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[DISCUSSION] Ethically dealing with multiple SEO clients on the same niche

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by UrsuAke, Jul 12, 2012.

  1. UrsuAke

    UrsuAke Power Member

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    Hey all,

    I want to discuss a possible issue that I've never seen talked about on BHW before that could affect us SEO consultants/agency owners. It's about managing clients that are on the same niche/competitors, and keeping them happy. For example, let's say you have a client on a particular niche. You optimize their site, you rank them and after a while you get a new prospect in the same niche. You sign with them too and basically you have 2 sites that compete directly with each other.

    Now this can raise complaints from the older client whom you built a relationship with, and of course niche exclusivity is not always an option. To add more to this in most cases you don't even discuss with the client the possibility of you optimizing a direct competitor in the future because, well, you can't predict this type of stuff. So how can you assure the older client that you will still keep working for him at full capacity even if you're optimizing another competitor? That's the hard part. It's like dealing with two girlfriends that know about each other, jealousy ensues.

    The best thing to settle this feeling of betrayal of the older client is to keep everything transparent. It's better that he is informed by you before he finds out for himself that you have another client in direct competition with him, and believe me, it's not an impossible information to acquire. All SEO consultants pride on their work and achievements so we all keep some sort of references on display (past projects, rankings etc.). Even if you omit to add that competitor to your references, they could know each other, they could meet at a conference and start talking, etc. Another thing you can do to make your clients sleep better at night is to draw a non-disclosure contract, in which you bind yourself to keep all the sensible information and strategy plans private. You could even add a clause to pay a financial compensation if you're competitors gain inside information from you.

    So the questions that are asked here are:

    1) Is it ethical to get more than one client on the same niche?
    2) How best to assure the clients that they will not be affected by the fact that you are optimizing a competitors site?
    3) How to deal with clients that are complaining about you working with competitors?
    4) How to ensure that by signing with a competitor you don't lose the existing client?

    What is your opinion on this? How would you deal with this sort of issue?
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
  2. UrsuAke

    UrsuAke Power Member

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    No one has an opinion?
     
  3. infoasian

    infoasian Supreme Member

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    Progressive clients will ask right away not to work for direct competitors. If they don't request exclusice niche agreement then you can do what you want as long as you don't use industry secrets of one customer to benefit the other. Just my 2 Cents.
     
  4. UrsuAke

    UrsuAke Power Member

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    Yeah but the point is that even if they don't ask for niche exclusivity, once they find out you are working with a competitor they'll start the shitstorm, and in some extreme cases this will result in you losing that client. And this is the main problem basically, how to get new clients in the same niche but also keep everybody happy. And I can't figure a way to calm them down if this happens.
     
  5. Stemar

    Stemar Registered Member

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    Ok, that's my opinion:
    1. No, it's not ethical but I'm sure that they also work with same suppliers and clients. Use that politely if they ask you for some explanation.
    2. Explain them that you use different keywords to rank their sites. Tell each one of them that Google won't rank their site for all keywords related to the niche and rather will penalize them if you try to do so.
    3. Calm them and assure each client that you choose for him better keywords that will bring more customers. Something like"you were the first" or "that's why I charge you a little bit more" should relax the situation a little bit. People like bonuses - all businessmen are people.
    4. Don't lie because they will catch you soon or later. Just explain that you current customer paid you to optimized "xyz" and "abs" keywords, but you have other keywords like "123" or "456" that are also very valuable and you will charge "X" amount of money because they are "better" or "worse."

    What I prefer to do? - To work only with one client but to charge him *1,5. If you live in a small town then it will work. After all the main goal of everyone is to make money but don't forget that the good reputation will work for you in the future. Just bet on the better horse and you will not regret. How to know which one is the better? Just look at their cars or how their daughters are dressed up.

    P.S. If you are single then try to look under the dress and you will avoid any further professional dilemmas with these clients.
     
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  6. infoasian

    infoasian Supreme Member

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    i dont see your point. you provide a service and get paid for that. you don't get paid for not working for others. be more self confident and if people throw shit at you let them go before they let you go. just my 2 cents.
     
  7. UrsuAke

    UrsuAke Power Member

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    I get what you're saying. I'm just trying to expand the client base without losing a client. And I keep getting calls from competitors of my clients who want the same thing I gave my clients. Anyway, this thing is complicated on several levels.
     
  8. UrsuAke

    UrsuAke Power Member

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    If you do that you show a lot of unprofessionalism which the clients notice instantly. To provide quality SEO you must choose the best kw's for your client's needs. And if 2 clients have the same niche you can't go to one with better kw's as the other. They'll see right through that and you lose them both. The safe bet is to get one client in one niche and that's it but doing so, at the end of the day you're losing money. The other option would be to get them to sign a exclusivity clause and pay you for it, but this is a big deal breaker, 'cause not so many business owners care how much your profit loss is.
     
