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First Client Jitters
Taking over a client's current site...
weisinator




msg:781187
 10:16 pm on Oct 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

I just got an email back from a potential client, giving me the "go-ahead" on a site design. This is the first site I'll have done for someone else.

I have nerves of cooked pasta right now. :)

Currently, the client's site will only impress people who come in from the URL on the client's business card, and won't do much to generate new business. (The current site uses flash navigation, has a gratuitous flash animation on the front page, has about 4 sentences of content, not to mention a "noisy" pop-under telling you to come back when you leave the site. There's also a couple of "tools" that are also available at all the competition's sites.)

I did some keyphrase mining and came up with content for about 10 pages (It's in my head, not on paper or magnets), all relating to the industry, and a few pages of "complementary" content.

How do I convince the client that successful sites have more content than eye candy? I have myself convinced...

Thanks!

 

Nick_W




msg:781188
 10:19 pm on Oct 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

couple of "tools"

The previous designers? ;)

Convince him?

Amazon.com is always a good example...

Congratulations BTW! ;);););)

Nick

WebSpinner




msg:781189
 10:23 pm on Oct 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

Define with the "client" the objective of this site. I've found (depending on the type of customer) that if you supply the correct data, based on the objective, they make the right choices.

Don't go the personal route, but if he/she say, I want to come up on "blue cats", then explain the pro-cons of the current site and how you could fix.

Just be careful, when you "fix", they may expect magic.

GL
Spinner

deejay




msg:781190
 10:39 pm on Oct 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

whatever you do... however off-beam their work might have been... DO NOT refer to the previous designer/seo as a 'duckhead'

You'll have no end of trouble convincing the owner that you just complemented his brother-in-law/12 year old son on their similarity to the noble, highly intelligent but under-recognised mallard. *serious I've-never-done-that nod*

Seriously though. Congrats!

From my experience, be clear with what you want to achieve, and then sell that to the client on the positives. "I suggest we do X, and that will achieve Y and Z".

You've already got the go ahead to do the design, so leave the old site out of it completely unless he specifically asks. When he does ask, you can answer with a comparison.. which accentuates your new design being a better solution... and minimises the focus on the problems of the old site.

The important thing is that you have yourself convinced. Can't speak with conviction otherwise.

Stay positive... be clear... you'll nail it. :)

Slade




msg:781191
 1:06 am on Oct 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

Email him the agreement he's signing off on, and have him mail/fax it back to you signed.

weisinator




msg:781192
 2:06 am on Oct 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

I talked with the previous designer about an hour ago over the phone, who is giving me everything I need to take over (hosting info, domain registration info, all the files, etc.). The previous designer is going back to school, and has absolutely no problem with someone taking over his work. He sounds like he's 19. (If only I had that kind of ambition back then, wow...)

I'll be getting the info/files tomorrow.

webspinner:
Define with the "client" the objective of this site. I've found (depending on the type of customer) that if you supply the correct data, based on the objective, they make the right choices.

I'm putting together a business proposal right now, including targetted keyphrases (as well as Overture searches for 9-02) and a "site theme" based on said keywords/phrases.

deejay:
whatever you do... however off-beam their work might have been... DO NOT refer to the previous designer/seo as a 'duckhead'

You've already got the go ahead to do the design, so leave the old site out of it completely unless he specifically asks. When he does ask, you can answer with a comparison.. which accentuates your new design being a better solution... and minimises the focus on the problems of the old site.

The client actually asked me what I think of the current site. *thin ice?* Thanks for the suggestion, though!

Nick: From what I can tell, the prev. designer is a one man operation, not a couple :) . (he's really good with flash, I must say) I'm keeping those tools, since I can see the value they add, and I'm adding another, if I can find the algo to write it. (One is a javascript, the other is a third-party deal. The one I'll write will be a script.)

All: the client is a "she", I found a new bad habit already. :)

Thanks for the positive encouragement!

