6 Ways to Handle It When a Client Changes Your Copy

Talk about frustrating.

You thought what you wrote showcased your best work ever. You expertly followed your client’s content marketing strategy. You chose good keyphrases. And when you finished writing your SEO copywriting masterpiece, you could almost hear the harp music playing softly and feel the sunshine on your face. Your copy didn’t just sound good. It sung.

Then a week later, you see what the client actually uploaded. All of your tricky turn-of-phrases were gone. Your Title was changed from a compelling statement to a list of keyphrases. And your headline … you can’t even look at what they did to your headline. You aren’t just mad. You’re hurt. How could they destroy your copywriting baby like that?

Rule #1 of working with clients. They will change your writing, no matter how good you thought it was. Get over it.

The question is: How to handle it. Here’s what to do:

  1. Leave your ego at the door.

    Sure, it’s easy to get miffed when a client tweaks your SEO copywriting genius. But take a big step back before you send that nastygram. Did the changes mess with anything important (like the keyphrase usage.) Is the tone and feel consistent? Does the edited copy stick out like a sore thumb? If there’s no real damage to your conversion strategy, keyphrase strategy or Title, it’s probably not a big deal (except, of course, to you.)

  2. Check-in with the client.

    You need to understand what happened before you react. Often, it can be a good idea to phrase your initial email as a question. For instance, “I noticed that you changed the Title. Can you help me understand why?” That tends to sound better, than, say, “WTF did you DO?” Asking questions can uncover additional information you may not have known about – and helps you figure out how to proceed.

  3. Respond and educate.

    There could be a host of reasons why your work was changed, ranging from, “We thought it would be better this way,” to “Our SEO told us to change it.” Some of these reasons are more logical than others – and they all require thoughtful responses.

    If a client added a bunch of nonsense paragraphs because their SEO told them a page had to be “750 words for search engine positioning” (true story,) point out exactly how the new copy hinders conversions.

    If your Title was totally tweaked, help your client understand how Titles need to be keyphrase-rich, yes – but also compelling and clear. Within your response, consider including links to articles and blog posts that echo your sentiments. That way, the client sees that multiple experts feel the same way you do – and it adds credence to your position. Educating the client helps them make more informed decisions – and can often help them see the “SEO copywriting light.”

  4. Offer a compromise.

    Depending on the scope of work, it’s sometimes worthwhile to tweak the copy one more time, merging the client’s changes with your original text. Sometimes, a little copy-massaging can go a long way – and the client will (hopefully) see the difference between their edits and your shining final product. Or, if nothing else, you’ve made the page just a little bit better.

  5. Try testing.

    If a client is sold on their 1,000-word sales page – and you’re trying to slice it to 200 – see if the client is open to testing your version against theirs. An A/B split test will provide irrefutable data that will show your client what really works (rather than what they think will work.)

  6. Let it go.

    At the end of the day, your client is the “decider” – not you. If you’ve emailed your thoughts, backed them up with evidence and discussed the SEO ramifications – there’s really not much else you can do. Give it some time and see if you can revisit some options at a later date (like A/B testing, or tweaking the copy.) A few months of so-so results may help the client be more open to your expert advice – and you can finally start showing them what good SEO copywriting can do.

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Published: January 13, 2010

2 Responses to “6 Ways to Handle It When a Client Changes Your Copy”

  1. Thank you for this article! I thought it was only MY clients that made weird changes to copy. After all, why would a company pay a writer if they are going to change the copy without even consulting the writer? Like you said, though - it happens all the time. What a weird and wonderful business!


  2. Great article! Glad to know it's not just MY clients who get weird sometimes.


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