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High Rankings® Advisor: SEO Consulting and Contracts - Issue No. 153

November 9, 2005
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Successful Seminar!

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   SEO Contracts

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   SEO Copywriting Combo
---->   SEM Kit

*Guest Article:
---->   Eleven Principles of Great Web Sites for Consultants

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   PENGUINscore™

*High Rankings® Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   No Problems, Just Thanks!

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Measuring SEO Success

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Your Favorite Section?
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  Last week's seminar in Philly was just plain awesome.
We had great attendees, terrific speakers, thought-provoking
questions, and a whole lot of fun with friends.  A big thanks to our
speakers Debra, Matt, Scottie, Karon and Chris.  Without their
knowledge and wisdom, and generosity with their time, attendees would
have been stuck hearing "make your sites the best they can be" for 2
days straight!  And another big thanks to Lee from Fearless Events
<http://www.fearlessevents.com/>, who is my right-hand woman at these
seminars.  Having someone like Lee do all the preliminary work and
onsite management is like a singer having a great backup vocalist.
Their job is basically to make you look and sound good.  The speakers
and I all know that the seminars would never get off the ground if it
weren't for all of Lee's hard work.  So thanks again, Lee!

Now, on to the good stuff. - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++SEO Contracts++

The other day someone asked me what sort of information should be in
an SEO contract.  As I was writing my response, it occurred to me that
there were probably a lot of small businesses and consultants who were
wondering the same thing. Unfortunately, many people don't even use a
contract, or worse, they may end up blindly signing a contract
provided by the client.

Ten years ago when I was just starting my own business, I didn't have
a contract.  Being married to an attorney, that didn't last long once
he found out!  Sometimes I would allow the client to provide me with
their standard contract, but that wasn't very smart because then I (or
my husband) had to carefully read each one to make sure it was fair
and accurate. If you're in a position where you must sign a client's
contract rather than your own, it's probably worth a trip to your
attorney's office to make sure you're not indemnifying your life away.
Even if money is tight, sometimes you just really need an attorney
because many corporate contracts are extremely one-sided. If anything
goes wrong later, you could be up the contract creek without a paddle.

I've even turned down clients who wanted me to sign their contract
when they were obviously one-sided or too complicated for me to
understand.  It's often just not worth the time and expense of having
an attorney read and edit them for very small jobs.  You'll want to
determine your own potential return on investment if you're faced with
this situation.  If the contract sounds really scary or you're just
not sure, do NOT sign it.  Also, don't be afraid to cross out stuff in
the contract that you know is unfair.  Attorneys do this all the time
and it is usually not a problem if you have a good reason for making
the changes.  One thing I've learned to look for and cross out is any
wording that has me indemnifying the client in any way, shape, or
form.  For me, that's generally a deal-breaker.

These days I have a fairly standard contract that I've been using for
years, which I adjust for each client. If something goes wrong with a
job and the contract comes back to haunt me, I make changes to future
contracts.  (Ever notice how we learn much more from our mistakes than
our successes?)

I'm not an attorney, and am only going by my own experiences here, so
be sure to have a lawyer check your contract before you start using it
for any clients.  That said, here are some things I am using in my SEO
contracts:

1. Names, addresses and phone numbers of all parties in the contract,
i.e., your company and the company you'll be doing work for.

2. A statement of the work you are agreeing to do for the client. For
example something like this would be a good start:

"Consultant agrees to provide search engine optimization services for
Client's website."

You'll want to expand that out to be more specific by adding things
like the number of pages you have agreed to optimize, or which
sections of the site, or whatever else makes sense for the way you
work.  Look through your previous emails and your proposal and think
back to your verbal agreements with the client.  The clearer you are
in this section, the less chance for misunderstandings somewhere down
the line.  If you agreed to work a certain number of hours a month as
per your proposal, be sure to put it in the contract.  You don't want
to be thinking 30 hours a month in your head, and have them be
thinking 500 hours a month.

Sometimes instead of detailing all that we promise to do, I'll simply
say that the work is to be completed as "outlined in the work section
of the proposal dated ___."  I don't know if that's a legal way of
doing it, but it does save me time and most clients don't mind.

3. The terms of the agreement.  This would consist of the amount of
money that the client agrees to pay you as well as when payments are
due and how they will be invoiced and collected.  If there is a
specified time period for the work, this should also be stated.

4. Responsibilities of the parties.  In this section, I put in a
pledge about not doing anything that the search engines would consider
to be deceptive, and also mention that I will do the best that I can
with the knowledge I have, to provide them with increased search
engine traffic
.  I qualify that by stating that the client understands
that the search engines are not under my control, but that they can
generally start seeing some results within a certain timeframe.

It's also important to put the responsibilities of the client in here.
Stuff about how they will need to respond to requests and provide the
information that is necessary in a timely manner.  I also include some
language that states that my responsibilities are basically null and
void if they later take down or change the optimized work that they
previously signed off on.

