      Interesting that you state this - in my law firm, during settlement negotiations, we determine what the damages are based on calculations of actual damages. That means performing actual mathematical calculations, you know, arithmetic. Don't assume anything - anyone can demand anything - it must be proven in order for "damages" to be rewarded - you cannot prove an unknown quantity or variable. Where is the reality in your assertion? Can she demand one million dollars because she could have lost out on a million dollar case/client in the mix of phone calls she missed? Probably - will she prevail on this line of reasoning? No. Want to know why? Well, she cannot prove it, that's why.

      I don't want to brow beat the poster who elicited my vitriolic response. It is just a little frustrating when one person attempts to inform another person what the realistic and intended actions of someone else are or WILL BE. I don't know of any real psychics or mind-readers. Just because someone is an attorney, and has a background in adversarial relations with other parties, this does not mean that they will jump into litigation at the drop of a hat.

      Be rational. I understand the efforts given to advise, but please be cautious with the advice that is being given out.

      To the OP - You have a business relationship with said person. Do you not have a contractual agreement? Does it not spell out the obligations of the service provider and the consideration given in exchange for same? What remedies are spelled out, if any, for either party in the event the contractual obligations of either party are not met?

      Do you have any sort of cordial relationship with your client? Communicate, and base your next steps on where you want to go - do you want to continue the business relationship? Keep track of communications (email) and make sure if you do decide to give a refund, that your communications and agreement to terminate and remedy the situation are MEMORIALIZED IN WRITING. You cannot cite to a phone conversation that is not recorded anywhere as proof of an agreement.

      How long has this person been a client. How many months worth of excellent service have you been providing? How many months worth of refunds does she require? Perform your due diligence, seek out your client, hash things out logically, give her a quick education in what you did and attempted to do, and offer to remedy and give her a time frame. If you want to keep her as a client, perhaps offer a couple of free months of service as you attempt to correct your course.

      Be very specific with attorney clients.

      In this example, if someone practices family law, it is not the same as being called a family attorney. Family Law attorneys are not the same as Family Attorneys of Family Lawyers, just as Bankruptcy Attorneys are not the same as Bankrupt Lawyers or Bankrupt Attorneys (a little humor never hurt anyone).

      I wish the OP lots of luck - always remember to keep the channels of communications open, and make sure prior to initiating ANY professional endeavor you have the most appropriate, specific, and prophylactic agreement possible at your disposal - it will protect you and it will protect your client.

      Warmest Regards,

      - JT
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  • Profile picture of the author enterscope
    If they want a refund then give it to them and move on. It is not worth the trouble if they are not happy. Find a new client that is happy to pay you for your work.
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  • Profile picture of the author scottgallagher
    No refund. You did the work, and to your knowledge (while I don't agree) you did the best you could have, which is standard SEO practice.

    I'd also side with comments that your OTP changes do not affect PPC side. I'd refer your client to this Google document, that indicates organic and PPC are not tied.

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Webmaster Tools Help
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    Can you simply fix the problem for them? I'm thinking a little additional customer service here can turn people into raving fans.
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  • Profile picture of the author Carl Fridsjö
    Try to reason and come up with a solution. Ask to look into the adwords campaign and see what's wrong, because it shouldn't be your SEO? If you find out you did nothing wrong, explain it to the client. If you screwed up, issue the refund.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
    I'm wondering why you didn't have custom landing pages made for each location and avoid the main site all together as a destination from clicking a ppc ad. Unless you didn't do the ppc portion? This person just seems like they are making an excuse but you need to tell them they just need to adjust the ppc campaign if you aren't doing that for them.
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    • Profile picture of the author HAdrian1239
      Originally Posted by Rus Sells View Post

      I'm wondering why you didn't have custom landing pages made for each location and avoid the main site all together as a destination from clicking a ppc ad. Unless you didn't do the ppc portion?
      From his previous posts in what I can gather, he didn't do the PPC, and the client, when asked about current marketing methods, did not mention PPC to him... so he found out about the PPC issue after the fact.

      I think the client's brother is managing the PPC account, and from what I see, it seems to be setup improperly and the changes he made, while good, impacted how their improperly targeted ads are performing/rendering.

      Of course, maybe I got it all wrong and I'm FOS... but that's what it seems like is going on. I still would have done individual landing pages myself... but it looks like they have a boatload of all different types of ads running to only one page... so obviously changes of ANY kind would impact those... and the client doesn't get it, (yet.)
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  • Profile picture of the author SirThomas
    Family attorneys collect retainers before they start a case. Ask her, if she'd refund a client who doesn't like her work, especially after she already spent few weeks on their case?
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    • Profile picture of the author Madush
      Banned
      did you get a sign agreement when you took her order?
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  • Profile picture of the author dlink
    Who's managing their PPC? If they're doing it, it sounds like they don't know what they're doing.

