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SEO without the design or maintenance

How to best control the outcome?

     
12:40 am on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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An attorney with 10 websites has approached me to do seo for him. He purchased a bunch of domain names in his keywords and hired a designer to make the sites. 5 of them are active and the designer is still working on the rest. The attorney has just figured out that having a bunch of sites doesn't mean you will be found on the internet and I was recommended to assist with his problem.

The glitch is that the designer owes him quite a bit of work that he paid for up front, but doesn't really know anything about seo. The attorney is uncomfortable about interrupting the designer's projects, (I'm sure he has a contract and doesn't want to get burned) and has asked if I can consult the designer on seo.

The only way I have worked with clients in the past is that I have complete control of the sites. I have access to upload pages, change things when it seems timely, and generally do everything the way I like, when I like. This way I know what the outcome will be, and I am responsible for it - good or bad.

My hesitation is in controlling the results.(I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to my work)
1. Will I be able to "consult" the designer in such a way that the sites achieve good ranking? (Currently only one of his websites even shows up in the first *50* pages on Google - position 411 - so I feel fairly confident that even with minimal suggestions I can do better than that!)
2. Should I charge considerably less since I won't be making the pages?
3. Any other tips?

Thanks,

-webwoman

12:51 am on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I think these situations can get tricky, so I wish you well....

1. Will I be able to "consult" the designer in such a way that the sites achieve good ranking? (Currently only one of his websites even shows up in the first *50* pages on Google - position 411 - so I feel fairly confident that even with minimal suggestions I can do better than that!)

This depends on the designer and how well you can communicate your ideas to him/her. And maybe on the competitiveness of the keywords....

Should I charge considerably less since I won't be making the pages?

No, charge more.

Any other tips?

OK, I've been in a similar position twice in the last few months. So here goes...

If you feel can communicate with the designer, (this really is a big decision in this type of situation) then you can probably continue as a pure consultant, in which case you'll want to charge more, because you'll be working less, and won't be doing any "grunt" work.

If not, I would ask for access to the sites, and charge an hourly consult fee for your knowledge, and lesser hourly fee for the time you spend editing the sites....

hope some of this helps.

1:09 am on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I am dealing with a similar situation with one of my clients right now.

He wants me to tell him what changes need to be made to his pages and he will make the changes. I told him if we did that it would cost him twice as much as if I just made the changes. For me it is much easier to do something than to explain to someone else how to do it.

As far as how to work with the designer you might try giving him a list of stuff every page must have, stuff that would be good to have, stuff that shouldn't be on the page, etc. and let him go from there. After he is done you can sit down with him and go over a few of the pages in detail and he can apply those changes to the rest of the site.

6:43 am on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Good advice from both of you and I am grateful for it, thanks. Can you tell me if you think my pricing should be structured on a fee per keyword, per page/position? For example, if I get him to page one on 5 keywords, there is a fee for each, and a different fee for page 2, etc. Or would I be better off charging hourly as a consultant?

He will need a link project and submissions to the engines right off the bat, so that is something I intend to charge as a "set up fee"...but not sure how much, (your thoughts welcome here) and he does have 5 sites now with 5 more on the way.

He specializes in a very small neighborhood of the law (lemon law) and according to him the competition in his state has increased considerably in the last few years. I do not anticipate a great deal of trouble in getting good rankings from what I have seen of the competition (internet-wise)

12:01 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WW

These isssues are so close to my home that it seems like we are living the same difficult situation.

Have a sqizz at these threads.

www.webmasterworld.com/forum31/635.htm
www.webmasterworld.com/forum31/480.htm

Good luck, i know how much of a pain in the a## it can be. The designers woudl not let me have ftp access so as you pointed out twice the work ended up being done. The reports that I have made took the same time as to actually make the changes. Up to them though.

