How to Determine Which Client Should get Marked as a Red Flag in SEO and Marketing?

Hi all – been doing local SEO for about 10 years on the side but now pivoting into it full-time and formally starting my biz next month.
I did a web audit for a realtor this week and met with him to present results. I did not charge him as I didn't have my biz contracts ready to go yet and wanted the experience of presenting. I used several resources and put together a nice powerpoint to explain everything and minimized the techy-speak. He is not ranking at all so the report was not positive for him but it wasn't saying anything he did not know. He's done his own digital and mostly on the cheap.
I recommended that he create distinctive branding, a highly optimized website, develop his Google biz profile, integrate social media. assure Name, Address & Phone Number (NAP), etc. Spent about 90" with him. Rather than being thankful for the time/effort I provided for free, he actually complained that I did not help him b/c I did not provide a specific game plan. I told him that this was a web audit of what exists and noted I did provide recommendations. He then said that he was excited about doing local SEO and asked for proposal. I am meeting with him again this week.
I am conflicted about working with him now. I know that I can help and do well with his marketing. Given what I know about his local marketing and what I can do for him, he needs me more than I need him whether he knows that or not πŸ™‚
Should I appreciate this as a red flag and call us a mismatch or not be so sensitive and appreciate what could be a lucrative, long-term client? What would you do?
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I would walk away from him. He probably wanted you to give him a free roadmap on how he can do SEO himself. Either way you shoot yourself in the foot long term by working with clients who are not a good match.

Davi Β» Kroll
This is true. I've had many business owners ask for a quote and then ghost me because my price wasn't "free".

Never do that much before a deal is in place.
10 minute zoom video tops. How areas of strength/weakness and some vague opportunities.
If they want a "plan", they need to be paying you.
Red flags (most real estate agents are a pain to work with to be honest). I know some love that niche but I can't stand dealing with them.
If you have time, go into this as a learning experience and be willing to drop at anytime. This may help you learn how to charge and write up a solid contract. (Both things learned fastest thru failures.) Even if he is an ass you can use examples of what you did for that business to other clients. It will also help you learn how to spot bad clients and target good ones. (Many on here, like myself, have reached a point of not working with difficult clients, but I look at them as learning experiences. Helped me to learn what I don't want to do or put up with.
Simon ✍️
Thanks everyone! Appreciating the collective wisdom. You guys are right — don't need the drag when trying to create momentum.
Consider his objection as a learning experience. You will likely hear this objection again. How will you handle it to land the sale? Some customers want a concrete plan – example: month 1 I will optimize your Google My Biz (GMB) listing and we'll add 2,000 words of content to your site. If you want to find out what month 2 and 3 roadmap is, sign up and I'll put together a full plan for you.

Simon ✍️
I like that. One big take away that I got was to be very clear up front about setting expectations by defining what the audit is about.

95% of real estate agents have no money because they make no money lol. Check him on Zillow and see how many sales he had this year. That will tell you a lot! You want the guy or girl making at least a few dozen deals a year.

Micha Β» Koszo
True. But the good RE agents are making enough/lots of money with crappy websites/SEO and don't really care or have time for more business
Koszo Β» Micha
Yeah exactly! That's the other side of the coin haha. Also vast majority of agents do it part time, so your ideal client would have plenty of money from other sources and wanting to invest in their business.
I'd stay aware from them though unless you have a connection and can be "the guy" in RE circles to do marketing.

He's been doing his own digital marketing in the cheap as you put it, and here you come swooping in with the ultimate cheap – aka free.
Why would he not ask for more? You educated him that you can do stuff for free even before he becomes a client.
It's ok to give a free promo. He just told you you need to set the terms of what is free more clearly, and ahead of time.
Then ask for what you believe you deserve and only work with those who are willing to pay you that (that's willing, not compromising into it).


