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What is an SEO contract?

A search engine optimization (SEO) contract is a legal agreement for your SEO services. It's typically an ongoing contract for complete SEO management. However, you can use an SEO contract for SEO audits, one-off SEO projects, or link-building services.

An SEO contract is the last legal document to change hands before the client and the SEO specialist work together. Although it may not necessarily help you get SEO clients, it will certainly help you retain them.

Note: If helping businesses to rank on search engines is your gig, and you're looking for a contract template to secure your clients, create a free account with Bonsai.

Why you need an SEO agreement

SEO specialists and agencies need an agreement in place when providing their SEO services to any client.

Search engine ranking can take a notoriously long time to start showcasing results. Even indexing new or updated content can take hours to weeks or longer. So, it's crucial you give your SEO services enough time to shine, and you can establish this in your contract.

Plus, your search engine contract will ensure you're paid on time and that the client fully understands your work.

There's a high chance that if they're hiring a specialist like yourself, the client does not have the knowledge or capacity to manage an in-house SEO strategy. Therefore, a contract can inform them of the finer details of the services they can expect.

Note: Looking for more resources to become a more efficient SEO consultant? Check out the Bonsai SEO proposal template.

What should be included in an SEO agreement template?

If you're looking to build your own SEO contract template to rinse and repeat for projects, these seven clauses are absolute must-haves for your line of work.

Named parties

First up on your list for a stellar SEO contract template is naming the parties involved. This should include:

  • Who you are working with
  • What their contact details are
  • How they are connected to the project

This is a perfect introduction to your contract. After you've assigned a name to each role, you can simply refer to their role when addressing them later on in the contract.

For example, the "SEO services provider" = [your name]. It’s a great hack for a contract template as it allows you to reuse the same contract without changing so much in the body of the piece.

Detailed description of work

Next up, it's time to dive into what you've been hired to do: optimize for search engines! This section is very important if you provide a variety of services, as it allows the client to agree to the exact services they want from you.

For example, perhaps your client has agreed to a contract for "360 SEO services" which could be the service package name from your websitewhat does this actually mean?

Let the client know exactly what they're paying for here.

The description of work should also be delivered in a scope of work document before you send over the final contract for approval.

Outlined deliverables

So now the client has agreed to your specific SEO services, but what deliverables do they entail? What will your client get from you to achieve their SEO goals?

For example, if the client requested link-building services, how many links will you guarantee your client, and what domain authority will the linking websites have?

A few deliverables to consider are:

  • Optimized website images
  • Creating or rewriting metadata
  • Reporting services
  • Website traffic audit
  • Technical and content audits
  • Tutorage or education on SEO algorithms
  • Data analysis and KPI/goal setting
  • Keyword research and strategy
  • An SEO campaign (or two!)
  • On-page SEO optimisations
  • Off-page SEO (outreach, link-building, etc)
  • Building additional web pages or site maps

There's a wealth of different SEO services and packages you can provide your client, although this will depend on your business operations and experience.

Schedule and timeline of deliverables

We briefly touched on this earlier, but search engines are time-sensitive. Search engines need a while to be worked. It's important that, as the expert, you take the lead on the schedule and timeline of deliverables.

Benchmark your new project against previous search engine projects you've run in the past. Then create a rough schedule that will give you enough time to meet the client's needs.

Payment details

Every SEO contract template needs space for payment details. As an SEO, you'll need to specify:

  • Payment terms
  • Total cost for your professional SEO services
  • Invoice details
  • Due dates

Remember that search engine rankings take time and this may not reflect in the performance reports after your first month. Make sure you clarify that hitting goals straight away or not doesn’t determine if, or the amount, you’ll be paid.

Legal details and contingencies

Whether you're an independent contractor or running an SEO agency, every SEO contract you send out needs the legal side of things sorted. This includes contingency plans, should things not run as expected.

In this clause, you'll want to give an overview of what happens in certain situations, any legal advice you have onboard, and what happens if either party breaches the contract.

Termination of contract

One of the last clauses to include in your SEO contract is a termination clause. As fantastic as your SEO efforts may be, there could be a time when you or the client needs to terminate the contract.

Either way, make sure you practice good legal advice and clarify:

  • How can the contract be terminated successfully?
  • How much notice does either party need to give?
  • What valid reasons are there for an early termination?

Other factors

Wrap up your search engine contract with a section on the liability for responses.

Outline any tools and resources you'll share with the client and any permissions given to use them. Depending on who owns those tools will dictate how you structure this clause; however, it's important to have on paper which tools are needed for your SEO efforts to be a success.

If your contract only lives online, it can also be useful to hyperlink to any other legal documents or project docs in this section.

