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The SEO industry has its fair share of detractors claiming a majority of SEO’s are everything from “snakeoil salesmen” to downright “slimy”. The best way to overcome this perception, use it to your advantage and position yourself as a reputable professional, all the while protecting the interests of both yourself and your customers is by implementing a Professional SEO Contract Services Agreement.

SEO professional Melanie Nathan doesn’t whine about the detractors - she takes positive action! In this article, Melanie delivers the goods and does the SEO industry a great service by presenting an actual template that you can use as a baseline for all of your SEO engagements.

Go grab yourself a free copy.

Thumbs up to you Melanie!
Comments19 Comments  

Comments

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from jeffquipp 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Nice one Melanie. This should really help those just starting out in the space.

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from annie7 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 2

A really useful piece of advice... Thumb the girl up!

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from guruofsales 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I read and liked it a lot, thanks for the info guys.

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from seanmag 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 3

This really is a useful document Melanie.  Thanks again.  I think it’s timely too.  Based on all of the thoughtful SEO replies on the Youmoz comments thread, it leads me to believe that perhaps that "95% slimy" number that someone recently casually threw around, may not be all that accurate.  I won’t mention his name, but it rhymes with "ScrewFunny". ;)  I wonder if he would be willing to amend his percentage???

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from janet1 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I’m a newbie to SEO and this is really helpful.  Thank you!

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from charlieanzman 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Much needed piece for the community!

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from crashingflwrgrl 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Wow! Thank you very much everyone! I am totally humbled by your compliments and extremely honored to be able to contribute to such an amazing community of professionals.

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from WayneSmallman 2279 Days ago #
Votes: 2

On the whole, this is a sound document.Point 4-1, 4-2 are of fundamental importance. Like almost any aspect of marketing, it’s a gamble, a test, a finger in the air — call it what you like, we’re making educated guesses. So no, you don’t get your money back. And yes, we are learing as we go along. But aren’t we all? Here’s the thing — SEO & SEM are complimentary, but they’re not interchangeable. They’re quite different in application, discipline, practice and purpose. I’m still surprised when I see people perpetuating this misunderstanding. It’s up there with the "alt tag", which doesn’t exist!

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from GottaMiller 2279 Days ago #
Votes: -2

I am absolutely dumbfounded that so many people would 1) Perform work without a contract, and 2) Consider running their business based upon a contract they downloaded from the Internet for free.If you don’t already have a standard contract for services (and why don’t you?), take that document to your lawyer as a point to start the discussion.  Then heave a huge sigh of relief when the lawyer points out something that violates a law peculiar to your jurisdiction that the Canadian author didn’t know about.  Or cleans up an ambiguity, such as the provision that you’ll work for free forever until they meet their traffic goals.

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from seanmag 2278 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@GottaMiller - Good to see you signed up to Sphinn, simply to make a rude and shady comment. I’m wondering - "What are your motives?"First - this is a "template" that can be used in creating the framework of a contract document. Second, while there is a disclaimer at the top of the document, it was reviewed by the in-house attorney at SEOmoz, who happens to practice in these United States. Third, the writer clearly put a great deal of effort into creating a framework and generously sharing it as a free contribution for the good of the community.There are many sole and new practitioners in the world of SEO and it’s always helpful to see what other are doing in building their businesses.I for one, would appreciate you taking your negativity elsewhere. Regardless, I suspect we won’t be seeing much from your account after this.

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from GottaMiller 2278 Days ago #
Votes: 0

So it’s negativity to point out that lay people shouldn’t try to practice law? The SEOmoz attorney was smart enough to put a big disclaimer on this. She even suggests that readers should consult an attorney. I doubt very heavily that she would advise anyone to use this in their business as is or without legal guidance. I guess she was being negative too?The real negativity is the legions of people saying "Wow, how great! I’m going to use this." And others that have popped up saying they don’t see the need to have a contract in the first place. I’m pretty sure the SEOmoz attorney wouldn’t recommend that course of action either. The sad part is that the people who are new to running a business are only going to learn this extremely difficult lesson after they get sued. Anyone advising them to write their own contract based upon something downloaded from the internet is giving them extremely bad advice. They might even be practicing law without a license. My suggestion was that people use that document as a starting place for a discussion with their own attorney. If anyone finds that suggestion rude and negative, just wait until you end up in court. You’ll find out what rude and negative are really like.

