SEO employee, do I have rights?

38 replies
  • SEO
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I was hired a week and a half ago by a web company to do their SEO. They hired me on as part time and on a trial basis at first to make sure I fit the job. I've been giving them suggestions for on-site optimization and they don't always take my advice. Now they want me to bring them a detailed SEO PLAN and strategy, and then that day they will decide to hire me full time or not.

I'm getting the feeling that they are learning all they can from me and then having a programming guy learn SEO on the side so they don't have to hire me, but still use my SEO plan that I would come up with for them. Do I have any rights to my plan? Should I even tell them the plan before they hire me full time or should I demand to be hired first?

Are there any copyrights on SEO strategy? I know that sounds stupid, but I don't want to be taken advantage of and I'm feeling like they COULD do that. Any comments/suggestions are welcome!
#employee #rights #seo
  • Profile picture of the author Jordan Kovats
    I don't blame you for being paranoid. I am sure you could give them a general idea of your strategy without telling them everything. If not, get them to sign a non disclosure agreement or something like that saying your information is your property. Then they might realize you are serious too. Or, if there is that much at stake get some legal advice in advance. Nobody has ever wanted to see our strategy before working with them. All we show them is our track record with examples.
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  • Profile picture of the author paulgl
    Nothing could be copyrighted, I suppose. Like cooking.
    Nothing to keep people from using recipes.

    But here's a tip: A good SEO person never reveals their personal secrets.
    Like cooks and their secret recipes.

    You should get hired on your resume. Show sites that rank well
    and are making money. Never on seeing a plan.

    Charge them an up front fee, then one payable on stated achieved goals.
    Have a contract in writing.

    If they insist on seeing a plan, make a general one lacking specifics.
    Like,
    "marci11 will do on site optimization using industry standard techniques."

    I'm going to give you a thanks marci11, because that's a darn good question.
    Hope you stick around!

    You are not alone in getting shafted, however. Use it as a learning experience.

    Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author Jacob Martus
    Originally Posted by marci11 View Post

    I was hired a week and a half ago by a web company to do their SEO. They hired me on as part time and on a trial basis at first to make sure I fit the job. I've been giving them suggestions for on-site optimization and they don't always take my advice. Now they want me to bring them a detailed SEO PLAN and strategy, and then that day they will decide to hire me full time or not.

    I'm getting the feeling that they are learning all they can from me and then having a programming guy learn SEO on the side so they don't have to hire me, but still use my SEO plan that I would come up with for them. Do I have any rights to my plan? Should I even tell them the plan before they hire me full time or should I demand to be hired first?

    Are there any copyrights on SEO strategy? I know that sounds stupid, but I don't want to be taken advantage of and I'm feeling like they COULD do that. Any comments/suggestions are welcome!
    Give them a vague plan then. Something like this:

    1.) Optimize website for optimal keyword density, titles, etc.
    2.) Thorough keyword research to find all available keywords for maximum traffic potential.
    3.) Begin link acquisition to establish relevancy and authority.

    You get the picture. Tell them what you're going to do without telling them how you're going to do it.
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    • Profile picture of the author marci11
      Thank you so much, everyone for your support and comments!!

      I admit it is paranoia about the company, with the economy being the way it is, and I've been unemployed since Nov. 09 so I really hope I get hired on with this company!! But I don't want to "get shafted" or taken advantage of.

      I had an interview with one company to do SEO for them, but it would have been contractual. Well they wanted ideas of what I would do for them. Being naive, & only having worked at one marketing company before, I gave them really good ideas to help their website. Well it didn't work out that they hired me and I'm sure they took my advice and ran with it. I hate when businesses don't show they have any ethics!

      The boss requested I show him a detailed written out plan. And I just think it's kinda shady, personally.
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      • Profile picture of the author Jacob Martus
        Originally Posted by marci11 View Post

        Thank you so much, everyone for your support and comments!!

        I admit it is paranoia about the company, with the economy being the way it is, and I've been unemployed since Nov. 09 so I really hope I get hired on with this company!! But I don't want to "get shafted" or taken advantage of.

        I had an interview with one company to do SEO for them, but it would have been contractual. Well they wanted ideas of what I would do for them. Being naive, & only having worked at one marketing company before, I gave them really good ideas to help their website. Well it didn't work out that they hired me and I'm sure they took my advice and ran with it. I hate when businesses don't show they have any ethics!

        The boss requested I show him a detailed written out plan. And I just think it's kinda shady, personally.
        I did some SEO for a local web designer. Great designer, can build build beautiful custom very complex sites. He has a huge list of clientele and he does very well for himself. He's an experienced programmer and yada yada yada.

