SEO company wants to make changes to your code. What do you do?

OK, so you’re a web development company (or individual) and your client decides to engage the services of a 3rd party SEO/Marketing company or individual.

Now that 3rd party SEO/Marketing company wants to start tweaking your code, adding landing pages, etc. etc. in their pursuit of higher rankings, increased conversions, etc. etc. for your mutual client.

How much you do help them?

Two extremes:

  1. You insist that any changes to the site whatsoever must go via you. After all, you designed and built the site and this makes you the custodian of the integrity of the code on behalf of your client, and you can’t just let any old Tom, Dick, or Harry rampage around the code without so much as a “by your leave”.
  2. No worries: here are the ftp details to the live site, knock yourselves out!

I’m guessing that different web design/dev companies deal with this issue at both extremes, and lots of places in between.

A few thoughts from our perspective:

  1. We recognise that 3rd party SEO/Marketing companies exist, and we recognise that our clients are free to engage them. It’s therefore our challenge to find a happy medium that let’s these companies do their jobs, but also to introduce sufficient (but not too onerous) checks and balances in the process to ensure that the code integrity is reasonably protected, including the ability to ‘rollback’ to an earlier version of the code if they (or us!) stuff things up.
  2. We’re seriously considering drawing up a document to get our clients to sign when they engage the services of a 3rd party SEO company who wish to have any sort direct or indirect access to their website’s code. In a hopefully not too scaremongering way, the document will explain that they’re authorising a 3rd party to make changes to the code of the site, and that the risks of doing so are these, and the costs of any ****-ups are these, etc. etc.
  3. We’re about to pilot using a Subversion or similar system on our LAN with a view to allowing 3rd party developers access to check code out and into our development environment. Not sure yet about the controls we’ll put in place for who and when the new code gets upload to the production server…

Any other comments on this subject are most welcome!

Let them do thier Job and as far as you’re unconcerned your Job for the website is already done

It depends on what relationship you have with the client. If it’s a one-off ‘set up our site’ thing, then don’t worry about it.

If you’re responsible for maintenance and regular upgrades, subversion seems the right way to go. Allow them to set up branches which you can review and then merge into trunk and push to the live site.

Hi, excellent question, as a going through all this at the moment.

I’d built the site and in the meantime they’d got an SEO company to work on the site without telling me. Looking at the changes they make I don’t like the way they’ve coded certain things and also I run a test site ( Now, the client comes to me with amends, I look at the site and think, something isn’t right so I find out this SEO company have been meddling with it. I said, I’m not touching those amends until the code conforms to my standards (site no longer validates, inconsistent URLs, etc) and they’ve updated the test site too.

Too many cooks spoil the broth. However you manage it someone needs to monitor changes.

I have it in the terms of my contract now that a third party can’t work on the site and claim credit for any of my work and I am not liable for any damage caused by their changes.

We offer SEO services, and try to build long term relationships with clients to provide that kind of expertise so when we see them talking to “SEO consultants” (which are usually telemarketers who called and got through to the owner/vp/ceo) it throws up big red flags.

They always want to monkey with the code, the problem is you don’t know their level of technical competence at all. Is there a CMS? Is there sensitive information in the database like customer data? Usually the client has no clue what’s involved when they get into a situation like this, but after explaining the risks they think twice about letting some company they know nothing about monkey with their site.

That said, there are certainly legitimate SEO companies out there. The issue we have is that we currently host and support the websites we create for (the vast majority of) our clients. We can’t support any site that we do not have complete control of.

In one situation recently, we had a client that contracted with an SEO company that came calling. They “guaranteed” first page rank (probably through PPC) but never specified for which terms, nor did they offer to do keyword research. In this particular incident they were not going to be swayed so we sent them an agreement to sign before giving them access… it pretty much abdicated all responsibility for the functionality of the website.

After we gave up access, we were no longer responsible for the security, reliability, or working order of their website. If anything should go wrong in the future, troubleshooting would be billed at our full hourly rate.

If your clients want to contract with someone else, you certainly can’t stop them. But make sure you cover yourself should these third party vendors cause problems with your clients’ websites.