Marcia




msg:781193
 7:37 am on Oct 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

wiseinator, congratulations on getting the deal!

Reality check on design: A go-ahead that truly warrants your full time and attention is payment up front, with a cleared check of at least half (bare minimum one-third) so that a good portion of your work time is covered before you even fire up Photoshop and turn the mouse loose on the actual project, particularly if it's to be a highly customized design with custom graphics.

Reality check on SEO: SEO is a whole different skill-set, though the ideal situation is to incorporate the optimization into the design from the ground up.

>>I did some keyphrase mining and came up with content for about 10 pages (It's in my head, not on paper or magnets), all relating to the industry, and a few pages of "complementary" content.<<

That's worth its weight in gold, don't be too quick to give away the whole store, keep some back in the "stockroom" in order to upsell a little bit.

The first few jobs we do are like our learning lab, except that instead of paying tuition and turning in projects, we're getting paid. We're generally willing to work for a bit less and still try to get an A+ and there's nothing wrong with going the extra mile, but learning the business end of doing business is also a learning experience.

It's definitely worth doing a few loss_leaders to gain the actual experience and develop a portfolio, which is very important, but even though you're willing and need to make allowances, don't neglect honing in on the business end of it. There's plenty of good, sound advice right here in this forum, so take advantage of it.

fathom




msg:781194
 8:37 am on Oct 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

Congradulations wiseinator.

A couple of extra notes to add to all of the above.

Keyword/phrases are nothing if the site's overall content does not motivate that particular audience.

If for example the site is about "vans" but "cars" is more attractive to get increased visitors, target "vans". Increase traffic is nothing if you do not have the "real" topics and/or content.

Start small work up. It is better to start with extremely low competivtive phrases and work your way up the targeted keyword scale than to spend large amounts of time targeting something that is too far out of reach (and showing the client only limited success in the short term).

If not already -- Submit site to Dmoz.org -- regional and topics categories. Spend a great deal of time establishing the copy (site/market focus, overall attractiveness of the language, keywords, and order of words).

No guarantees the editor will use what you submit but the less the editor needs to do the better.

Design considerations and copywriting -- I find too many sites focus too much attention on "I, me, us, we, our and less about the customer, the customer benefits, and assisting the customer needs.

As a customer "I" care much less about "about us", and "our staff" and more about "what benefit do I actually get from starting a relationship with you (your client).

Consider every page -- is it "customer focused" or "company focused".

Good Luck! Fathom :)

weisinator




msg:781195
 4:12 pm on Oct 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

Fathom:
If not already -- Submit site to Dmoz.org -- regional and topics categories. Spend a great deal of time establishing the copy (site/market focus, overall attractiveness of the language, keywords, and order of words).

"This category needs an editor"

Don't know how easy it is to get into editor-less categories, but there's only 11 listings. I don't know if the site will make it in based on what little content there is.

As a customer "I" care much less about "about us", and "our staff" and more about "what benefit do I actually get from starting a relationship with you (your client)".

Wow, there's the reality check I needed. THANKS A BUNCH! (The competition has more "about us" than "how we help" on their pages.)

Marcia:
Reality check on design: A go-ahead that truly warrants your full time and attention is payment up front, with a cleared check of at least half (bare minimum one-third) so that a good portion of your work time is covered before you even fire up Photoshop and turn the mouse loose on the actual project, particularly if it's to be a highly customized design with custom graphics.

Reality check on SEO: SEO is a whole different skill-set, though the ideal situation is to incorporate the optimization into the design from the ground up.

Dog eat dog world? I don't think there'll be too much in custom graphics, and it won't be anything I can't do in less than two hours, despite my lack of Adobe PS skills. (I'm using LE, but it could be worse...)

I have done a bit with SEO. I have a site (hosted on Geocities of all places) that ranks #5 for a competitive Keyphrase. (It's an affiliate crack-addict site that is bringing in more than enough to warrant paid hosting now.)