12:22 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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ukgimp> did you 'cloak' the reports so that the designers couldn't do it themselves next time?
1:58 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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tbear

I was not in a position to do that really as my client would have wanted a detailed report that I said they could pass on to the designers. I did put a lot of emphasis on the keyword searching and trying to get inbound link (which I did).

There were some basic that were in the report but fortunatly the desingers know their limitations and I now get on reasonably well with. they dont have tim to keep up with it. I do :) That lack of their knowlegde and alittle scare mongering from me did the trick. They thought that meta tag stuffing and invisible text was the way forward.

Result.

5:47 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hmmm...this is all very interesting and you have brought up issues I hadn't really anticipated. (I read your suggested threads, ukgimp). In thinking back, the lawyer did say that the designer told him "that's extra" every time the lawyer asked why he wasn't showing up in the engines - and that he had recently split from the design company he was employed with to go out on his own. By looking at the design of the sites, it is quite obvious that the designer had *no* consideration to seo while designing, which leads me to believe he doesn't know how but is planning on learning or partnering with someone who does. He may resent me and be difficult to work with...

Your comments have made me feel a bit more cautious as to how specific my site suggestions will be in my proposal, since it could end up going to the designer to implement, and cut me out of the loop.

Comments on this please:
1. The attorney has 5 sites operational and 5 more domain names waiting for site design. All 5 existing sites are cookie cutter - each one has the same pages, exactly same content, and they are approximately 5 pages per site. They all look completely different (except to a spider)

I see no reason for the additional sites to be created, and 4 of the sites will need major re-writes. In addition to web design and seo, my real 9-5 job is general marketing for a software company. From a marketing viewpoint, I would tend to advise the attorney to blow off the other site designs, re-write 4 of the sites to each target a different aspect of lemon law (or a different public), one to promote the attorney himself (he wrote the original lemon law in his state - this has PR value and should be promoted heavily)

This will bug the designer since he has 5 more sites to do -and intends to do the cookie cutter thing...how best to address this?

2. Am I going to end up training this designer on seo?

Perhaps I should steer clear of this whole project. I have enough work right now - but I am tempted because I love seo so much and this one could be fun...the attorney is very intelligent and wants to learn. He respects web marketing and takes it seriously. He does not have unreasonable expectations. He has all the markings of a great client who I would enjoy working with.

Sorry to ramble on but you all have given me much to consider.

-ww

6:00 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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webwoman, you're right. The attorney doesn't need all those sites, unless the focus on each one is on a different topic.

But even then, all those sites could be rolled into one web site with different sub-topics, which is the usual way.

Your comment that the sites look the same to the spiders is how you should spell it out to the lawyer. And don't forget to let him know about the duplicate content penalties. A little scare goes a long way into getting clients to make reasonable decisions.

I myself wouldn't want to work with this bloke. I'd avise the lawyer to halt the process, get his money back on the undelivered work, and have the designer hand over the ftp passwords to you.

Nobody has to pay for undelivered work, and I'm sure the lawyer has the wherewithal to sue the pants off the designer if he doesn't want to refund the money.

BTW: Payment upfront for undeleivered work seems shady to me.

10:20 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Ten attorney web sites

1. a site on corporate law

2. a site on commerical law/building codes etc.

3. law and your rights (constitutional amendments).

4. criminal law

5. civil law

6. a divorce site (BIG, BIG, BIG on the web)

7. a site on copyrights and legal issue (including web)

8. a site of patents/trademarks and legal issue (including web)

9. ask an expert attorney. (possibly forum based and/or chat)

10. the attorney's primary site which links to all of the topic specific sites.

I could see 10 sites - I think the problem is piss poor planning on the designers part.

IMHO the designer is scamming this guy for the sake of getting his money.

Good professional designers don't arbitrarily design just for the sake of designing and unless a clearly thoughtout plan was part of the package the designer is a scam artist.

The client (attorney) may have ask for ten it would have been the designer duty to direct the client in the issues of managing ten sites which the designer is clearly not competent on.

I would personally point all of this out right now.