What's the benefit of using Bonsai instead of editing a template yourself?

SEO is enough of a demanding job in itself, without you having to do all of the admin that comes with winning and maintaining clients.

Bonsai saves you time and worry by giving you a legally approved template you can work from, deliver, and sign in just a few minutes.

How to create an SEO services contract template with Bonsai

You can create a search engine optimization contract in just a few clicks with Bonsai. All you need to do is:

  • Sign up for the platform
  • Pick the type of contract you want to work on
  • Fill in the blanks

After those three easy steps, it's ready to send off to your client!

SEO contract FAQs

Search engines aside, we’ve answered a few FAQs when it comes to building and running your own SEO business.

How long are SEO contracts?

The minimum amount of time you'll want an SEO contract to run is six months. Search engines take time to rank, and major search engines like Google need an in-depth strategy, testing period, and more.

Given the complexity of SEO strategies, try to get any contract to run for a minimum of six months to one year.

How much does SEO cost per hour?

Receiving professional SEO services will typically cost around $80-100 per hour for freelancers and $100-$150 per hour if they’re working with an agency. This is an average rate, and many SEOs tend to charge per project rather than per hour in today's market. Of course, what you charge will depend on your experience level—and naturally your rate will increase as you gain more skills to become an SEO expert.

Sample SEO contract

Get your hands on your SEO contract template today and sign up to Bonsai. Your contract is legally vetted and ready to help your business to thrive. See how it will look below.

Use this template

The simplest way to create a legally sound contract. Check out an example below

SEO Contract Template

This Contract is between Sample Client (the "Client") and John Doe (the "").

The Contract is dated [the date both parties sign].


1.1 Project. The Client is hiring the to do the following: Manage SEO campaigns on behalf of the Client.

1.2 Schedule. The will begin work on April 17, 2020 and the work is ongoing. This Contract can be ended by either Client or at any time, pursuant to the terms of Section 6, Term and Termination.

1.3 Payment. The Client will pay the a rate of $80.00 (USD) per hour.

1.4 Expenses. The Client will reimburse the 's expenses. Expenses do not need to be pre-approved by the Client.

1.5 Invoices. The will invoice the Client every two weeks. The Client agrees to pay the amount owed within 10 days of receiving the invoice. Payment after that date will incur a late fee of 1.0% per month on the outstanding amount.

1.6 Support. The will not provide support for any deliverable once the Client accepts it, unless otherwise agreed in writing.


2.1 Client Owns All Work Product. As part of this job, the is creating “work product” for the Client. To avoid confusion, work product is the finished product, as well as drafts, notes, materials, mockups, hardware, designs, inventions, patents, code, and anything else that the works on—that is, conceives, creates, designs, develops, invents, works on, or reduces to practice—as part of this project, whether before the date of this Contract or after. The hereby gives the Client this work product once the Client pays for it in full. This means the is giving the Client all of its rights, titles, and interests in and to the work product (including intellectual property rights), and the Client will be the sole owner of it. The Client can use the work product however it wants or it can decide not to use the work product at all. The Client, for example, can modify, destroy, or sell it, as it sees fit.

2.2 's Use Of Work Product. Once the gives the work product to the Client, the does not have any rights to it, except those that the Client explicitly gives the here. The Client gives the Contractor permission to use the work product as part of the Contractor's portfolio and websites, in galleries, and in other media, so long as it is to showcase the Contractor's work and not for any other purpose. The Contractor is not allowed to sell or otherwise use the work product to make money or for any other commercial use. The Client is not allowed to take back this license, even after the Contract ends.

2.3 's Help Securing Ownership. In the future, the Client may need the 's help to show that the Client owns the work product or to complete the transfer. The agrees to help with that. For example, the may have to sign a patent application. The Client will pay any required expenses for this. If the Client can’t find the , the agrees that the Client can act on the 's behalf to accomplish the same thing. The following language gives the Client that right: if the Client can’t find the after spending reasonable effort trying to do so, the hereby irrevocably designates and appoints the Client as the 's agent and attorney-in-fact, which appointment is coupled with an interest, to act for the and on the 's behalf to execute, verify, and file the required documents and to take any other legal action to accomplish the purposes of paragraph 2.1 (Client Owns All Work Product).

2.4 's IP That Is Not Work Product. During the course of this project, the might use intellectual property that the owns or has licensed from a third party, but that does not qualify as “work product.” This is called “background IP.” Possible examples of background IP are pre-existing code, type fonts, properly-licensed stock photos, and web application tools. The is not giving the Client this background IP. But, as part of the Contract, the is giving the Client a right to use and license (with the right to sublicense) the background IP to develop, market, sell, and support the Client’s products and services. The Client may use this background IP worldwide and free of charge, but it cannot transfer its rights to the background IP (except as allowed in Section 11.1 (Assignment)). The Client cannot sell or license the background IP separately from its products or services. The cannot take back this grant, and this grant does not end when the Contract is over.