        Occasionally he will ask me to help with a client who wants some SEO done. He always starts it with: I have a potential client for you, just wondering what you would do to help their website rank for such and such keyword.

        To this day, I've only ever gotten 1 client out of him. But he hasn't ever gotten any solid information out of me. I usually say, I've got some good ideas that would work great! Let me know if they are interested.

        I think if you spend some good time writing out a good but vague plan you could do well with it. Like I said, you can tell someone what you're going to do but not how you're going to do it.
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        • Profile picture of the author marci11
          Originally Posted by Jacob Martus View Post

          I think if you spend some good time writing out a good but vague plan you could do well with it. Like I said, you can tell someone what you're going to do but not how you're going to do it.
          Alright, this is my decision then. Thank you. I was debating over this for a day and a half and I had the feeling of just showing him a skeleton plan of attack but not detailed. And this confirms my feeling.
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        • Profile picture of the author Brad Callen
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          • Profile picture of the author Kay King
            Here's the problem I see - you are working on a temp basis now, right?

            Will the company be paying you for the time spent getting this plan together for them to see? If so, they may own the plan when it's done anyway.

            If done on your own time, I suggest making a very detailed plan and taking only ONE hard copy with you to meet with the boss and don't allow anyone to copy it. Mention the high points and always let him know "there's more to it than that, of course".

            Good luck - I understand why this scenario could make you nervous.

            kay
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            • Profile picture of the author marci11
              Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

              Here's the problem I see - you are working on a temp basis now, right?

              Will the company be paying you for the time spent getting this plan together for them to see? If so, they may own the plan when it's done anyway.

              If done on your own time, I suggest making a very detailed plan and taking only ONE hard copy with you to meet with the boss and don't allow anyone to copy it. Mention the high points and always let him know "there's more to it than that, of course".

              kay
              Yes, temporary basis for them right now, and they are paying me. But he told me to go home and prepare this SEO plan for him then meet with him this past Friday. So I did it on my own time even though a lot of keyword research was done for them on their time. So I'm not sure.

              I had this gut reaction this past week about it, but going back in on Friday, having the boss email me saying he was working from home Friday and to meet on Monday instead, I felt fine about it. At first, I got the feeling they were trying to get all the SEO secrets out of me they could, but now I feel like they probably consider me one of their team, which is all I wanted. I just want them to include me and let me put 100% towards their SEO strategy and just let me work my magic. I need the commitment of the job.

              Anyway, thanks everyone for your input as well. And I'll probably update you on if they offered me the job after all this or what happens.
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              • Profile picture of the author Brad Callen
                Originally Posted by marci11 View Post

                Yes, temporary basis for them right now, and they are paying me. But he told me to go home and prepare this SEO plan for him then meet with him this past Friday. So I did it on my own time even though a lot of keyword research was done for them on their time. So I'm not sure.

                I had this gut reaction this past week about it, but going back in on Friday, having the boss email me saying he was working from home Friday and to meet on Monday instead, I felt fine about it. At first, I got the feeling they were trying to get all the SEO secrets out of me they could, but now I feel like they probably consider me one of their team, which is all I wanted. I just want them to include me and let me put 100% towards their SEO strategy and just let me work my magic. I need the commitment of the job.

                Anyway, thanks everyone for your input as well. And I'll probably update you on if they offered me the job after all this or what happens.
                Do that & Good Luck! Hope you get the job.

                One more piece of advice, find someone who is very experienced in this area. Preferably someone close to your geographic location so you can run this stuff past them rather than put it up on public forums. Not that posting here was bad.. just that it could be your employer just happens upon this thread someday in the future.
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                • Profile picture of the author marci11
                  Originally Posted by Brad Callen View Post

                  Do that & Good Luck! Hope you get the job.

                  One more piece of advice, find someone who is very experienced in this area. Preferably someone close to your geographic location so you can run this stuff past them rather than put it up on public forums. Not that posting here was bad.. just that it could be your employer just happens upon this thread someday in the future.
                  Thanks for the tip. Yep, I don't want to jeopardize my working relationships. So that is the best advice. If I were to delete this thread later on, would it still be archived in the forum?
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                  • Profile picture of the author attorneydavid
                    Whatever you do for pay will probably be claimed as work product absent an agreement to the contrary. Law isn't like a+ b = c thing for stuff like this. Litigating it would be an awful expensive and uncertain problem. I'd honestly tell you that you should view getting shafted as a business risk and definitely have someone look at it local.
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    • Profile picture of the author marieluy143
      Originally Posted by Jacob Martus View Post

      Give them a vague plan then. Something like this:

      1.) Optimize website for optimal keyword density, titles, etc.
      2.) Thorough keyword research to find all available keywords for maximum traffic potential.
      3.) Begin link acquisition to establish relevancy and authority.

