The Search Light Newsletter
The Search Light Newsletter
  Guiding your site to the top of the search engines... | 22 November 2005 - Vol 5 Issue #9  

In this issue...

All About SEO Contracts

FAQ1: Why can't we get good results in Google?

FAQ2: Would AdWords be profitable for me?

FAQ 3: Why doesn't Google show us for our target search phrase?



All About SEO Contracts

 
By Jill Whalen
 
The other day someone asked me what sort of information should be in a search engine optimization (SEO) contract. As I was writing my response, it occurred to me that there were probably a lot of small businesses and consultants who were wondering the same thing. Unfortunately, many people don't even use a contract, or worse, they may end up blindly signing a contract provided by the client.
 
Ten years ago when I was just starting my own business, I didn't have a contract. Being married to an attorney, that didn't last long once he found out! Sometimes I would allow the client to provide me with their standard contract, but that wasn't very smart because then I (or my husband) had to carefully read each one to make sure it was fair and accurate. If you're in a position where you must sign a client's contract rather than your own, it's probably worth a trip to your attorney's office to make sure you're not indemnifying your life away. Even if money is tight, sometimes you just really need an attorney because many corporate contracts are extremely one-sided. If anything goes wrong later, you could be up the contract creek without a paddle.
 
I've even turned down clients who wanted me to sign their contract when they were obviously one-sided or too complicated for me to understand. It's often just not worth the time and expense of having an attorney read and edit them for very small jobs. You'll want to determine your own potential return on investment if you're faced with this situation. If the contract sounds really scary or you're just not sure, do NOT sign it. Also, don't be afraid to cross out stuff in the contract that you know is unfair. Attorneys do this all the time and it is usually not a problem if you have a good reason for making the changes. One thing I've learned to look for and cross out is any wording that has me indemnifying the client in any way, shape, or form. For me, that's generally a deal-breaker.
 
These days I have a fairly standard contract that I've been using for years, which I adjust for each client. If something goes wrong with a job and the contract comes back to haunt me, I make changes to future contracts. (Ever notice how we learn much more from our mistakes than our successes?)
 
I'm not an attorney, and am only going by my own experiences here, so be sure to have a lawyer check your contract before you start using it for any clients. That said, here are some things I am using in my SEO contracts:

1. Names, addresses and phone numbers of all parties in the contract, i.e., your company and the company you'll be doing work for.
 
2. A statement of the work you are agreeing to do for the client. For example something like this would be a good start:
 
"Consultant agrees to provide search engine optimization services for Client's website."
 
You'll want to expand that out to be more specific by adding things like the number of pages you have agreed to optimize, or which sections of the site, or whatever else makes sense for the way you work. Look through your previous emails and your proposal and think back to your verbal agreements with the client. The clearer you are in this section, the less chance for misunderstandings somewhere down the line. If you agreed to work a certain number of hours a month as per your proposal, be sure to put it in the contract. You don't want to be thinking 30 hours a month in your head, and have them be thinking 500 hours a month.
 
Sometimes instead of detailing all that we promise to do, I'll simply say that the work is to be completed as "outlined in the work section of the proposal dated ___." I don't know if that's a legal way of doing it, but it does save me time and most clients don't mind.
 
3. The terms of the agreement. This would consist of the amount of money that the client agrees to pay you as well as when payments are due and how they will be invoiced and collected. If there is a specified time period for the work, this should also be stated.
 
4. Responsibilities of the parties. In this section, I put in a pledge about not doing anything that the search engines would consider to be deceptive, and also mention that I will do the best that I can with the knowledge I have, to provide them with increased search engine traffic. I qualify that by stating that the client understands that the search engines are not under my control, but that they can generally start seeing some results within a certain timeframe.
 
It's also important to put the responsibilities of the client in here. Stuff about how they will need to respond to requests and provide the information that is necessary in a timely manner. I also include some language that states that my responsibilities are basically null and void if they later take down or change the optimized work that they previously signed off on.
 