I decided years ago that I would not take on individual realtor clients because I honestly don't think Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what they need and your chances of success in the SERPs is slim. You're competing with the Century 21s, Trulia etc. if this was an individual, be grateful. Take what you created and repurpose for a different vertical.

Keith L Evans πŸŽ“ Β» Kathy
Same same πŸ’•
Kyle Β» Kathy
Yep, I very quickly stopped taking on real estate clients for SEO only. I have a friend who is absolutely killing it, but he's using SEO in conjunction with paid ads and setting up a funnel for them.
Kathy Β» Kyle
That's what it takes. SEO alone won't do it. There is a realtor in the Silicon Valley here who is killing it as well. She writes killer blogs frequently, networks like crazy, is very active on her social media pages, actively recruits reviews and referrals, and really works her Trulia and other real estate site accounts.
BTW, I have only taken on 2 realtors in the 20+ years I've been doing this. One was also a real estate attorney. The other was a stand-up comedienne at night. Can you guess why I agreed to take them?

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."
He's complaining about something he got for free. He's doing his own digital, which means he thinks he know how to do it, and will cause nothing but grief if you don't do it the way he thinks it should be done, even if that's wrong.
I've taken on this kind of client too many times. The last time, the client said 'this whole SEO thing isn't work'. I showed them how 50% of their traffic is from 'this whole SEO thing'. They left, only to come back 6 months later, having lost most of their traffic after moving their site over to Squarespace.
Do yourself a favour and guard against this sort of client.

Simon ✍️
So very true. When I pointed out his NAP inconsistencies, he was resistant to modification for consistency. Love that quote — thanks for giving me back my own advise πŸ™‚

Keith L Evans πŸŽ“
First rule of sales: Help First, Provide Value. And then they buy because of your solution. You must provide a solution to their problem.
If you provide an audit, I'd recommend including something actionable as a deliverable. You don't have to give everything away, but you could include an "Action Plan" that summarizes each thing they need to do, preferably in the order they need to do those things, in order to accomplish their goal – whether that be with your or not.
I've done many audits, and the conversion rate to a more involved relationship has always been 80%+.
What I've come to understand is that people trust someone with a plan.
Give them an "analysis" and they'll be left wondering what to do with that.
Give them a plan, and they'll trust you and ask you to execute that plan.
With that said, I'd say that you might want to proceed, but with caution.
Red flag. Once you have the game plan he deliberately won't understand it or will want you to action it for free. Then he'll complain your plan doesn't work because he isn't number one/isn't seeing results. Then he'll tell you that he'll pay you/give you commission/shares based on leads. Then you'll get him leads and it either won't be enough or he'll make an excuse or ghost. I've even seen people close their limited liability company and start a new one to avoid paying people.
There are thousands of this guy out there. They are the people who say, "why would I pay you when I'm not making money myself?"
f*ck that guy. He wants you to show him to do himself. He would he horrible client. If you ever present this way again just know you WONT sell them. People care about THEIR pain points. You talked a boyt features, not benefits. You are the expert, clients don't want educated
I just read that it was a realtor. Block his number. Actually when he calls tell him you are all booked up and cant take on any new clients. Chalk this up to a hard lesson. Benefits, not features. Clients who think they know as much as I do are the WORST kind of clients

Kathy Β» Rupp
Love your last statement! So true, true, true! When I detect one, I tell them to find help in Fiverr. I'm not trying to be funny here. It really is the best place for them. They can get someone who won't try to explain why their ideas won't work. They can also completely manage the work, and dare I say, the outcome. Ok, there I'm being a little funny. πŸ™‚

Similar thing happened with me a couple of days ago . The client said he was an agency owner and when i presented him a free audit, he wasnt happy and said that I should have presented him a road map as well and also he argued about one of the problem in his site which was duplicate content and he said duplicate content is ok and said even Google admits duplicate content is ok for website to rank . Then i showed him Google article on developer site and still he said he read on twitter that duplicate content is ok to rank .
I could figure out that moment its better not to work with that client (agency owner) but surely such instances can bog you down a bit