5. Non-disclosure and confidentiality statement.  I have a mutual
non-disclosure agreement that I stick into all my contracts.  It is
fairly wordy, but it basically states that I won't tell any of my
client's proprietary secrets and they won't tell any of mine.

6. A bunch of other legalese. There's a lot of standard contract stuff
that I also include, such as "severability" and "limitations of
liability" and that sort of thing.  You can probably find some
standard contracts online that have all the legal mumbo jumbo you
need.  But again, be sure to run your final version by your attorney
before using it for any clients.

Most of the time you won't have any problems and won't need to point
to your contract with your clients (or vice-versa), but there
certainly may be times when it's necessary.  At these times you'll be
glad that you spent the time to do it right, even if it costs you a
bit up front to hire an attorney.

Jill

(P.S. If you'd like to republish the above article, please email me
your request and where it will reside, and I'll send you a short bio
you can use with it for your site.)


_________Powerful SEO Copywriting Combo______________

Your site's only as good as its writing. You need the "write" skills.
__________________________________________________

If your site is poorly written, your sales will be slow.  You *must*
speak to your target audience with each and every word you write.
At the same time, keeping your keywords featured prominently is
a bit of a juggling act.

Save $10 on the most powerful copywriting combo available today!

Karon Thackston's Step-By-Step Copywriting Course & Jill Whalen's
Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines.
</combo.htm>
__________________________________________________


~~~Guest Article~~~

++Eleven Principles of Great Web Sites for Consultants++

Michael W. McLaughlin, the coauthor of Guerrilla Marketing for
Consultants, writes today's guest article. Michael is a principal with
Deloitte Consulting LLP and the editor of Management Consulting News
and The Guerrilla Consultant.

The article isn't about search marketing, but as a large portion of
High Rankings readers are consultants, I felt that the information
provided might be helpful to you.

Take it away, Michael! - Jill


Eleven Principles of Great Web Sites for Consultants
By Michael W. McLaughlin

A consultant's Web site can no longer be an afterthought. It must play
an integral role in marketing your practice to new and existing
clients. Too many consultants overlook the potential of a compelling
Web site to help them stand out in a crowded market.

According to a 2005 study conducted by analysts at RainToday.com on
how clients buy professional services, 69% of prospective clients are
at least somewhat influenced by your Web site when deciding whether or
not to make contact with you. And almost 80% of decision makers visit
your site before making a purchase decision. You need a great Web site
to swing those decisions in your favor.

Of course, all great Web sites share design characteristics like ease
of use and consistency. But the design of a consultant's site has some
important differences.

Unlike a retailer's Web site, for example, a consultant's site sells
talents, skills, solutions, and experience, not products. With a world
of information at their fingertips, consulting clients will not be
satisfied if your site churns out nothing but marketing hype.

Even prospective clients who have referrals are likely to gather
intelligence from your Web site before calling you. Without a Web
presence that unequivocally shows your unique capabilities, clients
will pass you by -- referral or not.

As you build, maintain, and enhance your Web site, keep these 11
guiding principles in mind:

1. Exchange value for time. Clients will gladly exchange time for
value and insight. Provide relevant, valuable, and usable content, and
prospective clients will keep reading and will likely return to your
site. Clients look you up on the Web for one reason: to solve a
problem. They expect your site to be worth the time it takes to find
out if you can help.

2. Create client-focused content. Don't limit your site content to
describing who is in your practice and what services you provide. A
tip-off to a consultant-focused site is if the navigation bar is
dominated by choices such as "Our Services," "About Us," "Our
Qualifications," and "Our Clients." Prospective clients rarely care
about your business until they're convinced you can help. Focus your
site's content on the client's problems first, and then tell them
about your qualifications.

3. Eliminate jargon and buzzwords. Many consultants use jargon as an
easy shorthand. Unfortunately, most jargon either confuses readers or
turns them off and sends them scurrying from your Web site. Use
simple, descriptive language on every page of the site.

4. Content trumps design. Some sites rely on design, rather than
content, to engage visitors. Using gimmicks like flash introductions
and pop-up windows may work for some businesses, but don't waste your
visitors' time waiting for the home page to load. These design
features are interesting once, but they get old fast.

5. Interact but don't intrude. Consultants can use their sites to
start or nurture relationships with clients. Using simple tools like
e-mail, e-newsletters, webinars, and blogs, the consultant can easily
stay in touch. Communicating with clients electronically demands that
you know where the line is between being helpful and being a pest.
Sending clients high-value content at regular intervals can be just
what's needed to convince them you have the right stuff. Go overboard
and you'll lose clients' interest.

6. Communicate with personality. Many corporate Web sites are written
by a committee of marketers, consultants, and executives. The
resulting prose is stilted and lifeless. Use your Web site to give
visitors a glimpse of the personality and culture of your practice.

7. Know your visitors. The content and design of your site evolves
over time. The best way to understand what works on your site -- and
what doesn't -- is to regularly monitor your visitor traffic. Learn
which pages are accessed, what downloads are most in demand, and how
many people are visiting your site. Search the patterns of your
visitors' behavior for clues as to how you can improve the site.

8. Make everything easy. The hardest task in building a great Web site
is to make everything easy. Visitors should quickly understand the
purpose of your practice and what action you want them to take,
whether it's to download a special report or make contact with you.

Visitors want to be able to navigate through your site and locate
information easily. Most people scan Web pages, so every page must be
easy to read. And simplify signups for newsletters or other offerings.
Visitors should not have to fill out pages of information to receive a
download. Make sure all pages load quickly.

9. Your site is a marketing hub. Your Web site should help convey your
visual identity and be the marketing hub of your practice -- equal
parts front office, demonstration lab, resource library, and publicity
machine. The content, appearance, and usability of your site reflect
your style and show your competence as a professional and how you
treat clients.

Your site serves as a showroom to demonstrate how your firm makes a
difference to clients' businesses. Your Web site gives you a platform
from which to tell your story, describe your mission, list your
clients, and educate. It also provides you with visibility in and out
of your industry.

10. Keep up with the times. Web visitors assign credibility to sites
that are current, or at least demonstrate that they have been recently
reviewed. Don't let your site get stale. At a minimum, refresh content
once a month.

Technology is constantly changing. Keep up with the latest and
greatest developments, but pick and choose only those that will
enhance your Web site's effectiveness as a marketing tool for your
business.

11. If you build it, will they come? In the end, what makes a
consultant's Web site great is all about results. And results begin
with attracting visitors to your site. A great site is worthless if no
one knows it's out there.

You have many options for driving traffic to your site, including
optimizing the site to generate high search engine rankings and using
Pay Per Click advertising. Some simple steps will help boost qualified
traffic to your site with little investment on your part: Integrate
your URL with all of your marketing communications, including business
cards, stationery, printed materials, and your e-mail subject line. If
you're listed in business directories, don't forget to get your URL
published along with your practice profile.

Michael W. McLaughlin
The Guerrilla Consultant: http://www.guerrillaconsulting.com/
Management Consulting News: http://www.managementconsultingnews.com/


________SEM Kit For Search Engine Marketers____________adv.

Confused About the Best Way To Run Your New SEM Biz?
 __________________________________________________

Dan Thies' new SEM Kit from SitePoint provides you with a book &
CD-ROM that includes a client-management form, SEM sales
presentation, SEM process flowchart, keyword-research worksheet,
sample agreement, proposal, pricing calculator and a whole lot more.

And that's just the CD!

The book is chock-full of SEO/SEM strategies.
Order now: </semkit>
__________________________________________________


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++PENGUINscore™++

My friend Michael Katz has just come out with a new way of deciding
whether the stuff you write is worthy of attention. Since he's a big
penguin fan, he's called it the PENGUINscore™. It's kinda like the
APGAR score they use for newborn babies, but it's for the stuff you
write like your newsletters, emails, etc.

I think it would be very helpful for articles as well, and even
website copy.

It's basically 7 things to look for, that spell out "penguin."

We've got:

Position
Easy
Narrow
Genuine
Useful
Infectious
uNexpected

(Looks like he cheated with that last one!)

You can visit Michael's new PENGUINscore™ site
<http://www.penguinscore.com/> for details of what each of those stand
for. But more than that, start scoring your own writing today! If
everyone's business communications had top scores, I know I'd read a
lot more of them.

Jill


