Most SEO companies require some form of minimum commitment to manage your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) campaign. Since SEO is an in-depth product, SEO contracts make sense, however there are some things you must avoid.
Often used by SEO agencies that have no idea how to perform a proper SEO campaign, these SEO companies will tie business owners to them through lengthy contracts with outrageous clauses.
Once these SEO providers have signed you up, the client service pretty much stops there. You’re tied into a disastrously damaging SEO services contract that feels impossible to escape, and the SEO company has guaranteed revenue for a long period of time.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Here are some of the things to look for if you would like to avoid ending up in this situation. If a potential SEO company has any of these contract clauses or contract inclusions, you need to stay clear of them at all costs.
SEO Contracts Beyond 12 Months
If your SEO agency is trying to make you sign a contract beyond 12 months, this is an immediate red flag. While it is common for SEO agencies to require a 12 month commitment from clients, anything beyond this (24, 36 months etc) is unacceptable.
The SEO contract might state a 12 month period, but read the fine print. Some of these SEO contracts include rollover clauses, meaning that if you don’t cancel your SEO contract prior to the 12 month period, the contract will be subject to auto renewal for another 12 month period.
As stated above, the chances are, your SEO agency will require a minimum SEO contract term to manage your SEO campaign, however the devil will be in the detail.
Finite contracts are the best SEO agreement for most businesses, since they work to achieve your business goals within a set period of time.
Contracts Without SEO Performance Agreements
It has become standard in the SEO field to not include performance agreements or any sort of guarantee to the client.
We tentatively understand the reasoning behind this; no one can control the Google algorithm. The thing is, if the SEO agency is worth their salt, they’ll know what it takes to rank and this will typically just be more hours dedicated to your account each month.
Since some SEO agencies have no idea how to rank a website, they’ll simply tell you that there were no guarantees in your contract. Other agencies will tell you that they “don’t control Google”.
While these SEO agencies certainly can’t control Google, they can control the level of work that goes into your SEO strategy on a monthly basis.
Typically speaking, if your SEO campaign isn’t returning results the agency either has no idea what they’re doing or they simply aren’t dedicating enough resources to your SEO strategy on a monthly basis.
Our tip here is to look for an agency who can offer you a performance agreement or some type of SEO guarantee. It is imperative for small business owners to receive an ROI on their digital marketing spend and SEO should be no different.
Termination Clauses Requiring Full Payment
As we outlined above, some SEO contracts involve rollover clauses. This means that once you’ve rolled over into the next year, you’re committed to the SEO agency for another 12 months (or longer period).
So what happens if you’d like to cancel the SEO contract completely? These agencies usually have lengthy clauses that mean your company is liable to payout the entire SEO contract figure.
Some small businesses find themselves in positions where they owe an agency many thousands of dollars for contract cancellation. Worse yet, if these fees go unpaid, we have heard horror stories of SEO companies engaging the services of debt collectors.
You need to be aware of all termination requirements before signing on the dotted line. Every contract should outline a clear end date.
Unreasonable Payment Terms
SEO campaigns should never require a payment of 3 months upfront. SEO contracts with these types of payment terms should be a major red flag for all businesses.
In a scenario like this, a SEO provider may ask you to pay for 3 months upfront to “get the ball rolling”. Sometimes these unreasonable payment terms are scarier than termination clauses and rollover clauses.
The reason behind this is that the SEO provider requiring a 3 month payment upfront may be looking to take your money and run. They likely know that they can’t deliver you SEO results or keep you happy; so they’ll take their 3 month payment and never conduct any SEO work on your website at all.
Word of warning: steer clear of agencies asking for unreasonable payment terms within your SEO agreement.
Onboarding Fees & Set-Up Costs
Much like unreasonable payment terms, some agencies will require onboarding fees and set-up costs as part of your SEO agreement.
Since most businesses don’t understand what goes into SEO campaigns, they’ll often agree to these upfront costs. The thing is, your monthly SEO payment should already cover these onboarding fees over the contract term (i.e. 12 months).