Simon ✍️
Thank you Gurpreet. I wanted to share a helpful video I recently watched on duplicate content by John Mueller.
Google's John Mueller clears up the misunderstanding of duplicate content on Google Ranking


Truslow πŸŽ“
Real estate is a tough one. Client's attitude aside, the audit sounds like it wasn't particularly useful for him. Those things you pointed out are useful and all, but they are also likely the very same things every other audit has told him – here's a list of things you can do that will cost a bunch of money and position you to still not stand out above the competition.
The biggest mistake the smaller agents make is in focusing on ranking their inventory. The problem there is that, c21, and all the national brokerages – plus all the regional brokerages – ALL have the exact same inventory. Do all the things on a standard audit, and the stuff still isn't likely to rank.
The other thing is that the way the market is right now – the biggest challenge for agents isn't selling their listings. Around here, a house goes up and it's gone in under a week. The challenge is getting a listing in the first place.
As such – it's less about selling houses and more about positioning yourself so that you're selling your people, your brand, and ensconcing yourself in the community as a whole. For small agencies – it's about selling the people. How they, because they know the area, can position things to ensure you get the most for your property (and conversely get the best deal if you're buying). It's about your expertise in obtaining the best financing – or in getting financing in the first place. It's about working with people to stage and present the house for sale. It's about knowing the inspectors and auditors and having relationships with them so you can get the information you need to know the next move in prep for sale or what needs to be done before purchase.
Real estate sites – in terms of general optimization as it sounds you've presented him – are all pretty much the same. There are only a handful of MLS systems out there with a handful of bridges to bring that data to the site. Anyone in that industry is going to know that and be looking for someone who knows that too. It's not about properly presenting that data – the same data everyone else has. It's about positioning that data with a USP (unique selling point) and doing something with that data to make it stand out from the rest.
In my files on my hard drive – I've got a real estate folder. In there is a document that I've built over the years that describes EXACTLY what needs to be done to optimize a real estate site site – step by step. It's exactly the same for every site because the software is (basically) the same on all the sites and it presents the exact same data in almost exactly the same way. I use that – but it's "Step #1". It gives the site the ability TO rank – but it's not going to make it so that it WILL rank. Steps 2 and 3 are going to do that – and it's completely different for each one and it's as much about marketing strategy as it is about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Now… don't get me wrong… I feel your frustration. You gave him a free audit and it contained exactly what you promised him. But on the other hand – people offer free audits all the time. What a client is looking for is some sort of an indication that you know where to take it next once you've got the site "ready to rank" – then the work (and the fun) begins. Now we've got to get it actually ranking. Plan or no plan presented – they want to see that you have an idea of where to go – a unique plan, tailored to them. They want to know you've looked at the onboarding questionnaire you had them fill out and that you've got some specific ideas to leverage that.
His attitude might have sucked – and it might have reached the point that you learned that he probably isn't someone you want to work with anyway. BUT… his frustration at all this is certainly real. He just doesn't handle that well. Truth is, you're probably the 20th of these audits he's been offered this year. He's probably listened to a half dozen or so. And he hasn't taken any action because none of them really looked like they might have an idea of how to ACTUALLY position his agency to rank over the rest. That's frustrating. (Not enough to be a total ass about it, but frustrating nonetheless).
So… I close this with a little tip… Real Estate is one example, but in ALL of local SEO, there are MANY niches like this. SEO is SEO is SEO. The list of things you mentioned are all important for the SEO part, but very few of them play into the "Local" part of the equation. If you want to land these people – give them some of the "Local". You have to establish that you understand how their industry works. You have to establish that you understand the local market and how that might differ from the national market for the same thing – and most importantly, you have to demonstrate that you have ideas (even if you don't present those ideas at this stage) that will capitalize on that knowledge.
Do that… and you'll be raking in clients left and right.

Wanda Β» Truslow
Great answer and thank you.


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