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
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
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
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
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.
<> 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
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
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.
particularly suited to online businesses and
include documents for the initial sales pitch,
the planning stage, estimating, contracting,
project timelines, non-disclosure, legal issues
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
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tweak individual documents within your master
proposal at the click of a mouse.
out Proposal Kit for yourself and if
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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
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
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?|
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,
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
could also simply be in the Google Sandbox. See
this post for more info.
|FAQ2: Would AdWords be profitable for me?|
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?
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!
|FAQ 3: Why doesn't Google show us for our target search phrase?|
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!
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.
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.