What Would You Do? SEO Client Issue.

19 replies
  • SEO
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This question is for those of you who do SEO work for clients. It may get a little long as I try to explain the whole situation so please bear with me...

I have (actually had) an SEO client that is a business near me. They sell their products locally but they aren't actually a "local" business in the traditional sense of the word. Their website sells their products globally.

They came to me through a mutual acquaintance back in June 2011. They were just getting their website started and really their business was pretty much just getting started too, although it had technically been around for a little while.

Anyway, they wanted SEO work done and they hired me to do it.

As a side note, I should maybe point out that I gave them an amazing deal on price considering the scope of the project and the fact that I was starting from scratch with no ranking base to build on, going after global keywords, in a fairly competitive niche. And we were targeting 20+ keywords. So it was pretty substantial undertaking.

I also did not design or build their site and it is not a great site by any means. There are a lot of areas where it could be improved both for SEO purposes and for converting traffic into sales.

Also, I never guaranteed them top rankings or any specific date for which any specific results would be achieved. I've been doing this long enough to know that there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO work. But I did say I was confident that I could get them to the top 5 for at least some of their keywords and it would probably take 6-12 months to do so.

I also never guaranteed how long the rankings would last or anything else specific like that. And no contract was ever signed between us.

For a while everything was going along as planned...

By month 6 almost all of their keywords had at least some ranking. Some were even in the top 10. When I started they had no rankings at all. At least not in the top 200 which is as far as I ever check.

By month 10 the rankings had risen even more pretty much across the board. At that point only a couple of the 20+ keywords still didn't have a ranking. Several were top 10. And they had held a #1 or #2 ranking for their top keyword for the past 4 months at that point.

Then, came the Penguin update and completely wiped out their rankings. That was at the end of month 10.

At that time, I explained the situation of what the update did and told them I would continue working to try and get their site revived, which I have not been successful at yet.

It was also at that time when they stopped paying me, which I totally understood given the situation.

As another side note, I didn't do anything shady to get their rankings in the first place. Everything I did was standard accepted SEO practices before Penguin. I am not a b1ack hatter and never have been.

Now, 8 months later they are coming to me and asking for a refund.

I don't blame them for asking, but at the same time, I don't think I should have to give them one. What happened was completely unexpected and out of my control. Everything I said I would do was happening exactly as planned until Penguin hit.

Furthermore, I never made any hyped up promises or guarantees. I told them like it was based on the knowledge, experience, and information I had available to me at the time. I also didn't hunt them down and "sell them" on becoming my client. They came to me via someone we both knew who was a partner in their company at the time.

I spent a lot of time, effort and resources doing the work I was being paid to do. And to a certain extent, I still am long after the fact as I try to figure out ways to bring their rankings back. And that is without having received a check in the past 8 months. So what I am doing now is simply out of kindness to try and help them out.

So, my question(s) for all of you here on the WF is...

What would you do?

And do they have any legal ground to stand on if it came to that?

Thanks in advance for all of your help!
#client #issue #seo
  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    Originally Posted by Trent Brownrigg View Post

    As another side note, I didn't do anything shady to get their rankings in the first place. Everything I did was standard accepted SEO practices before Penguin. I am not a b1ack hatter and never have been.
    Here's the problem. Standard accepted SEO practices in whose eyes? Just because people were blasting links and getting results didn't mean it was okay to do that for a real business.

    The kind of link building that Penguin targeted, Google was always against. They just never had a really efficient method to go after it.

    In the end, you did not promise anything, so I do not see where a refund would be warranted.

    This is what I always warn people of though. Doing SEO for your little MFA and affiliate sites is completely different than doing SEO for real live businesses.
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    • Profile picture of the author Trent Brownrigg
      Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

      Here's the problem. Standard accepted SEO practices in whose eyes? Just because people were blasting links and getting results didn't mean it was okay to do that for a real business.
      I would say probably 90% or more of the link building was done via these methods...

      Article marketing, guest posting on niche related blogs, private blog networks, high PR profile links, satellite sites using web 2.0 platforms, directories, relevant comments on related sites, social bookmarking, and press releases.

      Pretty much all manually or close to it. No huge spam blasts using automated tools or anything else like that.

      Anyway, thank you very much for your reply. I appreciate it.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
        Originally Posted by Trent Brownrigg View Post

        Article marketing, guest posting on niche related blogs, private blog networks, high PR profile links, satellite sites using web 2.0 platforms, directories, relevant comments on related sites, social bookmarking, and press releases.
        Sorry but some of those had no place even before the penguin update for a real business. High PR profile links rarely exist except in sellers imaginations (profile pages when created are N/As) mixed in with blog commenting , SBs and directories (for the most part not good) it wasn't a good link profile to give a real business.