  9. UrsuAke

    UrsuAke Power Member

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    If you do that you show a lot of unprofessionalism which the clients notice instantly. To provide quality SEO you must choose the best kw's for you're client's needs. And if 2 clients have the same niche you can't go to one with better kw's as the other. They'll see right through that and you lose them both. The safe bet is to get one client in one niche and that's it but doing so, at the end of the day you're losing money. The other option would be to get them to sign a exclusivity clause and pay you for it, but this is a big deal breaker, 'cause not so many business owners care how much your profit loss is, and they most certainly won't like paying extra just to be the only one in his niche you optimized.
     
  10. hawgbert

    hawgbert Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    I ran into this situation as a SEO client. The provider was upfront with us and disclosed fully his existing relationship with another local agent. It didn't deter us, since we knew that we'd be providing enough unique content that would allow buyers to differentiate us from our competitor. We never ranked higher than the other guy, but we still generated enough clients to be happy with the service. Incidentally, we were always charged less than our competitor because we couldn't occupy the higher slot unless that competitor quit working with the SEO provider.
     
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  11. blackberry

    blackberry Power Member

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    It should not be an ethical issue if you just choose different keywords for each of your clients.

    If it was me and I had XYZ client in the health niche wanting to rank for "qwerty" and a second client in the health niche called ABC wanting to rank for "qwerty", I would do keyword research for free and suggest an alternative for one of them.

    Then just work from there...
     
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  12. ja1myn

    ja1myn Senior Member

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    I agree 100% with this. It's not any of my client's concern as to whether or not I'm working with a company in the same niche as them.

    However, some don't even think of it that way. Some see it as the fact that you have experience working with sites in their niche, so maybe you'll be a better service provider for their business. There are companies that specifically pride themselves on being a "[insert niche here] SEO provider".

    I guess anything can work both ways.
     
  13. cocococo

    cocococo Senior Member

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    Local client don't get angry with yell when other competitors are on the same page with them on yellowbooks, one big ad one small ad, unless they pay for exclusivity, they have no right to say you can't work with other people.
     
  14. Sacrilege

    Sacrilege Regular Member

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    When dealing with clients in the local services business (i.e. photography, lawn care, doctor/lawyer/psych, pest control) where there is a good chance of me pulling a competitor, I offer niche exclusivity to the first client, and charge a premium for it. Everyone declines it, but at least I offered. I let the second client know up front that I'm working with others in the niche, but I don't disclose the identity of other clients (although they may appear in my portfolio or testimonials)
     
  15. HP.Bryce

    HP.Bryce Registered Member

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    I know this might sound like a lame question but why would they ever know you represent the competitor? If both of them are getting the service to the best of professionalism for the amount they paid there is no conflict. I would never reveal any of my clients to anyone outside of my staff who also have signed a strict NDA.
     
  16. Kosher1

    Kosher1 Power Member

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    I am not sure what is so so complicated here.

    On the contract that I have my client sign it specifically states that I can hire other clients in the same industry as my current client signing the agreement.

    On several occasions I had clients requesting me to remove that clause from my agreement, and I told them I would be more than happy to but I would increase the rate by 40%. Then I would put a clause in my contract that forbids me from bidding on other similar business clients. My contract also states that if any payment is late by 15 days from its due date that clause is null and void.

    You will find that the majority of people have an issue paying on time hence you will be able to get more money for giving them exclusivity and at the same time higher other clients in the same industry.

    Bottom line, you end up winning.


    Life is too short for anger!
     
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  17. B. Friendly

    B. Friendly BANNED BANNED

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    I think you cross the ethics line when you take a client that is competing with an existing client without full disclosure to both of them.

    Having said that, there might be an argument in favor of the idea that having an SEO that knows the niche well enough to manage multiple clients in the same niche may at some level put them in competition with each other, collectively they have an advantage over everyone else. It's sophisticated thinking that most clients wouldn't ever adopt however, so from a practical standpoint "full disclosure" is virtually the same thing as "New Client won't hire me, and existing Client doesn't trust me anymore."

    And the purpose of being in business is to make money, and not friends. If you can do both, great. But if it's an either/or choice, make money. So for me, this transitions from a theoretical discussion on ethics into a pragmatic plan for profit. I think it would be a huge hassle trying maintain both relationships in either circumstance (full disclosure vs. secrecy), so I would pick the most-profitable of the two Clients and let the other one go.
     
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  18. narfunk

    narfunk Registered Member Premium Member

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    I personally would offer an exclusivity clause in the contract with an increase in price as well mention that if there's no exclusivity agreement made competitors are fair game.

    Once again, if they gave me any flack I wouldn't worry because you're never going to make everybody happy. Do your best, but don't waste too much energy/time/money signing them up. Ideally if you're successful with any clients word will spread and you won't have to worry.
     
  19. cloakme

    cloakme Regular Member Premium Member

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    You said it. Nobody needs to know who you represent.

     
  20. partymarty4870

    partymarty4870 Elite Member

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    Personally I would not take on a client if i was already representing a client in the same niche. However I'm small and only take on 4/5/6 clients at a time as I'm pretty busy with my own sites.

    (basically the only reason I do SEO for anyone else is to keep my foot in the door and options open)