Wait! Here's a reason for putting Design over SEO


So I'm helping a small, poor regional tourism group who've been screwed by their 'media production' guy ...he's apparently retained copyright on everything he's developed for them over the last 3 years. That's pretty much every graphic, every word of content, every brochure produced, and -you guessed it- he owns the domain and is admin. This is a client-hostage horror story like you wouldn't believe.

The only good fortune they have in all of this is that he sucks sooooo badly at seo that they don't rank for anything beyond the extremely-long-tail stuff. As best I can determine, there's never been any significant traffic. They are also running out, or are already out, of brochures and other printed materials with the old domain. So, thanks to their old site design, they were free to tell the guy to take a hike. They're moving to a new domain.


Way to go RC

I know I'm much too soft when it comes to these cases, I'm just glad that I ain't the only one :)

Just how these web design companies get away with it I really don't know, their activities are nigh on criminal.

The Problem with SEO as an industry

There is a big problem with SEO as an industry. There isn't a lot somebody unfamiliar with SEO can do to gauge the quality of a prospective consultant, and they certainly don't know what to look for as far as contractual arrangements and activity disclosures.

Even for a person who does know SEO, it's still not an easy thing to find reasonably priced quality SEO consultants that are reliable. I have run across various "certification" programs or "quality" badges, but nothing that I would put any faith in.

The bright side is that the lack of transparency helps to keep many of deep-pocket corporations away. Imagine if wal-mart and target decided to take over the SERPs for every product in their respective inventories. They would saturate results and be able to pay big money to maintain positions just off of a percentage of the income they generated.

Have we started an "SEO

Have we started an "SEO Horror Stories" thread? Cool. Let me know when it's my turn ;-)


This stuff get's under my skin.. when 'production guys' or 'fake SEO's' or whatever you want to call them take clients hostage.. this is the exact moment when it hurts our industry....

Take care of them RC .. mostly because these people have been burnt.. and it will take someone like you to treat them well. .provide them with the results they need.. and you will have to work double hard to prove to them that not all guys / girls that do marketing online pull stunts off like this.

>get's under my skin I'm

>get's under my skin

I'm pissed (in the US context of the word). I just wish I could have seen his face when they emailed him to shove it.

To be fair, he'd never promised any SEO work, AFAIK. But I've known him a while and he typically lets the client jump to the conclusion that since they'll have a shiny, 4-color-glossy website then traffic will surely come.

But like I said, at least they have an out from this mess because of the designware.

>"SEO Horror Stories" thread? Cool. Let me know when it's my turn

I was thinking about copyright horror stories, but I think the RIAA may send us a C&D if we dwell on that topic, so, sure, take your turn, John.

Welcome to the web design world

rc, this happens often enough in the web design field, and I'll point out that your new client had hired a web designer/developer who was also (supposedly) an SEO. Remember, he's a "media production guy".

I've run into this scenario on occasion, where the client does not own the domain nor the website, and where there was no prior contract to that effect. I find it morally reprehensible -- I mean, fair is fair -- and we always include in our proposals that once the site is finished and we've been paid, we'll turn over all copyrights to them in writing, along with a complete copy of the website files (including Photoshop files, databases and anything else that comprises the website -- the only "exception" would be where we've used someone else's software (e.g., shopping cart), stock photography or other website element that we don't own, in which case we turn over the licenses to them.

Aside from wanting to do what's right, I do not feel it proper to try to hang on to clients by owning their websites or anything else. How desperate is that? I think it speaks volumes about the web designer's ethics, let alone the viability of his business. I also insist that their domain names be in their own names, and that their domain registrars are not also their hosts (too many hoops to jump through if they wish to switch hosts), even if that host is me.

At any rate, I've so far always been able either to get the client to get things transfered to him/her/it, or to successfully convince the previous designer to do so myself. So far, I've only had to give the velvet glove treatment; never had to go so far as the knockout punch.* :)

* Added: by "knockout punch", I don't mean, of course, physical violence. But, when speaking to such designers, I suspect they do get the idea that I won't take a "no" lying down.

Grrr ...

Sorry; this is one thing that gets my dander up, as they say. It's the web design industry equivalent of ... oh, I don't know what.

Where there is no contract in place that states that the web designer is to own anything/everything, then I think it's foul play to claim otherwise after the fact. It's taking unfair advantage of innocent but unwary clients who are confused enough about All Things Web.