5. Non-disclosure and confidentiality statement. I have a mutual non-disclosure agreement that I stick into all my contracts. It is fairly wordy, but it basically states that I won't tell any of my client's proprietary secrets and they won't tell any of mine.
 
6. A bunch of other legalese. There's a lot of standard contract stuff that I also include, such as "severability" and "limitations of liability" and that sort of thing. You can probably find some standard contracts online that have all the legal mumbo jumbo you need. But again, be sure to run your final version by your attorney before using it for any clients.
 
Most of the time you won't have any problems and won't need to point to your contract with your clients (or vice-versa), but there certainly may be times when it's necessary. At these times you'll be glad that you spent the time to do it right, even if it costs you a bit up front to hire an attorney.

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<> Copyright 2005 by Jill Whalen of High Rankings. Jill is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, site analysis reports, SEM seminars and is the co-founder of the new search marketing and website design company, Search Creative, LLC. <> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 
Professional Contract and Proposal Templates
 
As Jill explained in her article above, if you run a business selling services to other businesses, regardless of whether it's SEO, web design, copywriting or something else, you need to have a professional, water-tight contract. But sometimes you get so caught up in the day-to-day process of actually running the business that you don't spend enough time fine-tuning your contract. Perhaps, heaven forbid, you don't even have one!
 
What about your sales proposal? Do you find yourself losing business to your competitors? Do you wonder what was included in their proposal that made their offer more appealing to your potential client? Are you unsure whether your business is projecting a professional image? Do you want to win more bids, close more sales, save time and ultimately make more money from the jobs you take?
 
If so, Proposal Kit is fast going to become your favorite business tool.
 

Sample Proposal Pack Template Style
 
Proposal Kit is template software that automates the chore of putting together a complex business proposal and services contract. Templates are particularly suited to online businesses and include documents for the initial sales pitch, the planning stage, estimating, contracting, project timelines, non-disclosure, legal issues and invoicing.
 
For SEOs reading this, the latest version even includes a Search Engine Optimization Services Contract ready for fleshing out with your own pricing and contact details! The templates come in a range of styles and colors, ready-made to match your company colors and logos. Better still, the software is easy to use, allowing you to add, remove and tweak individual documents within your master proposal at the click of a mouse.
 
Check out Proposal Kit for yourself and if you like what you see, be sure to take advantage of our discount offer below, exclusive to Search Light subscribers.




Exclusive Discount Offer from Proposal Kit
 
As a valued subscriber of The Search Light, we are pleased to provide you with an exclusive discount coupon code for redemption towards the proposal templates of your choice from Proposal Kit.
 
The coupon code WEBRANK will give you a 10% discount on your next purchase at Proposal Kit. Make sure you enter coupon code in the refer/upgrade field to claim your discount. So what are you waiting for? Go choose your templates and start closing more sales today!

   Greetings Readers!

Here's an analogy for you. The other day, I was working my butt off in the gym on the cardio machines, panting wildly with sweat dripping off me and my face as red as a beet. Not the most attractive sight, but I figure, you're at the gym to work out right? Might as well go hard or go home.
 
Well as I looked around me, I could see all these people simply going through the motions. There they were, minus perspiration in their shiny new lycra and expensive gym shoes casually walking on the treadmill or lazily turning the wheels on a bike while reading a book or glued to the TV screens in front of them. Only a few seemed to be there for the actual purpose of working out. The rest seemed to be there to check out the talent or to simply keep up the appearance of fitness, while doing the bare minimum.
 
Huh? I don't get it. Why have these gym bimbos paid so much money for a gym membership and all the related gear if they aren't going to take full advantage of their investment?
 
Then it struck me - these gymbos were just like those companies who spend thousands of dollars on a shiny new website with all the bells and whistles like e-commerce software, blogs, shopping carts, web analytics, the lot and then fail to take advantage of it. I see it so often, regardless of company size. Web sites that could easily be bringing in loads of traffic and revenue simply wasting away because nobody can be bothered tracking visitor activity, checking for usability or analyzing trends.
 
