How to Deal with Impatient SEO Clients

You ever had a new client that’s said something along the lines of “Listen, if we don’t get results in 3 months, we’ll cancel and go somewhere else”

I have, and it fucking sucks ass.

Needless to say, I’ve overcome that problem, and I’m going to share with you exactly how.

Twitchy clients, urgh

I just got off a call with a client, and it’s becoming obvious that he’s starting to get a bit twitchy.

By twitchy, I’m referring to the simple fact that he’s asking, how much longer, John?

He’s asking questions like –

  • How much longer is this going to take?
  • When do you think we’ll start getting some inquiries?
  • Is the site actually converting?
  • Has the traffic increased?

Now bear in mind that this client has only done 3 cycles of 12 hours – so 36 hours total, and he’s in a hugely competitive space (financial)

Now, for whatever reason, most people understand that SEO takes time, and even though they have this understanding, they still get twitchy. They still become impatient and expect overnight results.

I talk a lot about prequalifying my clients, and this is something that I cover extensively in my coaching. But when it comes to timeframes it’s more about educating the client, and helping them understand –

  • The amount of work involved
  • How long it took their competitors to get where they are, and
  • Issues that are going to take time (especially if their sites broken)

But regardless, I’ve found that no matter how much you try to explain this to clients, they still often feel the need to question how long things are taking. I think what worsens this problem are the sheer number of service providers in the SEO space that offer bullshit promises like “First page in Google in 3 months guaranteed!”, which is just nonsense.

This is nothing more than a sleazy sales pitch to get people onboard who have no understanding of how SEO works.

Problem is, it works because people are impatient.

Sometimes getting great results within three months is possible, but generally speaking, that only applies to sites that are already established. They’ve got a reasonable amount of content. They have established link profiles. They’ve already been putting in some effort in terms of building out their online presence. That’s a LOT different to someone who has a broken website and they haven’t published a piece of content or updated their website in the last seven years.

And that’s exactly the case with this particular client.

It hasn’t been updated since 2011, and now he’s trying to turn it all around within 3 months of SEO, which is just impossible.

But I get it. The whole reason he’s getting twitchy is because his competitors have absolutely crushed him. He’s done nothing in the last 7 years, whereas, his competitors have been absolutely hammering out content and building a truly great site.

Does the website suck?

I wanted to cover a couple of things in this post and talk about what you can do to prevent being in a position where the client is making you feel pressured.

Firstly, what’s their website like? Is it great, is it awful? is it a mess? Does it work at all? Are there clear calls to action? Is it built with conversions in mind? Is it user friendly? Is it going to require a complete rebuild?

All of these things combined contribute towards the amount of time it’s going to take in order for you to firstly get started.

Most times, when I take on a new client, their websites are totally broken and they need fixing. This in itself takes time – especially if it means starting over which is often the case. It’s very very rarely ever the case where the site is tip top and I can just get started without having to deal with any issues.

So the current status of the clients website is a huge contributing factor, and that certainly will influence timeframes.

How big is this thing and can it compete?

Secondly, the size of the website.

By this, I mean comparatively speaking. If someone comes to you and they’re working in the financial space and they have a 12 page website and their competitors have sites that have 35,000 pages or 25,000 pages, then it’s going to take a considerable amount of work for you to try and put a dent in that space. You’d be surprised how many clients have come to me and have expected results with a 15-page website when they’re competing in hugely competitive industries.

Forget it.

I always talk about the footprint of your site. The larger your footprint, the more market share you’re going to own, the more traffic you’re going to attract and the more customers you’re going to get. Think about it like a net, the bigger the net the more fish you’ll catch.

It’s pretty simple really.

Content content content

You need to take a look at the existing content that’s on the actual website as a starting point.

Is this content any good? Is it shit? Does it need fixing? Is this content that’s just sitting there and not doing anything?

Don’t forget, you should always check this stuff within Google Analytics to see if the content is actually generating any traffic. Most often than not, I look at sites where blog posts have been sitting there for 5 years and they’ve received two visits. Content like that, you’ll either have to try and fix it or you just get rid of it.

In any case it takes time.

The other thing you need to be mindful of is the content that’s there. Is it quality content or is it written in broken English? Has it been outsourced to India? Chances are, not only will you have to fix the website, but you’ll probably have to start over.

This isn’t always the case, but most clients sites I look at, are filled with rubbish content.

Whats the link profile like?

Something else you’ll need to check is the link profile of the site.

Does the site have an established link profile? Does it have a healthy link profile? Does it have high quality links from relevant sites?

Now again, if you’ve got competitors that have really well-established link profiles and they have hundreds or even thousands of links, and your client has two links from a then you got a lot of work to do. Of course, this all takes time.

