A marketing contract can make or break any deal. Not just to get the signatures on the dotted line, but as a binding agreement that gives both parties equal opportunity to showcase what they can deliver. Using a contract for SEO, the sentiment is the same, but the details that go into an SEO contract are slightly different.
With SEO contracts, the details are less about the legalities and more about defining the roles, goals, and expectations of your agency and your client. Each component of your contract should be well-thought-out to make sure you don’t miss any important details.
Here’s everything you need to include when drafting your SEO contract, plus a checklist as your guide:
1. Your Agency’s Strengths
Every digital marketing agency has strengths that set them apart from their competitors. You can reiterate these strengths and the value of working with you by adding these details about you or your agency in your SEO contract. In a typical SEO services contract, this section often covers the following:
Providing a brief background of your agency or experience in digital marketing is a way of reinforcing credibility when presenting your managed SEO services in a contract. This helps clients understand that they’re entering an agreement with a legitimate business.
Writing down your value proposition in the SEO contract is not just to show what makes you different from the rest, but also to provide clients what value they can get if they hire you. A strong value proposition, combined with the credentials of your team, can remind clients why getting your SEO services is a great option.
2. Established Roles and Processes
When it comes to their SEO campaigns, clients are often concerned about who will be delivering the work to be done and how this will be accomplished. As their digital marketing service provider, you need to be clear about these from the get-go. When you structure your SEO contract template, be sure this section can provide clear information on the following points:
- Who will handle the campaign?
- What are the expectations between the client and the agency?
- How will the client move forward with your campaigns?
Role of the agency
Be transparent on who and what will be involved in the SEO campaign. Provide a detailed account of your SEO methodology, such as your workflow and the tools you’re using. This helps clients understand what they can expect from your agency in terms of work performed.
Role of the client
In a successful SEO campaign, work doesn’t happen in a silo. This means the responsibilities in achieving results is two-way. Your clients should also do their part in making their SEO success happen, which this section covers in your SEO contract. Specify what you’ll need from the client, such as credential access to their online properties, logo used for their business, and a duly accomplished intake form with all their business details.
3. Description of Tasks
While you’re likely to have already explained parts of what goes on in a campaign when you’re talking to clients and selling SEO to them, it’s important to outline what the work entails when they get started. Providing a description of tasks in your SEO contract allows you to specify the coverage of a project when they hire you.
Scope and description of the work involved
This is where you enumerate the strategies you’ll be recommending and committed to providing for your clients. Each section should have a short description of what the strategy intends to accomplish and how this can contribute to their SEO success.
Some SEO contracts provide technical details about their strategies. However, it’s best to limit the verbiage to terms that your clients can easily understand when writing your contract. This eliminates the back-and-forth questions between yourself and your clients, allowing them to focus on the important details instead.
This should include the deliverables you’ll be sending to clients, such as your website audit, SEO report, competitive analysis report, keyword research report, content created for their SEO activities, link building report, and other assets that may require their approval. Note that deliverables may vary according to the SEO solution you choose for your client.
4. Timing of Deliverables
Clients will always expect promptness for the services they pay for, so it’s important to be clear about the timing of delivery in your SEO contract. This will provide them with a view of their campaign’s direction and what they can expect at each stage.
Timeline for the work to be executed
When drafting your SEO contract templates, be sure to include the timeline for your SEO campaign. This should specify the time and date of deliverables once the campaign starts, the specific phases that will be carried out, and the expected date of completion of the services they acquired from you. When you can send them the work earlier than specified in the contract, this can leave a good impression on clients.
The person accountable for the work
In the timeline, be sure to indicate who will be accountable for the work. For instance, keyword research and link building will be handled by SEO specialists, while content creation will be assigned to writers and editors. This shows that you have the proper designation of tasks requiring specialized skills.
When it comes to SEO services, transparency is one aspect that both agencies and their clients value. Showing that your solutions can deliver results is essential in establishing credibility for your SEO business and trust among your clients. When drafting any digital marketing agreement, be sure to include a clause that covers reporting. This section should outline the following:
Schedule and delivery of reports
How often will clients receive reports from you? What form of communication will be used to send the report? If these details are unclear and the agreement is signed, you may encounter issues and allow clients to think that you’re not meeting the expectations you both set. In the contract, there should be a part explaining the timing and mode of delivery of your SEO reports, Service Level Agreements, SEO contracts, and other supporting documents that your client may need to review.
Details included in the report and supporting documents
One of the purposes of your contract is to provide documentation on expectations from your agency. Details included in the report and supporting documents should be clearly explained to avoid confusion. To make it easier for clients to understand your reports, attach a list of definitions of technical terms that are covered in your documents.
6. Terms of Payment
Delivering payment on time is essential to running a smooth SEO business, and your clients need to understand this. Digital marketers create SEO contract templates that have clear terms when it comes to payments. In this section, the highlights should include a schedule for your invoice, terms regarding late and advance payment, additional fees, and the mode of payment offered by your agency.
When was the last time you paid a credit card bill beyond its due date? Did you see a charge for the late payment? Businesses often enforce a penalty for late payments to discourage customers from missing their deadlines and to safeguard their cash flow. The same can be applied when you’re selling SEO services. Be sure your contract has a clause on fees they may incur if they fail to meet the payment deadline.
