A Client didn’t want to Spend on New Content nor Backlinks but Wanted a Ranking Plan ASAP!


First client: they don't want to spend in new content nor backlinks but still want a ranking plan soon

I've recently landed my first client through an old friend that has a small agency. So far I've given only short consults and SEO audits to small businesses. This client is a bigger one and wanted a complete package to increase their traffic within 3 months. I fixed some of their technical SEO issues in the first week but for some that the developers deemed "impossible".
They have no immediate plans to write more content for the site. Nor any to make some outreaching campaign for getting new backlinks (they have really a dire situation here). No activity on social media is planned either. They want a plan on how to rank in 3 months without new content and backlinks and I don't know how to put it for them that the traffic gains will be negligible without a serious investment in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
How would you play this?
Thanks a lot and sorry for the newbie question :)
81 πŸ’¬πŸ—¨

Why are they hiring you-the expert-if they're not willing to heed your recommendations? Without an on-page and off-site strategy how do they expect you to improve their rankings? I would explain the purpose of backlinks-like votes from cool kids that impress Google and help the site be seen as an authority. You may have to really dial down your verbiage but you can't get blood from a stone. No content + no backlinks= no ranking. Best of luck-curious if others have suggestions that might actually work for you in this situation.

BehemothM ✍️
To be fair, they have been hearing me on technical SEO nearly to the letter and we made a keywords plan and rewrote html descriptions based off these keywords for a bunch of internal pages they have. It is just that they don't seem to be ready to invest in either on-page new content nor paying for content for getting backlinks.

So frustrating for you. If they're not willing to invest you either need to make them understand why they should or consider not moving forward with them. I like a good challenge as much as the next guy but impossible is hard to work with. Best of luck!
BehemothM ✍️
Thanks. I wrote them and made it clear that more investment on their part is necessary for me to continue.

If they only want to increase the traffic then you can use only OnPage Optimization of existing content and try getting long-tail Keywords to rank and increase the traffic that way. If getting traffic is the only intention. However, if they are expecting rankings for specific keywords then it would be better you dump them.

BehemothM ✍️
I don't think they have made up their minds here. We agreed on a set of keywords we would ideally rank for, some of which were left from their previous SEO advisor and some others I added. The website is surely not optimized for most of them.
How would you optimize for keywords without any change in content? I so far asked them to change a few pages' titles and the html descriptions only.

BehemothM ✍️
I have the feeling they approached SEO as Pay Per Click (PPC). Knowing little to nothing of both.
I'd say it doesn't matter if you're doing PPC or SEO. You need to test pages (so change something) to have results. Not always, but surely often.
I can't have good feelings on this client. If you can, I'd try to change something on meta-tag and internal linking level just to get some very easy long tail keywords, and increase the trust level they have on you and on SEO. If this works, I'd say you can pretend more space, and some content changings.
Anyway, I'd state clearly at the beginning of the work that they wouldn't see any great results from this because they're not letting you doing your job, so what you can achieve it's only a small part of the results you could have working aedquately on the website.
If they won't let you change neither meta-tag and internal linking, I'd say you can't have any results, so tell and dump them.
BehemothM ✍️
We have been working on meta tags already. I rewrote plenty to better focus on the keywords we wanted to rank for. I am definitely going to check what internal links can be added, even if it would be just a list of services linking another list of services (mostly their content is like that).
Then I'll see if they open up to other changes, thanks


I guess I'm confused. They don't want to write new content or get new backlinks or they don't want to pay you to do this? I have never talked to a client about backlinks. I just get them. They don't understand SEO so I keep things simple.

BehemothM ✍️
They are not willing to pay for writing content, just the SEO part. Basically they hired me as a SEO consultant, not a content writer. I offered to make an outreach campaign to get backlinks but there's little other websites may link to them at the moment, so more content is needed.
I can write that content for them but so far they haven't shown to be up to spend more for this.

I have this problem too. I am a freelance writer and SEO consultant. Nobody seems to get the content thing. Are they a local business? What about working on citations and on-page SEO? Maybe talk with them about how they can use new content for their social media pages. Honestly, small businesses don't always have the budget for SEO services. I work with a lot of really small business owners and just try to scale my services to their budget.
BehemothM ✍️
They're not that small. Think of a company operating in the physical security sector, with a job done in the past for a federal agency. I don't believe they lack the budget.
Their social media pages are dead. No efforts whatsoever in that area of late. Plus, they aren't keen on changing the on-site content either, just small tweaks for the time being. Ideally they are planning a full redesign of the website in a few months but nothing is certain here either.

Ensure that their current pages technical aspects (titles, headings, canonicals, etc.) are good, and modify existing content if needed, if they refuse anything else.
BUT, if it were my client, I would be very honest/blunt with them. "If you want ranking increases, this is what it's going to take…If you're not willing to commit to the work, then we're not a good fit for each other."
You can do an audit, if you haven't already, run current rankings, and do some competitive analysis to illustrate your points.
But at some point, sooner than later, an honest conversation needs to be had. Your first client, or first big client, is great. But them sullying your reputation because "you didn't do what you said you were going to do", isn't worth any amount of money or client recognition.