I would like to implement some amount of SEO from the ground up for her site. My goal for this site is to bring new business to my client. If one new customer calls her because they found her site, my job is done.

Now I have a plan to forge ahead. Feel free to help me amend this:

-Talk with the client about content vs delivery, and how search engines fit into the picture. Explain that what she has now brings value to existing customers, and how what I'd like to do may bring new customers without hurting the value the current customers have.

-Have her come up with "how she helps" in four categories relating to the industry, making a page for each. (I'm no expert in this industry.) Include existing tools in the appropriate place. It's only 5 pages of reading content (including the "intro" page), but it will be 5 times what she has now.

-Get paid 1/3 of total, bill the rest (how, monthly? balloon? whatever the client wants? Talk to the previous designer about how this was handled?)

-THEN go to town on design, layout, and copy.

One other thing:
-Her site currently has a trademark (cartoon character) in the flash animations. I'm meeting with the previous designer tonight and asking how that legality was handled (or if it was). I'm 99.999% certain that she wants to keep that. I can see icy roads ahead.

fathom




msg:781196
 4:47 pm on Oct 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

I can see icy roads ahead.

Move to Florida.

This category needs an editor"

Submit anyway. It is the single most important aspect of marketing in search engines today. Additionally an editor above the specific category will likely review the submission within a few days ... month, etc.

...and how search engines fit into the picture

Refrain from talking in terms of search engines and SEO -- they only confuse most people that are not avid web users and/or experienced in the web medium.

Marketing online, web marketing, or Internet marketing are much broader terms but they do not require much explanation, people know (vaguely enough) what the Web/Internet is, and marketing as well. In the end, and results do materialize your client may have more curiosity and greater interest in "how you did that". This would be an ideal starting point for talking in more precise terms.

weisinator




msg:781197
 8:53 pm on Oct 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

I put it all down on paper, showed her what should change, and why it mattered. That was probably the biggest shock to her. Her old designer didn't do that, she said he built it and sent a bill. I guess the year of customer service work I put in my senior year in high school finally paid off.

She was excited to see what kind of ideas I had for the future of the site and where we could go. I knew she preferred my style when she asked if she could refer collegues to me.

I have a check for 1/3 of the total. The rest will come upon completion. Time to work!

Thank you all for ideas and your encouragement. It is MUCH appreciated.

fathom




msg:781198
 9:09 pm on Oct 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

Great stuff weisinator!

Keep us posted.

Travoli




msg:781199
 9:13 pm on Oct 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

That IS great to hear! Wonderful news.

hmpphf




msg:781200
 12:36 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I may be way off the mark here, or repeating something somebody else has said, but there is a principle I always abide by when I am agreeing to work with a client.

I always sell clients the process I am engaging in on their behalf, on the basis that we both agree that it is the right course of action to achieve certain objectives. What I try and avoid is selling people a guaranteed end result. This is especially true when you are selling search engine optimisation, a field in which there are so many variables, and in which you have so little ultimate control. Even experts would be worried about giving a guarantee that they will succeed.

shady




msg:781201
 12:56 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Very true hmpphf. Also, if the basis of your sale is SEO, I believe it is important the customer is aware that the full benefits won't be realised for many months. You don't want them moaning after a couple of months that they are not seeing much increase in sales etc..

weisinator




msg:781202
 1:40 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thought of that already.

I told my client that I can't promise anything, as the search engines are the ones dealing the cards, and we play the game. She understood completely, but wanted to see what kind of results she can have (anything is better than 1.5 avg daily uniques). We're targetting the non-competitive terms to start: The ones that get 30-50 searches a month and deal with her geographic location.

shady




msg:781203
 1:44 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Sounds like you've got your head screwed on! Good luck, I hope it goes well for you.

nell




msg:781204
 6:26 am on Oct 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

(1) The secret is to never finish any job. Start many projects at once to confuse the client. That way if one thing doesn't work you can blame it on something else not completed.
(2) Get them to assign a part time person in the company to assist you. That way you can pass mistakes and blame onto them.
(3) Once you have the signed contract in hand start selling the extras. Don't be shy. Remember you have the original signed contract to fall back on.
(4) Whenever visiting the client do so about 15 minutes before lunch time so they take you out to eat. Ask the waiter for a copy of the client's reciept so you can charge the meal off as your own business expense.
(5) Always collect monies owed by hand. Never depend on that check in the mail.