        However they are not entitled to a refund. People whining about links just because they got caught rarely ever raise a peep while they are ranking regardless of how they are and even if they know how they are. Plus if what you are saying is true they made bank for four months off their rankings so when they turn over the books and the cash they made from that then they can talk about a refund
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        • Profile picture of the author bcruan
          Do not give them a refund. You did the work and there were no guarantees. Also do not even give a partial refund as in the eyes of the law this would allow them to sue you for the rest.
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  • Profile picture of the author RyanLB
    My recommendation would be to not grant them the refund, since no guarantees were made. In that sense, you held up your end of the bargain. Companies hire marketing firms for advertising campaigns all the time, and they do not always produce a positive ROI, but the business is still expected to pay for the services provided. It's unfortunate their site dipped, but that's part of the game and you have to be willing to deal with these situations in a head on manner if your going to take on local clients.

    For my local brand clients, I am ultra conservative with my linkbuilding, and try to look at each link placement as a promotional opportunity rather than "linkbuilding." I want to place links on pages where they could actually receive some clicks. That's my rule of thumb, anyway.
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    • Profile picture of the author jovykhan
      Every time I have an issue with a client regarding their website SEO status I always give a technical reason.

      Have you checked their on-page structure? Probably, it didn't pass Panda algo. And since there was no contract, refund isn't necessary.
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  • Profile picture of the author Vivers
    It does sound like your work was reasonable and no guarantee was promised so entirely up to you. You are the only one who truly knows if you did anything that may have caused the smack.

    I do myself discount a clients monthly charge if there site/ keywords are not responding correctly like I'm use too. What I've found is the ones I have had problems with have had prior SEO work that was at the heart of all the problems. Could that also be the case with your client?
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  • Profile picture of the author kaytav
    Giving a 50% refund would be good, if the client is Okay with it. Or you can convince and work again on that site and can achieve what you promised.
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  • Profile picture of the author GodMode52
    8 months it's a big dose of wasted time. Simply re-build their site and get their rankings back. You should have done this before homever..

    About the legal thing check your contract , no writen guarantees no legal problems.
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnTimmins
    For me, Google changing of their algorithm is not in your control and that you made their site rank over Google before penguin hit. I guess, you don't need to worry about it since you already did your part.

    If they are asking for a refund, then explain to them what happen and if they still insist, insult your client to go to Google and get back their previous algorithm. Lol!

    For me, this is an insult. You've done all the hard - boring work then they won't appreciate it... Anyway, before you do SEO/link building to your future client, make sure that the site is in a high-converting mode.

    This way, if they hit the first page, they will make sells.
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  • Profile picture of the author adlol
    **** the refund. When I ask a gardener to cut my lawn, I don't ask for a refund months after when it grows back.

    You provided a service at the time, they got their rankings. You guaranteed nothing, nothing was signed. Why should you give a refund?

    Either you part ways or they pay you to continue working to get there ranking back, though I wouldn't bother if I was you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Trent Brownrigg
    Thanks for all the replies everyone! Lots of good advice so far. I really appreciate it.
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  • Profile picture of the author HKSEO Jonbones
    You fulfilled your part of the agreement.

    Since you were smart and didn't guarantee results, I honestly would not return their calls, beyond the first explaining that they got what they paid for; they stopped paying and they stopped receiving.

    Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

    If you go to Mcdonalds, eat the food, and then complain saying the order was incorrect, you don't get a refund. Same thing here.
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    • I don't think a refund is necessary here. No contract, no guarantees, no refund! They weren't complaining during the first few months when you were able to bring up their rankings. Since they haven't paid you in the last 8 months anyway, I don't feel the refund is warranted.
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  • Profile picture of the author montozza
    No guarantees were made. Why do you refund them? They were increasing their rankings while they were paying, right? I also have a few small clients I am working for, before Panda update. When Panda crushed their rankings, I proposed them to work for 50% of a regular price until they get similar rankings like they had before the Panda (or to be more precise - similar rankings which I work to rank them before the Panda). They were fine with that.
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  • Profile picture of the author mikevaughan
    My Suggestion would be 50% of refund. The reason is, 1dt thing you didn't offer or assure for the keyword rankings. Thats show the lacks of confidence on you. Surely no one guarantee the positions all time, but atleast some assurance will given to clients, then only the cilents believe and offer anyone. 2nd, past 8 months you did SEO and few keywords in top, and few in top 10 ehich is not even in top 200 before is good thing. But the fact is, you didn't do so well, i guess(didn't follow the guidelines of google), if you follow and do it properly, after the penguin update too, your works stands. Its just an update and not in the first time. So in this also your responsibility arises. So i thing you can offer 50-50 refund to them...
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  • Profile picture of the author nik0
    Banned
    You could offer some free SEO work instead of refunding.
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    • Profile picture of the author jloswald
      As a business owner, I would say that the company asking for a refund is in the wrong. Google happens and if they enjoyed hire rankings over the 8 months, then you did your job. I would go back to them and ask them how much their business improved over that period and ask for a cut of their increased profits - that should close their refund complaint. Best of luck with this and once again, don't refund anything.
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