      You get the picture. Tell them what you're going to do without telling them how you're going to do it.
      Yes, thats the best way you can do..
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  • Profile picture of the author Brad Callen
    As Jacob said, make proposal in broader terms.

    If they ask for specific strategies then tell them that's not the way you operate. I remember a Mr. SEO podcast from a few years back.. he was dealing with the same issue with a major brand who wanted step by step instructions before they would agreed to hire him, they wouldn't budge and he ended up passing on the job.
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  • Profile picture of the author North Star
    Speaking from a marketing consulting company myself there is a hard and fast rule you generally learn - tell them WHAT you will do, but don't tell them HOW you will do it.

    You're knowledge and expertise is your value. If you say you'll get them 25 quality link backs over a certain period of time they can then decide if they want to proceed.
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    • Profile picture of the author echovme
      Myself got problem some what like that. while attending interview in some companies they asking SEO action plan, document... .

      By the By my friends also attend interview in that same concerns.

      After that we know that they didnt hire any seo guys for doing SEO.

      With that document they doing SEO for their websites.
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      • Profile picture of the author Brad Callen
        Originally Posted by echovme View Post

        Myself got problem some what like that. while attending interview in some companies they asking SEO action plan, document... .

        By the By my friends also attend interview in that same concerns.

        After that we know that they didnt hire any seo guys for doing SEO.

        With that document they doing SEO for their websites.
        This isn't a new thing. The way the economy is a lot of businesses are doing whatever they can to keep costs down. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us ) this isn't the way you should operate. They aren't buying a plan, they are buying your expertise and services and once you give them a proposal outlining what your capabilities are and how they align with their needs you should be able to pull in the gig! Even without step by step instructions. The only time you need to write intricate details like that is when you are making your own personal to-do lists.


        Originally Posted by mvpsandeep View Post

        impress them with your expertise, show them your previous work.

        That will help too!
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  • Profile picture of the author RioNomad
    Always trust your gut feeling. They are basically asking you to give them the keys to the car but are not sure if they want to pay you for it but will keep the car either way. Give them a good proposal but not too specific like everyone says and hope you get the job.
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  • Profile picture of the author seoforu
    An experienced seo person would never tell the secrets and no matter how much the other person would try to get things out of him..the inexperienced would still be in trouble because one wrong step and you can go out of the SERPS !!So don't worry...if the person is intelligent he would hire you..and if he does not...then ultimately one wrong decision in seo would land him in serious trouble.
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  • Profile picture of the author mvpsandeep
    impress them with your expertise, show them your previous work.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dean Jackson
    Hahahaha I think that's being a bit paranoid too... You're not using your real name so you should be fine

    I don't think it will be archived if you ask a mod to delete this thread, but either way, don't worry too much about it.

    - Dean
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  • Profile picture of the author marci11
    Well, I brought him the general outline, which still had some details in it and he was markedly disappointed. He wanted a 4 page detailed plan. I told him the reasons why I didn't do that, basically to protect myself which was my gut feeling. So he told me he'd have to think about it and made sure I understood my weekly hours are to be only 20 hours strictly but that I could stay on part time for now.

    So today I went in to finish off my 20 hours this week and he wrote me an email this morning saying I wasn't a good fit for the company. So apparently he wanted the detailed plan and since I didn't give it at his request, he let me go. Back to the drawing board in getting a job now. I guess we really don't have rights to our SEO strategies in this economy.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jacob Martus
      Originally Posted by marci11 View Post

      Well, I brought him the general outline, which still had some details in it and he was markedly disappointed. He wanted a 4 page detailed plan. I told him the reasons why I didn't do that, basically to protect myself which was my gut feeling. So he told me he'd have to think about it and made sure I understood my weekly hours are to be only 20 hours strictly but that I could stay on part time for now.

      So today I went in to finish off my 20 hours this week and he wrote me an email this morning saying I wasn't a good fit for the company. So apparently he wanted the detailed plan and since I didn't give it at his request, he let me go. Back to the drawing board in getting a job now. I guess we really don't have rights to our SEO strategies in this economy.
      He sounds like someone with little to no management experience. I mean...who fires somebody over email?

      Someone who is scared to look someone in the eye. That is very unprofessional in my experience.