These companies are simply keeping up appearances, investing heavily in Internet technology because their competitors are doing the same. But no thought has gone into the search engine compatibility of the site, how usable it is for visitors or whether it meets accessibility guidelines. They don't look at their site statistics, they don't check for broken links and they sure as heck don't investigate why their sites aren't converting traffic into customers. What a waste!
 
Is your site working hard for you? If not, it might be time to book your site a fitness assesment.
 
Enough from me. This month's feature article is from SEO's own First Lady, Jill Whalen. Jill talks about the importance of having a client contract and what it should include. Although the article discusses SEO contracts, Jill's sensible advice can be applied to any type of business contract.

Enjoy this issue and remember to visit the Search Engine Advice Column daily to check out my answers to frequently asked search engine questions or to submit one of your own.
 
Till next time - wishing you high rankings...

  • FAQ1: Why can't we get good results in Google?
  •    Dear Kalena...
     
    Our site is at [URL removed]. We have followed all the strategies to achieve good results but are only getting results in Yahoo, AOL, not Google.
     
    Please advise us. Thanks,
     
    Tony
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dear Tony
     
    If you do a domain search on Google, you'll see that Google has indexed 374 pages from your site.
     
    You use a lot of excess keyword repetition in your link anchor text and have repeated your key phrases ad nauseum on certain pages. Such keyword repetition could have triggered one of Google's anti spam filters and your site's ranking may be suffering as a result.
     
    Depending on when it was launched and/or optimized, it could also simply be in the Google Sandbox. See this post for more info.
     
    Kalena

  • FAQ2: Would AdWords be profitable for me?
  •    Dear Kalena...
     
    I am opening a web site that would work on a very low profit margin per sale and I'm not sure that Adwords is the right choice of marketing for me because to my understanding, Adwords contribute the most to larger organizations with larger profit margins, so am I wrong with my understanding of the situation? Can Adwords be a profitable revenue source for me?
     
    Karina32
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dear Karina
     
    Without knowing your industry or target market, it is a little difficult to make a snap judgement here. However in my experience, AdWords can be beneficial to ANY site on ANY budget, as long as you conduct good thorough keyword research into your market, set up your campaign strategically (individual ads and AdGroups for each keyword theme) and maintain a high ROI by making sensible bids on keywords closely targeted to your products and services.
     
    Because whatever you sell has a low profit margin, ensure your keyword bids allow you enough room to make a profit per sale. You can do this by using Google's internal conversion tracking code on your order pages and keeping a close eye on the cost per customer acquisition figure in the conversion column.
     
    Best of luck!
     
    Kalena

  • FAQ 3: Why doesn't Google show us for our target search phrase?
  •    Dear Kalena...
     
    I think we have a really nice site at Bella Regalo, customers tell us as well. We are getting killed by our competition on Google for our main term of wedding favors! We were recently dropped from # 51 to well, I still haven't found us! We are also not showing up for individual categories and products where we at least ranked reasonable well before.
     
    My webmaster keeps referring me to people who charge a few hundred dollars and send us a list of things to do. We do said list and receive nothing in return. I feel there is a major flaw that we are missing somewhere. Can you see it? Thanks a million!
     
    Lisa
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dear Lisa
     
    I've had a look at your site and I think it has a classic case of Sandboxitis. I know it seems this is my favorite diagnosis when people ask me to look at problems with their sites, but it truly is the most common ailment.
     
    Have a look at this post for reasons why your site fits the bill. It has very similar symptoms to the site mentioned, apart from the link network. Your site also fits the classic case of over-optimization for your key phrase.
     
    This post should help you understand how/why the Google Sandbox filter is applied and give you some ideas about how to de-optimize your site to some extent in order to reduce the likelihood of tripping spam filters and attracting penalties.
     
    If you are caught in the filter as I suspect, you'll need patience as sites can take up to 9 months to be released. You should spend your Sandbox lockdown time improving your site and pursuing high quality inbound links.
     
    Kalena


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