You don't really want to be fixing others work - and I wouldn't venture into showing this designer person anything. Clearly they will have another scam to scam clients.

Assuming the client is an attorney - he should understand completely.

11:24 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Fathom: I could see 10 sites

But not for the same attorney's office. Not sure how law is practiced in your neck of the woods, Fathom, but modern day law practices usually concentrate on a specialty: Divorce, accidents, corporate, maritime, criminal defense, etc.

In this particular case, webwoman states that the attorney's specialty is

in a very small neighborhood of the law (lemon law)

So, as I said before, I don't see how the attorney needs 10 sites. This one certainly doesn't.

11:53 pm on Jan 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I take it this means all 10 sites are different shades of yellow.

Seems like a lost leader to me.

1:02 am on Jan 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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LOL fathom - in fact, yes, all sites are different shades of yellow and all contain the obligatory fruit graphic somewhere on the home page.

My husband made a suggestion that I present the attorney with this scenario: Let the designer do what he wants with the 5 existing sites. Advise the attorney to get rid of 6 of the remaining domains (turns out there are plans for 12 sites total!). Give me one of the domains to design, optimize, maintain, etc. Then the attorney gets his web traffic via my site, me and the designer don't step on each others toes, and harmony reigns...

Actually I feel I must advise the attorney that he really has no need for all these sites. It would be unethical not to say so. And of course, if I do end up doing seo or maintenance on his sites - what a headache for me to constantly have to come up with original content for 12 sites!

2 or 3 sites can be good if you have several things to sell. I have 3 sites for the software company I work for and each one highlights a different product with completely different publics. It has worked well for us.
Each website looks like we really specialize in that one thing. Sort of what Seven-Up did with Dr. Pepper.

-ww

8:42 am on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>Am I going to end up training this designer on seo?

Why not give it some thought. You could train them on the basics so that each time you are not having to do the same low level things like making sure that links can actually be followed etc and then do bits here and there on keyphrases and market analysis etc. Of course as you ar effectively doing yourself out of "some" future work you will need to charge a great deal more. I have yet to see a low cost course. You could end up making more and you wont have the greif assocaited with the 3 way designer, SEO and client.

10:59 am on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Will I be able to "consult" the designer in such a way that the sites achieve good ranking?

All you can do is offer your expertise as a member of the team. Since they have a designer already, the implementation is in their court - hopefully they'll listen to you, and you can offer guidance, but ultimately you can't be responsible for someone else's work.

you ar effectively doing yourself out of "some" future work

Or you might get a lot more work in the future if the designer brings you in on other jobs. ;)

Should I charge considerably less since I won't be making the pages?

Heck no. Charge for your knowledge and charge by the hour.

7:24 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Ok, so the plot thickens. I met with the lawyer and the designer last night. It turns out the designer has absolutely no clue about seo which I determined within his first few answers to my questions to him. Also, it comes out he moved the attorney's web hosting from Verio to himself. He has charged the attorney for 11 sites, his contract states all the sites would be up and running within 3 months. Attorney had to request a copy of the contract since he couldn't find his. It shows up missing the date. While I am grilling the designer, the attorney rummages thru his desk and finds his original contract - dated 5 months ago. Only 4 sites are up and running but the attorney is being charged hosting, "seo" and maintenance on all 11! Then it comes out the attorney gave the designer 5Gs for Google Ad Words a couple weeks ago. The designer has no idea where the account is at funds-wise, but says he is spending 2 hours a day submitting and retracting bids for the lawyer in order to cause the competition (who pays $26 per click) to keep increasing his bids. (?!?)

There's more but I'll spare you ... The upshot is the designer wants to maintain the 12 domains he hosts and re-direct 11 of them to the main site which I am going to optimize and build. I can't see any reason for this - can you?

They are all keyword-rich domain names, and I am hesitant to just throw them away, but I really can't imagine using them all. Any thoughts?

