Liability for SEO disclaimer

by DABK
8 replies
  • SEO
  • |
Came across a company that sells SEO (each package includes a template website too), "Google places and maps optimization."

They have a terms of use that, among other things states that they're not liable for any damages they cause to clients.

How common is this? It occurs to me that any company would love no liability but if you're a client, why on earth would you work with one?

It looks like they've been around a while, so either some people don't bother to read terms of use or don't care. If the latter, why not? (I get the first one: little time, not enough brains).
#disclaimer #liability #seo
  • Profile picture of the author Jimerson Farveez
    Originally Posted by DABK View Post

    Came across a company that sells SEO (each package includes a template website too), "Google places and maps optimization."

    They have a terms of use that, among other things states that they're not liable for any damages they cause to clients.

    How common is this? It occurs to me that any company would love no liability but if you're a client, why on earth would you work with one?

    It looks like they've been around a while, so either some people don't bother to read terms of use or don't care. If the latter, why not? (I get the first one: little time, not enough brains).
    I have seen many SEO companies used these words in their Terms & Conditions as well as they even say "We do NOT guarantee TOP Ranking on Google, but we can improve chances of getting TOP TEN" - These terms are really important for SEO guys to be safe without getting sued....!!!

    In a client view, of course, it is risk, prior to invest and sign/accept on contract, it is must to do well research about the company and ask various questions to check their ability to get TOP RANKS.
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      I get the part about you don't guarantee rankings.

      But why are you not liable for anything you ever do?

      If before I hire you I get say, 200 visitors to my site a month and 5 of them buy but after you (as in the SEO company) do your stuff, nobody buys, you broke my 5 buyers a month stream of revenue. Why aren't you responsible?

      You should, at the very least, put things back the way they were and refund me my money.

      The company I'm speaking of, I found a bunch of negative reviews. One of the reviewers said the company promised to move them to page 1 in Google. The reviewer said his company never made it to page 1.

      The SEO company responded with 'proof' that they did. The proof was a screen shot of the Google SERPS showing the company in question was on page 1. So, no refund given.

      Of course, Google screen shots are not proof.

      The point is, in every other aspect of life, if you make things worse, you're liable. If your product doesn't work, you expect it to be replaced with one that does work or else you refund the money. Why not SEO?

      Real estate appraisers around here used to have the same type of not liable verbiage on their reports. But it didn't hold water in court.

      Originally Posted by Jimerson Farveez View Post

      I have seen many SEO companies used these words in their Terms & Conditions as well as they even say "We do NOT guarantee TOP Ranking on Google, but we can improve chances of getting TOP TEN" - These terms are really important for SEO guys to be safe without getting sued....!!!

      In a client view, of course, it is risk, prior to invest and sign/accept on contract, it is must to do well research about the company and ask various questions to check their ability to get TOP RANKS.
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      • Profile picture of the author ilee
        Companies are liable for failing a GUARANTEED ranking but not for "damaging" the site. Which is why any SEO company worth their salt don't "guarantee" anything. You simply can't guarantee things in SEO unless you're prepared for any consequences.

        "Damaging the site" is subjective. Does it count as damaging the site if you increase rankings for one keyword but drop in the serps for another? Your site could easily have dropped ranks because of previous SEO campaigns.

        You're only looking from the perspective of a buyer as well. If you're the client, of course you'll be looking for as much protection as possible but then so would the company even if they were legit. I know a lot of SEO companies scam clients, but it's not uncommon for it to go the other way.

        Scenario
        1.) I approach an SEO company that doesn't have a "no liability for damage" clause. They start building their links and whatever they do and they're probably doing a good job too. I then do something that would be detrimental to my rankings but also reverse-able (messing around with content, deleting some internal links, your own backlinking campaign). You raise a claim that they've "damaged" your site, get the refund and reverse the detrimental changes.

        2.) You had a previous link builder who had done a really shoddy job and it was only a matter of time before the site got burnt. You then hire a legit SEOer and they get burnt when your site inevitably drops out of google.

        3.) An SEO company who has had an amazing track record takes you on, but 1 month in google makes a crazy change that targets the sites they're working on. They couldn't have foreseen this change and it's not a mistake on their part because their tactics have worked for so long. These tactics were run through you before hand which means you're as responsible for it as the company. Once again, you knew what you were getting into, and with everything (even hiring someone) there's always a risk.

        I'm not saying it's the right or wrong thing to do having a stop guard, at the end of the day it's all business giving you good/bad reviews and ultimately more/less customers, I'm just throwing in another perspective. It's all part of risk management whether the companies want to take on the risk or not. Once again, customers know what they're buying into, the information is all there.

        Originally Posted by DABK View Post

        I get the part about you don't guarantee rankings.

        But why are you not liable for anything you ever do?

        If before I hire you I get say, 200 visitors to my site a month and 5 of them buy but after you (as in the SEO company) do your stuff, nobody buys, you broke my 5 buyers a month stream of revenue. Why aren't you responsible?

        You should, at the very least, put things back the way they were and refund me my money.

        The company I'm speaking of, I found a bunch of negative reviews. One of the reviewers said the company promised to move them to page 1 in Google. The reviewer said his company never made it to page 1.

        The SEO company responded with 'proof' that they did. The proof was a screen shot of the Google SERPS showing the company in question was on page 1. So, no refund given.

        Of course, Google screen shots are not proof.

