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Avoid Scope Creep Money Pit SEM Jobs

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Agencies

search marketing agecnyIn our search marketing agency, the toughest standard operating procedure protocol we’ve defined and implemented is the “Goals & Scope Document” we attach to each client’s contract.We’ve found it critical to empower each aimClear employee to self-determine, within reason, if an incoming job request is included in a given client’s scope, will be done as a favor, or needs a new job ticket. We’ve fostered an environment where our people seek executive collaboration to make these calls only when necessary. Without defining such procedures, owning a search marketing agency can be a an unpaid scope creep money pit.

Success on this front can truly be the difference between financial success and failure for an agency. Without adherence to a client scope document, expenditures of time and energy might not be monetized. Work FLIES in the door here from ALL directions and that process must be managed.

Clients with annual contracts need something quickly, content vendors, we share common clients with, call on the client’s behalf, we take note of a previously undefined task that’s critical, multiple representatives from the same client call and ask for contradictory things. Inflow of work in an atmosphere of strategic vendor clients is a matrix.

In Or Out Of Scope?
We ask that question all day every day. When we email each other about jobs we take written note whether the task we’re discussing is in or out of scope. Paying attention to scope has become as much of the holistic culture at aimClear as air hockey and espresso. To understand how work comes in the shop, whether the job needs executive scrutiny for a “bid,” or whether to simply proceed has now become part of the healthy corporate lifestyle.

The blog technician needs to be aware that, when a designer calls and asks for the database to be moved, this 15 minute job may or may not be within in that client’s scope. When a vendor calls on our PPC Manager on a client’s behalf and asks for 2 new Minneapolis geo-targeted PPC AdGroups for a holiday special, we must determine if the setup and ongoing management are within scope.

For us, this starts with a carefully conceived and accessible client goals and scope document which has been discussed with each employee who is likely to encounter service requests. Below is an example. Please take note of how this sample goals & scope document states our expectations of the client.
_______________________________________________________

GOALS
Maximize the website’s chances to rank higher in organic listings on search engine results pages (SERP) for relevant keywords by optimizing content and technical structure for the Website, link building, as measured by traffic from organic search.

A portfolio of ___ inbound links from blogs of various authority levels including major online trade publications. Teach client to Clickbait and linkbait prominent authors, blogs, and online publications, participate and become respected in related communities.

A portfolio of ___ inbound links from Web 1.0 sites, authority sites, including at least — .edu domain links.

____ unique visitors a month with less than a __% bounce rate, higher spikes, posts that have the capability to go viral. (Read: Drive 28,402 Extra Visitors by Blogging for 48 Minutes.)

Less than 30% of traffic from Google

___ new RSS feed subscribers, — (changed after Andy’s comment) % transition rate of present email subscribers to feed subscribers by FeedBlitz

30% transition rate of current email subscribers to blog community participation.

Defend direct brand searches for customer, authors, and organic local category searches

Implement ongoing monitoring of blog and agency reputations sent directly to client.

Increase the public’s perceptions of the customer, blog, and authors’ status as “experts” in categories’.

___ sale conversions daily with a gross revenue of $____

These goals require a considerable commitment from client. They are attainable and could be eclipsed. This profile is that of an “up and coming” blog, poised to do great things.

Remarkable Content: We believe that creating remarkable and recurrent content is the best pathway to procuring inbound links. Client agrees to strive towards the creation of remarkable content, with our support.

SCOPE OF SERVICES
Advise content creation and information design (homepage and minimum of 17 new optimized pages) driven by keyword search frequency. Research customers’ areas of interest identified as susceptible to Client’s sales pitch.

Analyze competitiveness of keyword spaces on SERPs, report to client.

Buzz research to reveal buzz categories in social communities, blogs, video, news, audio (podcasts)

Keyword research to reveal categories and subcategories of search engine queries

Blog research to reveal relevant authority blogs and their linking constellation

Written recommendations regarding information design, content areas, and technical matters related to site deployment and content management.

Ongoing support and input as recommendations are implemented by CLIENT’S content and development teams.

Monthly in-person meetings

Minimum of 6 hours per month average over 12 months, aimClear personnel assigned to Client tasks.

Provide 6 Word-documents of written content for site, specified technical attributes (page title, Meta description, image tags, etc…). Advise the deployment of these new optimized pages*.

Month Two-Twelve: Provide 1 additional page/interest-area as needed. Supervise CLIENT’S creation of these new optimized pages.

