SEO Planning Tip: Why You Need a CYA Clause

A great SEO plan addresses many areas:

  • Reviewing data from the past year – and assigning meaning to it
  • Gleaning high-level insights from your findings and documenting them
  • Realistically assessing what worked and importantly, what didn’t

And while you’re looking back on 2023, you should simultaneously be crafting your 2024 plan.

There’s so much to cover, it can be overwhelming.

2024 SEO Planning Tips – Coming In Hot

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be rolling out a series of tips to help you craft an effective 2024 SEO plan. And if you like these free tips, I want you to Save the Date for my live workshop – 🥳the 2024 SEO Planning Party 🥳- on December 1st (Black Friday/Cyber Monday discount will be forthcoming!).

Now, let’s get to our first tip, shall we?

SEO Planning Tip #1: The CYA Clause

There is a very important section in any SEO Plan worth its salt, and it’s affectionately and cheekily referred to as “A CYA Clause.”

⚠️Warning: Bad language ahead.

Those who know me and love me know that outside of my professional work environment, as well as when my kids aren’t around, I gleefully cuss like a sailor due to years of pent-up rebelliousness from being a good girl and rule follower almost all of my life. If you get easily offended by bad words, stop reading here.

What is a CYA Clause?

CYA stands for “Cover Your A$$.”

There’s undoubtedly a nicer term for this, but let’s be honest. It’s much more fun to say CYA.

A CYA clause is an acknowledgment that there is a limitation. At its core, it’s about risk mitigation and preparedness. Shifting priorities, internal business indecisiveness, and unexpected challenges can all impact your strategy’s effectiveness. Everyone is going to face obstacles – pretending they don’t exist doesn’t do anyone any favors, so let’s lay them out.

Brief History of the CYA Clause

In my early years of freelancing, I learned about the CYA clause in the following capacities:

  • Contracts: used to protect oneself from potential misunderstandings and outline liabilities.
  • Communication (or lack thereof): freelancers often keep documentation and screenshots in various communications, especially around changes in project scope. This can include emails, messages, call notes, and any other form of communication to avoid misunderstandings and disagreements.
  • Boundary setting: freelancers frequently set boundaries around work hours, availability, communication channels, deadlines, and scope of work.

As I got further along in my freelancing career, I understood what was important to spell out early, which fostered better relationships and trust.

CYA Fundamentals and Important Rules:

  • The first rule of a CYA clause: You should never, and I repeat NEVER, explicitly label this section in any document a “CYA Clause;” you’ll want this heading to be more professional or PC such as “Obstacles to Success” or “Expected Challenges”
  • A CYA should be educational – you can’t expect your client, boss, or team to know why these areas could be a detriment to SEO
  • A CYA clause helps manage expectations; it’s important to be clear about what you can and cannot achieve with SEO, and be transparent
  • A CYA clause helps identify boundaries and parameters you have to work within; this clarity makes you better at your job.

What a CYA is NOT

It is crucial to understand what a CYA clause is not meant to be:

  • A cop-out or a series of excuses about why you didn’t get results. A CYA must be used professionally, and effectively, and you should ideally be a trusted partner, vendor, or employee.
  • A negative spiral or hidden way to voice your complaints about your conditions, coworkers, having to come into the office, etc. In the context of SEO, a CYA clause is a singular section and should not be pages and pages long.
  • A blanket statement attributing all potential SEO challenges to uncontrollable factors like Google’s algorithm updates or competitors’ actions. Instead, a CYA clause should be tailored to the specific resources, goals, and performance metrics relevant to the client or company in question.

While CYA is used cheekily, it actually does represent a very important part of the plan. And again, a great plan is communicated to all the stakeholders early and often.

3 CYA Clause Examples

Here are examples I’ve included before:

  • Technical weaknesses like site speed and page load time that I suspect may negatively impact our ability to rank high for specific pages
  • CMS restrictions that don’t allow us to fully apply on-page optimizations
  • Lack of access to SMEs (subject matter experts) to get content that Google wants to rank due to E-E-A-T algorithm changes

Wrapping Up

An effective CYA clause is an essential part of any SEO plan. By understanding your CYA areas and being prepared for what the future may bring, you can set yourself up for success in 2024 and beyond. See you next week for 2024 SEO Planning Tip #2!

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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