2.5 's Right To Use Client IP. The may need to use the Client’s intellectual property to do its job. For example, if the Client is hiring the to build a website, the may have to use the Client’s logo. The Client agrees to let the use the Client’s intellectual property and other intellectual property that the Client controls to the extent reasonably necessary to do the 's job. Beyond that, the Client is not giving the any intellectual property rights, unless specifically stated otherwise in this Contract.

3. COMPETITIVE ENGAGEMENTS. The won’t work for a competitor of the Client until this Contract ends. To avoid confusion, a competitor is any third party that develops, manufactures, promotes, sells, licenses, distributes, or provides products or services that are substantially similar to the Client’s products or services. A competitor is also a third party that plans to do any of those things. The one exception to this restriction is if the asks for permission beforehand and the Client agrees to it in writing. If the uses employees or subcontractors, the must make sure they follow the obligations in this paragraph, as well.

4. NON-SOLICITATION. Until this Contract ends, the won’t: (a) encourage Client employees or service providers to stop working for the Client; (b) encourage Client customers or clients to stop doing business with the Client; or (c) hire anyone who worked for the Client over the 12-month period before the Contract ended. The one exception is if the puts out a general ad and someone who happened to work for the Client responds. In that case, the may hire that candidate. The promises that it won’t do anything in this paragraph on behalf of itself or a third party.


5.1 Overview. This section contains important promises between the parties.

5.2 Authority To Sign. Each party promises to the other party that it has the authority to enter into this Contract and to perform all of its obligations under this Contract.

5.3 Has Right To Give Client Work Product. The promises that it owns the work product, that the is able to give the work product to the Client, and that no other party will claim that it owns the work product. If the uses employees or subcontractors, the also promises that these employees and subcontractors have signed contracts with the giving the any rights that the employees or subcontractors have related to the 's background IP and work product.

5.4 Will Comply With Laws. The promises that the manner it does this job, its work product, and any background IP it uses comply with applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations.

5.5 Work Product Does Not Infringe. The promises that its work product does not and will not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights, that the has the right to let the Client use the background IP, and that this Contract does not and will not violate any contract that the has entered into or will enter into with someone else.

5.6 Client Will Review Work. The Client promises to review the work product, to be reasonably available to the if the has questions regarding this project, and to provide timely feedback and decisions.

5.7 Client-Supplied Material Does Not Infringe. If the Client provides the with material to incorporate into the work product, the Client promises that this material does not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights.

6. TERM AND TERMINATION. This Contract is ongoing, until ended by the Client or the . Either party may end this Contract for any reason by sending an email or letter to the other party, informing the recipient that the sender is ending the Contract and that the Contract will end in 7 days. The Contract officially ends once that time has passed. The party that is ending the Contract must provide notice by taking the steps explained in Section 11.4. The must immediately stop working as soon as it receives this notice, unless the notice says otherwise. The Client will pay the for the work done up until when the Contract ends and will reimburse the for any agreed-upon, non-cancellable expenses. The following sections don’t end even after the Contract ends: 2 (Ownership and Licenses); 3 (Competitive Engagements); 4 (Non-Solicitation); 5 (Representations); 8 (Confidential Information); 9 (Limitation of Liability); 10 (Indemnity); and 11 (General).

7. INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. The Client is hiring the as an independent contractor. The following statements accurately reflect their relationship:

- The will use its own equipment, tools, and material to do the work.- The Client will not control how the job is performed on a day-to-day basis. Rather, the is responsible for determining when, where, and how it will carry out the work.- The Client will not provide the with any training.- The Client and the do not have a partnership or employer-employee relationship.- The cannot enter into contracts, make promises, or act on behalf of the Client.- The is not entitled to the Client’s benefits (e.g., group insurance, retirement benefits, retirement plans, vacation days).- The is responsible for its own taxes.- The Client will not withhold social security and Medicare taxes or make payments for disability insurance, unemployment insurance, or workers compensation for the or any of the 's employees or subcontractors.


8.1 Overview. This Contract imposes special restrictions on how the Client and the must handle confidential information. These obligations are explained in this section.

