Freelancers' Questions: How to handle SEO client's bad practices?

Freelancer’s Question: I’m a full-time Digital Marketing manager who made my foray into freelancing by taking on a SEO job at the weekends

But once I finished the work to a high-standard using SEO best-practices, I was told it “wasn’t acceptable.” To be accommodating, I made time-consuming tweaks but these tweaks constitute bad SEO practices.

Extra revisions sought were worse practice and I told the client that she risks being fined. Although I made the revisions, the client now wants additionally adverse changes and to see Word documents outlining all the keyword research I did. This is not part of the original work proposal I took on. I’m out-of-pocket, unpaid but don’t want legal bother. Please help!

Experts’ Answer: Firstly, it is important to stress the need for clarity when entering into any freelance contract. This will allow you to be clear of your responsibilities and should allow your venture into freelance work to become more straightforward.

In relation to your current situation, you are providing a service and therefore you have a duty to perform that service with reasonable care and skill. It is, therefore, your responsibility to ensure that all work you perform and is accredited to you, is of a recognised level of quality and has been performed in a controlled and skilled way.

The level of reasonable care and skill is not expressly outlined in law. However it will be influenced by the industry in which you operate. Therefore, the level of reasonable care and skill here will be measured against the SEO practices which guide SEO engineers such as yourself. If the work you produce is in line with these practices -- then you are fine.

You have expressed that your work was within SEO good practice when you initially fulfilled your work requirements, yet your client has pushed for a number of changes which has resulted in the work being less compliant with industry best-practice and furthermore, this will have a detrimental effect on both yourself as the creator of the work (if you are being credited for it), and your client and their business.

A lack of compliance with the SEO practices can make a business vulnerable to having a very negative impact imposed on it by search engines, such as Google. It is therefore important to stress to your client the potential for these penalties (which it appears you have done) if she continues to push for the non-compliant changes (then it is down to her).

If the client will not be reasonable and continues to demand non-compliant work, it is essential that you make clear in writing that

(i) you have fulfilled the task that you originally set out to do at the outset;

(ii) any further amendments or changes the client requires will be at your discretion and in the event that you do agree to undertake them, there will be a cost associated to it;

(iii) where you do agree to undertake further work you should ensure that the client formally accepts in writing the responsibility for any consequences that may occur due to the non-compliant SEO changes that the client is demanding that you make.

In relation to the request for the keyword research document, if it was not outlined in the proposal, or if a ‘reasonable person’ undertaking the task that you were required to undertake would not be expected to provide that, then you need not provide it. Alternatively, if you are minded to do this as a separate piece of work, you could provide her a quote to do the same and, if agreeable, do this.

The experts were Ellis Sweetenham and Izaz Ali of Lawdit Solicitors, a legal firm specialising in intellectual property and internet law.


1st August 2017

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