More than 80% of shoppers do their research online before deciding which business to work with. As a business owner, you know you need to take advantage of search engine marketing (SEM) for lead generation so that potential clients can discover your business. A solid SEM strategy can help clients find you and can set you apart from your competitors. However, this type of marketing is complex and requires specialized knowledge. Rather than wasting hours learning and tweaking your own SEM strategy, it’s a wise business decision to outsource this important task to industry experts. This is where Search Engine Marketing Agreements become a necessity.
Like other business agreements, a written SEM contract is important for protecting your legal rights while reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings that lead to nonperformance and breach of contract. Here are four things you should know about SEM agreements before you start negotiating with a SEM agency.
1. Don’t assume free online templates will work for you
Internet Business Lawyer Mike Young has worked with numerous online businesses over the past 25 years and seen countless contract mistakes. One of the biggest and most common mistakes business owners make is using a free contract template found online. Because many free templates are not written by an experienced Internet attorney,they fail to address important topics that leave your business at risk. Even worse, none of the free templates you find online are written in your favor, based on your specific needs.
2. Don’t borrow someone else’s agreement
Another common mistake is to copy and paste someone else’s search engine marketing agreement you’ve found online. If you have not been given explicit permission to copy someone else’s contract, you may be committing intellectual property theft. Also, while contracts may look similar to the untrained eye, all contracts vary according to a party’s specific needs. Every contract is (and should be) unique. When you use someone else’s agreement, you’re using a contract that made sense for them, but that does not mean the contract will work for you or your business. The description of services, payment terms, intellectual property ownership, and warranties will vary in virtually every contract. Simply copying and pasting someone else’s agreement will not ensure that your business is protected from risks or that your expectations will be met.
3. Don’t forget the basics
There are some basic provisions you will want to include in every search engine marketing contract. You want to make sure you identify both parties to the agreement plus their contact information. You want to define the term (length) of the contract and whether any renewals will occur automatically. The services being provided should be described in detail along with the payment terms. You will also want a contract that clearly outlines how and when the agreement can be terminated for non-performance or other disputes.
4. Protect yourself from special risks
Marketing content and strategy are both considered intellectual property. It is important to address who owns the intellectual property created as a result of your search engine marketing agreement. The agency you choose to work with will likely want to maintain some form of ownership over their work product, but you may want to ensure you have a right to re-use certain marketing phrases if you decide to switch to another SEM provider. You’ll also want to ask if your SEM agency will be using any subcontractors or relying on any third-party services and discuss what will happen if their subcontractor or third parties make a mistake. Their answers to these questions should be committed to writing in your SEM contract to protect you in the event a dispute arises.
Likewise, you will want to include a dispute resolution clause that details how you will handle any disagreements (will you arbitrate or mediate before going to court?) and where you will handle any disputes and what laws will apply (preferably the laws of your state). Also, address warranties if your SEM agency plans on guaranteeing any results (be wary of guarantees if the agency does not want to confirm their promises in writing).
Lastly, determine who will be liable for the work product, especially in the case of intellectual property theft or infringement-you definitely don’t want to be held liable if your SEM provider uses someone else’s intellectual property.
As you can see, your SEM contract should be unique and tailored to your specific needs. While there are a number of clauses all SEM agreements should include, the terms of those clauses will vary according to your needs and expectations.
Do You Need Help With Search Engine Marketing Agreements?
An experienced business contracts lawyer can prepare a customized SEM contract template for you to use on one or more SEM projects. You can get an SEM agreement prepared by Attorney Young for a flat fee as part of our firm’s Business Contract Legal Protection Package.