8.2 The Client’s Confidential Information. While working for the Client, the may come across, or be given, Client information that is confidential. This is information like customer lists, business strategies, research & development notes, statistics about a website, and other information that is private. The promises to treat this information as if it is the 's own confidential information. The may use this information to do its job under this Contract, but not for anything else. For example, if the Client lets the use a customer list to send out a newsletter, the cannot use those email addresses for any other purpose. The one exception to this is if the Client gives the written permission to use the information for another purpose, the may use the information for that purpose, as well. When this Contract ends, the must give back or destroy all confidential information, and confirm that it has done so. The promises that it will not share confidential information with a third party, unless the Client gives the written permission first. The must continue to follow these obligations, even after the Contract ends. The 's responsibilities only stop if the can show any of the following: (i) that the information was already public when the came across it; (ii) the information became public after the came across it, but not because of anything the did or didn’t do; (iii) the already knew the information when the came across it and the didn’t have any obligation to keep it secret; (iv) a third party provided the with the information without requiring that the keep it a secret; or (v) the created the information on its own, without using anything belonging to the Client.

8.3 Third-Party Confidential Information. It’s possible the Client and the each have access to confidential information that belongs to third parties. The Client and the each promise that it will not share with the other party confidential information that belongs to third parties, unless it is allowed to do so. If the Client or the is allowed to share confidential information with the other party and does so, the sharing party promises to tell the other party in writing of any special restrictions regarding that information.

9. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. Neither party is liable for breach-of-contract damages that the breaching party could not reasonably have foreseen when it entered this Contract.


10.1 Overview. This section transfers certain risks between the parties if a third party sues or goes after the Client or the or both. For example, if the Client gets sued for something that the did, then the may promise to come to the Client’s defense or to reimburse the Client for any losses.

10.2 Client Indemnity. In this Contract, the agrees to indemnify the Client (and its affiliates and its and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against all liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of: (i) the work the has done under this Contract; (ii) a breach by the of its obligations under this Contract; or (iii) a breach by the of the promises it is making in Section 5 (Representations).

10.3 Indemnity. In this Contract, the Client agrees to indemnify the (and its affiliates and its and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of a breach by the Client of its obligations under this Contract.


11.1 Assignment. This Contract applies only to the Client and the . The cannot assign its rights or delegate its obligations under this Contract to a third-party (other than by will or intestate), without first receiving the Client’s written permission. In contrast, the Client may assign its rights and delegate its obligations under this Contract without the 's permission. This is necessary in case, for example, another Client buys out the Client or if the Client decides to sell the work product that results from this Contract.

11.2 Arbitration. As the exclusive means of initiating adversarial proceedings to resolve any dispute arising under this Contract, a party may demand that the dispute be resolved by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its commercial arbitration rules.

11.3 Modification; Waiver. To change anything in this Contract, the Client and the must agree to that change in writing and sign a document showing their contract. Neither party can waive its rights under this Contract or release the other party from its obligations under this Contract, unless the waiving party acknowledges it is doing so in writing and signs a document that says so.

11.4 Notices.

(a) Over the course of this Contract, one party may need to send a notice to the other party. For the notice to be valid, it must be in writing and delivered in one of the following ways: personal delivery, email, or certified or registered mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested). The notice must be delivered to the party’s address listed at the end of this Contract or to another address that the party has provided in writing as an appropriate address to receive notice.

(b) The timing of when a notice is received can be very important. To avoid confusion, a valid notice is considered received as follows: (i) if delivered personally, it is considered received immediately; (ii) if delivered by email, it is considered received upon acknowledgement of receipt; (iii) if delivered by registered or certified mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested), it is considered received upon receipt as indicated by the date on the signed receipt. If a party refuses to accept notice or if notice cannot be delivered because of a change in address for which no notice was given, then it is considered received when the notice is rejected or unable to be delivered. If the notice is received after 5:00pm on a business day at the location specified in the address for that party, or on a day that is not a business day, then the notice is considered received at 9:00am on the next business day.

11.5 Severability. This section deals with what happens if a portion of the Contract is found to be unenforceable. If that’s the case, the unenforceable portion will be changed to the minimum extent necessary to make it enforceable, unless that change is not permitted by law, in which case the portion will be disregarded. If any portion of the Contract is changed or disregarded because it is unenforceable, the rest of the Contract is still enforceable.

11.6 Signatures. The Client and the must sign this document using Bonsai’s e-signing system. These electronic signatures count as originals for all purposes.

11.7 Governing Law. The laws of the state of California govern the rights and obligations of the Client and the under this Contract, without regard to conflict of law principles of that state.

11.8 Entire Contract. This Contract represents the parties’ final and complete understanding of this job and the subject matter discussed in this Contract. This Contract supersedes all other contracts (both written and oral) between the parties.


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