Before we discuss SEO agreements, understand that search engine optimization is essential to online marketing. And, as a business website owner, you can’t avoid it.
- You want your website to be the first thing your clients see in a Web search.
- You want your content at the forefront of your client’s minds so that they keep coming back.
- But, if you’re not an SEO expert (or you simply don’t have the time to optimize your content), you will probably need to work with an SEO professional.
To get the best possible contract (and possibly develop a continuing relationship) with your SEO professional, it helps to know what to include in SEO agreements.
What makes a solid SEO Agreement?
All good SEO agreements start with an honest Q & A session. Know which questions to ask the online marketing professional about their services. Then, make sure you commit your terms to writing.
Ideally, you will be able to structure your contract to lead to a positive, continuing relationship-because SEO isn’t a “one and done” task that you can check off your marketing list after one project. After all, SEO is a way to keep your ideal clients coming in, and this is something you will want to continue (and improve upon) to help your business grow.
1. Key Questions to Ask Your SEO Professional
Before you jump right into a contract, you’ll want to make sure you work with an SEO professional that gets your business and has the bandwidth to meet your needs. Understand that Search Engine Optimization is a marketing strategy, so don’t hesitate to ask your professionals what their process is and exactly how they are going to help optimize your content.
Ask to see proof of past results and examples of their work, to see if you can take their claims seriously. Ask about the tools they use and how they will show you proof of the work they perform (however be wary of “guarantees that you will be the #1 result on Google”). Be very clear that you are looking for someone that complies with Google’s best practices and isn’t just a “spammer.” Spammers abound in the SEO world, and they’ll gladly send tons of spam contact emails or bogus leads to your site (that do NOT result in a single dollar in sales).
Tons of website traffic isn’t helpful if you are not reaching potential clients and seeing a positive return on your investment.
2. Issues to Address in Your SEO Agreement
a. Scope of Work, Deadlines & Term
Clarify deliverables and when you expect the deliverables to be completed or reported (the milestones). Also determine whether this project will be ongoing (for how long?) and if the contract will automatically renew. Or if you will need to take some action to renew the agreement.
b. Payment Structure
Payment structures vary among SEO agreements, but typically there are set monthly fees. Be careful to look for pay increase clauses and try to negotiate a cap on the amount your fees can increase.
c. How You Will Handle Change Orders
Changes are possible (and even likely) in all business contracts, including SEO agreements. Enable flexibility by including a procedure for handling change orders in your contract. Perhaps you will want to increase services down the road when you start seeing positive results…you will want to have a way to change the scope of deliverables without renegotiating a new contract every time.
d. Cancellation & Default
One of the worst mistakes you can make with contracting with an outside professional is forgetting to discuss how you will handle cancellations or breach of contract issues. This procedure is best determined when the relationship is in good standing…before problems arise.
e. IP Ownership
As always, consider who will own the work product. SEO professionals will generate strategies, reporting accounts, ads, and content, so be sure to discuss whether you own the work product or your SEO professional. If you want to prevent the SEO provider from using any of your content for other clients, clearly state this within your contract.
3. Set Yourself Up for Success: Create a Continuing Relationship with Your SEO Professional
Search engine optimization is merely one part of your marketing strategy, but in today’s internet-driven market: it’s an essential part of business marketing. Most clients search, discover, and choose whom they will work with online.
To keep bringing in clients, you will want to continue enhancing your SEO-which likely means continuing your relationship with the SEO professional of your choice. After you’ve asked the right questions, entered a solid agreement, you’ll want to continue track your SEO progress and results to make sure everything is working as planned.
At least monthly you will want to discuss SEO metrics, specifically: your search rankings, search traffic, conversions, and a summary of all SEO activities your SEO professional has completed. Track these metrics against your other marketing activities in order to keep an eye on your ROI. You may even discover that you can shift money toward higher-ROI activities, saving you money and bringing in more clientele.
Negotiating and drafting business agreements that protect your best interest are crucial to your business’s success. Getting informed is the first step, but ensuring you’re covering all the bases (repeatedly) can become exhausting really fast. An experienced business and technology lawyer can help set you on the right path and keep you there.