Luckily in your case, rc, the website doesn't sound like it's worth much, although the older domain might have been worth something. Not to mention that they've had to pay for printing set-up of their brochures. But, then again, they may not want to keep anything that reminds them of him. Live and learn, I guess.

Anyway, I'll try to be quiet now. I'll just go sit in my corner and growl. :)

Well, I'm back ...


In the photography field, it's common for the photographer to retain copyrights to his/her photographs, even if they were taken for a magazine article, etc., and even if the publisher is a *big* name. Just something to know.

I once had to help a client request permission from Random House to use a photograph of him that they'd used in an article. They were willing (and gracious) but, in the end, we had to track down the photographer just to ensure that we'd covered all bases. Found him, finally, less than a hundred miles away from me (at that time), running a hotel on a beach, so we got our permission after all.

I see you have a sore spot

I see you have a sore spot on this subject, DV. Yeah, having been in the real-for-true-good-guy publishing side of the web for 12 years now, I've honed my working-knowledge of permissions to the point that I can glaze your eyes over in about 30 seconds. (That seems to be a general skillset of mine.) Want to hear about First North American Serial Rights, anyone? No? I didn't think so. Good site here, representing the content developer's side. http://www.asja.org/pubtips/wmfh01.php

Long story, but the gist of it is that they don't have enough money to fight. To make it worse, they are a loosely formed confederation of significant historical sites and no one person nor management group has the time to mount a fight. And a significant chunk of the membership is, well, freakin' CLUELESS!

Yeah, since you very often have what amounts to multi-layered permissions in photos they are often the trickiest part for publishers.

LOL. Okay, I give. :)

Okay, rc, you're right about that sore spot, I guess. :)

And I see that you've paid your dues. Twelve years to my ten? I'll get there, but our time will only be "even" if you stand still. LOL

Interesting about your client's designer/website issue. Perhaps he'll give it over if there's a little "Lactivist Effect". ;)

holding clients hostage

via domain ownership is something I run into all the time. Called a past business associate last week to tip him off to the registration issues he wasnt aware that he had.

I have been dealing with contracts for 20 years though, so while I am not a lawyer, I am fluent in English legalese and I have clients who are tops in their respective legal fields, particularly IP law (my patent attorney handled US licensing for the Royal Family) and unfair business practices.

Many of these SEO and design contracts are poorly constructed. I have an attorney who charges me a small fee to send a letter and we see them back down close to 80% of the time. Its a calculated bluff more often than not, but its usually worth the bet.

On the opportunistic side, I have also picked up some domains that these asshats usually let expire.

@John - I want to hear a few stories.

Positions reversing

It seems the positions of photographers and other art/design/production people is reversing. The photographers are being forced into giving over more and more rights for lower fees while the other production people are locking clients in with tighter and tighter contracts.

Back when I started out in the mid-90s it was assumed everything was work for hire. Then bespoke software was more common, especially CMS, e-commerce and later custom CRM, more IT software like contracts (licenses etc) came about.

I think most people have had an abusive or non-paying client, perhaps this is just a natural backlash. Now it seems there are a lot of people on the production side trying to game the system. But that is business I guess, some people seem to think it is not enough to win, the other guy has to lose.

Chris, I think

Chris, I think this has been going on for years and years. Not surprisingly, the companies who pull such a stunt do work that I would characterize as, well, less than great.

I'd say that, if what you (the generic "you") want is to retain ownership in your work, it should be spelled out clearly in writing; otherwise, a court (at least in California) may very well side with the client if it seems that the client wasn't informed and so couldn't possibly know that he was agreeing to pay for work that the designer was going to keep.

Anyway ... :)

what's the difference?

Hanging out at Threadwatch for the past couple of hours gives me the impression that this site is not much more than a bulletin board for mostly low-grade opinion.

There's a reason that well-researched professionalism gets paid for what it does and amateurs muddle around together.

Networking? Breadth of vision? Naaa... seems pretty narrow to me.

If Threadwatch is WWW2, then WWW2 is over-hyped.

Give me a reason to read more! I think I'll stick to Bloglines.

Welcome to Threadwatch,

Welcome to Threadwatch, tirrr.... Make yourself comfortable.

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