You couldn't ask for a better time to sign on with a client. Start pumping for the "Christmas" bonus, the "End of Year" bonus and the paid Holiday vacations (tell them you are Christian and your spouse is of another faith so you can double the paid time off). Start making suggestions for their Christmas gift to you. Push on the client Holiday candy your kids will be selling (buy that candy from Wal-Mart and resell to your client at a huge profit). I could go on forever.

The whole idea is to get the client so upside down from the get-go that they can't afford to fire you. I worked as a salesperson for a copy machine company once. The first day on the job I dropped one of their most expensive machines down a flight of stairs. Yes, they made small deductions from each of my pay checks to pay for it but, because the machine was so expensive, I was kept on the job for over a year. In fact, on the job longer than any other sales person. Owing to my eventual seniority and the fact that they forgot about the dropped machine, I was given a cushy job in public relations.

Gizmare




msg:781205
 3:36 pm on Oct 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

No wonder we have people on welfare !

Unversed




msg:781206
 9:08 am on Oct 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

In (belated) answer to the original question:

Show them their site in a browser window with graphics and stylesheets switched off. Then say, "people find your site through the search engines, this is how the search engines see your site".

If there is no content there, they should get the message.

weisinator




msg:781207
 6:44 pm on Oct 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

How would I shut off flash? (Disable ActiveX?)

Unversed




msg:781208
 2:44 pm on Oct 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Yes, you can disable Active X
[in IE: Tools > internet Options > Security > ActiveX > Run ActiveX Controls and Plugins o Disable]
and it will stop Flash.

You could also track down the Flash ocx and rename it (temporarily).

Or there are Flash stopping programmes you can download (e.g Search for "No! Flash").

It's pretty poor that the browser folk (Microsoft, Netscape, Mozilla) don't have a simpler way of doing this.

Mr_Creosote




msg:781209
 3:17 pm on Oct 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

We are in a similar position with our First Client. We recently took over the SEO work for a large financial network. Unfortunatly their sites are made up with mainly affliate programs such as Overture and Espotting. We have started the mamouth task of creating new and unique content for these sites which was severely lacking.

My advice to you Weisinator is to cover your tracks. We approached the client with some "best case/worst case" senarios. After being on track for the best case we took a massive turn for the worst after the Google Algo change.

This was an unexpected change so make sure you always have a contingency plan and you have a stable bass of links (DMOZ, Yahoo, Looksmart etc etc).

p.s. CONTENT IS KING

weisinator




msg:781210
 7:34 pm on Dec 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

After a couple months of discussion of ideas, mockups, content changes, and frustration with her hosting company (the world's slowest FTP, I am really good at FreeCell now...), I think we're done.

Everything is a learning experience.

The hardest part was realizing that it's not my site. I need to let go of my vision and cater to theirs, no matter how wierd it seems.

Exception: I still hold my ground and say No to the local weather (on any site). :)

fathom




msg:781211
 7:56 am on Dec 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

The hardest part was realizing that it's not my site. I need to let go of my vision and cater to theirs, no matter how wierd it seems.

It is a very hard thing to do. I often tell myself:

The client is on the inside looking outward and I am only peering through a small hole and only from one angle.

If a had their business business plan, marketing plan, sales forecast business expense and capital gains sheets and all the other business related stuff they consider their position from:

Well I wouldn't get much SEOing done.

We are just little fishes in the big pond and must maintain perspective.

We advise - they decide -- it's their web site, their marketing tool, their business, their customers and their visitors. It's also their risk, both big and small. ;)

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