Disclaimer: We are a company that does SEO (and many other things) for our clients. We never require a contract for our SEO services.
I just had one a potential client for our software services come in and through the course of conversation, he said he recently signed a year-long SEO contract with another company. This instantly sends me into a “nails on the chalkboard” moment. I’m fine if there is a contract outlining services, expectations, payment terms, etc. but it should be cancelable! The SEO results each month should be what drives your continuation to work with that SEO company, here is why:
There are 3 types of SEO companies:
Type 1: SEO company that is good at SEO but does “black hat” SEO. For more on this, you can go to this article: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/black-hat-seo. This has the chance to get your site banned from search engines yet still is commonly used practice. Don’t go with a company that does this!
Type 2: SEO company that is good at SEO and does “white hat” SEO. Use this type!
Type3: SEO company that doesn’t know what it’s doing, and because you don’t know SEO, you pay money, get nothing and you pay for as long as your contract runs.
So how do you know what type of SEO company you are hiring? You probably don’t! SEO is like the Wizard of Oz to most people:” very good, but very mysterious” to quote Glinda the good witch. Many people don’t understand that there is someone behind the curtain pulling various levers to make things happen, and that is why you are trying to find an SEO company in the first place! Unfortunately, all SEO companies will say they are Type 2 above, but they all aren’t and that is why you NEVER sign an SEO contract. Never. Ever. Ever.
They will tell you “SEO results can take a long time” (which is true for the white hat’s especially), but it doesn’t always. They will tell you that your SEO strategy needs constant care (which is for the most part very true), so this points to “sign a contract”, but you shouldn’t have to. The SEO results and maintenance of those results should speak for themselves month after month. It’s kind of like lawn service, I don’t sign a contract but if the lawn company is doing a great job I’ll keep paying for their service for years.
Another common tactic (and this can apply to any of the 3 types) is that they want a long-term contract so they work hard in the first few months and then coast the rest of the months with your free money. Maybe they land you on the front page after a month or two with a few of your keywords (it does happen), then they go into auto-pilot and they cash your check and provide no further benefit the rest of that contract. You must hold them accountable each month.
You should evaluate your results, understand the work they put in to achieve those results every month. You may not make the first page of google in month one, but what works was done and how do my results on keywords change over that month? Did I move from page 7 to page 4…progress! How are we going to improve next month? If progress is being made and you are happy with the company and the work continue, if not, stop! Find someone else. It’s also not always a move up, it has ebbs and flows and you need to understand why. The graph on this article shows how your SEO results move upward with effort.
Results aren’t everything. You still need to understand what they are doing to achieve the results and make sure it doesn’t look like any of the black hat techniques in the article above. If you are not comfortable doing that, find a reputable SEO company independently to verify the tactics your SEO company is using (think of it as an audit, we do these audits for about $100 for customers who have had questions in the past, just to verify black hat isn’t being used).
Key tips for hiring an SEO company or buying SEO services:
- Never sign a long term non-cancelable contract
- Trust but verify – make sure effort is happening on your account every month and that you know what that effort is. Use a third party to verify if you don’t think you can. Black hat techniques can get you barred from google.
- Watch your results. This is what you are paying for, isn’t it?