Best Business Practices

(This post first appeared on my blog, Content is Queen Blogger)

I know it’s been a very long time since I posted on this blog. It’s been a very interesting and trying year or so, and I apologize to my subscribers.

There are so many lessons you learn as an employee and from starting your own business. You learn how to you want to be treated by your employer, by clients and by other vendors/business associates you may have to collaborate with.

I wish I could say it was always sunny and rosy but how do you learn a valuable lesson without first experiencing a challenge?

One unpleasant challenge I was faced with last fall was the decision to leave the job I had become comfortable at and find another job that was more conducive to what I really want to do. My place of employment was no longer a safe place. The employers began acting strange, it was no longer a pleasant environment and I witnessed some unpleasantries. It was not for me anymore. I had a hard time giving my notice because I was literally terrified to do it, worried I would be questioned to no end. I was so burnt out, overworked and underappreciated. False promises had been made. It was time to go. The job literally made me sick.

I was offered an opportunity to go work at a firm that had a reputation of being an enjoyable place to work at. The position was for the most part a writing position, and I would not be a front line law clerk anymore or have to deal with menial tasks. I accepted and started at the beginning of 2014. This new work environment is different from anywhere I have worked and I am so blessed I found this job (or it found me). I will never (hopefully) let myself burn out again or be taken advantage again. It is just not worth it.

In my last couple of posts, I had made reference to “sticking to my guns” and learning how to keep my cool during a client meeting with my blogging client and his SEO provider. That situation resolved, or so I thought, when strange things started happening and it turned into a nightmare of a situation.

I was really enjoying my newfound ability to get along with the SEO/web company and we were collaborating on developing a new site for the client. I had given a specific set of instructions as to what the site should look like. The template that was developed was so far off what the client wanted/our concept was. We were told this was because it had to be just so, in order to provide a highly visible call to action and prompt people to submit an inquiry form. We pushed back, but it was useless, the SEO was apparently more important so we ended up with a site we disliked.

Of course, at one of the meetings, the head of the company tried to up-sell the client on one of his new products, which resulted in an additional monthly expense and we never saw the fruits of this product until months later. The person also sold the client on pay per click campaigns and never followed through on that. That is where things got sticky.

I noticed that the client’s website had virtually disappeared from Google and then I noticed that 11 other websites had been created with domain names that were created out of keywords were showing up. As well, 2 years ago, we had launched a secondary site, which I had written the content for, and this was the site that it appeared all the SEO efforts were going towards. And the SEO company owned that domain, as well as all of the other 11 domains. I should mention that the content on the 11 sites was very poorly written and completely irrelevant to the client’s area of practice.

At the same time, we received a login to the new product, which was a special client dashboard that showed us “progress” and upcoming work. We saw that efforts were focused on campaigns that were not relevant to the client’s area of practice, and that all these suspicious articles were being disseminated across the Internet, over and over again, linking back to the client’s site. The client was mortified and furious. We had no idea who was writing them, why, or on whose authority- and the fact that his website was not at the top of Google was upsetting, given how much money he had spent.

I had also brought to the client’s attention that the Google Analytics were very telling, being that the majority of the searches came from people typing in some variation of his name, as they likely heard him on the radio.

A meeting was held. We brought up the concerns about the Google Analytics, the shoddy content, the rankings etc. The head of the company arrived with one of his employees who he was prepared to “assign” to the client’s campaigns. Every question was met with an evasive answer or a denial….and then a moment of silence occured….because…..out of the bag comes a folder, with copies of a document called “Critical SEO Errors”.

Critical SEO Errors???? I was sitting there and I frozed. What if I did something wrong? What if I was causing a problem?? Well according to them, my blogging was causing critical errors and causing Google to read all of the blogs and the site as spam….because that’s what the Hummingbird update was good at- finding spam. Or something like that. I was wrong for including a keyword in the post, or for linking to an external site if I had been referring to information taken from that site. Right…let’s blame all our errors on Melanie…let’s blame the fact that we clearly have not worked on this client’s account and have not monitored his site on Melanie. Melanie is an excellent scapegoat- again. Yeah, well the client did not believe it. We just smiled and nodded and ended the meeting and left it as they would behave better and stop posting unwanted content etc.

Maybe I should mention that they had installed an SEO tool within the blog and I used it to check each post before I posted it- I was blogging how they wanted me to.

Fast forward a couple of months, where we were today, we have a new site, with fresh content and a much more easy going service provider who I can work with and is very responsive. We had no choice but to go elsewhere when it became clear that the client’s site was not being taken care of and when shortcuts were being taken. There is so much more I could say, but that’s the gist of that part.

In case you wonder what happened to the 11 other sites- they were set to redirect to the 2nd site that I had written content for. That particular site, as it is owned by the SEO company, currently still has my content on it and they have replaced any reference to the client with the name of the site/domain name instead and it is clear they are going to promote that sight and offer it to another client- with my content on it, that is owned by my client. We are asking them to remove the content. Let’s see how that goes- luckily there are legal remedies available.

So what are some lessons for best business practices?

Give clients what they ask for: Unless your client has the most outrageous request, if you can accommodate your client, do it. You wouldn’t refuse to accommodate someone with an allergy if her or she said something needed to be substituted in his or her meal. Prepare a prototype or template, show it to your client and work with it. Provide your honest evaluation of why something would or wouldn’t work.

Don’t give clients what they didn’t ask for: providing extra content, material, whatever it is, that was not ordered, is not going to earn you extra money, unless you are the world’s best salesperson and no one has ever said no to you. First of all, you don’t want to overwhelm your client and secondly, too much of something is not a good thing, especially if the quality is poor. What kind of impression do you want to give?

No surprises: if, as in the scenario I encountered are producing something that is irrelevant to the client, and that something is publicly accessible, and the client happens to come upon it before you tell him or her about this “premium service” you offer, it is highly unlikely the client will be happy about the business’s name being related to certain sites or articles, without prior approval. There is such a thing as a bad surprise.

Return what isn’t yours: sometimes it may be more convenient to take the easy way out- like keeping content on a website that is going to be reused for another business, even though it deifies ethics, and even though you know that content was written for a specific business. Imagine if the business being promoted on the recycled site finds out where the content came from…

In the end, just remember, what goes around comes around and as I said in a previous post, just stick to your guns. And always trust your intuition.

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