SEO Contracts are mandatory when doing any SEO-related stuff for a client as part of your freelancing duties. Although a contract can be an intimidating document for many, this doesn't have to be the case. The contract is nothing more than an agreement you sign with your client for the work you're about to do. Therefore, the contract must be clear on your duties as well as the pay you will receive from the client once you finish those responsibilities successfully. It's not in doubt that contracts are a bit tricky for any agency or consultancy that offers SEO services.
SEO is a constantly changing industry. Therefore, what elements should be in an SEO contract?
Changes are a constant in SEO. Therefore, the SEO contract should be flexible. The factors that search engines consider most important today could be archaic by the time you wake up tomorrow. Therefore, check that the contract isn't too full of specific tasks. Rather than focusing on the specific tasks, the contract should aim at generic topics. An example of a generic topic worth focusing on is 'on-page elements' as highlighted by Search Engine Lands. Nonetheless, vagueness is not a good practice, especially while you're listing your tasks. Clarify these issues with the client first.
The SEO Contract should clarify its validity. After all, the contract is only valid up to the point when the SEO agency or consultancy completes the product and receives payment for work done. Therefore, it must be clear on the time given for the agency to complete the job. The contract might be finite or be up for renewal from time-to-time. All finite contracts usually indicate the starting as well as ending date. Auto-renewal contracts are up for renewal on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Price is an essential element in SEO Contract. You should not sign any contract until you agree on the price or rates to charge for your services. Before settling on price, you should consider factors such as inflation and standard of living. Each year, some of these factors could have an impact on the price. Therefore, you might have to include the increase in prices into the contract. The increases could be automatic or be the subject of a bit of negotiation between you and the client. Specify such issues in the contract instead of leaving them up to personal interpretation.
If you operate an agency, chances are high that you often subcontract some of the work clients ask you to do. Some clients hire you specifically. Therefore, you should inform them that you're likely to give out some aspects of the project to subcontractors. If you hire subcontractors regularly, your contract should say so in clear terms. Otherwise, the client might cancel the order or sue you for breach of contract. After all, the client expects you to do the work, and not somebody else he has not vetted.
A solid SEO contract should clarify the issue of penalties, especially if late payments become an obstacle. You expect the client to make timely payments just the same way you finish your work and deliver on time, as per the contract. Therefore, you should let the client know what is likely to happen in the event that he makes late payments. You're not a bill or debt collector. Without a good cash flow, you will struggle to keep your business running much longer. Therefore, inform the client that you will penalize him harshly for delayed payments.
Pauses are an issue worth tackling. Since SEO is a dynamic and ever-changing industry, pausing might invalidate some of the tasks the client gave you to handle. In such cases, allowing pauses would be akin to signing your death warrant. This is because the project might become invalid once the changes in SEO take effect. However, where you're flexible enough to allow pauses, you should tell the client the length of time he's free to pause the contract. The client should also give you notice so that you're aware a pause is on the offing.