How to: Write a decent SEO recommendation

Ian Lurie Jul 21 2011

The best way to drive a client crazy? Talk a lot, but tell them nothing.

The SEO industry has a lot of people who are really, really good at that. I’ve seen some true artists: Men and women who can speak or write thousands of words without uttering a single useful thought. Stuff like this:

“Your goal is to rank well for your target phrases. Your site isn’t ranking well for those phrases, though. That’s because you don’t have a high enough keyword density in important parts of your pages. For example, you need to use your key phrases more often in your title tags and in on-page content.”

Someone paid an SEO ‘expert’ for that. It’s like voting for Abraham Lincoln and getting Richard Nixon.

Here’s how a client feels when they read something like that:

client recommendation head

The result

That’s how we end up with lots of clients who think the entire SEO industry showed up in the same car.

Writing a decent recommendation

A good SEO recommendation will have:

  • Atomicity. It should stand on its own.
  • Clarity. It should make sense to a non-SEO.
  • Actionable advice. The reader should know what to do next. Exactly.

My formula is usually something like this:

[Provide a specific example]. [Explain why it’s a problem]. [Explain how to fix it]. [Provide a specific example]. [Sell the payoff].

Here’s an example:

“The title tags on your product pages don’t include the key phrases folks use to find those products. For example, the ‘Time Pedals’ page on your site has the title tag ‘Part number 123456’. But consumers search for ‘Time Pedals’. Since the title tag is the strongest on-page ranking factor, you have no chance of appearing in the top 10 for that phrase. Even if you do, the title tag, which appears at the top of the search snippet, will confuse readers, so they won’t click through to your site. To fix this, use the product name, instead of the part number, in your title tags. You can use this template: [Product name] – [Category]. I’ve attached a code snippet that will work in most PHP-based store systems. For example, on the ‘Time Pedals’ page, the title tag would be ‘Time Pedals – Clipless road pedals’.”

Not perfect, but you get the idea.

Write clear, actionable recommendations. You’ll keep more clients.

Actually, write more muddled, difficult-to-understand stuff. Then I get to keep more clients.

Other stuff

tags : conversation marketing


  1. This post is the SEO version of the Steve Krug book “Don’t Make Me Think.” Easily my favorite industry book… evah.

  2. Just as importantly, sales people can get a lot of value from this as well. Don’t confuse, consult. Be helpful.

  3. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    Without someone posting like you posting “the truth” we would
    have no one to cite when trying to bring logic to weekly staff meetings.

  4. Ian


    @Mike If you’re trying to bring logic to meetings you are far, far braver than I. Charge!!!!!!

  5. ha ha – You get so wrapped up in what you do every day that you need a reminder that not “everyone” understands what you’re talking about. Some clients actually understand the jargon and they try to tell you how to do your job. Most of the time they only know the buzzwords and don’t have a clue how it actually works. But…you’re right, most people don’t understand what you’re talking about. Spending a little time explaining things in their terms not only makes it easier for them to understand, it also keeps you employed longer. Once they “get it” they understand how important it is and why it takes so long to implement.

  6. Love it.
    For me,I have seen a lot of questions evaporate as soon as I started incorporating screenshots and a thorough key for every recommendation on the page. Outline exactly where visually and what with words.

  7. You have a scathing wit. Combine that good advice and it’s a winner blog. I tweeted it.

Comments are closed.