+1 on total control or total snip snip snip of the agreement. Tell them they go from preferred customer, we control all code, to something else and are categorized as such. In the case of my biz I just cut them loose. It’s cleaner and easier on the mind. GL

Just explain the scenario to the client in a way that is appreciative of their perspective. Make it clear that you can’t be responsible for what happens to the code. If they insist, be supportive and make it clear that you are available to help if things go wrong. What more can you do?

Ultimately its your clients site, but you could express your concerns. The Seo company might be happy to work with you in a collaborative way. Its definitely worth mentioning.

Some SEO companies won’t collaborate with you. You might get wind of their SEO secrets …

Implement SVN for the live site and give the SEO company their own account. That way all of their changes are logged and blame can be passed on accordingly when they inevitably break something meaning you can justify charging your client for fixing the SEO companies mistakes.

mod rewrite,redirects,duplicate content protection,placement of modules,dynamic meta,title are all done in programming these days.
So,rather than making site and changing it,the seo should have started from initial programming as well.
so i think it would be better ,consult both programmers and decide how to go next.

what will be done by newer one,and why it was not done by old programmer?

if old programmer says i dont have that knowledge,then you should allow changing it to new one and dont give task again to old programmer.

If you have done a good job of writing the website, the snake oil, sorry, SEO “experts” will be able to get very little material benefit from tinkering with the code. The chances are that they will just screw it up.

For me, it would depend on what kind of relationship I had with the clients. If it was a “design, build and walk away” contract, then it is up to the clients, as long as they understand that you are washing your hands of it, and any changes that are made are not your responsibility to fix. You could include an offer to restore the website to the last state you left it (which is good practice to include in the contract anyway, although you may want to charge a fee, depending on the reason for it needing to be restored).

On the other hand, if your contract includes ongoing maintenance and updates, you want to avoid scam-mongerers getting anywhere near your code if at all possible. I think it would be fair to tell clients that you will fix any errors that have been introduced into the pages by third parties, and you will bill them for that work. You definitely don’t want to be responsible for making the site work at your own cost, if other people are meddling with it, but by the same token you don’t want to allow the site to degrade if you are still looking after it.

Absolutely :smiley:

If the site is done right, the basics should be in place and the SEO jockeys should be able to do their magic without messing with the code.

I would likely hand them (the SEO company) the FTP keys and let the client know they can call to pick up the pieces if they bust it. I always have a backup on hand and the hosting company will have a backup of the data.

I think people here are talking more about structural changes to the html and such seoservice. Of course content is the domain of SEO experts, but as Stevie D said, if the site has been built well, then it shouldn’t need to be touched for SEO purposes.

It is just in the hands of the developers to change the content of the website.

Yes. And if you’re a web development company, you should research and partner with a good SEO company, and then offer this service to your clients. You can then maintain some control over changes, make sure the SEO company does things the right way, and make a little more money.

This is a great example of the difference between a technician and a consultant.

Telling a client what they did wrong (i.e. 'you should have done a,b,c. you should get rid of your developer, etc.) may be accurate but what value does it have to the client?

A seasoned consultant will bring REAL value to the client that helps further THEIR needs. A more effective message, as offered by many posts above, includes :

  • help the client understand the risks of letting others much with code
  • offer the client solutions such as implementing cvs/source control
  • offer the client some collaboration with the seo’s, if approprate
  • explain to the client how you can help if the seo screws up the code, i.e. backups, fixes, etc.
  • help the client to evaluate the seo and ensure that they are skilled

Even when a client makes a decision that you disagree with, you can always be helpful to them. Explaining what they did wrong does little good - they will learn that in the normal manner which is by evaluating what is ultimately cost effective. So, make sure you are cost effective :slight_smile:

Nicely said. This is a great piece of advice that applies to virtually any instance where you see a client heading down a road that you wouldn’t necessarily recommend. When I see this happen, I often spend a little time crafting my response so as to concentrate on solutions and take away from the focus on damages & blaming.

This just happened for the first time for me. 3rd party SEO company “fixed” the site by removing javascript and now the WP blog portion of the site is a blank page. Now the client comes to me to fix their mess - I say make them fix it! To bad I cant really say what I think.

I don’t understand this perspective. Isn’t that just more billable work for you?