Think Twice Before Not Paying Your SEO Firm

Sep 22, 2008 • 10:16 am | comments (7) by twitter | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

Patricia Skinner is a hard working SEO with a dilemma: she has run into a few clients who never paid her for her services. She spent hours working on website development, design, and SEO strategy only to be promised fees that she never received. She found profitable keywords to help companies rank well against their competitors.

But her clients never actually paid up.

Sure, you probably had your own clients like this, and most of us are in a position where we could do something that would require them to hire a reputation management firm to fix. She's not entirely happy, and she's likely within her rights to expose them as bad clients, but instead, she ends her article with a good piece of advice:

If you’re reading this and you know you’re a shifty-eyed little bugger who owes someone money for work they’ve done, be a human being and pay them before your karma catches up with you.

The discussion has moved onto Sphinn where there's a lot of good feedback with regards to what should be done.

Barry Welford says that with the Internet being more open, we're held to higher standards and that "[i]t's better to create a good reputation than to have to manage your reputation in order to control damage caused by less than honorable acts."

Another suggestion is to strongly enforce contracts. If that fails, there's a small claims court. IncrediBILL gives some pretty good advice about the courts:

If you're in the US, small claims court is your friend. It's cheap, no lawyers involved, and most people settle right away once they know it's serious. Forget online reputations, most people don't want a judgement against them screwing up their credit.

Barry adds that credit agencies will also go after people who don't pay up, and they'll take a percentage. That's also useful to know.

Forum discussion continues at Sphinn.

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Ben P

09/22/2008 03:18 pm

Collection agencies can work but they are a pain to deal with and rarely do they collect the money overnight plus they can take some hefty fees. Small claims court can work but this is an incredibly slow process. It can be months before you paperwork is even looked at and if you are not in the same state as your client this can complicate things. I found the easiest method is to hire a lawyer to write a very direct letter stating the situation and asking for payment asap.

David LaFerney

09/22/2008 07:00 pm

The easiest way is to collect in advance or incrementally during the project. If they don't pay timely, then suspend work until they catch up. It's always hardest to collect at the end of a project.

Simone Icough

09/23/2008 12:16 pm

Or just black hat SEO the buggers or take their website down, we do no work for any client that does not host on our own server, if we don't get paid we threaten to take their website down

Ben P

09/23/2008 05:52 pm

"we threaten to take their website down". While I understand the benefit, I disagree with this approach, having rescued many clients from design firms that have held clients hostage for more money. I have seen this abused more times than responsibly used by companies.

Jaan Kanellis

09/24/2008 05:04 am

I had a piece of garbage agency in Chicago that shall rename nameless that simply dissolved so they didnt have to pay me or other people they owed. They opened up a few months later under a new names. Garbage.

David Eaves

07/19/2011 01:32 pm

It happens. I run a web directory that offers permanent  website listings and I have had SEO companies come back to me and ask me to remove listings - probably in an attempt to sabotage a former client's rankings. 


08/08/2011 07:29 pm

The best way for an SEO firm to protect themselves is do all the work on a 301 redirect. That's what we do, on high risk clients. That way, if they don't pay, they don't keep the SEO and we can just flip the SEO Work done to another client in their industry. 

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