For the first time ever, last week I had a potential client ask me if I currently did work for any of her competitors. It was a question I've long anticipated but never expected.
Her question was just the right question to ask me prior to signing on the dotted line. But did she go far enough? Is a simple "no" from me (or your SEO of choice) enough to settle your nervousness about hiring an SEO?
Well, I don't know. In this case, the client was a referral from another web designer, so she didn't know me personally. She had never met me and was making 100% of her judgments about me and my business solely on my phone answers.
In this case, I think her asking me to add a non-compete clause to the contract would have been right on target.
In fact, I'm not sure that any SEO firm can fairly and ethically work for two companies in the same industry. If they are competing over the same keywords, who's to say there isn't some sort of conflict of interest there?
Now I've built multiple websites for companies in the furniture arena, but I only SEO for one. If another were to approach me, I'd have to decline to do SEO for the related portions of their business. And honestly it'd be better for them if they found an SEO who was not competing in that field at all. That wouldn't be an easy thing to tell a client, but I think it'd be the best thing for them to hear.
If you trust your SEO, you don't need a non-compete. And I've never signed one. But if you lean more towards the CYA side, I say get one.