      You're better off. Go local. Find local business that could benefit from a local maps listing, as well as some SEO done for their site.

      Charge 3 to 500 hundred up front with a 3 to 5 hundred a month contract for at least 3 months.

      Explain that SEO takes time and that results cannot be expected immediately. If you do your selling right, many businesses will be interested.
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      • Profile picture of the author Carl Brown
        Trust me... You did the right thing. Even if they had kept you on, that same day would have come 2 or 3 months from now once they had picked your brain.
        That's all they were after. They only wanted to pick your brain. It's better that you didn't "help" them too much.

        You have my sympathies. I've been there--it sucks
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      • Profile picture of the author marci11
        Originally Posted by Jacob Martus View Post

        He sounds like someone with little to no management experience. I mean...who fires somebody over email?

        Someone who is scared to look someone in the eye. That is very unprofessional in my experience.
        Yes, getting shafted in an email was unusual. He's the business owner so I guess he gets to do what he wants. Oh well. It was a good 3 weeks of getting paid. Now back to unemployment till I find something else to commit to.
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        • Profile picture of the author Black Hat Cat
          Banned
          Originally Posted by marci11 View Post

          Yes, getting shafted in an email was unusual. He's the business owner so I guess he gets to do what he wants. Oh well. It was a good 3 weeks of getting paid. Now back to unemployment till I find something else to commit to.
          If you know how to do seo, there's no reason for you to be unemployed. Just seo your own stuff, and likely make more than anyone is going to pay you.
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    • Profile picture of the author tentimes
      Originally Posted by marci11 View Post

      So today I went in to finish off my 20 hours this week and he wrote me an email this morning saying I wasn't a good fit for the company. So apparently he wanted the detailed plan and since I didn't give it at his request, he let me go. Back to the drawing board in getting a job now. I guess we really don't have rights to our SEO strategies in this economy.
      Wow that sucks. He really screwed you.

      I think he was just looking to get free information. I see it all the time with our sales guys. Luckily for us, they don't know that much technical details and just tell the potential clients that we can do it for them.
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    • Profile picture of the author yukon
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      • Profile picture of the author mkpoway
        Originally Posted by yukon View Post

        Sorry to hear you lost the job.

        If it was me (I'm a smart a$$ BTW ), I would put a few blank pages in a nice looking binder. Go into the office like nothing ever happend (email fired), then after he fired me to my face I would have told him "Looks like you won't be needing this 4 page detailed report after all" & walked out the door.

        I'm just funny like that, lol.
        Seems like a great way to establish professional business relationships!
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  • Profile picture of the author Canonical
    I was Sr. SEO Manager for the largest online mortgage, refinance, home equity, auto, and personal loan exchange on the web for several years (you can probably guess who). Since last Dec, I have been on my own doing consulting work.

    When selling myself to get a gig (similar to your situation), it is very difficult to know where to draw the line. It's not natural to hold back, but you have to. You want to give them enough to know that you know your sh$t, but not enough that they get everything they wanted from you.

    Trust me... You did the right thing. Even if they had kept you on, that same day would have come 2 or 3 months from now once they had picked your brain.
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  • Profile picture of the author rdkelsey
    You should of walked into that employment with either a hourly wage, or with a contract as a consultant.

    You could fight them, but it probably isn't worth it.

    Just don't give them any more information unless they agree, and sign, a contract that you are their consultant.

    --BK
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  • Profile picture of the author Andy Fletcher
    Personally I think the advice in this thread is god awful. There are no secrets in this business despite what all the sales hype makes you think.

    When I pitch for seo or development work I hand over as detailed a plan as possible. Business owners don't have any free time so they'll happily pay you when they know you are competent but they have to protect themselves from scammy business practices and people claiming skills they don't have.

    For the sake of a few hours writing up a plan you've thrown away your shot at a job you so obviously wanted.

    Part of the interview process I went through for the last job I did before going self employed involved the owner asking me to write up some thoughts about his website. The other candidates wrote vague strategies and hinted at things at could be improved. I wrote out a really detailed plan of everything i could think of and surveyed a load of other people to get further suggestions. I even went as far as to arranged a separate meeting with the owner to present the plan to him where as everyone else just sent in the email. Guess who got the job...
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    • Profile picture of the author Jacob Martus
      Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post

      Personally I think the advice in this thread is god awful. There are no secrets in this business despite what all the sales hype makes you think.

      When I pitch for seo or development work I hand over as detailed a plan as possible. Business owners don't have any free time so they'll happily pay you when they know you are competent but they have to protect themselves from scammy business practices and people claiming skills they don't have.