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from seanmag 2278 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@GottaMiller - Your tone, langauge and motives are suspect, simply because you choose to do nothing other than bash the Sphinn and SEOmoz communities and the author in a hostile and anonymous manner:"I am absolutely dumbfounded that so many people would 1) Perform work without a contract, and 2) Consider running their business based upon a contract they downloaded from the Internet for free.""...heave a huge sigh of relief when the lawyer points out something that violates a law peculiar to your jurisdiction that the Canadian author didn’t know about.  Or cleans up an ambiguity, such as the provision that you’ll work for free forever until they meet their traffic goals.First, can you tell me who among the Sphinn or SEOmoz communities has suggested they are looking to run their businesses on this document?  Are you simply discounting both of these communities as being filled with a bunch of uninformed people?  Are you suggesting that the 45 people that have Sphunn this article thus far, are wrong for showing their appreciation of the effort with a simple Sphinn, and that you are correct for bashing it and RESTATING the obvious need to consult an attorney in legal matters.  Does the term "No Sh%t Sherlock", ring a bell?Second, please tell me where within this document you find the verbiage you referenced "..you’ll work for free forever until they meet their traffic goals"This disrespectful approach is precisely why I lend zero credence to shady comments coming from anonymous new Sphinn users that have developed no reputation, authority or respect in the community.  I wouldn’t refer to what you’ve presented as either an argument or a dissenting opinion.  Third and most important, this article began with this disclaimer from the attorney:"Introduction by Sarah: I want to compliment Mel for creating a very useful post. Obviously, contracts and risk reduction are topics close to my heart. Because I want to keep Mel’s and SEOmoz’s exposure low, I am prefacing this post with the following disclaimer: THIS POST IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. If you have questions about a contract or its meaning, you should always consult a qualified attorney. Now that the disclaimer stuff is out of the way, please enjoy a very helpful and informative post. I hope this tremendously valuable sample form won’t be the last posted by our users." In other words - your comment in any case, even if you didn’t have an ulterior motive (which I highly doubt), has no redeeming value.As it stands, you’re nothing more than a sniping troll and unless you reveal just exactly who you are, I won’t waste another moment to dignify another one of your snide remarks.

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from GottaMiller 2278 Days ago #
Votes: -2

