A guy contacted me from what seemed to be a decent size company. It was a company related to one of my DMOZ categories which is how he found me. We had a couple of nice phone conversations which led to him asking for a proposal from me. Since my proposals take about two hours to put together I scheduled it for the following week. I put together my normal proposal with summaries of all the different points on the website that need correction along with costs for fixing the problems. Of course my proposals also include an outline of ongoing SEO services and the associated fees. When the potential client received the proposal he called back very annoyed that the proposal did not include every detail of my plan. He said that he and his partner were disappointed in it and that it seemed to be a “templated proposal.” In all my time of doing this, I’ve only heard that once before. It was a company that was hiring their own inexperienced SEO to be in-house and wanted expert direction without paying for it. My proposals are detailed enough for someone who is not executing the plan. After quite a bit more talking it became quite apparent that all they wanted were instructions for an SEO campaign. For example, I said that his HTML was invalid and that we’d correct that – he demanded to know how. Not “how” like we’ll check the code with the W3C validator and make corrections, he wanted step-by-step instructions for interpreting the W3C reports and implementing the fixes.
While this strange discussion was going on they were also trying to get a DMOZ listing from me even though their site didn’t qualify for one because it was a thin affiliate site. (strictly lead-gen; collecting and selling applications) They kept insinuating that if I gave them a DMOZ listing and the detailed proposal I would for sure get the contract. It was pretty clear that they were just trying to get the DMOZ listing and steal my instructions then run.
I say all this for the benefit of less-experienced SEOs. If someone pushes for in-depth details of exactly what you are going to do to help their site become more search engine and user friendly, put up a red flag in your mind. I’m not saying that you should entirely obfuscate your plan, but don’t give a detailed how-to. Let them know that you will be link-building, but don’t reveal your proprietary methods.