When a SEO agency onboards a new client, they may incur a slight financial loss in terms of setting the campaign up and building out digital assets. While this is common (and expected), these set-up costs are usually broken down over the 12 month period.
Any SEO consultant or company requesting that you pay onboard fees or set-up costs should be avoided. These upfront costs and advance payment of fees make the entire SEO contract more expensive and are a scammy tactic.
Exorbitant Monthly SEO Fees
There’s no denying that SEO includes a number of different cost factors, however your fees shouldn’t be too expensive. If you are engaging a company for SEO services, it is imperative to figure out your return on investment.
An SEO provider that is out to make as much money as possible (and deliver no results), will try to sign you up to an expensive SEO contract in the thousands of dollars per month.
For SEO to make sense for your business, you need to ensure you aren’t paying above the market rate for SEO within your contract’s terms. It is always best to obtain quotes from a number of different SEO service providers before making a decision on who to go with.
Some SEO professionals may even include fee increases in the small print of your SEO contract, so make sure to read every last detail of your SEO contract. In most cases, a SEO contract should never include a written SEO fee increase during the contract period.
Revenue Share SEO Clauses
You might notice a revenue share clause in your SEO service contract. Unless mutually agreed prior, a blended rate of revenue and SEO payment should never be considered by a small business owner.
We always recommend going with a SEO company that offers a flat rate for SEO services. For a growing business, signing a contract where you have to share the revenue the SEO company is adding to your business can be disastrous to your bottom line and cash flow.
Before hiring a SEO company, or signing an SEO contract, make sure it doesn’t include a revenue share clause.
Off-Site Asset & Content Ownership Waivers
When it comes to a well structured SEO package or SEO services, off-site asset creation and content creation will play a major role in your websites ranking within search engines.
Most SEO agencies will perform link building as part of your SEO campaign. The link building efforts form a large part of your overall monthly marketing budget and it must be clear what happens to these assets within the termination clause.
This also rings true for any content writing, content production or content sharing completed by your SEO account manager as part of your businesses SEO efforts.
You need to ensure that your business maintains ownership of the content and off-page SEO assets that are built within the terms of your digital marketing contract.
In the event that your business wishes to cease SEO services, the loss of these assets can make a huge difference to your website traffic.
When signing a contract with your SEO agency, make sure you are on the same page about asset ownership.
No Mutually Agreed Keywords
Before you sign a contract, make sure there is a mutual agreement on keywords (and keyword research). SEO can take time, but you should be aware of what your business is working towards.
When you engage a SEO company, they should perform an SEO analysis and website audit across your entire site. A competitive analysis report should be provided to you so that you can form your search engine and business goals from the outset.
From here, as part of your on-page SEO strategy, your SEO consultant should review the best keywords for your business to rank for. Without the proper keyword research completed – prior to contract signing – how do you know what your agency is working on each month?
Some agencies may hide behind no mutually agreed keywords to deliver minimal SEO results. It is important to ensure the keywords are included in a SEO report each month so you can monitor how your campaign and website traffic is progressing.
If you are signing a contract with a SEO consultant or company, you want to be sure they are targeting keywords that drive website traffic.
Lengthy Notice Periods
When reviewing the legal details of your contact, you need to be aware of not only auto renew clauses, but also notice periods.
It should be made clear in your contract exactly how much notice you need to provide them with to cancel the contract.
If you are under the impression you have canceled the contract, and therefore stop payments, you may be liable for late payment, with late payments accruing fees.
SEO Services By Australian Web Experts
Hopefully we’ve been able to shine some light on what to avoid before you sign your next SEO contract.
There are such a large number of red flags that can be avoided by getting the right advice and choosing the right SEO provider. Rather than turning to legal remedies when things go wrong; it’s best to work with a trusted company from the beginning.
As always, ensure you do your research before signing any form of contract for your business.