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Should Clients Invest in an SEO Prenup?

There have been a number of instances over the last year or two where I or people I know have taken on projects from another SEO consultant or agency.  In these cases, I’ve seen the transition of accounts from one party to another create their own spectrum; where the incumbent ranges from hugely helpful to less much than so.

With this in mind, I wrote a couple of posts outlining the idea of an SEO honeymoon and what it might mean to inherit a site of that’s been on a SEO honeymoon.  I wanted to take these posts a little further and highlight a debate that I’ve been having in my head around whether an outgoing SEO agency should fully support the incoming agency or not, and if so, to what extent?

The challenges to being helpful

Without a doubt, without business interests helping an incoming agency to take over an account that you previously managed would be a whole lot easier.  But with business interests in mind, why does this support not happen?

  1. Heritage of competiveness between agencies / consultants
  2. Reluctance to share SEO ‘secrets’
  3. Sabotage the success of the incoming agency
  4. Cost to the incumbent of providing this service
  5. The incumbent on a sales drive to recover revenue
  6. Client’s misunderstanding of the SEO process

…to name but a few reasons.  That said, I don’t want to overly stress that the incumbent agency as the sole driver of this transition, so how else can it be managed?

Who has responsibility for the transition?

It needn’t be just the responsibility of the incumbent to manage this process.  What about a scenario whereby on taking on a contract with a consultant or agency, there was an exit strategy agreed upon, where each party would be obliged to fulfil certain responsibilities?

What if the SEO consultant highlighted, from the outset how responsible, transparent and confident they were in their work that they laid this out as an option to the client from the outset?  Immediately we can see that the client, incumbent and incoming parties all can take responsibility for this process, but does this necessarily take care of business interests highlighted above?  Not really.

Business Case to be a Good SEO citizen

Much of what is to follow is angled as if the incumbent party was the driving force but in reality each of these items can be rephrased to highlight the business benefits of considering funding and contracting and transition process.  So here are few thoughts on why exactly promoting closer working between the incumbent and incoming agency/consultant to be hugely helpful…

It’s a small world. You lose a client for whatever reason but through your bitter attitude you gain a poor reputation across their offices.  This might mean that someone that previously had respect for you and your work, and that could have appointed or recommend you in the future, might lose that within a few bitter days or weeks of behaviour.

Grass is greener syndrome. Clients may well have had a bad bout of the grass is greener syndrome and felt eager to jump SEO ship, when in reality, the former incumbent agency was indeed the most fitting option.  As such, they may well return back to the former agency, but only if they had been professional and supportive in their approach as the outgoing agency.

Future case studies. All-in-all, you don’t want the clients results to dip do you.  I’m sure you’ve worked long and hard to achieve a great deal of visibility so do you really want these drop off and prevent you case studying these sustained results in the future?

Clients being more than a pay cheque. You may well wish to show respect for the people/clients that you’ve been working with by ensuring a smooth transition as it may well be their heads on the line if results slip as a result of poor management of this process.  A key point to remember is that many smarter business folk than me stress that business is as much about relationships as it is about the top-line.

If anything arose from any of these items they could quite easily create a poor image of you and the company’s respect for clients.  As a worst case scenario, if this bad reputation was to travel, it might do untold damage to your reputation amongst your peers and prospective/current clients too.

I’m sure there are a number of other reasons to add to this list too, but these seem to be pretty big chunks of food for thought alone…what do you think?

So is an SEO prenup the answer?

There are certainly pro’s and con’s of each, and I like the idea – but is it really to idealist?

I suppose there are quite big differences of being bitter and professional, but needless to say the way an outgoing / incoming party behave during this process can really show their true colours.

Factoring in an exit strategy is certainly like a marriage’s prenuptial agreement; but if divorces feature as part of 50% of marriages in the UK, then each and every client changing their SEO provider is an almost certainty.  As such, should we not make sure that this transfer of client SEO work is managed efficiently and effectively, and as part of the contract?  Do you do this?  I’d be really interested to hear if you have considered this and in what way, so please share!

P.S. Oh, and please don’t share with my girlfriend that I’ve been using so many wedding analogies lately – I don’t want her to get the wrong idea!!

Ben writes about managing SEO and the joys of SEO consulting on his blog, Just Me and My, an organiser of UK search, analytics and social conference, SAScon, and all whilst working as an SEO Director at Mediaedge:cia, WPP.  Ben is quite the busy bee!

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Ben writes about managing SEO and the ever growing joys of consulting on SEJ and his blog, Just Me and ...

Should Clients Invest in an SEO Prenup?

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