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.
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 website—what 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.
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.
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?
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.