When To Take On A Client? Was Adam Audette Right Or Wrong?

Author: Gab Goldenberg

In Adam Audette‘s recent link building column (via Wiep’s link roundup), he claims to have failed at link building (or more accurately, client relations). The client – a major corporation with 10 big websites – wanted results in a short time frame, so instead of going for high quality links that take time to build, Adam went for “freebie” links like profile links in order to boost up particular URLs on client sites.

As a result, though the SEO results were there, Adam’s client saw unimpressive reports about the actual links, so they left.

Adam blames himself for abandoning his normal M.O. and going for the easy links.

Did Adam really make a mistake though?

Some clients have a short-term mindset, and education won’t change a thing for them. If they’re just a run-of-the-mill client, you can pass on them knowing that 10 more are just around the corner.

But there’s a limited supply of big-budget companies. Not as limited as most SEOs think, but still not that common.

So if a company with lots of money to spend on SEO wants to see results in the short term, should you turn the revenue away? Adam thinks the answer is a clear-cut “yes, turn it away.” I’m not sure the issue is so black and white. Consider the pros and cons.


1. Big short term revenue/profit boost
2. Relatively easy work, even though they don’t know it
3. The business results as measured in dollars of ROI will be there


1. A savvy SEO in their company may criticize your mediocre links and cause the gig to be lost after just a few months
2. You’ve invested time into a project with a short lifespan, when similar time could be better invested elsewhere.

At times, business calls for you to seize the opportunities you get and take the easy money. In this case, Adam didn’t do anything unethical – the work itself was just easy. And depending on how open-minded or close-minded the client was, education may not have persuaded them to take a longer-term approach. So if some company was going to make the money, and no one gets hurt / nothing unethical has to be done, why not be that company? What do you guys think?

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  1. Really interesting, Gab. Your point is valid. In our case, it was a problem going for the easy links because our approach is built around quality. We differentiate by doing the best possible work we can. The perception of those easy direct profile links was poor .... they looked crappy on reports and didn't reflect quality. So they weren't "on brand" for us. But they sure were easy and they did work. In our case, it was a lesson learned and we won't go down that route again (well, maybe for my own sites!). But I still think your points are valid. It just depends on goals. For my company, long term partnerships/relationships/gigs are what we're after. We're not looking for the quick buck, but I hold no judgement against people who are. Just different approaches. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Comment by Adam Audette - March 31, 2011 @ 4:16pm
  2. hey Adam, Thanks for dropping by! I hear you - your column explained the point fairly well - but thanks for clarifying re: being 'on brand'. I hadn't considered that aspect. Makes sense in light of the gigs you guys are looking for :).

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 4, 2011 @ 8:09am
  3. I was shocked when I read that post, it was great, like an SEO soap opera. :-) But I think that the real problem was that Adam's company probably charges a high rate because they normally build high quality, on brand, links and those cost alot in time and effort to build. And that is probably what the client was sold on. But what the client actually got were cheaper, easier links. So even though the results were there, the client saw the types of links used to get there and those links were not what they expected. The client must have also had a semi savvy SEO person on their end that called this out. So in managing the client they could have explained a two-tier approach in using the faster, easier to obtain links, in the first few months while still working on those higher quality links for the long haul. And Adam's company could have paid accordingly. That is what I got out of it anyways. I'd love to hear from Adam if I am off here.

    Comment by Miguel - April 4, 2011 @ 11:15am
  4. That sounds about right. Adam?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 6, 2011 @ 8:40am
  5. @Miguel you are about right, except that we did do a lot of work explaining this approach (building diverse links, using direct link sources to lay the base, etc etc) and it didn't appear to resonate well. But then again, there were other factors and forces at work in the situation, so it was a bit complicated. :)

    Comment by Adam Audette - April 11, 2011 @ 11:21am
  6. Thanks for the extra clarification Adam!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 14, 2011 @ 3:24pm

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