        The point is, in every other aspect of life, if you make things worse, you're liable. If your product doesn't work, you expect it to be replaced with one that does work or else you refund the money. Why not SEO?

        Real estate appraisers around here used to have the same type of not liable verbiage on their reports. But it didn't hold water in court.
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  • DABK,

    I have seen this a lot as well and not just from SEO companies. Pretty much any business category there is you will find legal disclaimers of all sorts that (when viewed in isolation) make a business look like a lying, money grubbing piece of vermin. Its not to say there aren’t businesses out there that take advantage of legal disclaimers to give poor service however often these disclaimers are necessary to protect against overzealous clients. When it comes down to it, no business (SEO or otherwise) can guarantee what they sell. Some companies may be large enough to pay to fix whatever damages that may arise out of an agreement (whether it was their fault or not) but most do not have this luxury. Many business owners are one lawsuit away from closing up shop and disclaimers can help create a failsafe. They can’t control all possible outcomes and should something happen that is beyond a buisness’s control, then they can say that they tried their hardest but they aren’t responsible. I think it’s a necessary part of doing business in the world.

    All that being said, its still important for a company to do its best to prevent negative consequences and make consumers aware of the risks they face when signing up. That’s just what is right and what a good business owner does.

    Here is an interesting article on disclaimers,

    Attn: Bloggers! Why you need a DMCA disclaimer & copyright registration | Peace . Gold . Liberty

    Best,

    Shawn
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  • Profile picture of the author ilee
    No matter what anyone says, SEO will always have an element of unpredictability and no matter how good you are at it, there's no guarantee for anyone that their website won't drop in rankings for certain keywords. Damage could be anything from loss of traffic to the de-indexing of the site. It really wouldn't make sense for SEO companies to take on this risk so rather than doing that, they'll pass the risk over to the customer.

    I think it's perfectly acceptable for them to put a stopguard like that in place. If you go over to a financial management company and you agree to invest however much money, there will be the same stop guards to protect the company because of the unpredictable nature of the investment.

    At the end of the day, if you're looking into paying for SEO service, you yourself should know the risk and should probably understand exactly what the company will be doing. Whilst they're not liable for any damages, within the confines of their service, if they start doing something that they previously said they wouldn't, then they would still be liable.

    The problem with that is that most businesses/clients looking at hiring an SEOer won't know what practices will put their site in danger and most won't even do the simple research needed to understand how a website ranks. Now we're in a catch-22 situation where the client don't know what they're getting into, and the SEO company isn't responsible for any damage caused by it. This will go on and on until the client hits a bad egg and gets burnt.

    What I'm trying to say is, a lot of problems working with SEO companies can be avoided if you just did some research and try to understand what you're buying into.
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    • Originally Posted by ichl13 View Post

      No matter what anyone says, SEO will always have an element of unpredictability and no matter how good you are at it, there's no guarantee for anyone that their website won't drop in rankings for certain keywords. Damage could be anything from loss of traffic to the de-indexing of the site. It really wouldn't make sense for SEO companies to take on this risk so rather than doing that, they'll pass the risk over to the customer.

      I think it's perfectly acceptable for them to put a stopguard like that in place. If you go over to a financial management company and you agree to invest however much money, there will be the same stop guards to protect the company because of the unpredictable nature of the investment.

      At the end of the day, if you're looking into paying for SEO service, you yourself should know the risk and should probably understand exactly what the company will be doing. Whilst they're not liable for any damages, within the confines of their service, if they start doing something that they previously said they wouldn't, then they would still be liable.

      The problem with that is that most businesses/clients looking at hiring an SEOer won't know what practices will put their site in danger and most won't even do the simple research needed to understand how a website ranks. Now we're in a catch-22 situation where the client don't know what they're getting into, and the SEO company isn't responsible for any damage caused by it. This will go on and on until the client hits a bad egg and gets burnt.

      What I'm trying to say is, a lot of problems working with SEO companies can be avoided if you just did some research and try to understand what you're buying into.
      If only my clients understood this....
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    These kind of protection clauses are extremely common in most businesses.

    If your brokerage firm provides you with investment advice that leads to you losing 25% of your investment, you cannot turn around and ask them to give you your money back (providing of course they did their due diligence and were not involved in anything illegal).

    When I worked in the financial sector, there were certain things we HAD to say to a client before presenting certain products. We had to specifically tell customers that their investment may lose value, is not a bank product, and is not FDIC insured.

    Investment professionals know certain type of investments work over a long period of time. They base their recommendations on known financial trends. However, they still do not control the stock market and there is still a lot of unpredictability with it.

    This is pretty similar.

    The downside of this business is we have no control over what Google chooses to do with its algorithm. Tomorrow, with no warning, Google might decide that they are no longer going to base any rankings on backlinks. I know that is not going to happen, but if it did, the SERPs would be thrown into chaos and many sites would no longer be ranking where they are today. Should SEOs be held liable for a drastic shift like that? I think shifts in Google's philosophy like this is why many SEO companies include clauses like that.

    Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of bad SEO companies out there that I would love to see get blasted for the benefit of everyone. I'm sure some of these companies are including clauses like that just because they are clueless and their results are all over the place. They are just covering their own ass and ignorance.
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    Bottom line is the SEO business doesn't own the SERPs so there's literally no possible way they can guarantee a SERP position.

    You can guarantee link building, etc.. or you can guarantee that you will continue doing SEO until the client ranks #1 for their keyword, but that might be eternity or until the SEO dies of old age, which ever comes first.
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