Most business owners today recognize the importance of showing up in a Google search. Many business owners are shocked to realize that SEO is not a button that gets pushed or a one time thing, but an ongoing process that usually requires a contract for SEO services.
What is No Contract SEO?
No contract SEO is providing search engine optimization services without any type contract. It has become challenging to find an SEO agency that will provide long term SEO services without a contract. Most of the contracts seen for SEO services are for a year or longer! Why do most digital marketing companies require a contract?
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Types of SEO
Although search engine optimization sounds pretty specific, there are many different types of SEO; each with different goals, processes and timeframes for implementation.
Local SEO (ranking in the Map Pack)
Local SEO is where the focus is to have your business show up in the coveted Map Pack of results. This is critical for brick and mortar businesses with a storefront as well as anyone providing products or services locally. When Google dictates that the searcher is looking for a local business they show a Map Pack, usually containing three results. These results include the business name, phone number, website, customer reviews, products sold, services offered, FAQs as well as basic business information.
Local SEO is much more than simply setting up and optimizing your Google Business Profile. Ranking in Google Maps requires creation of citations, on-page SEO for the website, client reviews, backlinks, map embeds, ongoing Google Posts and much more. Because the time between setting up your Google Profile and ranking in the Map Pack can be months, even years, most SEO agencies and freelancers require a contract.
Traditional SEO is ranking your website (whether they be pages or blogs) in the more traditional SERPs (search engine results pages). In the past, these were the “traditional 10 blue links”. Recently, Google has expanded how their SERPs are displayed, providing more ways to be discovered from a search.
SERP Features and Snippets
Google has expanded how their SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) are displayed, providing more ways to be discovered from a search. Although many people call ALL of these results “snippets” they are actually SERP Features some of which are Snippets. So all Snippets are Search Features but not all Search Features are Snippets.
As for SERP Features that ARE Snippets…there are Featured Snippets and Rich Snippets. A Featured Snippet generally shows at the very top and acts as a direct answer to your Google Search. Rich Snippets, on the other hand, are normal Google search results with additional data displayed UNDER the “blue link”.
Here is an exhaustive list of SERP Features and Snippets
- Featured Snippet
- Local Pack
- Top Stories
- Knowledge Panel
- People Also Ask
- Related Searches
- Google Flights Block
- Hotel Pack
- Job Listings
- Google Ads
- Shopping Ads (Product Listing Ads)
- Rich Snippets
All of the above SERP features don’t show for every search query. You may also see some variance between locations and individual users.
Although there are now more ways to be displayed on page one of Google, the addition of many SERP Features dilute the search traffic. In some instances they can reduce the traffic to your website as the results itself may feature the answer to the question initially entered into the search engine.
Traditional SEO attempts to drive organic traffic to the website leveraging any SERP features that may be relevant. This can be a moving target and takes ongoing work. The delay between the strategy, implementation and actually ranking in Google’s results can take months or even years in highly competitive industries. This is why most SEO companies require a contract for SEO.
SEO is also broken down into smaller sections, that we call components, that can be applied to either Local or Traditional SEO. These other aspects of SEO include:
- On-page SEO
- Technical SEO
- Content marketing
- Link building
- Site speed
- Keyword research
You may also find specialties within specific agencies, where the agency has a deep understanding of a specific business vertical such as real estate SEO or digital marketing for the healthcare industry.
Grouping specific services together into SEO packages has become more common. SEO packages can vary significantly in terms of scope, pricing, and the specific services included. They may be customized based on the needs and goals of the client.
Some SEO agencies offer different levels of packages, such as basic, intermediate, and advanced, to cater to various budgets and requirements. Some SEO specialists group together specific tasks within a package and some may only implement one aspect such as a Content Marketing Package or a Local SEO package.
SEO package pricing can be a one-time thing, such as Keyword Research or implementing schema. These types of packages generally fill in a missing piece of an overall strategy.
Some SEO agencies offer different levels of packages, such as basic, intermediate, and advanced, to cater to various budgets and goals. Many of these types of packages will be ongoing and require an SEO contract.
Why do SEO agencies require a contract for SEO services?
Now that we have discussed the different types of SEO and the tactics that they may involve, it becomes obvious that SEO takes time. But why do almost all agencies and freelancers require an SEO contract?
Time to Results
The time needed to start seeing results from search engine optimization can be lengthy.
It can easily take a month or more to get a firm understanding of a business value proposition, complete the website and SEO audit, start keyword research and begin tracking keyword rankings.
Then an SEO strategy needs to be developed and started. As an example, one part of an overall SEO project may include content marketing. That requires research on topics, writing the actual copy, formatting that copy using on page SEO best practices, posting and syndicating the new page or blog.
Google takes time to react and rank. For all but the most authoritative of websites, much of the new content on the website may not be crawled or indexed by search engines for days or weeks. In more competitive industries, you won't have any content rank without some level of backlinks pointing to it.
