10 Things to Include in SEO Contracts (+ FREE Template)
SEO contracts can seem daunting and complicated.
But they don’t have to be.
In fact, sometimes keeping things simple can be the best solution for you and your clients.
Any agency or consultancy company will tell you that having a good client contract can save you a lot of headaches. They may seem like very complicated pieces of legal documents, but the truth is that they don’t have to be.
Your client contract is really just a basic outline of the agreement that you and your clients came to. It should document the work you will perform for them, and what they will pay you for those services.
Trying to come up with an SEO contract can be a bit more complicated to make. Most contracts will have clearly outlined expectations, tasks, and results. However, anyone worth their salt in the SEO world will tell you that everything frequently changes, including what tasks need to be performed.
If you want to know how you can come up with a clear and agreeable SEO agreement with your client, we wrote this guide to help.
What Is an SEO Contract?
An SEO contract, also known as an SEO agreement, is a legal document that you as an agency and your client sign. It lists all relevant information about who you are, what services you will perform, your deliverables, how they will pay you, etc.
Those are the basics, but it should also include other important details that fully outline the business relationship being agreed upon. While it doesn’t need to be extremely long and overly-comprehensive, it does need to cover all the necessary information.
Why do you need a contract?
The most important element of any type of relationship is having clear communication about expectations between each party. That’s one of the main reasons you need to have a contract, but there are others.
Here are some of the reasons why an SEO contract benefits your client:
- They get an easy to understand outline
- They can refer back to it for answers to basic questions before they call you
- It outlines your step-by-step SEO process
- It breaks down all fees
- It makes the Terms of Agreement short and simple
On the other side of the coin, there are also reasons why an SEO contract benefits you as an agency or consultant:
- You can re-use it for every new client as an SEO contract template, with small alterations as needed
- You can easily add your company information, logo, and branding
- You can include a credit card form that can be easily returned if needed
- Your SEO team can use it as a step-by-step guide for what the client wants
10 Things to Include in SEO Contracts
Now that you know what an SEO contract is, let’s go over the 10 things you should include in every contract.
1) Who you are (information about your agency)
The first thing to include is all of the information about who you are as an agency. You can treat this as a way to reiterate your opening pitch, since it will be the first thing a client reads. There’s a good chance your client is shopping around at least 2-3 other agencies.
That’s why you the start of your contract should stand out and reiterate what sold them on your company in the first place.
2) The team
The next part should outline your team that will work with the client. You aren’t just a faceless company, and you certainly don’t want your client to think so.
People work with people, and it helps to put names into the contract to remind them of that. Be clear and list who on your team will be doing all of the work outlined in the contract.
3) Show off your expertise
Now you can really sell them on your expertise using every possible means at your disposal.
Include things like former client testimonials, references, case studies showing off your big successes, and any awards your agency has won.
It’s a good way to remind your client that you have the experience and expertise they should want in an SEO agency.
Now we’re getting a clearer idea of the outline a client will want from you. Remember: the client is most interested in what you will do for them.
You may really want to show off your technical skills and impress them with your new keyword research workflow or that fancy new automated audit. There’s a time and place for that, but keep the deliverables section to the point:
Now, you can provide a description of what the actual deliverable is and mention any sub-deliverables within it. But remember:
Make this section clear and simple, avoid complicated jargon or legalese.
You will need to outline clear deliverables about what work you will perform for them, and what the results will be.
SEO results are complicated to predict so this part can be difficult. However, you at least need to answer their concerns about things like rankings, traffic and conversions in a way that satisfies them.
Part of the deliverables will be the timeline of the contact. How long will it be, when will you start, when will the key checkpoints and milestones occur, and so on.
If you’re too vague, the client may think you are being shady. Outline each step in your process, starting from your audit and ending with any final reporting.
The other major concern will be the pricing, not just total costs but the structure of the payments. Everything needs to be clearly outlined in case there is a dispute down the line.
Do you use a flat rate, a blended rate, revenue share, or something else? Will they pay through invoices, or direct credit card payments? Will they pay for a year up front, or per month? What dates are payment(s) due?
However you bill clients, include it in your contract.
7) Cancellation Terms
The other thing that needs to be clearly outlined is the cancellation terms, and what model you agree upon.
You need to cover things like mutual out-clauses, early termination penalties (if any), and what the processes are that must be followed.
It needs to cover most scenarios with clearly outlined steps and consequences, if any.
You don’t want your client to be confused or surprised by this sort of thing. Remember, the terms should also include a scenario where you want to terminate the contract.
8) Legal Details
All the legal stuff goes here.
This section is important enough to contact a trained lawyer to draft the necessary legal language you must include and to review your final draft.
This should include any contingencies you want to build into the contract, especially if they are unique.
This can include special cancellation procedures if a key member of your staff that is necessary for your services leaves. That’s a good comfort for your client who might have only chosen you based on the expertise of your team.
9) Ownership of Work
One very important aspect of your contract is defining who retains ownership of your work.
That can include things like reporting data, accounts for things like Adwords, and any other collateral.
It should also define the changing scope of how your campaigns will look.
For example, what happens if the client wants to change from SEO to put all their budget into PPC? Your SEO contact will need to cover what that will mean for the agreement.
10) Expiration Date
Last is the expiration date for the contract.
There are two very important reasons to include this:
- You allow for room to make changes or revise the contract if the client delays in signing it
- You can reserve the right to make alterations to your process, rates, and so on based on outside factors
Adding an expiration date contingent upon when they sign the contract can also help spur them into making the decision to sign now. This is another section where it is wise to have a lawyer write and/or review this to cover yourself legally.
Quick SEO Agreement Tips
While the above ten points are necessary, there are some smaller things you can include if they are important for your agency. However, they are not always crucial for all businesses.
Here are some tips to consider when drafting your contract:
- Remember that SEO changes constantly, so keep your promises and deliverables as general as you can
- Establish a minimum contract term length and carefully consider contract term length for what would work best for you and the client
- For potential renewals, consider adding something about annual automatic price increases
- Be 100% clear about any task or service that you are going to outsource or use subcontracted labor
- Include provision for penalties the client has for late payments
- Consider including the option for the client to pay in advance (for a discount)
- If it would work for your business model, add a provision about reasons to pause the contract for a time
- Last but most important, always have a lawyer review your contract draft before using it with a client!
Use This (FREE) SEO Contract Template to Speed Things Up
It’s always worth a quick look at SEO contract examples from other agencies.
Many companies are willing to share the template of what they use for anyone to follow, and you can use them for guidance on parts you struggle with.
Not sure where to start with your contract?
Don’t worry, we’ve put together a simple template for you to take, edit and use:
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice, nor is the SEO contract legally binding. It exists to give you a template as a starting point. If you have questions about contracts, you should ALWAYS consult with a qualified legal professional.
A good SEO contract is so important for the success of any agency.
It gives both you and your client coverage, comfort and peace of mind so you can focus on doing quality work. It also helps clearly outline the framework of your relationship so there is no confusion or surprise on either side.
In the end, your SEO contract is more than just a legal document. It can also be a useful tool for building a stable relationship with your clients so they have more trust in you.
With the right input from a trained lawyer, you will have a template to use as a contract for all future clients.
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