More threads by Travis Van Slooten

Jul 18, 2012
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I ran across a SEO contract today and there was an interesting section. It was a hold harmless clause that said something like, "You agree that there are risks with SEO and that if anything happens to your website you agree not to hold us at fault." I don't remember the exact wording but that was the nuts and bolts of it.

Now this company does "backlinking" so obviously they're doing gray hat or black hat linking so they know what they are doing is risky so they're trying to use this clause to protect themselves.

But it got me owners are handing over an important asset to us - their website. That's a lot of responsibility to shoulder. And let's face it, with Google always changing the rules someone could make an honest mistake to a Google+ Local page or the website and really screw things up.

Would it be wise to include some kind of "hold harmless" clause even for us honest SEO consultants? I'm thinking it might actually be a good idea. If nothing else, it at least lets the business owner know that, "Hey, I'm going to do my best to market your website/Google+ Local page the most honest and ethical way BUT if something goes wrong, you can't sue me or hold me responsible." Thoughts?? If anyone is using such a clause, care to share it here?

Now this company does "backlinking" so obviously they're doing gray hat or black hat linking so they know what they are doing is risky so they're trying to use this clause to protect themselves.

And that's exactly why the "hold harmless" clause comes across badly.

If a gentlemen's agreement isn't enough or makes you queasy, it may be time to do some thinking. A hold-harmless clause may save your bacon in a legal sense once or twice, but your business can still be undone in many other ways: as Warren Buffett said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."
Ya, I agree with you - which is why I've never used it and probably never will. All I'm saying is that there is *some* risk in what we all do. Like I said, an honest mistake with Google+ Local can really screw things up and when that happens, there is a chance the client isn't going to be so understanding.

When you have a medical procedure done, you're required to sign something that says you know and understand the risks. All I'm saying is that there is some risk in what we do and I was wondering if a clause like this or something similar would at least make the client aware of those risks.

I see what you mean, Travis. But ethical local SEOs aren?t putting their clients at risk in the same way that shady ?link-building? companies (like the one you mentioned) do.

Also, a ?hold harmless? clause sends the wrong message. If the SEO truly does screw up, and truly does cause harm to his* client?s business, then a little egg on his face might be just what the doctor ordered.

I agree that you can - nay, must - make your client aware of any risks before doing any work. But you can and should do that without the fine-print. It?s also worth running your suggestions by the client before actually implementing them, just so you know you?re on the same page.

*Let?s just assume that the schmuck in question is a guy :)
My philosophy is very similar to Phil's.

I've never had any kind of contract. No legalese, nothing formal.

Now in my GP optimization proposal I did spell out very clearly some warnings to set expectations.

I would say things like: I want to make it clear no one can control Google or guarantee top rankings. Google is unpredictable and often buggy and since I don't work there, I can't be held accountable for Google problems that may come up... blah... blah... All I can guarantee is that I will do my very best and use every ethical and allowed method... By moving forward with this service you agree to... and I add a couple stipulations about what we are both accountable for.

So I did more of a soft handshake type of agreement. Just a little CYA disclaimers. No signature or anything. And as I've mentioned in the past I never closed anyone.

I never had any problems with clients and that strategy worked for me, although I knew there were potential dangers. I only had serious problems with one nut case client. It never turned legal, so again I was lucky.

I understand your concerns Travis, especially in light of the fact that you've been asking about outsourcing SEO and once you get into link building if not careful you can cause some damage. But I agree with Phil, you have to be really careful what message you send up front and a hold harmless legal clause might even scare me away if I was a potential customer.

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