Wow, you really ought to try attacking the arguments instead of the person.  It leads to much more fruitful discourse.  You’ll notice that I’ve never resorted to profanity, but you have.   Which one of us is being disrespectful?  Or is "sniping troll" a term of endearment?I’m not suggesting anything about the people who Sphunn the article.  I do think it’s rather important that people realize that they shouldn’t just take a contract off the internet and start using it without talking to a lawyer.  You’re right that SEOmoz started off by saying "This is not legal advice."  But the commenters weren’t heading that warning.  And the fact that there is even a discussion around whether you should have a contract while providing services is downright frightful.First, can you tell me who among the Sphinn or SEOmoz communities has suggested they are looking to run their businesses on this document? Hmm, let’s see.  How about:"Actually, I’d love to say that I haven’t but unfortunately, I have - many times, and they inevitably end up being the ones with "scope creep".  My view is that a contract is something you really need to have in place that hopefully you only need refer to in the event of a dispute. That said, I do have a strong contract for my sales and marketing consulting business, but only a general one for SEO services.  So, this is really helpful.  Thanks again."To save people the time of looking over on the SEOmoz thread, that was your (Seanmag) comment.  Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what you said, but it sure looks to me like you have done work without a contract (many times) and plan to use this document in your business.  Let’s hope that you meant you were going to show this sample to your lawyer, but I suspect that since you were only using a general contract for your SEO business you never spoke to a lawyer about that one either.Then there was this comment from g1smd:  " Great post. That’s a good start for people to take away and then modify in their own little ways. "  Gee, no mention of talking to a lawyer about it. One would think from the plain language that they planned to make their own modifications.Then there was the thread by SEOColumbus that suggested that he might get rid of the document his attorney wrote and use this instead because simple is better.SlingshotSEO brags that he doesn’t use a contract to provide services.  Joseph Stein said: "I do use a contract similar to yours for the same reasons you mention and will probably move on to yours since it includes some points I forget to mention in mine. Also since it’s also a bit shorter :) "  Sure sounds like he was planning to use her contract in his business.  And he said "I forget to mention" instead of "my lawyer forgot to mention."In fact, out of the 50 comments on the SEOmoz article, not a single one expressed any reservations about using this contract in their business or mentioned that they should consult an attorney.  May that’s obvious to you, but it’s not obvious from the comments people were making.Second, please tell me where within this document you find the verbiage you referenced "..you’ll work for free forever until they meet their traffic goals"My reading (I am not a lawyer and you should consult a lawyer and not take advice from someone on the internet) of the last sentence of Section 4 Paragraph 4 is that the agreement could be interpreted to require the SEO consultant to continue services in perpetuity if they are unable to increase traffic to the site by the stated percentage.  There’s no buyout provision, no out for unforeseeable circumstances, etc.  A judge might very well order you to use your best efforts to provide the increase, even if it turns out to be impossible.  As a wise lawyer once told me, "America used its best efforts to put a man on the moon." You can’t just give the client back their money -- you could be ordered to perform.  That’s why you should consult a lawyer instead of downloading "contracts" on the internet written by a lay person.There are lots of holes in this contract.  For instance, if you develop software to enable some of the work you do during the contract, who owns it? How about liquidated damages?  I suspect if you took it to a competent lawyer they’d have lots of other comments.Frankly, I can’t see why you think I’m being rude and disrespectful.  I happen to disagree with the prevalant opinion that this is wonderful and everyone should use it, but since when is expressing a differing opinion rude? If I’ve convinced one person to take this contract to their lawyer instead of making their own modifications, I’ve saved someone a lot of potential misery.  If that’s being a "sniping troll", then I guess it is a term of endearment.  

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from SEOColumbus 2277 Days ago #
Votes: 0

What I posted on the SEOMoz site was that I admired the simplicity of her document.  Not sure how you took that as I or anyone else would run a business off of something downloaded for free from the internet.  I’m sure you were just trying to stir up some controvery or perhaps just be difficult, as you certainly don’t know me and you presumably weren’t implying that you do, or that you were trying to speak on my behalf.  It was just nice of Melanie to post something that others find valuable and maybe even make them re-evaluate aspects of their own business.  I also always enjoy reading worthwhile and informative posts like this article that Melanie posted and unlike yours.

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from GottaMiller 2277 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Sorry if I misinterpreted you SEOColumbus, but yours was one of a grocery list of people talking about how they don’t use contracts or would be moving to this one.  Given the tone of what was going on, we can be sure that at least one of the readers was planning on taking that contract as is and starting to use it.  Even Seanmag was under the impression that the SEOmoz attorney had vetted the agreement because one of his first criticisms of my comment was that it didn’t matter that the author was Canadian since the SEOmoz attorney was in the US.If you’ll look at my original comment that got Seanmag so stirred up, all I said was that I was dumbfounded that 1) People would do work without a contract, and 2) People would consider running their business on this.  I then suggested that people take that contract to a lawyer because I saw a potential problem in it.  I’m not sure why that required him to launch into a personal diatribe against me, but that’s where it is.I agree that it’s good to discuss these types of issues.  But there are a lot of people in this area that are starting their own businesses for the first time and relying upon what they learn on the internet to make business decisions.  A 25 year old starting a consultancy that hasn’t "Been there, done that" could easily be led astray.  Posting a sample contract and having the entire community fawn over it without anyone pointing out that you shouldn’t try to practice law as a lay person required some sort of response.  If that’s "trying to stir up controversy", then so be it.Personally, instead of posting lay person written agreements, I’d much rather see an outline of the issues that should be covered in a contract as the starting point.  That’s something that would be very useful to take to your lawyer as a starting point for the discussion.