BehemothM ✍️
Audit and fixing some technical issues with the site have been done already. No issues here. They trust me on this, it is just that they are not willing to spend for the content, on or off site.
They sent me an email half an hour ago and want me to quantify the ranking benefits of backlinks and how many would be needed to have a steady effect on revenues. Seriously I am at loss what to answer here. They want to know for certain how much they would need to spend for content and how much they're getting in return but how do you calculate such a thing?

Honestly, it sounds like SEO isn't a good fit for them. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marathon and is a "forever effort".
I would recommend that if they want immediate results, and an x to y correlation, that they do Pay Per Click (PPC) or paid social instead.
It's a trap. Run.
BehemothM ✍️
Thanks for the advice. I'll explain this to them (again)


I would make a list of all of their product/service pages and set a keyword research budget and on-page optimization price for each.
Input the target keyword, grab top ten ranking urls and then gather the 100 keywords they rank for, then filter those down to a reasonable universe of keywords.
Bucket them into groups of those you can resonably work into the pages in optimization and bucket those you think need new pages/posts. Each bucket should have volume, Cost Per Click (CPC) and then use advanced web rankings organic Click Through Rate (CTR) for your industry to estimate that keywords potential traffic.
You'll end up with an idea of keyword potential for your original page, and be able to show JUST EXACTLY what they're missing out on by skimping on links and new content.

Hey this is a great idea!

How many conversations have you had with them about this? Once? This is a normal part of the sales process. If they're not ready to buy, you can't force them to buy. So you recommend strategies and be transparent about cost every time they mention these goals. Keep them nurtured, someone here mentioned a great way to position your language. You're the consultant, you're offering your recommendations and it sounds like they aren't educated enough just yet to understand the values you're proposing for them.
Sales people don't just get on one or two calls and close the sale…it takes time and requires a level of trust between you and the client.

BehemothM ✍️
3-4 conversations in total. I have already been accepted as their consultant and am soon invoicing them for the first month but clearly I wasn't expecting them to oppose resistance to any change outside of minimal ones. I probably wasn't clear in the proposal I made them about the need for fresh content.
In any case, if they are willing to proceed, understanding what will be needed of them and offer a larger budget for it, fine. Otherwise, I can always cut the collaboration at this first month only

Sounds like a good plan.


If not new content and links, focus on improving existing content and internal links. You may also find opportunities to reclaim some links that go to 404 pages currently by redirecting them since they seem open to technical fixes.

BehemothM ✍️
The client already told me that they aren't willing to not only add content but also to improve the current one. The vast majority of their pages are thin content, 2-300 words at most, consisting of just lists of services offered, and no blog whatsoever.
I may try to push them into improving their About Us and a few projects' pages but I deemed these not a priority for now, and anyway they are not that open to the idea.

I'd circle back to nailing down their actual goals and the time frame in which they are looking to accomplish those goals. Then outline for them what it will take and cost to get it done. Justify all proposed costs and make sure to have good explanations on plan details.
If at this point they try to push back on the financial investment that's required then offer to help them recalibrate their goals to be more in line with the budgets they had in mind. In my experience it's been rare that folks opt to redefine goals and reduce scope β€” they want what they want and they want it for a reason. So most likely they'll choose to proceed with making the necessary investment, you get adequately paid, and good work gets done.
Hope this helps!

BehemothM ✍️
It does help, thanks!

Rule #1 when freelancing/starting your own business – never take a client that is going to result in a loss.
They are already fighting you on the most basic SEO strategies. They are going to fight you every step of the way and make you spend time justifying what you are doing. Every second you spend with them explaining and justifying is money flying out of your pocket.
As Kenny Rogers says, you gotta know when to walk away.
I'd give em their money back, short of what you're owed for the audit/technical recommendations.
Easy enough for an outsider/bystander to say, but I think you know this is unlikely to end well. Not just with this client, but what if you take this on the chin, it ends poorly, then they won't refer you. Sure, you can approach it and lay out the value prop of SEO vs. what they'll get in future PPC spend. Pay Per Click (PPC) offers relatively quick "results" (if done right) that SEO just won't.
My guess is, if they're not ready to take SEO seriously (even though they hired an SEO???), they probably won't have what it takes to make PPC work.
They'll be back.

BehemothM ✍️
Probably yes. I am ethically against giving up on money owed as it is not my fault that they want to 'imit the work, nor I have not attempted to convince them to continue. It feels like working for free.
I don't mind the lack of referring. I can find somebody else, sooner or later.
For sure what all this as taught me is in the explaining better the value and necessary investment of SEO in my initial proposals.


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