~~~High Rankings® Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++No Problems, Just Thanks!++

At the risk of tooting our own forum horn, I couldn't resist linking
to this thread started by member "fitnessguru" regarding the great
info and advice he's gotten since joining in July.  Even though he
doesn't post a lot, he clearly has come to understand the "High
Rankings® way," i.e., hard work, no shortcuts, making your site the
best it can be, blah blah blah...

You can read the thread and share your own comments here:
</forum/index.php?showtopic=18038>.


~~~Sound Advice~~~

++Measuring SEO Success++

</soundadvice>
(This audio recording changes each week.)

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's all for today!

It's funny how so many HRA subscribers that I meet tell me that this
is their favorite part of the newsletter.  They like hearing the news
about my kids and my life, which is always amazing to me.  At last
week's seminar we had an open roundtable session at the end of the
second day where we were discussing whatever business issues were on
people's minds.  One of the attendees asked each of us what a typical
business day was like.  Now, most of us work at home, have kids and
pets and all that, and figured we'd bore them all to tears if we told
stories of our typical day.  But nope, they seemed to love it, with
many people mentioning how it was one of the highlights of the day.  I
guess just like this section of the newsletter, that sort of
discussion shows that we're just regular people like you.  We have
normal lives, we don't always get out of our PJs, and we work and play
at all hours of the day or night.  For some, it's quite an inspiration
to see successful people who get to control their own schedule.

I'm not sure if there will be a newsletter next week or not until the
last week in Nov. (due to our Thanksgiving holiday).  It probably
depends on how busy I am next week and/or if I feel I have anything
interesting to write about.

So see you next time...whenever that might be! - Jill
 
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