      For the sake of a few hours writing up a plan you've thrown away your shot at a job you so obviously wanted.

      Part of the interview process I went through for the last job I did before going self employed involved the owner asking me to write up some thoughts about his website. The other candidates wrote vague strategies and hinted at things at could be improved. I wrote out a really detailed plan of everything i could think of and surveyed a load of other people to get further suggestions. I even went as far as to arranged a separate meeting with the owner to present the plan to him where as everyone else just sent in the email. Guess who got the job...
      It's pretty obvious that the guy was looking for a handout and when she didn't give it to him and he was too much of a p**sy to fire her to her face. Maybe he didn't want to give away the fact that he was really just trying to use her for information and he never had any intent to give her the job.

      With all of the local clients that I've handled there was one who wanted it all laid out step by step. He was a programmer with lots of web knowledge and I know that if I had told him exactly how to achieve the results he wanted, he would have went and tried it himself. He even started to do things on his own and was sending me emails asking questions here and there. I never gave him answers, instead I said, "I've got a few different ideas for making that work." In my situation, I did exactly what I recommended in this thread and I landed a decent payday with him.
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      • Profile picture of the author paulgl
        The are no real SEO secrets. That is, what we all do the same.
        To the normal SEO, that is.

        But this guy obviously wanted details for the specific purpose of
        giving it to someone else to do. You would not hire a plumber,
        ask for a very detailed item per item line of his steps, procedures,
        parts, etc. He says he'll do the job for x amount of money.

        If you called a plumber in to have him explain how to fix what needs
        to be fixed, give a list of parts, a detailed explanation on how to do
        it, he'd hitch up the crack exposed jeans, hand you a $100 invoice for
        showing up, and shuffle off with his finger raised.

        There are no plumbing secrets, really.

        But you are paying for the expertise of what an SEO person is going to
        do.

        Just like plumbing, there are no real secrets. BUT...there are tricks,
        inside info, experience, pet suppliers, parts connections, etc. that one
        has in one's arsenal. Just like an SEO person. I know good contractors
        do not give secrets out about where they get deals on materials and
        subcontractors. And you don't ask for details on that.

        You are either hired to do SEO or you are hired to teach someone.

        Depending on which one, that would dictate as to how much detail you
        give.

        The advice has been decent considering the circumstances.

        Give a round about, normal, every day SEO list, but make it clear
        that implementing it takes a tad more than just following some list.

        This forum is full of nonsense where some clown fails and boo-hoos because
        they followed THE list and still failed.

        No SEO person here is going to tell me they don't have some unique things
        that they just STFU about. And that, is why you hire someone. If not, then
        just grab some list off the internet and have a go!

        Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author cma01
    Personally I think the advice in this thread is god awful. There are no secrets in this business despite what all the sales hype makes you think.

    When I pitch for seo or development work I hand over as detailed a plan as possible.
    Andy,

    I totally, TOTALLY disagree. There is a VAST difference between giving a detailed outline for development work and marketing/SEO strategoy.

    A detailed spec sheet for development is necessary and required. You lay out exactly what will be done.

    But for marketing or SEO, you have got to be kidding me. Strategic planning for either is a consulting service, and yes, you should get paid for your time.

    You had better believe that there are many people, especially in this economy, that will squeeze every last drop of information from you that you are willing to give and then turn around and either try to do it themselves or go with a cheaper provider.

    I give out a lot of information. I hold a monthly networking meeting where people can come and get free advice. I writing blog posts, newsletters, and free reports. But if someone wants to take up my time and get a personalized strategy for their business, they can either pay for me to put together a plan that they can the implement themselves or they can contract with me as a consultant.

    Back to the drawing board in getting a job now. I guess we really don't have rights to our SEO strategies in this economy.
    No, that is your intellectual property . . . your plan . . . your strategy. No one will put any more value on your knowledge and skills than you do yourself.
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  • Profile picture of the author riccardorayenz
    They want see your talent shoe them your talent as in terms of results.Give them the information which is good for make you prestigious but not all by which you lost your priority be smart.Never let lose the situation from you hand always be authorised and independent.
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  • Profile picture of the author shulink
    I think you don't have copywrites for that. Also, maybe you worry too much because it is very easy for programmer to learn SEO in the first place. If they already have a programmer, he can learn it from a book or online easily that's how I learn.
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  • Profile picture of the author jetsonewing
    I think you are going fast, they might be thinking that you are getting oversmart. Give basic idea about your strategy and see if they are interested or not, if it seems that they are getting interested then you can carry forward otherwise stop yourself their only and wait for getting you hired.
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