Adding terms for advance payment can help you avoid late payments and provide clients the assurance of getting a portion of the work done until they’ve settled their full invoice. This is common among agencies that want to ensure clients don’t withhold their payments until the end of the project. Your SEO service contract should include a clause that explains the following:
- Percentage of the advance payment needed
- Percentage of work that will be fulfilled upon receiving the advance payment
- Billing schedule
Your contract should also cover cases where clients get specific services outside of their current SEO plan. Will these additional services be added to their invoice for their SEO plan? Or will there be a separate invoice for these services? You need to define these clearly in your contract so clients won’t be confused once you’ve billed them.
7. Length of SEO Contract
Specifying the length of the agreement allows you to establish two things: urgency for clients to sign the contract and your discretion to make changes outside of the project timeline. By adding this section, you can determine the following:
Start and end date of the contract
It’s important to have a definite date of when the contract’s terms will take effect. Some agencies use finite contracts that include a start and end date. This is mostly applicable to one-off projects. However, if you choose to implement auto-renewal for your contract, this should provide details on when the agreement will be renewed – whether monthly, quarterly or annually. Contracts on auto-renew are ideal for SEO campaigns because of the ongoing optimization websites need to rank.
Reasons for end of contract
Your SEO contract should include details of situations that may warrant a contract’s end. This may be for the following reasons:
- All items covered in the SEO service have been fulfilled
- Breach of agreement by any party involved
- Mutual agreement between your agency and the client to end the service
- Situations that make it impossible to execute the tasks or commitments specified in the agreement
Pro-tip: Set a three-month minimum period for the contract, as this provides you with a window for demonstrating the results of your SEO efforts.
8. Regulations on Contract Pauses
Many digital marketing agencies don’t have contract pauses. However, some agencies offer this as an option to provide their clients with more flexibility when working with them. If you’re thinking of doing the same, it’s important to be clear about what a contract pause is and what the process constitutes. When drafting your digital marketing contract, be sure the following details are explained:
Terms when pausing a contract
Set conditions on when a client can pause a contract. For instance, a client may only pause the agreement due to unforeseeable circumstances that affect their operations. It’s also important to have a notice period before pausing—30 days, 60 days, etc. This provides you with room for adjusting task delegations and prepare for financial loss due to the temporary suspension.
There should also be a clause indicating how long a contract can remain suspended. Otherwise, you’ll need to specify what happens to the contract if the client exceeds the minimum time frame for pausing.
Resuming a paused contract
Clients who decide to resume their contract with you should know what the process entails and what will happen to their SEO campaigns. Do they get the same Account Manager? Who will handle the tasks? In case you’ve increased prices, will the client pay the same pricing for your services? Your SEO contract should address these points.
9. Termination Requirements
A contract may end through a mutual agreement from both you and your client, or due to a breach in one of the conditions set forth. In this case, it’s important to have a termination clause to establish the terms both parties (your agency and client) need to follow when the contract ends. Provide clear details of the requirements and what is expected of both parties to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth transition of work.
Notice of termination of the SEO contract
Your contract should indicate how much notice the client needs to provide before terminating the agreement. What type of notice will they provide (written or verbal)? What details should be included in the notice? Explaining the details for the notice of termination can help your team prepare for changes when the contract ends.
Process for termination of the agreement
This should outline the transition process when the contract ends. Be sure to indicate what assets will be handed over to the client, who will oversee the transition, and the date on which the transition process should be completed.
10. Ownership of the Assets or Work Delivered
One of the main concerns of clients when working with agencies or digital marketers is the ownership of deliverables (creatives, content, website, and accounts). When drafting your SEO services contract, there should be a section that explains who owns what and how ownership will be transferred.
Transferring ownership of assets
You should keep the end in mind as well. Ask how the created accounts will be transferred after the work is completed? Who will be the rightful owner of these accounts? Who will have permission to use accounts, graphics, or content created? Be sure these questions are addressed in the SEO contracts you’ll be sending to clients.
Business representations on assets
When ownership of assets has been transferred, this means the client should hold you harmless and provide you with protection in case of claims arising from the use of these assets. This is an important aspect of your contract to protect your SEO agency from legal disputes.
11. Legal Details and Definitions
Your SEO contract should have legal contingencies built to serve as an added layer of security for you and your client. The important bases you need to cover in this section are:
All information and communication should be held in strict confidence to avoid issues that may compromise the quality of your work, results, and security of both parties. This confidentiality clause should only apply to proprietary information that is not: a) generally known to the public; b) independently developed by one party in the agreement or any third party; c) subject to legal processes. Most importantly, this provides the terms in case either of the undersigned parties violates the confidentiality clause.
Liability on changes made on assets
Clients will likely make changes to blogs, designs, or creatives you send over. In these cases, you need to assert you hold no responsibility for any changes and effects that may come after. This protects you from potential issues or claims that may require additional work on your side.
Dispute resolution (optional)
Add provisions that explain the steps in resolving disputes or issues that may arise. This section should outline the timeframe for resolving the dispute and subsequent actions needed should both parties fail to come to a resolution.
IMPORTANT: We strongly recommend seeking legal assistance for this section of your SEO contract to ensure you have covered all the important elements.
Prep Your SEO Contract
The terms in SEO contracts may vary from agency to agency, but the essentials are more or less the same. This SEO contract template provides you with a quick foundation to build an agreement that puts you and your clients on the same page. This serves more than just a document detailing your commitments in delivering results but also highlights the important elements in building a lasting business relationship.
If you need a quick rundown of the essentials when drafting your contracts, don’t sweat it. We’ve prepared this quick checklist of highlights to help you finesse your SEO contracts—no commitments; download it for free on our Resource Center!