PS – Dont mistake what I said there about links. It should be about quality not quantity, but it is worth checking.

Site structure, dude

This is definitely one that plays a vital part in the on-page optimization process, and its certainly one that takes time.

You should be looking at building out the site structure for a number of reasons.

  • To make it easier to manage
  • To make it easier to navigate (usability)
  • To ensure link equity is passed between pages (no orphans)
  • To maximise search traffic opportunities through enlarging its overall footprint

Site restructuring should always be part of your starting point especially in terms of on-page optimization. If the site is a mess and there’s no site structure at all, then chances are you’re going to have to spend some time on that.


Next point is competition, or the space of which they’re operating in. If they’re in a hugely competitive space, then it’s going to take much, much longer to get results than it would in a less competitive space. For example, if you’re working with someone who specializes in home loans, chances are if they haven’t updated their site or done anything in several years – that is going to take a considerable amount of time as opposed to someone selling wheelbarrows at a local hardware store.

All of these things combined are contributing factors into how long an SEO campaign can take.

Don’t forget – with a lot of this stuff, you often need to sort out a lot of crap before you even get to a point of moving forward. Much like renovating a house. You’ve got to literally tear the thing apart before you can start performing work that’s adding value.

So what can you do in order to prevent clients from getting twitchy?

Here’s a couple of things that I cover within my sales presentation when I pitch for the job.

Competitors efforts

One question I always ask new clients when they come onboard is this – “Can you please send me a list of your top 3 competitors”?

Every single client knows who their competitors are, because most of them sit there Googling themselves all day.

This makes it easy for me, because I can show how long it took for those competitors to get where they are using SemRush. SemRush essentially allows me to see a historical timeline of search traffic acquired over a period of time.

Here’s an example showing Neil Patel’s site Quicksprout

This definitely helps because once the prospect or client sees that data for several competitors, then they’ll get it.

“Shit, Okay, these guys are killing it, but that didn’t happen in one weekend”.

We can both see, looking at the graph that the acquisition of that traffic and growth has taken a long period of time. There’s no reason why your clients should expect for that all to happen within a couple of months.

There’s a shit load of content to be done

When I reverse engineer a competitor’s site structure, I pull it apart and pull all the pages down and I export that information out into a spreadsheet. Once I have that information, I then send it over to my client and I say, “Listen, these guys are getting 50,000 visits a month. They have 1,800 pages on their website. Your site currently has 12 pages. We need to get moving. Is there any of this information in terms of the products and services that you provide that are relevant? If so, let me know which ones they are, and we can start mapping them out and creating these pages and this content for you.”

When a client gets a spreadsheet and it’s got 300 rows of URLs in it, they soon realise, “Wow, there’s a lot of work to be done here. This is going to take some time to get through.”

That can definitely help them realise the amount of work involved and how long shit takes

Setting realistic timeframes

I think most importantly of all, (and I do this again through my presentations) is setting realistic time frames.

For this, I always overestimate.

If I’m looking at a campaign and I think that might be able to get results in 12 months, I usually always say 18 months or more. I do this for a reason, because I would much rather say “Bob, we’re getting great results sooner than I thought, it’s starting to come together in just 6 months” Rather than having Bob on the phone asking “John you said 6 months and it’s now been 9 months, what’s going on?”

You always want to over estimate so that you give yourself some room.

Now that might be difficult for some of you to get your head around, and it’s certainly not a comfortable conversation to have – having to tell someone that barely knows or trusts you that this shits going to take 18 months, but it’s about being fucking honest.

I can tell you, honestly that I’ve never ever lost a new lead because I’ve been honest about time frames.

The good old question “How can we get results faster?”

I get asked this a lot by both new and existing clients, and its an easy question to answer.

“Look. You want faster results. You simply got to buy more time.”

This is because I work at an hourly rate. So if they want to speed things up, they’ll have to put in more hours each month.


Don’t work with impatient assholes

Lastly, I want to touch on prequalifying, and this is something I talk about a lot.

Anyone that comes near me that says, “John, we want results in three months. If we don’t get results in three months, we’re going to cancel.” I tell those people not to bother signing up. I’m not interested in anyone that expects to turn their entire business around within three months. Don’t forget. It’s never three months. If a client is doing 12 hours a month, it’s not three months at all. It’s 36 hours, which is less than one working week.

I do SEO. I’m not a magician, and I can’t turn anyone’s business around in 36 hours, especially if they come to me and the entire thing is fucking broken.

Want to come over for a caramel latte and a high 5?

Cool, let me know and I’ll pop the jug on.

Oh, don’t forget, I provide SEO coaching, too. But you knew that already, right?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *