Independent SEMs/SEOs - Issues & Answers

Aug 13, 2009 - 5:00 pm 0 by

Below is live coverage of the Independent SEMs/SEOs - Issues & Answers from the SES San Jose 2009 conference.

This coverage is provided by Keri Morgret of Strike Models & Gaurav Sharma of Think Mantra.

We are using a live blogging tool to provide the real time coverage. You can interact with us and while we are live blogging, so feel free to ask us questions as we blog. We will publish the archive below after the session is completed.

Independent SEMs/SEOs - Issues & Answers(08/12/2009) 
2:14 Keri Morgret:  Independent SEM/SEOs: Issues & Answers
While building their businesses, many SEMs and SEOs fly by the seat of their pants. While many issues they deal with are identical to any other type of business, there are issues unique to running/growing a search business. For instance, many small to medium sized independent SEO and SEM agencies may not be able to get the errors and omissions insurance offered to larger agencies. Is your business protected against significant Google overspends? And how has the current economic climate affected smaller agencies? How have the valuations of independent SEM/SEOs been impacted? And what about competitive positioning - how can you enhance your company's value for a transaction in 2009? Hear the answers to these questions and more from our panel of experts. Speakers:
Kathleen Fealy, President, KF Multimedia & Web, Inc.
Frank Watson, CEO, Kangamurra Media
Heather Rogers-Symon, Asst Director Business Development, HUB International, Northeast
Yuval Marcus, Partner, Leason Ellis LLP
Paul Forster, CEO, Indeed
2:17 Keri Morgret:  We're waiting a couple more minutes for people to wander in.
2:19 Keri Morgret:  Independents are often so busy with trying to get success for clients that we forget to work on our own company.
2:19 Keri Morgret:  Kathleen Fealy is the first to speak.
2:21 Keri Morgret:  We're having a couple of technical issues.
2:22 Keri Morgret:  Kathleen works with her clients to help them understand SEO and how it can improve their websites, using social media to help people, and is a certified usability analyst.
2:22 Keri Morgret:  After coming from a Fortune 100 company, she realized as an independent she had to be responsible for all aspects of her business.
2:23 Keri Morgret:  First issue: Insurance
Property and Liability Insurance
- Falls or injuries on property
- Theft of computers and equipment
- Losses due to fire or water

Errors and Omissions Insurance
- Allowed for work with larger companies
- Reduced risks to business if somoene claimed work was done incorrectly / harmed business.
2:25 Keri Morgret:  Last year, she had a problem getting her E&O insurance renewed. The insurance company said SEO was dangerous and didn't want to cover her.
2:26 Keri Morgret:  Answer:
Need contract - preferably written or reviewed by attorney
- Warranties
- Limitations
- Indemnification clause

Need to educate insurance broker
- Similarity to traditional marketing
- No guarantees
2:27 Keri Morgret:  One reason insurance agency was reluctant was that she was small. A bigger SEO firm was insurance by the same agency, but wasn't as much of a problem because they were larger.
2:27 Keri Morgret:  Issue: Copyright infringement
When designing sites, content, logos, videos are potential areas of copyright infringement.
2:28 Keri Morgret:  She was served with a subpoena, she was a third party of a lawsuit. One of her clients was accused of using a copyrighted image.
2:29 Keri Morgret:  She contacted her insurance company. Was good that she wasn't being directly sued.
2:29 Keri Morgret:  Answer:

Have E&O Insurance before you need it
Know or have an attorney
Indemnification clause in your contract
Copyright clause in contract
- Client's responsibility to obtain copyright
- All content provided to you must be free and clear to use
2:30 Keri Morgret:  Educate your people
Search and SEO is still new, as are the implications.
Even though most people use search engines, they really don't understand how search works.
Costs can be higher if you don't find those advisors and you have to try to do it all yourself.
2:30 Gaurav Sharma:  Up next is Paul Foster, CEO Indeed
2:32 Gaurav Sharma:  He is going to provide 5 tips for search marketing
2:32 Gaurav Sharma:  1. Differentiate & Focus
2:33 Gaurav Sharma:  Find a niche, pick one thing that you are good at. It can be an industry or something specific like vertical search.
2:33 Gaurav Sharma:  Are you SEO or paid search? The broader you are, it is difficult to stand out.
2:34 Gaurav Sharma:  Choose your position and then focus.
2:34 Gaurav Sharma:  

Showing an example of HRSEO - specialized for HR.

2:35 Gaurav Sharma:  HirePPC focuses on HR and SEM
2:35 Gaurav Sharma:  2. Keep it simple and transparent - It's easy to confuse.
2:36 Gaurav Sharma:  Try to make your pricing transparent. Make your offering modular - get success early on.
2:36 Gaurav Sharma:  Find a clear message for your product/service.
2:37 Gaurav Sharma:  3. Market with metrics - Decide the metrics, measure client results and create case studies.
2:38 Gaurav Sharma:  Cost for 55 hires was $275/hire for PitnyBoes using Indeed.
2:38 Gaurav Sharma:  4. Outsource - What can you outsource?HR, payroll, acocunting, etc. Example: Administaff - co-employment arrangement.
2:40 Gaurav Sharma:  5. Bootstrap - Self-fund, use cashflow from your business, only spend money when necessary., watch your cash flow, you can delay payments without hurting your relationship.
2:42 Keri Morgret:  Heather Rogers-Symon is up next.
2:45 Keri Morgret:  A pause while we find the correct presentation file.
2:45 Keri Morgret:  She's an insurance broker. She says to make sure that you get advice from someone with a PNC. You need to make sure you're getting advice from someone who is licensed.
2:46 Keri Morgret:  There are all types of insurance and lots of crazy acronyms. She's going to look at what we need.
2:47 Keri Morgret:  Risk management strategy: Protecting your business from risks is the foundation for success. Take he time to investigate your business needs with your broker, your industry association, and your peers.

The way she explained agents vs. brokers to her 10 year old is Gap vs. Bloomingdales. An agent is like Gap -- means you can only go with Gap clothes. A broker is like Bloomingaldes -- you can go there and get clothes from any manufacturer.
2:47 Keri Morgret:  Claims scenarios:
Is your business prepared for an interruption?
Many other things.
2:49 Keri Morgret:  Where to start:

Business Owner's Policy
- Offers building ,property, and general liability coverage under one policy.
- Protects your company's computers, network, valuable papers, and office furniture.
- Provides coverage for damage from fires, electrical surges, business interruption, water damage, and even embezzlement by an employee.

Great thing -- based on revenues. If you don't make a lot of money, you don't pay a lot of money.
2:49 Keri Morgret:  Liability Coverage:
- Coverage under a BOP policy also meets a landlord's requirement for a tenant to carry business premises liability insurance.
Your Umbrella will defend you in the event that your company is sued or named in a lawsuit.
2:50 Keri Morgret:  Never guarantee anything over which you lack complete control. You want the big contract and to promise the moon, but accidents happen.
2:52 Keri Morgret:  Enhanced Coverage:

Professional Liability.
- Errors and Omissions are not covered under a general liability or a BOP policy.
- As clients expectations of performance increase, lawsuits against professionals do as well.
- Not all insurance brokers are alike, and many may not be able to offer your firm this coverage.

Again, you need to make sure that the insurance brokers know what you do and that you have the correct coverage with your policy.
2:54 Keri Morgret:  Insurance also helps you to make a mistake good. You don't screw up a client relationship as bad if you can go back and do something about it.
2:54 Keri Morgret:  One size doesn't fit all. Do make sure your policy fits you. There are all kinds of things you can do to the policy.
2:55 Gaurav Sharma:  

Up next is Yuval Marcus

2:57 Gaurav Sharma:  

Going to share how to avoid litigation for SEO and SEM companies.

2:58 Keri Morgret:  What is intellectual property law? Trademarks, copyrights, and patents.
2:58 Gaurav Sharma:  If a company starts using a similar name, domain name and/or logo what can you do? -
2:58 Keri Morgret:  Copyrights (Creative Expression): Give the owner the right to prevent the copying by others of original works of authorships.
2:59 Gaurav Sharma:  Providing example of trademarks - Yahoo, Google, etc.
3:00 Keri Morgret:  Patents (Inventions/Ideas): Give the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or offering to sell an invention that is new and useful.
3:00 Keri Morgret:  He won't go into much detail about patents in this session.
3:00 Keri Morgret:  Benefits of trademarks:
3:01 Keri Morgret:  I didn't know you could use a strong trademark as an asset that could be used as collateral for funding.
3:01 Gaurav Sharma:  

Registration of trademarks affords additional rights.

3:01 Keri Morgret:  Some trademarks are better than others.
3:03 Keri Morgret:  Arbitrary (word with a meaning but not related to the goods such as Apple for computers and fanciful (coined term such as Kodak)

Suggestive: suggests the nature of the goods but does not describe them such as coppertone for sunscreen

Descriptive: Not really capable for protection unless you associate that with your company. protectable upon a showing of acquired distinctiveness or secondary meaning (describes the good such as Fish Fri for fish batter mix)

Generic trademark: not capable of source identification (the common name for the product such as deodorant)
3:03 Keri Morgret:  There are few people here in the session, and I think they're missing some good information. Makes me realize how much protection a regular employer can provide.
3:04 Gaurav Sharma:  

Why should you apply for a trademark? - Common law rights, state registrations, US wide registration.

3:04 Keri Morgret:  What if you want to rebrand and come up with a new name?
3:04 Keri Morgret:  The availability of a domain doesn't mean you have a right to use it.
3:04 Gaurav Sharma:  A Google search is not a trademark clearance search.
3:06 Gaurav Sharma:  

Copyright protects creative works.

3:06 Gaurav Sharma:  promotional material
training manual
3:06 Keri Morgret:  Big issue is who owns copyright.
3:06 Keri Morgret:  General rule: copyright ownership vesets in the author at the moment of creation of the work in a fixed medium. Copyright protection is automatic when work is fixed.
3:07 Gaurav Sharma:  

If you hire a consultant to write or create something, he/she will own the copyright, unless he/she transfers it to you.

3:07 Keri Morgret:  Create strong trademark, always conduct trademark clearance search, and make sure you own the rights to what non-employees create.
3:08 Keri Morgret:  Frank Watson is up next.
3:09 Keri Morgret:  He's got great cartoons in his presentation!
3:09 Keri Morgret:  How to work with your customers, things you don't want to do.
3:10 Keri Morgret:  He's had a lot of problems with clients that expect way too much. you have to manage these expectations when doing your contract, proposal.
3:10 Gaurav Sharma:  

Make the proposals less detailed and generic.

3:10 Keri Morgret:  His biggest problem is he'd do a proposal that was really detailed. The client wouldn't take the contract, but would take the proposal and do everything he said..pretty much a free analysis.
3:11 Gaurav Sharma:  

Enthusism is the key - Instill into the client.

3:12 Keri Morgret:  Make sure you let clients know you can do so much, but you are still at mercy of engines.
3:12 Gaurav Sharma:  Set the expectations with clients.
3:13 Keri Morgret:  He's not a big fan of Google, and is showing some neat cartoons about them.
3:14 Keri Morgret:  He feels like he's a doctor at a party. People find out what he do, start off with "I have this website..."
3:14 Keri Morgret:  If you're new into this space, he recommends to pick a niche.
3:15 Keri Morgret:  Get to know that specific area really well.
3:16 Keri Morgret:  Go to the conferences of the niche industry to find clients. CPA conferences, medical conferences, etc.
3:16 Keri Morgret:  It's now Q&A time.
3:17 Keri Morgret:  Do you have to file copyright and trademark on every domain name you own?

Don't need to file on a domain name, but before you use the domain name, make sure that it's clear and not going to cause you a problem.
3:18 Keri Morgret:  Question about trade secrets.

They're within what is considered intellectual property. Different between patent is that the patent expires, but trade secrets doesn't.
3:19 Keri Morgret:  Trade secret: doesn't have to be exposed. Coca-cola formula is an example. If they had a patent, it would have expired a long time ago and everyone could now do it.
3:20 Keri Morgret:  Whatever you want to keep as a trade secret you need to make sure that it is always well-labeled, NDA if exposed, etc.

[I am not a lawyer, please consult one for precise information]
3:21 Keri Morgret:  Talking about what to do about employee branding with a twitter account, is it in scope of their employment. Get things written in a contract.
3:23 Keri Morgret:  When choosing a lawyer, you do want one that has some experience in your area. Problem is that there a few that do understand SEO and they needed to be educated.
3:25 Keri Morgret:  Look at having your contracts reviewed, as your business may change over time. Insurance people can also help tell you things.
3:25 Keri Morgret:  Contracts can be reviewed before getting quotes on insurance to see what liability is exposed.
3:31 Keri Morgret:  Discussion about employee vs. contractor and the distinction. Complicated area.
3:31 Keri Morgret:  Session is now over.



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