Advise the creation of back end article publishing system optimized for social media*. Utilize free open source blog software (WordPress) lightly customized (graphically) and set up utilize social book marking tools.

Determine and report quality and quantity of inbound links. (Note: link-building is not part of scope at this time)

Client will update homepage content block once per week, 50-70 words with heading, advised by research.*

Consult regarding cross-linking from primary content management system or other website to/from WordPress

Recommend areas of static content and site navigation information design for the blog.

Call for and teach you how to optimize content created by your team. Our expectations of your output are that you will publish 1 (although a minimum of 3 properly tagged posts are recommended), 200-800 words each week

Twelve (1) live hour blog coaching sessions by WebEx (Once Monthly)

WORDPRESS & ANALYTICS
WordPress “themes” are 2 parts: (1) the design customization (2) plug in configuration along with associated code modifications. Our Whitespace Theme can be customized graphically, has pre-configured SEO plugins and a number optimized attributes that are not available in free WordPress installations.

ClickTracks page tagging Analytics and Google analytics. These analytic packages will associate traffic with organic search to measure success. Google Analytics requires JavaScript page tagging. WordPress utilizes a plugin for Google Analytics. It often makes sense to aggregate the blog, it’s domain, and other client web assets in a single analytic environment.

Client desires to customize WordPress template graphic design in house. At your request aimClear will design the theme and manage the process at additional charge. The typical cost is $___- $___. *

Web Hosting: Client is responsible for any costs associated with web or database hosting. aimClear must approve of hosting *

Evaluate present content management application, hosting environment, and business model. Make Recommendations

Install and Optimize WordPress content Management theme (on subdomain or in directory). WordPress is open source software which can be customized (graphically) and configured to utilize custom SEO attributes at the site and post level, social book-marking tools, RSS feeds and blogging.

Please note that there are hosting considerations which need to be discussed which could result in additional monthly hosting fees.

Tracked RSS feeds for the Website

Consult regarding linking from primary content management system or other website to/from WordPress
(Month 1)
Buzz research to reveal buzz categories in social communities, blogs, video, news, audio (podcasts)

Blog research to reveal relevant authority blogs and their linking constellation (Month 2).

Recommend areas of static content and site navigation information design for the blog.

*Third Party Expenses: Any expenditure over and above our fees must be explicitly authorized in writing by the Client.

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9 Comments

  1. Andy Beard on January 24, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Marty

    I am not sure full transition is an ideal solution. I would be more inclined to take the existing email list, import it to either Aweber or Feedblitz, and deliver scheduled RSS to Email.

  2. Marty Weintraub on January 24, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Terrific insight Andy. Actually this scope document is a mashup of several. In that particular case study actually we KEPT the email subscibers where they were and invited them to interact in the new blog, which they did n droves.

    That drove links and organic prominence. They attained about another 1000 subscribers from the FeedBlitz subscription form on the blog sidebar.

    You dont’t miss much :)

  3. Andy Beard on January 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    One thing good about Feedblitz is that they will import without the need to confirm opting in again (unlike Aweber) – what they do is send out a notification email to explain, though I am sure it is possible to have that personalized a little so subscribers are not lost.

    All the Feedblitz subscribers can be counted towards the Feedburner subscriber numbers providing instant social proof.

  4. Marty Weintraub on January 24, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you Andy.

  5. seanmag on January 24, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Hey Marty,

    I’m a first time visitor and just came over through a link from SEOmoz (Youmoz) on a post they just made on an SEO contract template. Between what they posted there and you’re article, that’s some pretty good content. Glad to have come across your site and thanks for the great info.

    Cheers,

    Sean

  6. Marty Weintraub on January 24, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    @seanmag: Welcome and thanks for the kind words. SEOMOZ is one of my favorites and we’ve learned a lot from Rand and his crew over the years.

    You’ll find other articles like this post in the “Agency” Category of aimClearBlog. We’re glad you stopped by.

  7. Lisa R on January 28, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    I have a lot of experience with scope creep. Unfortunately, I often don’t notice the slow creep until too late. This serves a good reminder to carefully define scope at the recommendation phase.

    Good stuff!

  8. Marty Weintraub on January 31, 2008 at 4:28 am

    @Lisa: It’s hard to notice scope creep until your face is half eaten :).

  9. Marketing Preston on February 13, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Thankyou for this Marty,

    I think that this will benefit our business dramatically,

    Our contracts tend to be a lot more simplified than the one you have outlined above, which means that we often perform additional services for free. I’ll definately adapt our standard contract to include some of your ideas,

    Regards,

    Nick

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