We say all of that to say this…SEO takes time. During that time of only paying and not seeing results, many marketing directors and business owners get nervous. A contract helps keep the business relationship alive until the ROI kicks in.
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Resources at the onset of an SEO campaign
An enormous amount of resources are used in the onset of any digital marketing campaign, coupled with the time to start seeing results. This is why SEO agencies and freelancers alike require contracts.
It is not uncommon to devote an enormous amount of time and resources in the first few months, only for a business owner to get discouraged and cancel. Having a 12 month contract not only reiterates the time needed for results but ensures that agencies don’t lose money by businesses canceling after two or three months.
Another reason many agencies require a contract is project creep. Project creep, also known as scope creep, refers to the gradual and uncontrolled expansion or addition of features, requirements, or objectives in a project beyond its original scope.
This is when an agency may start with a small set of deliverables and end up expanding their offering. Having a contract in place, limits project creep and defines the limits of what the agency is obliged to complete.
Of course, there can be unscrupulous reasons some marketing agencies require a contract.
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Drawbacks of SEO contracts
It can be especially scary when the product is SEO which in many instances is not fully understood and takes months or even years to see results. It is not uncommon to not see an increase in visibility within six months. Especially with the constant Google algorithm updates and “reshuffling of the deck”.
If a business owner or marketing manager starts asking questions in month six and by month eight is becoming nervous, by the time they are infuriated with the lack of results the contract is up. In theory, the contractor could have done very little and just ride out their twelve month contract.
Good intentions lacking knowledge
Choosing an SEO agency requires trust. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people out there pretending to be SEO experts. Some have good intentions, but just don’t have the experience to create and implement an SEO strategy from beginning to end.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of online classes on how to become an SEO expert or how to start an SEO agency. As followers of many SEO social media groups, we see way too many posts of “I have my first SEO client, what are the first steps?” and other terrifying questions. There are over 52,300,000 Google results for the term “start seo agency” all selling expensive online programs.
Benefits of No Contract SEO
Although very uncommon for any ongoing SEO work, we have laid out why there are a few agencies offering flexible SEO services without a contract.
Better business practices
From a business owner's standpoint, it is always comforting to NOT be locked into working with any contractor. Especially if it's the same price (think cell phones contracts). Not being contractually obligated is always a better business practice if you are the client with the option of canceling with no penalty at any time. The onerous falls upon the party providing the work.
Piece of mind
Knowing that your SEO contractor needs to earn your business every month as opposed to being locked in a contract for the next 8 months puts you, as a business owner in a dominant position any way you slice it.
Every business has to deal with circumstances beyond their control. Whether it be a worldwide pandemic, loss of employees, product shortages, legal issues or other reasons for reduced sales, things come up that are not expected. Having the ability to cancel or at least negotiate your SEO services is a massive advantage.
Many businesses have dramatic swings in income. If you work in a cyclical industry such as real estate or seasonal such as an offshore fishing charter you are familiar with having different income streams at different times. Not being locked into a contract for your SEO services lets you adjust, but not stop, your digital marketing upon your cash flow.
Symbiotic relationship with your SEO firm
If your SEO agency needs to earn your business every month, you can guarantee that they are working to achieve your goals. The only thing that keeps a no contact SEO company in business is providing results.
SEO agencies offering no contract services, understand that the only way they continue to get paid is if they generate more revenue for you than they cost. It is truly ROI based SEO services based on becoming a fiduciary and truly needing results for their client.
Results in longer term relationships
When your SEO agency is directly tied to the success of your online success, they are in it for the long run. In the last two decades of organic marketing, One Click SEO has observed that not requiring a contract has contributed to the long length of our client relationships.
Although none of our SEO clients are on a contract, the majority have been with us over five years. The longevity of our relationships are attributed to not only providing an ROI, but really understanding our client’s business and being nimble in our online marketing efforts. We’re able to do this because our clients trust us.
One Click SEO is a No Contract Agency
One Click SEO, has never required a contract for SEO services. We believe that strategy has been pivotal in us building our lengthy list of long term, happy clients. Providing our clients with aggressive pricing and flexibility lets us be nimble in aggressively leveraging cutting edge techniques.
Other aspects of our business model include:
Every business is different, and so should be their digital marketing plan. We don't use a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we look at what makes your business unique and design a strategy just for you. This is our Managed SEO.
The digital world doesn't stand still, and neither do we. Our all in-house team stays up-to-date with the latest in digital marketing. We pay our people well but expect them to be the best in their field. That means we're always ready to give your business the edge it needs.
At the end of the day, results matter. Staying “No Contract” forces us to focus on real growth for your business. No fluff, just real sales you can count on.
As search engine optimization becomes more understood as the goldmine of digital marketing, we expect to see more SEO offers that do not require a contract. The raw numbers of new SEO companies volleying for clients has exploded. We also expect to see many of these new marketing companies invent new ways to offer the same services. Our recommendation is to stick with someone with proven results over a long period of time and great client reviews. And preferably don’t sign a contract.