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Ethical / Business dilema

More then one client in the same industry.

7:55 am on Jun 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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How do you guys handle having clients in the same industry?

Secured a contract yesterday. But wants exclusivity and says that he would get really bitter if he saw competitors pages climbing above his. This moved on to what qualified as a major/minor competitor, where we would be restrained / not restrained e.t.c.

Where do you guys draw the line?

1:39 pm on June 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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really depends on how much you want the work and how much of the market they are cutting out on you.

I had one client like that once - turns out they were so difficult to deal with that I dumped them anyways.

2:01 pm on June 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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"Exclusivity" usually means a higher fee, but SEO presents a unique problem in that you are likely to be advising on the same keywords and techniques to be applied to the same search engines. I think the question comes down to who will be providing the raw materials. If your client is in any way imparting his knowledge of the industry to you by selecting keywords and phrases, then I believe it would be unethical to later use that information against his best interest by helping someone to compete on those terms. If, on the other hand, his input is truly insignificant and you are providing the data from your own resources, then he should pay a premium for exclusivity.

Edited by: rcjordan

2:41 pm on June 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Our current cash cow is a host with a large set of sub-domains (thirdlevel) that it leases out. Many of the sub-domains are direct competitors of one another. Not only is that tricky, I also had to sign an nda with the corporate host.

It is quite a line to walk. It really gets dicey when three or four of the subdomains show up on the top page of the results. I'm fortunate in that we are subcontractors and all cservice is left to the corporation. Most of the domains don't know it is us doing the reports and log analysis.

When I do deal with them, I try to calm them all down and get them refocused on their site. They shouldn't worry less about the competition in the se's and more about what to do with the traffic once it is there.

Remind them that it is difficult to control the se's, but it is easy for them to control their site. Turn the whole conversation of one from obsession about the competition to obsession about their site. Address their concerns and then get back to giving users what they came for in the first place. "We did our part by getting you rankings and referrals - now do something with them." At times feign annoynace that we've done our part, why aren't you doing yours. It really changes their tune.

7:30 pm on June 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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If we can, we simply don't do it: too much hassle, too much soul massage required, with strong, unappetizing accusations flying around the globe half the time.
Of course, once client declines extension of contract, it's first come first served again, and no holds barred. Though we will obviously never divulge (even former) clients' confidential information etc. to their competitors.
9:17 pm on June 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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fantomaster is perfectly correct. If you do take any chances and work for both, you always run that risk of being found out. Chances are you'll lose both and never get either back. Honesty and credibility cound for a lot. They will both respect you for it.
7:21 am on June 22, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for all the feedback. Will probably go for an amicable solution. There are 3 major players in their industry of which they are one. If we are going to sell our skills to possible competitors, will run it by them first.


6:57 pm on June 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Interesting question. My own answer to this has always been a very rigid non-disclosure clause in my contracts and work.

The only way anyone knows who my clients are is if they choose to tell people (I do get considerable referrals). I never reveal any details about my clients or my work for them.


8:57 am on July 6, 2000 (gmt 0)

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You're lucky! Make that very lucky!
The way I look at this question, ask the guy you are already working with if he'd mind. Ethically, I believe you owe him the loyalty as he is first in line. If he doesn't mind, no probs, because if you are doing well for him the next guy along will really want your service. As in, you say to him "look, if you know someone who can rank you higher, go for it."
It's easy to see how it could be very uncomfortable and awkward, though. And if business was thin, it would be tempting to take the dosh and say nothing. I think it's when business is thin that this issue is hardest to judge. When you've got mouths to feed, ethics often takes a running jump.
As far as contracts go, NDAs are very good.
Are you saying that when you get referrals, you use the clients who referred you as examples of your optimisation, and no-one else?

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