    If they're not getting the conversions they previously were, or as they put it the "phones have stopped ringing", they need to align their ads with the site changes you've made.

    Also, what are they using to measure that their phones have stopped ringing, besides the actual ringing sound at their business? Are they using conversion tracking on their ads? What about Content Experiments from Google Analytics to test different versions of their landing pages?

    My best guess for their phones not ringing from their ppc ads due to the changes you've made on-site, is because their ad rank has likely decreased and their quality score needs to be improved to increase ad rank again.

    Now I don't know what you know about adwords ppc, but ad rank is affected by quality score and cpc, and quality score is affected by 3 things... CTR, Ad Text Relevance, and Landing Page.

    Now they could increase their max cpc, but that's not a great solution if their quality score is out of whack, because they'll just be wasting more money.

    Their ad text NEEDS to be relevant to their landing pages. That also includes their display URL.

    The display URL shouldn't be directing them to a page that's no longer relevant to the ad, it should be sending them to a page on the site that matches the ad.

    So, in their case, a pueblo attorney ad needs to have a display URL that directs to a page on their website that's about them being a pueblo attorney.

    Like I said, they need to align their ppc with their website. You could charge more and do it, if you know how, outsource it, or part ways with them.
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  • Profile picture of the author mosthost
    Obviously you should have a terms of service in place before beginning work. That would explain what's guaranteed and what amount would be refunded.

    For SEO, you pretty much would guarantee nothing and then ask the client to hold your harmless for any negative outcome.

    You really need to do this to protect yourself from this situation. Lots of times business transactions don't work out, especially for something like "SEO."
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  • Profile picture of the author squadron
    Sorry to hear about your client issues. Lesson learned I guess. Lawyers are the top of my list of people I do not do work for. Followed by:
    interior designers
    photographers
    rock musicians
    multi-level marketers
    life coaches
    anyone who's main form of online communication is a hotmail account
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    • Profile picture of the author cscarpero
      Funny, I ended up with a refund situation with a lawyer too. Lawyers are just a blast to work with, huh!
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
    Did someone say E&O insurance?

    {pin drop}
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  • Profile picture of the author SJJPFTW
    Rule Number 1) Never work for anyone that thinks they know how to do what you do.
    Rule Number 2)Reread rule number 1
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    • Profile picture of the author BarbaraGordon
      Originally Posted by SJJPFTW View Post

      Rule Number 1) Never work for anyone that thinks they know how to do what you do.
      Rule Number 2)Reread rule number 1
      I totally agree.. When a clinent thinks that he knows everything better than you it's just a pain in the **. ow.. and probably you wont be able to get any good results.
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      • Profile picture of the author DABK
        I wonder about the outcome.
        Since there was no mention of ppc campaigns, there was no way for you to know about them, talk about them, so you couldn't be held responsible. However, your client can just as easily say she informed you, and it's a he said, she said thing..

        I have a clause in my agreements for seo that states that I must be the only one doing anything to the site or I must approve any and all changes; I must be the only one doing anything about their internet marketing or must approve anything anyone else does. If anything I did not do or approve appears, I'm owned my fees and they have nothing to say about the results (in nicer words).

        Saved me my ass with my very first client: I'd told him I'd double the leads he was getting online and tripled his leads (and his sales to online clients more than tripled). Then he bought 3500+ links from one site, Google put him #642 promptly. So, instead of me having him as a monthly client, I had to refuse working with him.
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  • Profile picture of the author BadMab
    I hate dealing with clients who "think" they know what they are talking about. It's a tough situation. I would be tempted to give her a refund, but you did the work. Maybe give her a partial refund so you can get paid for some of your time.

    At the very least I would cut her loose as a client. From personal experience she'll just be more of a headache in the future.

    Good luck.
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  • Profile picture of the author 300SMG
    I too would like to low the outcome. I also agree with several points made. If total disclosure wasn't made ..is it truly the OPs fault? I think a terms of service contract needs to be completely spelled out..and think that should be in the must to-do's when starting a service business.

    Also, I think open communication with the upset client once the apparent issue came about may have caught it before becoming too large. Seems as if it would have been an easy fix.
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  • Profile picture of the author algreg
    Man, that sucks. Dealing with lawyers. I would try to fix their problem before I even thought about a refund. It can be fixed. You can give them one or two months free for the mistake but giving back the initial compensation isn't good especially if you can just fix it.
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