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from seanmag 2277 Days ago #
Votes: 0

It’s not the premise of GottaNiller’s comment that I have a problem with.  It’s two elements coupled:First, new people don’t typically come into a community and make a first comment in that kind of rude fashion.Second, I sense that by the way GottaMiller has commented, he is already a very active part of this community and created a proxy simply to respond anonymously.  I have no respect for that.I much prefer if someone has something like that to say, he or she should do so under their existing account, and by all means, at least have a little bit of couth and respect in their approach.  This is what I would consider an inflammatory comment that had underlying motives.I’ll leave it at that.

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from GottaMiller 2277 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Sean, I’m glad to see that you no longer have a problem with the premise of my comment.  That’s quite a switch from your previous comments, so perhaps I’m making progress.This exchange perhaps illustrates what is wrong with social media and our society in general.  We’ve lost the art of argument.1) Using forceful language in support of a popular opinon is considered being a good citizen, but using forceful language to disagree with that opinion is rude, uncouth, and disrespectful.  Had I posted "Wow, I’m dumbfounded that anyone wouldn’t think this contract is the greatest thing since sliced bread" I doubt anyone would have cared about my forceful language.  Which words were rude? And what exactly is wrong with using forceful language when making an argument?2) Name calling is considered an argument.  Go back and read my posts.  I’m not the one who called someone a sniping troll, used profanity, or stopped making reasoned arguments.  It’s like when Michael Moore says something and conservatives say "Oh yeah, well Michael Moore is fat."  It’s not an argument.  But many people these days can only go about 2 levels deep into an argument before they resort to argumentum ad hominem.3) We give different weight to arguments depending upon who makes them.  It’s as if people have lost the ability to think and analyze for themselves.  They look at who says something in order to decide how they’re going to think.  There are some things where the source is important, such as for statements of fact.  I’ll believe a doctor over a lay person every time if we’re discussing a disease vector.  But for other questions, the arguments are far more important than the source. There aren’t any qualifications for questions of politics or philosophy other than to have a reasoning mind.  Somehow we’ve lost that.Finally, sorry to burst your bubble of conspiracy theories, but I’m not some famous person posting under an anonymous handle.  You haven’t heard of me, and I’ve never commented on Sphinn before.  I didn’t leave any identifying information on my profile because I didn’t want to explain to my boss Monday morning why I was wasting my time disagreeing with the popular opinion on Sphinn and SEOmoz.  So don’t apply any weight to my arguments because of who I am.  Just look at the arguments and think for yourself.

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from g1smd 2277 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Hmmm. Thanks for the quote of what I said. I do think this is a good start for people to take away and modify for their own purpose - everyone will have slightly different needs, and may even be in a different country and therefore subject to different laws anyway, so use this only as a starting point. And, the people doing that modification would naturally include someone who could issue legal advice. I thought that would be too obvious to need stating.

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from seanmag 2276 Days ago #
Votes: 0

GottaMiller said -"Sean, I’m glad to see that you no longer have a problem with the premise of my comment.  That’s quite a switch from your previous comments, so perhaps I’m making progress."No, you’ve made no progress in terms of my initial feelings that you’re a rude troll.  I took the premise of your comment to be that anyone would be well served to consult their attorney on any contract document.  That, I agreed with entirely.That point had already been made in the disclaimer of the article, so you were only repeating - albeit in a rude manner, something that had already been eloquently stated by the SEOmoz attorney.As for your story about your boss - please.

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