BTW, thanks for all your help so far :)

-ww

7:40 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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webwoman, based on the replies to this thread and your last post, here are my suggestions...

1. Get rid of all but one of the domains now! Get them offline and merge any content from the others into the one that you keep. I would of course keep the most relevant domain live.

2. You are setting yourself up for failure if you even attempt to optimize one site and allow the designer to fiddle with the other 11. What will happen is one, if not all of the sites will probably get penalized somewhere down the line. If the competitors are paying upwards of $26.00 per click, you can be assured that one of them will report the duplicate content to Google, like ASAP!

3. Take control! Tell the client that you will not work on the site until you have full control of what is going on. To play the consultant role to a designer is basically playing the training role. You will be sharing your years of hard earned experience and that is worth a lot of money!

First thing I would do is discuss with your client the pitfalls of having this network of duplicate content. Based on the industry (lemon law) the competition is going to be fierce and will be looking for any wrong doing in the top ten results.

This is a gateway domain setup that is going to cause you and the client major problems in the near future. Take those other domains offline now or risk the penalities involved.

7:44 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Another thing, take the designer out of the SEO loop. Let them do the design and then turn it over to you for optimization and ongoing maintenance.

See if there is a clause in the contract that allows the client to cancel and acquire some sort of refund.

12 sites + duplicate content = disaster!

12 sites + duplicate content + keyword rich hyphenated domains = disaster x2!

8:09 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Thanks PageOne. You always offer sound advice. I think I'll take it. So I guess there is nothing I can use the extra domains for at the moment and the designer can just collect his monthly hosting fee on 11 sites that are inactive. Seems unfair and wasteful. But necessary.

-ww

8:19 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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So I guess there is nothing I can use the extra domains for at the moment and the designer can just collect his monthly hosting fee on 11 sites that are inactive.

webwoman, thanks for your confidence. I may not always give sound advice, but in this scenario, I think everyone's advice here is valid, especially with the duplicate content issue.

If you had 12 very distinct products and/or services that you were offering, then the 12 domain strategy may work. Based on the content of this thread, I don't think the designer, nor yourself are ready for the type of maintenance involved with setting up the network properly and then making sure that it performs.

I would hope that your client no longer has to pay hosting fees for 11 domains that are inactive. I would also check the whois on those domains to make sure that all is in order. Just slip them into the clients domain portfolio and save them for a rainy day. Get his first site online and properly indexed, let the traffic begin to come in and then look at your options after 6 months of promoting the main site.

If you feel after 6 months that launching a secondary property which will compliment the first is viable, then by all means build the second property.

The scenario you've painted in this thread is still in use by many today. It is coming under heavy fire from Google and other SE's. There are professionals amongst us who could effectively promote this type of network, but, it is not something that I would recommend coming from a traditional SEO standpoint.

If you build the main site, categorize and organize it properly, you should be able to place well. Good luck!

By the way, SEO Consultation with the designer, average $250.00 to $400.00 per hour with a 4 hour minimum. Have them call you too so its on their dime. ;)

7:58 am on Jan 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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but, it is not something that I would recommend coming from a traditional SEO standpoint.

from any standpoint... traditional or otherwise.

I can only think of two reasons that twelve domains (not sites) could be use effectively without having unique content. Market segmentation and brand identification.

That is... 301 redirects and domain name branding across a variety of off-line marketing and promotion material. A cheap highly effective method to determine what works and what doesn't without significant investigation.

e.g. - cheaper-lawyer.com

ambulance-chaser.com

mike-the-hammer-shapiro.com

Seeing which ones are effective "brands" and disposing the rest.

Beyond this - simply spam city.

4:51 pm on Jan 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Fathom...could you explain this further for me? Are you saying I would keep 11 sites up, they re-direct to the main site and see which ones bring the most traffic? If they are not real sites and just one page pointers, how would anyone ever find them? I am sure I misunderstood your comment. The scrooge in me wants to find a way to use these other domains :)
 

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