Several years ago I wrote a couple of posts about the billable rights of SEOs and their clients. I revisited these posts recently and thought it was time for an upgrade. Consider this version 2.0!

There can often be confusion between clients and their marketing team as to expectations, due dates, goal measures and even invoicing. While many of these things can be, should be and are handled in the service contract, not everyone reads the fine print.

So here are some basic guidelines to help SEOs and their clients realize what they have a right to in their SEO campaign.

The SEO client has a right to...

Expect the SEO to fulfill the contract in full.

If you don't have time to invest in fulfilling the expectations as laid out in the contract, give the client a refund for all uncompleted work. If you have failed to deliver any results as expected, a full and complete refund is warranted. Only charge the client for work completed and results accomplished.

Not have a site hijacked, mutilated or destroyed by the SEO.

The client has a right to expect work of the highest quality. The SEO must not do anything that disrupts the usability or sales process of the site or creates a poor customer experience in order to achieve search engine rankings. Rankings are not the goal, but customer satisfaction is!

Accept or reject certain recommendations that may affect their website.

While the implementation of the SEO's recommendations are critical to the success of the campaign, the SEO should work with the client to ensure all recommendations fit with the client's goals and programming abilities. When recommendations cannot be fulfilled, the SEO and the client should work together to find common ground that gives both what they need.

Know the on- and off-site strategies being employed.

There are no such thing as "proprietary strategies!" The client is paying for a service and therefore has a right to be fully informed of any and all strategies being implemented. The client should also be appraised on how those strategies will affect their website and the website's performance in the search results.

Not have their site penalized or lose value for violating search engine guidelines.

Any strategies employed by the SEO should not, in any way, knowingly or potentially bring harm to the client's website or their performance in the search engine rankings. Any questionable strategies should be discussed and approved with the client first.

Question results and value of the work being performed.

If the client does not understand a recommendation, they have a right to ask "why?" If the client is not seeing the expected results, they have a right to ask "why not?"

Expect optimization work performed to increase sales and profits.

SEO must provide more than traffic or ranking data to "prove" the value of their worth. The client should see the ROI from their SEO investment through an increase in sales and conversion rates.

Have regularly scheduled performance updates.

Whether in person, via the web or over the phone, the client has a right to regular performance updates on their campaign. It is the SEO's duty to inform the client of progress being made, issues complicating results and areas where opportunity may arise for further growth of their results.

Maintain ownership of all work performed by the SEO.

Unless the client is on a pay-per-click contract, the work they pay the SEO for belongs to them. The SEO cannot provide any type of switching, changing or removal of optimized content once the contract expires. All work performed belongs to the client paying for the work.

Buy out of the SEO contract at any time.

If the client has lost faith in the SEO and the work being performed, they have a right to get out of the contract. The contract should contain stipulations for such contingencies and allow the client to get out when needed.

I'll cover the SEO's Bill of Rights in my next post. In case you're interested, you can read the historical documents from which this came.

Follow at @StoneyD, and @PolePositionMkg.

August 24, 2011

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


In regards to number 2, I would caution site owners to be very aware of who has their login information. I read a post a few months ago about a doctor's site that was hijacked by the web designer because the doctor had neglected to pay for the web designer's services! Your passwords are they keys to your online kingdom and you don't want the wrong person getting in. A good, white hat SEO firm would never do that to a client, but a black hat firm might if the relationship turned sour.

Nick, I'm not sure I understand. If someone doesn't pay for the web design, doesn't the designer have a right to take back their labor. Doesn't sound any different from a bank repossessing a car. I agree that passwords should be treasured, but this doesn't seem to be a case of the developers doing anything wrong, unless I'm missing something.

@Stoney I guess Nick is talking about something more as a webdesigners right while you are talking more as an SEO services duty...

Two totally different things but right in their own way?

I like this post... But the agreement should have a few requirements from the client though.
Provide access to analytics programs.
Not to employ other companies at the same time unless approved.
Not to employ Seo work on their own without consultation.

I could probably come up with some more :)

Re: "The client should see the ROI from their SEO investment through an increase in sales and conversion rates."

More often than not the client doesn't want this. They are just fixated on rankings and possibly traffic. Regardless we always report the ROI so at any point in the campaign we can show our worth.

Reportng ROI is useful for the SEO as well... especially when the client measures the success of a campaign based on the rank of one high traffic, high competition, low conversion, low ROI, vanity, glory hunting, waste of time b#llsh#t keyword :o)

I total agree the rights of the client. If the site is being ranked on the top of the search list, but the client's services and products are poor, customers would start posting bad comments about this site or this company in some other blogs, it will surely reduce the sales. If the client doesn't understand, the client might think the SEO is not doing anything good to them. I think the client also need to take some responsible if they do not get any sales increased on their site.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > An SEO Client's Bill of Rights