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SEO Agreements

Search Engine Optimisation Agreements.

January 17, 2010

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the broadest sense of the word, is an important topic for businesses to understand as it is how you enhance your online presence.

Understanding how to obtain the best results from your SEO consultant involves using an effective contract that is written in language readily understandable by both parties.

Looking around on the web, I came across a number of comments and misconceptions about SEO contracts. Many people seem to think an SEO contract is optional, and that unless you sign a piece of paper you do not have a contract.

Basic contract explanation

So it is important to appreciate that when you ask someone to perform a service for you, such as to do keyword research or to optimise your website, a contract comes into existence as soon as an offer is made for an estimated or set price which is clearly accepted.

For example, if you are engaging a web designer, it is enough that the designer knows broadly what you want. For example, this might be based on your having said you want a really nice looking website, and picked a few sites you liked the look of, received a quote, which you clearly accepted. None of that needs to be in writing. You will be bound in contract whether you realise it or not. If one party denies that a contract was formed the law has ways and means of establishing the truth, by looking at certain background facts to work out which of the two parties to believe.

A contract is formed much sooner than is appreciated

Provided it is clear who the parties to the contract are, what the contract relates to, and how much will be paid, then a contract exists as soon as an offer is deemed accepted in the eyes of the law. No formality is needed.

Therefore, you may carry on your discussions thinking you are still negotiating terms when in fact it will be too late to make your further requirements form part of the agreement. Once the contract has already been formed you may discuss details, but that is different from adding new stipulations, such as strict time limits for performance.

Changing your mind

Say it is agreed that the other party will build a website in return for an agreed fee of £5,000, but many of the details (such as whether it should come already optimised for the search engines) have not yet been discussed. If your agreement was based on your having a beautiful static site designed for you, and then later you changed your mind and decided that actually what you wanted was a well optimised site on a content management platform, if the designer could not deliver your changed requirement, and you wanted to engage someone else, you would be in breach of contract. If the designer wanted to, they could ask you to pay damages for cancelling the contract.

Now the fact that in practice most disputes are resolved between the parties because people tend to be reasonable and manage to sort out their disputes without the need to involve lawyers or the courts is no reason to assume that contracts should therefore be ignored. Similarly, the fact that the discussions were oral and nothing was committed to paper does not mean you cannot be challenged about breaking your promises. It would just be rather more messy, and expensive to sort out disputes based on a purely oral contract.

Importance of contracts

Contracts serve many useful functions. Often with search engine optimisation, buyers have a rose tinted view of what they will receive when they engage an SEO consultant. The SEO may want the work, so has less incentive to enlighten the buyer about the reality of what can be achieved within their budget. It is not for no reason that the law cautions ‘Buyer Beware’. It really is more important for buyers to look out for themselves and check that what they are buying is what they think they will get.

But because buyers of SEO or other internet related services often lack the necessary understanding of the service, it is difficult for them to take control.

That is why we have developed our Contract in Context System for helping buyers, lawyers and SEOs to get the know how they need about SEO and also about contracts.  By implementing an SEO strategy for their business, and using a suggested contract template when engaging SEO consultants, small business owners can take control and put in place an effective, plain English, short contract to ensure a successful outcome.  SEOs will learn a lot from the System, even though they already have the SEO know how that is included as part of the System.

Find out more by registering for our free teleseminar “Top Tips to Take Control of your Internet Marketing” on 26 Jan (even if you can’t attend, by registering we will send you details of it).